Ask Jan – Coaching Tips for Easy Solutions

Q: I just started a new job and now my workspace at home is completely out of
control. I can’t throw out the old stuff since it has good memories, and let’s face it, I am a pack rat. But I don’t really have room for the new stuff. Any suggestions?
– Piled High in Idaho

A: Dear Piled High, I am hearing that you have attachment issues – that’s right. You are still attached to the old stuff that no longer is of use to you. This is a common situation, and the main reason why storage boxes were created. If you are not ready to get rid of certain things but need more space, try putting the non-essentials into labelled boxes in your closet or basement.

You can even attach a list of the box contents to the outside of each box to help you find things later. This is a great way of getting stuff out of your way, but keeping it available for later use. This also works when getting divorced – you can temporarily avoid ditching the old stuff until you are really ready to let go of it.

Sometimes finding a ‘temporary home’ for the stuff you are attached to but don’t use is a great way of consciously getting the article out of your space but not breaking the attachment fully. After your neighbour has been temporarily using your dresser for 5 years, you won’t have
any desire to get it back. If you have something that still works but you don’t use
anymore, you may just want to find a new home for it – one where it will be used. Your old but still working printer or cell phone will be greatly appreciated at women’s shelters for example.

Focus on Intentions Not Expectations

Ever want something you didn’t get? Either someone disappointed you, or things didn’t turn out how you planned?

This happens when you have expectations and expectations inevitably lead to disaster. How? Well, expectations include others, even if they don’t know it, and you don’t realize it.

Expectations feel a lot like an agreement, where you assume “if I do this, then this will happen”. When expectations are unspoken, assumptions are unrecognized, and outcomes are not achieved, disappointment follows. You may feel like you put effort in, and didn’t get back what you thought you should.

Sound familiar? Let’s go back to my vision of snuggling by the fire. If I expected this to happen, then I might be disappointed – the dishes, the bills, the dog hair all detract from the joy of that moment! Especially if doing the dishes, paying the bills and vacuuming was someone else’s job this week.

So avoid disappointment by dropping the expectations!

Instead, try creating intentions. And make them simple. For example, if I intend to have a relaxing evening by the fire, I start by focusing on the feeling I wish to create. Intentions are about feelings, not about outcomes. And feelings happen within us. They are not dependent on someone else’s actions.

Despite the dishes, the bills, and the messy floor, I can feel contentment by my fire. I can experience the feelings of relaxation and peace by appreciating the parts of the vision that actually happen – the fire, the apple cider, my warm fuzzy feet!

Ask yourself “what feelings do I wish to experience this December?” Lovingness, peace, gratitude, abundance, joy, excitement, restfulness? Then take notice when they happen.

Feel the power of your intentions as they create the holidays you envision.

Art of the Mini-Vacation

Recently, someone I know recommended practicing the Art of the Mini-Vacation. “What a great idea!” Mini-vacations can happen anywhere, anytime. They can last 10 seconds, 10 minutes, or 10 hours. A weekend mini-vacation lasts 2 days!

So how does that work?

Any time taken away from the rush of your current life, or without the focus on your future life qualifies. Research indicates that high performance athletes take a type of mini-vacation while playing sports. Ever notice how tennis players bounce the ball a few times before serving? They are focusing their concentration, lowering their heart rate, resting muscle tissue, and restoring equilibrium to their bodies. Without a doubt, mini-vacations increase endurance and productivity – by refocusing attention, deeper meaning is brought to the tasks we do right now. For budget-minded, time-crunched vacationers, imagination is key. Here are some fun ways to practice the art of the mini-vacation.

  1. Waiting for the bus? Breathe deeply and feel the air enter and exit your lungs slowly.
  2. Meditate! Meditators have been mini-vacationing for centuries.
  3. Walk with focus. This is easy. Concentrate on how your feet feel against the floor while walking. Be conscious of how you ‘peel’ the soles of your feet up and into the air for the next step. Notice how your balance shifts? Remember to watch where you are walking though!
  4. Find 1 hour for a massage, and pretend you are in another country while being pampered.
  5. Vacuum with calypso music on. Dance while doing the rugs and pretend you are tidying your summer house in the Caribbean. You can add to the mini- vacation by practicing another language at the same time.
  6. Stay over night in a B&B just outside the city. Try things you would never try at home.
  7. Celebrate morning. This is a personal favourite. I snuggle my giant dog before getting out of bed. (Yes – I let him on the bed.)
  8. Put surprise love notes in your kid’s pockets. Just doing it feels great. And they feel special too.

Big Change, Little Effort

Ok. First things first. Are you a sceptic? Don’t believe that small, focused changes made consistently over a longer period of time can bring enormous change? If eating 1 extra pad of butter each day for a year can lead to a 10 pound weight increase, and walking an extra block each day for a month can significantly increase our cardio health, then committing to 1 small, daily, life-enhancing action can bring about greater peace of mind, empowerment, financial benefits, health gains, and a vast variety of other things – depending on where you focus your energy. Try this:

  1. Set a Goal to change something small – try switching from white bread to multi-grain, or go to bed 5 minutes earlier each night. Whatever you choose, make it small and easily do-able each day.
  2. Connect the Goal to something bigger – for example, by switching to multi-grain, you are enhancing your overall health. Getting to bed 5 minutes earlier might not seem like much, but 5 minutes of extra sleep may be a great place to start if you are sleep deprived, or perhaps, you will be able to get up 5 minutes earlier and walk to the subway, or finally get that garbage to the curb on time. Again, these are small actions that contribute to your overall life satisfaction.
  3. Try breaking your giant task down into tiny steps. Have something HUGE to do? Like cook Thanksgiving dinner for 15? Chop the carrots and put them in the freezer on Monday, dice the turnip on Tuesday, peel and cut the yams on Wednesday. You get the picture. Small goals consistently undertaken get the job down easily and quickly.

Small goals work for a few reasons:

  • First, it is easier to find 10 minutes a day to dedicate to your goal, then 1 or so each week.
  • Second, big goals can feel overwhelming.
  • Third, small tasks can often be delegated to others. Yup that’s right – maybe you don’t even have to dice the turnip!

Good Feels Good: Navigating by Joy

I once asked a very wise woman how to know the difference between what I really want and what I think I want. She shrugged her shoulders and said quite simply, “Good feels good – just follow what feels good.” Doing what feels good can change your life. Here’s how to learn to navigate by joy:

  1. Develop positive feelings about your life. Focus on feeling joyous, loved, and secure. Each morning take a moment to bring these feelings into your heart. A prayer, meditation, or promise to yourself will do the trick – make a point of acknowledging that you ‘intend’ to feel this way today.
  2. Throughout the day, remind yourself of these intentions. If you keep forgetting that’s your intention, wear something on your body to remind you – try wearing red underwear or putting your watch on the other wrist!
  3. Pay attention to opportunities that arise in your life. If they create the feeling you intend, then go for it. Really experience those feelings as deeply as possible, and thank the universe for presenting these opportunities to you. Gratitude is powerful – even if the situation doesn’t create what you thought it might.
  4. Remember to have fun! Navigating by joy will bring ‘play’ back into your life. Ask yourself, “Is there an easy way to make what I am doing right now more fun?” Try dancing with your cat while you vacuum, or pretending to be in a new sports car while driving the kids to school.

Two special techniques:

Pay attention to how many times the word ‘should’ shows up in your life. ‘Shoulds’ usually come from somewhere other than your heart. Try to eradicate ‘should’ from your vocabulary.

Just tell the universe ‘what’ you want to feel – happy, enthusiastic, loved. Never tell the universe ‘how’ to bring the feeling to you. For example, if you wish to feel more secure in your life, just ask for greater security, don’t tell the universe that you want to win the lottery or marry a wealthy partner. The universe can bring security in ways you never imagined.

Combating ‘End of the Summer Bummer Vibes’

I really don’t want to be the one to break the news to you – but fall is approaching!!! I know, you are sitting on your dock, rollerblading around town, or having a beer with friends on a patio, and the last thing you want to think about is the fall.

Why is this? Usually it is because getting back to your hectic fall schedule brings STRESS and the realization that all the fun things you had in mind for the summer never happened.

I have good news for you though – It is not too late to fit in a few of those fun things if you take a few minutes to PLAN.

  1. Start by making a list of 3 things that you really wanted to do this summer. Going to Wonderland? Taking a day trip outside town? Going wine tasting with friends? Choose things that promise a lot of fun with little preparation.
  2. Take out your calendar, agenda book, or whatever you use to keep track of your life.
  3. Select a day and write your adventure into your book. Use pen.
  4. Consider who is the best person to do this activity with, and call them up immediately. Invite them to go with you.

This all sounds so simple doesn’t it? So why is it we don’t make plans and then carry them out, especially when they would bring such reward? Research indicates that women tend to privilege the day to day tasks, or the needs of others over their own. So, they will accompany their mother to the dentist, or vacuum the living room instead of doing something for themselves. Scheduling time for yourself first creates a structure where the many tasks and duties that serve others take shape around the things that are important to you. This keeps the focus on you, while accommodating others too.

Don’t have an agenda book? Don’t worry. We will cover this in the next few months. In the meantime, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that reminds you of the day and time of your planned adventure to help strengthen your commitment to yourself.