Friday, February 24, 2012

THE CHALLENGE DAY 16


For the last three months or so I have really enjoyed my time as 'Single in the City'.  I celebrated the holidays with family and friends, rang in the new year with some of my favorite gal pals, and work has been non-stop.  Then I met an old friend for dinner in the middle of January and something sparked.  We decided to step out of the 'friendship zone' and gradually explore the world of dating.  It's all harmless enough in the beginning -- texting, calling, first dates.  And then about a month in to the whole thing I started to find myself becoming critical and brooding.  For those that know me they will find this to be of little surprise.  I am an analyst by nature -- and I'm good at it.  I excel in my profession for my attention to detail and analytical reporting.  But this skill set doesn't translate as well into my personal life.  I end up reviewing all of the details and trying to ascertain a conclusion -- when in reality dating is about 'feeling it out' and simply following your heart and intuition.

This past week I paid a visit to my Life Coach and, after months of coming in feeling balanced and at peace, I arrived on shaky ground with questions and comments all related to this latest chapter in dating.  The first part of our meeting was focused on my description of the course traveled thus far and then questions or requests for insight on how to navigate from this point forward in order to understand where things stand while also protecting my heart.  She looked at me and said exactly what I needed to hear in order to realize that I was missing the entire point:  "Two people come together in a relationship each bringing their 50% to contribute.  You are so focused on how the other person is perceiving what you have to offer that you aren't looking at all at the 50% that they are supposed to be presenting to you!"

It is so easy to get caught up in the lifestyle of pleasing others and seeking approval.  I am guilty of this constantly.  But my Life Coach presented a very important reminder to help turn my perspective on its heels -- I have every right, and need, to judge what others are offering me and if it is up to the standards that I have set for my life.  Relationships are about give and take, but this transaction is not intended to occur with blind faith.  We must give with intention and receive with eyes wide open.  I walked out of her office with new clarity and confidence and my prayers that night did not focus on having the world accept what I have to offer, bur rather, an affirmation describing what I seek in life and what I expect from others.  Most importantly, because we deserve to not have to settle for anything less.

THE CHALLENGE DAY 16

Physical
We have spent the first half of this challenge focusing on our own bodies and appearance.  Do you place the same expectations on the lovers in your life?  If not, then you should!  Eat right.  Exercise often.  And take pride in your physical appearance.  But don't forget, expect others to rise to the challenge as well!

Spiritual
It is so easy to fret and worry about whether or not we are pleasing to those we seek approval from every day.  Take a step back and re-center your thoughts.  What do YOU expect from others?  Are you getting it?  Or are you settling for less?  If you have a tendency to 'settle' then write down the character elements and actions that you desire in a supportive partner and read that list over whenever you need the friendly reminder.

Personal
"It's very tempting when you really want to be with someone to settle for much, much less -- even a vague pathetic facsimile of less -- than you would have ever imagined.  Remember always what you set out to get and please don't settle for less.  These guys exist because there are a lot of women out there who allow them to."  -- He's Just Not That Into You


Monday, February 20, 2012

THE CHALLENGE DAY 15

This past week brought about a holiday that evokes a whole host of emotions from people:  Valentine’s Day (also known as Single’s Awareness Day – S.A.D.).  It is a horrible/wonderful/loving/lonely/despised/cheerful/over hyped/fun day to celebrate those we love.  The week started with conversations of people asking “what are your plans?” And then the transition to “how did it go?”  Followed by the usual remark (by singles and couples alike) “Don’t you just hate this overrated Hallmark holiday?” 
Ok, I am going to play Devil’s advocate and keep reading to hear me out for just a moment.  The intent of Valentine’s Day is to set aside, officially on the calendar, time to spend with loved ones and formulate a gesture to show them your love and gratitude.  Is this so terrible?  Is this really the worst idea in the world propelled by the flower and chocolate companies to make a quick buck post Christmas?  I would argue NO, it isn’t. 
A common theme in my writing and in my own personal thoughts is to live a life filled with intention.  Valentine’s Day does call attention to love, but it doesn’t have to always be a romantic kind of love.  It can be a day that we intentionally celebrate family, friends, or a coworker that has brought a smile to our face.  If you spent Valentine’s Day with a scowl on your face and cursing every flower truck that drove by you because you were so focused on the fact that it probably wasn’t heading to your home of office as a result of an absent S.O. or forgetful husband then today’s challenge is just for you:  dedicate a day this week to expelling time, energy, and maybe even a little money on those that fill your life with love and support.  You might find out that they are eager to return the favor – and might have even offered to be your Valentine!  I know that, for me, my go to Valentine will always be my mother and father.  Everyone else is just icing on the cake.
The Challenge – Day 15
Physical
Show your body some love – it is your temple and your responsibility to keep it healthy.  Exercise, eat healthy, and drink plenty of water.  Calendaring that time never hurts.  Especially since we can all use a little reminder to set aside time for the things that matter.
Spiritual
The World uses plenty of media influence to get us to focus on us alone.  We focus on what we do and don’t have and if those that we depend upon are actually living up to those set expectations.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  And look out to the world around you and stop looking inward – for just a moment.  Focus your mind on the blessings, love, and basic needs that are present in your life.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." – John F. Kennedy

Personal

I’m entirely serious about the Valentine’s Day Challenge.  If you spent the holiday with some disdain, or even if you didn’t, give it a ‘mulligan’ – in other words another shot.  I challenge you to put on your Outlook or iCalendar ‘Day of Love’ for some day in the week ahead and reach out to those who mean the most with a random act of kindness.  Silly as it may sound, I think that something warm and loving will fill you from the inside out.


Monday, February 13, 2012

THE CHALLENGE DAY 14


I was out and about on Saturday afternoon when I got a call from my girlfriends that the plan for the night was to head over to our favorite Mexican food restaurant around 5:30 to indulge in some Skinny Margaritas.  5:30?!  What is this?  The early bird special?  On a Saturday night?  So I head home to begin my 'primping' session and pour myself a glass of Pinot Grigio.  It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and the thought of relaxing with friends and starting the night early (and hopefully ending it early) suddenly became very appealing.  I have gotten into the habit of listening to Z100 on my 'I Heart Radio' app on my iPad on the weekends because it is based out of NYC and they have a great party soundtrack applicable to those that are a few hours ahead of me.  I was in high spirits as I applied eye liner, sipped my vino, and listened to the latest beats by Rihanna and Jay-Z. 

Then the news came across the airwaves and changed the entire tone of the evening.  Unless you have been living under a rock for the few two days then you probably know exactly what I am talking about -- the sudden passing of Whitney Houston.  The DJ on Z100 was very somber in announcing that the pop icon of an entire generation had passed at far too young an age of 48 years old. My heart sank more in that moment then when I had learned of Michael Jackson's death. Whitney represented a period in my life that was full of joy, excitement, and innocence.  I was in 5th grade when I got my first boombox from Santa and the first CD to play in it was The Body Guard Soundtrack. I played those Whitney songs over and over and over again. I would dance around my room with my girlfriends, put on our fancy dresses, and play with mom's lipstick as if we were actually about to head out on the town and go 'dance with somebody'. 

The obvious topic of conversation at our margarita night was discussing the sudden loss of a treasured icon.  She had her struggles and story of substance abuse, but when we were kids that wasn't what defined Whitney.  Her long list of hits inspired us to dream big and look bright-eyed towards our future.  The tone at our table transitioned from mournful to nostalgic and then celebratory.  We all reminisced on what her songs had meant to us -- when and where we played them and who we danced with at the time.  After all, her peak was the beginning of teenage-hood for me and most of my friends.  The common thread through all the stories was that they were joyful moments spent celebrating life.

I love to dream big, work hard, and look towards the future.  BUT -- there is a lot to be said for tapping into the vault of joyful childhood memories.  We don't have to experience life and take the stance to 'never look back'.  Instead, I say, look back with fondness on some of the times that you found the most enjoyable or exciting.  You might actually find your own childhood to be the most inspiring affection of your day.  Take that, Dr. Phil.

THE CHALLENGE - DAY 14

Physical
Do you remember complaining about exercise as a kid?  Most likely, not.  Most kids are so eager to get outside and 'play'.  Think of what kind of physical exercise could be playful and you might actually find it to be a great workout too.  Jump rope anyone?

Spiritual
What memories from your childhood or young adulthood could you associate with what defines your own personal foundation -- your center of gravity?  Acknowledge the people and moments the contributed to your own character formation.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. -- Carl Jung

Personal
I would think it is safe to assume that there are at least a handful of teachers and loved ones that contributed to your 'vault' of fond childhood memories.  How are you doing in 'paying it forward'?  Are you giving time and energy to the future leaders of our communities and country? 

Tips & Reminders:  It's cold & flu season!  Drink lots of water and take your vitamins.  You don't want to catch your neighbor's germs.  Also, try to laugh at least once a day.  Those endorphins can really work some magic.




Monday, February 6, 2012

THE CHALLENGE DAY 13


I recently returned from spending nearly a full week visiting friends and loved ones in New York City.  I booked the plane ticket simply because Southwest Airlines was having a sale (50% off!) and it had been years since I last spent time in the Northeast.  I had many friends living in The City and the comments over the years of "You should come visit....okay, one day I will come out to see you..." seemed trite until real action was taken.  So I did it.  I booked the ticket.  No plans in place at the time of purchase, just the hope and excitement of getting out of my comfort zone, as defined by the California border lines and perpetual sunshine, to spend time with those I typically only communicate with via email or the occasional phone call.

The six day trip ended up being jam packed with plenty of lunch dates, happy hours, dinners, and nights out on the town.  It was such a joy to catch up with these friends in person and to see in real life the people and places that now occupy their lives -- whereas I had previously only known of them through Facebook postings.  'Keeping in Touch' is one thing, but spending time with an old friend in their new life is a whole different level of bonding.  I was so happy to have the opportunity and I truly recommend booking the plane ticket or making the drive to visit (in person!) those that represent some of the most significant relationships in your life.

So you might be wondering...where exactly is she going with this?  Towards the end of my trip it dawned on me that I had spent the week learning about the lives that my friends had established for themselves in this bright lights city that never sleeps.  They had new careers, fianc├ęs, degree programs, and killer wardrobes. Essentially, they were in the midst of writing the next chapter in their book called Life.  I was packing to head home and in my reflections on the trip I also personally reflected on the notion of 'What is the story that I am writing for my life right now?'  

I hadn't really stopped to think about how I wanted to shape my current chapter (probably to be titled 'The Roaring 20's').  I immediately got excited at the notion and was eager to return home to continue 'writing' my own personal story with hope that those who come to visit me in my city will enjoy and appreciate my book of life as much as I've enjoyed getting a deeper understanding of friends through seeing them live out  their stories.

Today's Challenge:  Life is a blend of what happens to you and how you react to it -- with much more power and opportunity lying in the 'reaction'.  Consciously reflect on the chapter that you are currently writing in your book called Life and decide if you are happy with the person you are becoming or if any adjustments or growth is to be a priority for the year ahead.

THE CHALLENGE DAY 13

Physical
Continue to be strong and dedicated to your physical health.  It plays a great deal into your story as it contributes to energy levels and self esteem.  We are not to obsess about our looks, but we should be committed to a healthy lifestyle in which we can maintain high self esteem about how we physically present ourselves.  Your challenge, every week, is to make the time.

Spiritual
Our stories in the book of Life are a blend of what the world brings into our lives through no decision made by us, but also how we react to those events and also how we proactively seek out what we do want in life.  We need to see life with clear eyes and a calm heart so that we can react to it with the best version of ourselves.  Come back to your 'Center of Gravity' -- those elements that define who you are and be at peace with it.  You will be much more prepared for ride of life.

“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” - John Maxwell


Personal
We can't take life on by ourselves -- we need to fill our lives with family and friends.  When was the last time that you reached out to a good friend to simply say hello, inquire about their life, and invest some of that personal time and energy?  Reach out.  You won't regret it.