Obsessing Over Your Mistakes? Be Kind to Yourself in a 5:1 Ratio

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This semester, I teach one class in one building, then run to a second class in a second building, then run to a third class in a third building. When I first saw my schedule, I thought I was going to be in hell this semester. Except, there’s a little bit of heaven in every hellish situation.

Because I run from class to class to class, I have little time to do what I usually do: obsess.

Do you ever have a conversation and then immediately obsess over how you could have said something better?

Do you ever do something and then immediately think of all the ways you could have done it better?

Yeah, me too. That’s my entire life. Except this semester, as I run from place to place to place, I don’t have much time to do it. And then, by the end of the day, I’m so tired that I’ve forgotten most of what I said anyway. And then I fall into bed.

And you know what? It’s been so good for me.

achievement-3772064__340John Gottman is a famous relationship researcher who has found that, in the best relationships, there is a 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms.

I try my best to treat other people really well. I treat my students well and I try with my friends and family to be kind as much as possible.

And right now, I don’t have a partner, so it’s just me and me. I’m seeing that that relationship could use a better ratio. I’m noticing that, when I have a lot of time on my hands, I spend it being mean to myself.

Reviewing my life and pointing out flaws. Reviewing my past and thinking I could have done all of it, every moment of it, better.

Do you ever sit alone and beat yourself up for the past? How does it feel? Yeah. Makes you want a glass of wine, huh?

It’s hard to accept that the past is over and we can’t change it. So… now what?

We change. We evolve. We learn and we grow. It’s called evolution, and we can help our own evolution or beat ourselves up for it.

swallow-3584915_960_720I’m learning to help my own evolution with a simple tool: I’m being nice to myself in a 5:1 ratio. I’m being in a relationship with myself that has a 5:1 ratio. I’m going to love myself like crazy in a 5:1 ratio.

Since developing a mindfulness and meditation practice, I can catch myself being mean. I can feel it and recognize it. When I start telling myself that I should do more and be better and achieve more, I feel it. And then I stop.

  • What are 5 things that you did well today?
  • What are 5 things that you appreciate about who you are?
  • What are 5 things that your friends would say about you?
  • What are 5 things you are proud of?
  • What are 5 things that you did to take care of yourself today?
  • What are 5 things that you are really good at?
  • What are 5 things that you like about the way you look?

Beautiful, gorgeous, hard on yourself reader: The most important relationship of your life is the one between you and you. Be kind in a 5:1 ratio. Don’t give your critical inner voice so much air time. Crowd it out in a 5:1 ratio. Be supportive to yourself in a 5:1 ratio. Be encouraging in a 5:1 ratio. Be the best partner you could ever want for you.

You know what? I’m glad I wrote this blog. I’m proud that I’m willing to be vulnerable and share my struggles. I like that I write this blog thinking of you. I appreciate that I try my best to be a good person to others. I do the best I can with the tools I have.

What are 5 things you appreciate about yourself today? Practice that ratio.

Loving you out there. In a 5:1 ratio.

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I’m Feeling Unmotivated and I Need Help

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“I feel so unmotivated,” my student said. “There’s so much to do, and no matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to make a dent in what I need to get done. I get so frustrated. Then, I watch Netflix, and then I feel guilty for doing that. I don’t know what to do.”

I said, “I understand.”

He said, “So what do I do?”

I said, “You give yourself a break.”

He looked at me, unconvinced. The whole class looked at me like I was a teensy bit crazy. Give ourselves a break? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WE NEED TO GET DONE???

YES, I DO. I know how much you think you need to get done. I know that our whole nation thinks there is so much more you should be doing. And I know that the good old NOT DOING ENOUGH train of thought is a very popular ride. I’ve been on that crazy train. Every stop is frustration station.

man-1246277_960_720How do you get off a crazy train? You don’t need a meditation retreat. You need a minute. Give yourself a break.

Slow down. You have a minute. Take a minute. Take a deep breath. You can speed up that crazy train, and you can slow it down.

Tried, true, and well-traveled neural pathways are called “trains of thought.” They move fast because you practice them. My crazy train sounds like this:

You are never doing enough. Never skinny enough. Never good enough at your job. Never good enough to your friends. Never get your dog enough exercise. Never make enough of a difference in the world. Always screwing things up.

AAAAAAAAAAA THAT FEELS TERRIBLE. UGH UGH UGH. Are you ready to get off that train? Well, before a train can switch tracks, you need to slow it down.

Deep breath. Exhale. Another. Take a minute. Slow it down. Practice this:

It’s ok. I’m feeling frustrated. That’s ok. My smart brain is running old programs. My busy brain is tired and afraid. I can be compassionate with myself. I can observe my thoughts. I can question my thoughts. Are they true? I know I am ok right now. I am ok right here. 

cat-914110_960_720This past weekend, I heard Tama Kieves speak. She said that when you get upset you’re like a shy kitten hiding under the barn. How would you deal with a shy kitten hiding under the barn? Would you yell at it?

No. You soothe a shy kitten. You coax a shy kitten. You put out a saucer of warm milk.

I said to my student, “It’s ok that you’re watching Netflix. Watching Netflix is legal. There’s nothing wrong. You are calming yourself down. Let that be ok. Let yourself relax. When you relax, you will think of a better idea. You will calm down and make a plan. You will calm down and focus. You will calm down and reach out to a friend. You will calm down and seek out help. It’s all ok. Everyone in this room can relate to you right now. You are brave. You can do this.”

Hey, kitty cat: I know you think you have so much to do. I know you think you aren’t doing enough. I know you don’t believe me when I say it, but you really need to give yourself a break. Who you are right now, today, is enough. What you do every day is enough. Enough is enough. Refuse to judge and shame and ridicule yourself. You don’t think that way.

You give yourself breaks. You let your crazy brain calm down. You stay on your own side. You know that, from a calm place, you always find a better way.

Slow down, step back, deep breath. Over and over again. All day long. For the rest of your life.

And maybe… just maybe… you might even start to realize that you are way better than ok. You might even realize you are doing more than enough. You might even realize that your brain just wants to protect you. You might realize that you are becoming mindful and compassionate and courageous and brave.

You may even start to believe that you’re purrfect. Oh, yes. Mmm hmm. That feels right, shy kitty.

Meow.

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There is a Pathway Through This

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“Who here is good at delivering bad news?” I asked my class.

Only one hand in the room went up.

“Ok, only one person.”

The rest of the room sat in an uncomfortable silence. I asked my lone ranger, “Why do you think you are good at delivering bad news?”

He said, “I think it’s because I’m solution oriented. I can stay calm. I know that, whatever the situation, there’s a pathway through it.”

The words resonated throughout the class, like a ringing bell.

My heart opened to the answer and I went to the board and wrote:

There is a pathway through this

“Wow,” I said, “What a beautiful mindset. What an incredible way to think. That’s the way leaders think, and I love it.”

There is a pathway through this

The most common career trajectory of college students is leadership. Some of them are excited and prepared for leadership. Others are not quite ready. Some will never rise to the role of leading others.

And yet, even if you never become a leader in your career, you will always be the leader of your own life.

Learn this leadership mindset:

There is a pathway through this

forest-438432_960_720Inspirational leaders paint pictures of beautiful pathways. Motivational leaders excite others to follow pathways. Grounded, mindful leaders stay present on pathways. Transformational leaders see pathways where there are none. They have future dreams. They trail blaze. They ground break. They part seas.

Even on your darkest days, there is a path. You only need a little light to see it. If you have trust and faith, you take a few steps forward in the dark. Sometimes, you can confidently walk forward. Sometimes, you get so exhilarated that you run.

Have you been feeling disheartened lately? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Have you had your heart broken? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Have you had trouble getting through the day? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Beautiful, human, brave leader reader: No matter where you are, there is a path forward. There is a solution ahead. There is a dream you can use as a guiding light. There is a trail, or there is ground to break. You have choices. You have time. You are exactly where you need to be on your path right now.

You are the leader of your life. Shine a light into your darkness.

Loving you out there, gorgeous. Deep breath. Look. Can you see it?

There is a pathway through this.

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Today was a Good Day Full of Good People Doing Good Things

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This morning, my friend was in her car across an intersection from me. She turned, I turned, and I ended up stopped at a red light behind her. Then it was furious waving and heart hands and jazz hands, and then she jumped out of her car, ran back to mine, and hugged me through the window.

Wow. A hug through the window on the way to work! I needed it. It was delivered with a huge smile and warm love.

My friend is an athletic trainer and yoga instructor who helps people for a living, she is also in grad school to design curriculum for schools. In her free time, she volunteers to help kids ski and help women overcome their fears of mountain biking .

In short, my friend is a good person who has many achievements. Yet the achievements don’t make her a better person than anyone else. They are just expressions of who she is and what she loves to do. I have had family members in jail who are good people who made mistakes. They should be held accountable for their mistakes, as should we all. And yet, they are not bad people. They made mistakes from disconnected places of pain.

Good people make mistakes. That includes 100% of us. And still, we are all worthy of forgiveness and love.

Life is full of good people doing good things. It is teeming with good people doing good things. Everywhere I look there are good people doing good things. I work at a university where researchers and students and staff are working tirelessly to do good research and help more people and solve any problem you could possibly identify.

Good people and good deeds and good solutions are not on the news in fair representation. Drama trumps all the good happening in the world.

clouds-3030063_960_720Good people doing good things are the norm.

Here is the most important news story of EVERY DAY: Today was a good day full of good people doing good things.

What is your reality? What is your truth? It’s what you choose to think and believe.

I have never met a bad baby. Most people would agree. I have also never met a bad person, because I don’t choose to believe people are bad. I choose to believe that people are sick or have been hurt and are crying out as adults in the human desire for attention, understanding, love, and help.

Social media and television are not reality. They are entertainment mediums made up of stories. Stories are not all true.

What do you consume and believe? Is it true? Really?

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful reader: Every day of your life is a new opportunity to have a good day with good people and do good things. Every day of your life is a new opportunity to make the choice to love others and be compassionate and supportive. Every day of your life is a chance to see what might come through your front window if you allow people to hug you and connect with you.

No matter what their past, no matter what they have said or done, no matter how unworthy you think people are, there is a deeper truth underneath. We are all good people. We are all worthy of forgiveness and healing and love.

Start by giving those things to yourself. Watch your life change from good to great.

Loving you out there. Keep up the good work. XO

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Allow Your Negative Thoughts to Settle

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Allowing.

It’s a verb that can be difficult for me. Allow sadness. Allow anger. Allow urges to come and go. Allow love. Allow yourself to receive.

Since developing a mindfulness practice and observing my thoughts, I sometimes don’t want to allow myself to be sad. I can see the sad thoughts running through my mind and I want to reframe them. I want to cheer myself up immediately. I want to get over it!!!, because I can see the lies I tell myself. I know my sadness is in my thinking. I’m tired of thinking.

I don’t want to allow self-pity or sadness. And yet, fighting against those thoughts or resisting them or immediately trying to cheer myself away from them only makes them more uncomfortable and raw. Russ Harris calls it “turning on the struggle switch.”

Stop the struggle. Allow sadness. Yes, you can.

You can relax. You can breathe. You can loosen your grip. You can allow.

In “The Little Book of Big Change,” Amy Johnson offers a snowglobe metaphor for allowing.

snowman-1090261_960_720Snowglobe! Your brain is a snowglobe! When you’re caught up in anger or sadness, the snowglobe has been shaken. Snow everywhere. Can’t see the cute little figure in the middle.

When you want a snowglobe to settle down, you don’t keep shaking it. You watch it and do not rush it. You allow it to settle. It always goes back to normal.

Wayne Dyer once said, “Remember that your natural state is joy.” I love this. At the very least, your natural state will be rest and digest. Balance. Stillness.

Sometimes I don’t trust my brain to go back to joy or calm. Sometimes I don’t think those snowflakes will ever settle, because I’m watching them and freaking out. I’m watching them and feeling cold and alone. I’m watching them without faith or trust.

When you tense up or freak out about things, they feel worse. So allow yourself to relax. Allow yourself a time out. Allow your mind to settle. Allow yourself to believe that you will always, every time, be ok.

Gorgeous, monkey brained reader: Trust that your brain will calm. Have faith that your negative emotions will come and go. Notice how no feeling lasts forever. All thoughts are passing. Negative emotion doesn’t mean you’re making mistakes. It means you’re a human being with a human brain that feels all the feelings your whole life long.

Let the storms of your life pass through.

Loving you out there. Deep breath. Let go. Let it snow. XO

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What Would Love Do? What Would Peace Say?

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Sometimes, when people ask me about two jobs – Which should I take? I ask, “What decision feels most like love?” I remember asking my friend Nick this question, and he almost did a full eye roll at me, and then he smiled when he found the answer in his mind.

What would love do?

What is the most loving choice you can make?

This past weekend, I met a teacher who talked about animal messengers. Not spirit animals – which I love discussing – but animal messengers. He said that animals are coming into our lives to give us messages.

Are you listening to animal messages? Are you doing a full eye roll at me yet?

I told this guy that a pair of doves like to sit on the telephone wires out in my backyard and coo. Whenever I sit outside to slow down and meditate or drink a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, there they are, sitting there, cooing.

meditate-1851165_960_720-2Coo coo coo.

Chill out. Slow down. Listen. Relax. It’s going to be ok. You’re ok.

And then the guy reminded me, “You know, the dove is the symbol for peace.”

Ahhh.

Peace. What would peace say? It would say You’re ok. It would say Relax. It would say Open your heart, it’s full of love and it’s safe to love. You are loved. You are safe. Take your love to the world without expecting anything in return. Go in peace.

I needed that message. Do you?

Beautiful, gorgeous reader: What decision would you make from a place of love? What would peace say to you?

Loving you out there. Coo coo coo. Have the most loving, peace filled weekend.

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Be a Learning Loser

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Do you ever wish that you could go back in the past and do something different and say something different and be a different version of you?

You can’t. And all that mental energy you are expending trying to wish the past were different will drain the life right out of you.

Did you lose? Did you fail? Did you make a mistake?

We all do. And you’re welcome to throw a hissy fit. My friends and my favorite hissy fit partners Merlot, PBR, Ben, and Jerry have all seen me throw massive, epic hissy fits. It doesn’t feel good to lose. I get it. I also know that I can blame everybody else for what went wrong, or I can be a learning loser.

We all like to win. America loves a winner.

I love a winner too. And yet to me, winners aren’t the people who always win, they are the people who always learn. Winners may discuss their problems, but then they put their energy and heart into the solutions. Winners believe the future is bright. Winners believe that we all can do amazing things. Winners believe they will find a better way. Winners believe that love is powerful and can produce miracles.

tea-time-3240766_960_720Winners take bad situations and learn as much as they possibly can.

Be a learning loser. Upset with your current situation? Learn a better way.

If you are a healthy, capable adult with an internet connection, you can get started today.

Read an article. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Watch an instructional video on YouTube. Talk to people who have what you want. Ask your friends for help. Take responsibility for how you speak and behave. Take responsibility for your failures. Offer yourself time, compassion, and healing. Take all the time you need to grieve your failures and losses.

When you are ready, you can always learn a better way.

Gorgeous loser reader: We all lose. We all fail. We all don’t get everything we want. You can feel sorry for yourself and blame other people for your circumstances, or you can take responsibility for yourself and learn. You can get better. You can improve. You can trust and believe in a better future version of yourself that has already won.

Loving you out there. Be a learning loser. That way, you always win. XO

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