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Posts Tagged “Dr Kate”

What Your Sexual Voice is all About and How You Can Make it Work for YOU

What Your Sexual Voice is all About and How You Can Make it Work for YOU

Let’s face it – even though sex is everywhere these days, most of us are not comfortable talking openly about our sexuality and desire. And this is not necessarily because we’re shy or we self-censor. When it comes right down to it, free-expression about the sex you have or want to have is still incredibly taboo in most cultures across the globe.

Yet, a healthy, expressive sex life is an essential part of a healthy, expressive life!

To help me start a conversation about sex, I’ve invited my friend and Sexual Empowerment Coach, Amy Jo Goddard, to share her thoughts with us in this week’s article.

So much of Amy Jo’s work is about encouraging people to say what they desire. Often times, the desires we keep secret are the ones that hold the greatest potential to bring us the kind of fulfillment and satisfaction we seek. It takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to say what you want out loud. Yet, when you find your voice, you’ll have a better chance at finding your pleasure.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR SEXUAL VOICE BY AMY JO GODDARD

I’ve struck a chord with my dialogue on “Finding the Sexual Voice.”  Some people feel like their sexual voice is stifled, and always has been. Others are completely out of touch with it.  And, many want to know how they can shift their sexual voice to authentically get their needs met.  In any case, to understand the sexual voice, we first have to break it down.

The sexual voice is two-fold: We all have an internal voice and an external voice.

INTERNAL

Your internal sexual voice is the way you talk to yourself about your sexuality, the way you treat your body, the way you think and what you think when you are having sex, the stories you have believed and continue to tell yourself about sexuality, your desirability and your sexual life and desires.

In my Women’s Sexual Empowerment program we focus on the sexual story and herstory in our first weekend retreat and we do a powerful exercise that allows us to look at our collective sexual story. It opens us up to seeing what kinds of stories women are carrying, how they are viewing themselves and defining who they are, and what they have held onto. It’s so powerful. I wish everyone could have that experience because it can allow us to see that we are not alone, that others have had similar experiences or stories about themselves and we can develop a deep compassion for ourselves when we are witnessed in our stories.

Your internal story is what you carry around with you all the time. It’s the way you frame your sexuality and what happens to you inside. There are always embedded beliefs in the sexual story we carry internally. Things like, “It’s not normal that I don’t have orgasms, there must be something wrong with me.” Or “I’m not attractive enough/sexy enough/sexual enough/exciting, etc.” Or “I’ll never heal from my sexual abuse.” Or “I’m too old for sex…”

Hopefully we have positive beliefs about our sexuality that we carry: “I am totally lovable.” “I’m capable of amazing orgasms and pleasure and I feel good about my lack of inhibition.” “I love my body and it’s abilities.” “I’m a sexually desirable creature.”
Your internal voice impacts how you feel in your body, in your relationships, how present you are in sex, how much you enjoy your sexuality, how inhibited you are, and how you express your sexuality on a daily basis. It is essential that you do some work around your internal voice, stories and beliefs so that you can have a healthy outlook and framework for your sexual life.

EXTERNAL

Your external voice is how you talk about your sexuality and your body, how you flirt and approach people, how you put yourself out there, how you ask for what you want, and express your desire.

Your external voice will mirror some of the internal stories and your internal voice. Your level of positivity or negativity about sex, your insecurities, your frustrations, your healthy view of yourself, and your confidence all stem from that internal voice and are expressed verbally, emotionally and energetically.

Most people get really stuck in finding their external sexual voice for a variety of reasons. I can remember when I was younger the way a frog would get stuck in my throat when I wanted to express something in a sexual situation. If I wanted to make a request or ask for an adjustment it could feel like the hardest thing to do. I know many people struggle to tell a partner they want something different or to offer any instruction because then maybe their partner will get discouraged or think they are doing it wrong, or maybe it will hurt their feelings.

There are many ways the external voice shows up during sex. How do you communicate in the moment? How do you ask for what you want when you are in the throws of it? How do you shift gears? How do you make inviting requests?

There is a larger conversation that must happen around sex, and when you establish it with a partner, it becomes much easier to offer this kind of feedback: talking about what is working and what is not, talking about new desires and wishes, and discussing how to improve or build your sexual relationship.

Nothing builds deeper and more meaningful intimacy than learning to talk about sex in a way that feels empowered, exciting and fun. And even when it’s hard, it brings you closer. This is why I work with people so much on how to have these conversations and how to set up their sexual relationships for success and intimacy.

Now that you understand the dichotomy of the sexual voice, you can start to notice your patterns and responses within each aspect, and gather tools to break through to your authentic, empowered sexual voice. 

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As a Sexual Empowerment expert and thought leader, Amy Jo Goddard has guided thousands of people towards the wholeness and fulfillment they want, sexually and in other aspects of their lives. She earned her Master’s degree in Human Sexuality Education from New York University and has 20 years of experience in the sexuality field. As a renowned speaker and teacher, Amy Jo travels to colleges, communities, and conferences teaching classes and offering keynotes that help people to connect the dots around sexuality and money, expand their creativity, grow their confidence and learn to be bigger in their relationships, in business, and in the world. 

She delivered her TEDx talk “Owning Your Sexual Power” in March, 2014 in Napa Valley, was named one of GO! Magazin’s “100 Women We Love” in 2010 and one of Kinkly’s ”100 Sex Blogging Superheros” in 2013.

Amy Jo is also the author of the upcoming book, WOMAN ON FIRE: 9 Elements to Wake Up Your Erotic Energy, Personal Power and Sexual Intelligence. 

Happiness is the True Meaning of Life

Happiness is the True Meaning of Life

In my 20’s, I learned that if I worked hard I could change my circumstances. In my 30’s, I learned that if I let myself love then, no matter the outcome, whatever I did would be worth it. Now in my 40’s, I can see that if I don’t have peace on the inside then it doesn’t matter how much love or money I have in my life.

The truth is, lasting happiness comes from one thing – and that’s peace.

I was in Thailand a few years ago to meet with a Russian Shaman. True story. She told me that I was meant to work with people around happiness – to really help them to be happy with their life.

At this moment, I see how true her statement really is.

I used to think that happiness was overrated. Now, I think it’s underrated. Nothing matters more in our lives than how we feel on the inside.

The True Meaning of Life

I believe the secrets of the universe will stay secret. However, I don’t think this prevents us from creating lives full of meaning and joy. There are few things in life that bring us true happiness. And they’re not what you think they are.

So what are these things? Let’s start at the top:

Peace in Your Heart

    I have to say it – even at the risk of sounding like every other self-help guru: peace on the inside is where it’s at.
    Life will always have its ups and downs. And yes, you can count on the universe to send something unexpected your way. We can either let ourselves feel tossed around by life’s inevitable twists and turns. Or we can create a kind of internal stability that won’t flinch when life throws us a curve-ball. This stability comes from a sense of inner-peace. When this is in place, we know in a deep way that we’re always going to be okay regardless of what’s happening around us.
    So, stop for a moment and ask yourself: what would your life be like if you spent as much time creating peace in your heart as you do working at your job or on your business? What would happen if you made sure to take some “you-time” everyday to bring a little more peace into your heart? Why not create a little experiment to test out your hypothesis?

Time with Those that Matter

    Grandparents around the world, join me for an AMEN! They know that time teaches us about what matters most and who matters most in your life. But why wait until you’re older to benefit from this essential life lesson? Why not build your life around the people you really care about right now?
    If this rings true to you, then try this out: once a week for the next month, make a plan to spend some time with someone you really love. Do something that you both enjoy. Those good feelings and good times will build good memories and will help to grow your sense of peace.

Doing Something you Love and That You are Good At

    It doesn’t matter if you get paid for it or not. When we do something we love and we’re good at, we feel great. And this is exactly what many people refer to as “life purpose.” This is why life purpose has more to do with something we create than something we find.
    When we start doing things we love and look for ways to offer them to the world, our skill and satisfaction naturally multiplies.

Dare to Dream

    There’s a reason that the idea of the “bucket list” became so popular so fast. People yearn for permission to do things that excite them, bring them joy, and make their life meaningful. We feel happy when we let ourselves dream and when we meet even a few of our dreams.
    So, ask yourself: what do I dream of doing? Big or small. It doesn’t matter. Pick one of your dreams and begin to do things that in time will make it a reality.

Go Deep

    Life is too short to stay on the surface. So, to tap into a sense of lasting inner-peace, you’ll need to find out what is really going on with you and those around you. Be willing to ask challenging questions. Take the risk to create intimacy. Our internal landscape has as much room to explore as our external one.
How to Fall in Love with Your LIFE Again

How to Fall in Love with Your LIFE Again

When I work with people in my LifeWork Community program, we look for the easiest ways to effect big changes. Why? Because, often it’s little shifts that create major transformations.

These little shifts tend to get overlooked because we’re looking for the major breakthrough, the AHA! moment that changes everything. Yet, when you make the small changes the big moments will happen as they do and when they do. The benefit here is that you’ll be further along in your personal transformation having made small changes along the way.

And so, the focus of this article is about the little ways you can fall in love with your life again.

Fall in Love with Your LIFE Again

Our lives are filled with lots of repetition and routine. It’s common for many of us feel numb and bored from time to time.

Perhaps you have asked yourself questions like these:

Why has there been little change in my life over the past weeks or months?
Why is it that I’m no longer excited by my relationship?

Somewhere along the way we came to believe that happiness was a place we were destined and entitled to arrive. We also came to believe that happiness came with having everything we want. These mistaken beliefs can really mislead us. If we aren’t feeling happy or we’re not getting what we want, we tend to feel like something is wrong. But, nothing is wrong with your life and nothing is wrong with you.

To really access the marrow of life we need to learn some skills that help take our focus away from what we don’t have or should have and instead connect us with what is.

Here are three things you can do today to shift your thinking and to love the life you have before you.

Look for what’s amazing in your everyday life.

    Most of us have unconscious expectations about how our life should be. At the very least, we all have hopes that our lives will turn out in a particular way. When you’re preoccupied with comparing what you have against what you think you should have, you’re not able to appreciate what you have for what it is. One of the easiest ways to figure out if your expectations are keeping you from being satisfied with your life is to pay attention to your habits. Do you crave a sugary snack in the afternoon? Are you dissatisfied with your relationships after the initial honeymoon period? Do you start getting bored with work after the initial newness wears off? While there can be many reasons these habits develop, one of them is a lack of ability to see what’s amazing in your day-to-day. If you’re in the habit of waiting for something amazing to happen to you, challenge yourself to find what’s wonderful in what’s around you.

Find something to be grateful for.

    One of the fastest ways to fall in love with your life is to look for things for which you’re grateful. Take time to celebrate these aspects of your life. We’re the meaning makers of our life. If we don’t create the meaning, appreciate the little thing, or feel gratitude for what is, then regardless of how good it really gets nothing is going to feel that special.
    So, how do you get started? It’s actually fairly simple. Take a moment during breakfast or dinner to turn to a loved one or friend and tell them one thing you’re grateful for/ excited about/ intrigued by from your day. Or, you can keep a gratitude journal where you write down three things that happened during the day that you thought were special. Another approach is to tell one person per week how grateful you are for them or something they’ve done. The great thing here is that when you express your gratitude, you feel good and those around you feel appreciated and noticed. It’s a win for all involved.

Try to be intentional.

    It takes intention to approach your day-to-day life from a place of gratitude. While this mind-set can take a little bit of practice, more often than not it really just requires that we be aware of what we want. When we’re feeling bored or checked out, that’s our reminder to check back in with our intention.
    Here are some tips to move through your day with intention. When you wake up each morning, think about how you would like to go through the day. How would you like to feel as you move through it? If there’s an aspect of your day that you anticipate will be challenging, see if you can come up with a way to go through it that’s ideal for you.

As you go forward, you can build on and develop these skills so that you can add more enjoyment to your life. But, don’t worry if you have some days where you feel flat. It’s normal. Remember that you can always wake up tomorrow and ask yourself, “what would I like today to be like?

4 Ways to Be Your Best Self in Your Most Important Relationships

4 Ways to Be Your Best Self in Your Most Important Relationships

Last week I led a week-long intensive training with my Master Transformational Coaching program. In this program, I emphasize personal development work because it’s this work that truly helps us be our best selves. When we do this work, we’re able to bring the best of our selves to our relationships – whether they’re with people at home, at work, or in the world. I’d like to tip my hat to the wonderful people who took part in this training program. They’re doing the hard inquiry necessary to step into their whole selves so that they can help others through this same transformation.

Be Your Best Self In Your Most Important Relationships

We often strive to create healthy and satisfying relationships. But sometimes, despite how much we may try, we’re unable to create relationships that are mutually supportive and fulfilling. When this happens, there are several things we can do to bring our best selves to our relationships, and in turn, bring about the positive change we seek.

Get to Know Yourself:

    To be your best self in your personal relationships you need to develop your awareness of yourself. What do you value? What do you dream of? What are your strengths? Where are the skills you want to hone? When we ask ourselves these kinds of questions we grow our awareness of ourselves and we can use that awareness to create relationships that are beneficial for everyone involved. Sometimes our personal relationships hit a rough patch. When this happens, your awareness will clue you into how you might be contributing to the difficulty at hand and whether or not that relationship should be maintained.

Love Yourself:

    Learning to love yourself is such an important step towards creating healthy relationships. It’s cliché but true – to truly love someone else, you have to love yourself first. This is because we’re unable treat someone better than we treat ourselves.
    Our limits in loving others comes from our inability to love ourselves. Over the course of our relationships, these limits inevitably come to light. We may compensate for our inabilities by giving more to others than we have – or have allowed ourselves – to receive. Yet, this can set us up for difficulty. If we’re not loving ourselves then we’re likely looking for someone else to give us that sense of being loved. This can be the starting point for lots of problems like dependency, fear of abandonment, and fear of intimacy.
    To really love ourselves, we need to see the unique value and intrinsic beauty of who we are without any externally imposed definitions. To begin to do this, take the time to tell yourself all the things that you like about yourself. And do it often.

Clear Your History:

    Part of showing up as our best selves is to be in the present moment as much as possible. This means that our previous experiences need to be left where they belong – in the past. To do this, people typically undergo a process wherein they remember the past, understand how it effected them and then disentangle themselves from it.
    There are a number of different tools that people can use to clear themselves of aspects of their past that no longer serve them. For example, there is EFT, Access Consciousness, energy work, Core Energetics and the list goes on. If you’re wanting to create a different baseline for yourself, it’s helpful to find a method that you can use to continually reinforce your new way of being.
    To clear your history, try on a few methods that you sense would be a good fit. Then keep an open mind while you see if they’re effective for you. It takes a little while to clear your past from your present, so give this process some time. As you do this your awareness will increase and old feelings might come to the surface. When in a relationship, sometimes it’s helpful to let the other person know when something from your past has been activated and communicate what you need when this happens.

Own Your Stuff:

    Nothing makes a relationship stronger than integrity. The biggest gift you can give yourself is know and own your contributions to your relationships – both in the positive and in the negative.
    When things get difficult in a relationship, look for the ways that you’ve contributed to the problem. Simply ask yourself: “is there anything that I would have done better or differently if I had remained in full integrity?” If the answer is yes, then do your best to make right on what you know you could have done better.

When we’re unclear about how our own issues influence our relationships we’re likely to do unintentional damage. When we’re unconscious of our unresolved feelings about our past, we’re more likely to blame, shame and guilt others when those unresolved feelings are triggered. It’s only when we’re aware of our contributions to the state of our relationships and able to stay in our integrity that we can create environments in which our relationships can thrive.

Paths to Healing

Paths to Healing

When it comes down to it, everything I’ve studied and practiced over the past 20 years has been about healing. I’ve looked at healing from spiritual, material, creative, energetic, psychological and physical perspectives. Today, both my business and personal development work focuses on how I can best facilitate and teach healing practices.

And so, for this week’s article, I’m going to talk about ways you can incorporate healing practices into your everyday life.

Paths to Healing

What helps us heal? This is a big question.

From my experience, I can say that healing methods help a person – or in some cases a group of people – heal themselves. These methods often include one or more of the following perspectives or techniques:

The Big YES!

    The first step to healing comes when we honor our truth and accept it fully. This easy access to healing could be called the big YES! And this YES! is ultimately about alignment. Our joy, our natural flow, and easy expression of our core selves is most present when our actions and choices are in alignment with how we truly feel.

    We can use the big YES! to bring healing to institutions, ecosystems, and even home environments. This happens when – as a business or as a society – we make sure our actions match the missions we collectively set for ourselves.

    To bring more healing into your life, first pay attention to what you love. Then, chose to do more of it. When people talk about “doing what you love” and “finding your bliss” they are acknowledging this healing tenant.

Bring Together What is Supportive

    When we heal, we bring together things that add to our well-being. Think of this in terms of nourishment. We take vitamins and minerals to feed our bodies what they need to heal. So, if we see a lack of health in one area of our lives, we can ask ourselves: what’s undercutting my sense of well-being and what can I bring into my life that will support it?

    To bring healing into our lives, we can exercise, feed ourselves good food and surround ourselves with good company. We can turn to supportive friends and institutions when in need. And we can turn-inward and ask ourselves what things or which people truly support us.

Remove What is Unsupportive

    Sometimes, adding support to our lives is not enough. Sometimes we need to remove what’s not supportive. The climbing wisteria might be destroying the building. The delicious meal might contain an allergen. There are times when what was once supportive stops being so. For example, you may have shared a supportive relationship with someone that stopped being supportive as you and the other person changed. If this is the case, it might be time to end the relationship. And, sometimes things appear to have no use – or at worst, might be doing harm. We cut out cancer. We medicate depression. These illnesses interrupt our health, so we work as best we can to remove them from our lives.

    One thing we can do to partner with our health is to pay attention to our inner critic. When we observe our inner critic at work – and especially when we catch ourselves in a moment of negative self-talk – we can chose to tune into a more positive inner voice. Over time, we can work to remove our inner critic from our inner council.

    We can also look through our life to find the things that no longer serve us. We can elect to let these things go even if our sense of nostalgia has us hanging on.

Focus on What We Want

    The whole point of intention and positive thinking is to help orient us in the direction we want to go. When we bring an intention to our lives, we focus our attention on a desirable outcome or behavior. We might dedicate our intention towards our self-empowerment or towards creating an ideal business.

    If you want to use intention and positive thinking to bolster your life, add things to your environment that remind you of your goals. You can also set your intention at the beginning of every day or each event. This will keep your intention fresh and will help you steadily achieve your goals.

Mend What is Broken

    One of the words associated with healing is “mending”. Sometimes things get torn apart. We mend a broken bone, a busted fence and even a broken heart. In Shamanic traditions, soul retrieval is a form of mending. It reconnects a person with previously disconnected parts of themselves.

    Mending usually emerges out of necessity. We mend something after it has been broken. So, pay attention to how many things in your life are broken. Do you have broken objects, broken relationships, or broken agreements that need to be mended so that you can move in the direction of your healing? If so, begin to put effort into fixing these things so that they no longer drain your energy.

When you bring healing into your life, you’re likely to be working with these basic techniques to promote your well-being. As you become more and more familiar with these healing methods, it becomes easier to build them into your life, business, or environment in ways that maintain and strengthen your health.

Co-Creative Leadership and the Power of Engagement

Co-Creative Leadership and the Power of Engagement

I’ve learned a LOT about leadership while growing my business. I cannot say these have been easy lessons. I’ve probably made every mistake in the book. I’ve been too hands off. I’ve been too rigid. My standards have – at times – been out of reach. In those moments, I’ve let my frustration get the better of me.

I know that there are people who choose leadership roles to boost their ego. Yet, I’ve found that leadership is a profound and often under-appreciated form of service.

This post talks about co-creative leadership, and explores the skills necessary for it. I believe these are skills that become more and more essential in our lives as time goes on.

Co-Creative Leadership and the Power of Engagement

We all need to learn leadership skills. However, how we put those skills to work differs from person to person and from goal to goal. While some people want to command authority, others want to inspire and engage. While some people think of leadership as a solitary act, others see it as a part of a broader group effort.

Co-creative leadership is about engaging others to tackle the task at hand. It’s about facilitating growth and change while accomplishing a shared goal. With your family, co-creative leadership can be used to make a group decision about a family vacation. If you’re a part of a team, it might be used to make a joint decision about when and where you’re going to practice. And, in your business, you might use it to find new ways to be more efficient, so that you have more time to spend with family.

Creatively Contribute to the “Whole”

    In co-creative leadership, you’re not managing people; you’re managing projects. This is a powerful distinction.

    The fact is that people don’t need to be managed most of the time. If they need to be managed in the workplace, they might be more of a liability than an asset to your business. If they need to be managed at home, you might be missing an opportunity to empower your children or to partner with your spouse. And, if your friends, colleagues and acquaintances need to be managed, you’re either taking too much responsibility for those around you or you’re not with your peers.

    People need to know “why” they’re doing something. This means that they need to support the vision and understand their role. They feel engaged in making contributions to the vision and feel empowered to grow it. This usually happens when people help shape the vision and when they’re put in roles where they’re experts and respected as such.

Changing Yourself to Engage Others

    We cannot facilitate co-creative leadership without first taking a good look at ourselves. What I teach people in my programs is this: if you have an issue, you will keep running into that issue. And leadership magnifies your issues.

    So if you’re in a leadership position and experiencing difficulty with the people around you, pause and take stock of yourself. Effective leaders are able to take a candid look at themselves. They have a strong sense of when they’re in integrity and they’re able to make adjustments and apologies for where they’re not. Leaders tend to run into problems when they take too much or too little responsibility for the problems at hand. They also run into problems when they take too much or too little responsibility for the actions of others. As in all other areas of life, leadership demands that we first look at ourselves and assess our contribution to the situation in order to be most effective.

Opening Communication and Bridging Divides

    Communication is a necessary part of any relationship. It becomes particularly important when in a leadership position. A leader must be able to effectively communicate with all parties involved. They must also be able to facilitate communication between individuals and within groups. Communication requires compassion and clarity. It also requires a good measure of personal development work.

    Strong communicators have the ability to understand others and use the words necessary to express concepts and plans so that there can be as much engagement as possible. Unfortunately, many people have had negative experiences communicating with others. They’ve had conversations where they did not feel seen, heard, or respected. Because of this, many people do not show up to the conversation. A leader is able to bring everyone to the table, open the channels of dialogue and facilitate involvement. A leader also enables team-members to grow their skills so that they can adeptly handle tasks on their own. This takes a combined effort of personal development enhanced communication skills on the part of the leader.

Creating the Win/Win/Win

    A win/win is a two-sided victory. We need to be willing to create wins for every party involved. As a family, this means that the family trip can’t be just about making the parents happy or the kids happy. In business, this means that we need to think about how what we offer benefits our customers, employees, owners, community, and environment.

Yet, most critical to this aspect of co-creative leadership is the collective development of new ways of thinking about partnership and responsibility, participation and benefit. As leaders, it’s important to put concerted effort towards understanding how things can benefit as many people as possible. When our goal is to support others, we co-create opportunities that have the maximum potential benefit for all involved.

Learning to Listen Can Change Your Life

Learning to Listen Can Change Your Life

I listen for a living. Over the years, I’ve developed my ability to listen into what people say and – sometimes more importantly – what they don’t say. My ability to listen closely to my clients is a big part of how I help them get the results they seek.

Really listening to what people say has changed my life in many ways. Over time, I’ve witnessed many unique experiences, feelings, and thoughts behind a person’s individual perspective. This has strengthened my compassion and broadened my world-view.

This week I’d like to explore the art of listening and how it can change your life for the better.

Learning to Listen Can Change Your Life

Listening is central to creating relationship. When you deeply listen to what someone says, they feel cared about and understood. People who feel cared about and understood will undoubtably change your life for the better. However, the real impact of listening is how it changes you.

During our lifetime, we hit a million instances of misunderstanding. In fact, most of us spend a lot of time feeling misunderstood. Regardless of how much each of us might try, it’s virtually impossible to easily navigate the myriad of perspectives contained in each person with total understanding.

This is why it feels so good when we come across someone who is willing to really listen to us. When a person listens to what we say, they show us they care. They demonstrate their desire to know what we think and feel. They want to understand. Their willingness to be present to our thoughts and feelings encourages our loyalty. The payoff is that we’re much more likely to go to bat for someone who has worked hard to understand what we’re all about.

But, truth be told, there is a greater benefit to listening well. When we learn to listen, we stop – or at the very least decrease – the amount of misunderstanding there is in the world. The simple act of listening contributes to everyone’s overall sense of connectedness and wellbeing. Here’s how this happens –

We learn to see other points of view:

Each of us live in a bit of a bubble. Even the most reflective of us spend the majority of our time reinforcing our established beliefs. If we do not try to see things through other people’s eyes, well, we just don’t. In the best case scenario, this entrenchment in our own perspective leads to misunderstanding. In the worse case scenario, this mode of myopic thinking contributes to things like hate-crimes and wars. Yet, our ability to see other people’s points of view can have powerful and lasting effects. It can inspire innovation and change the course of cultures.

We develop our ability to empathize:

To “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is a standard piece of wisdom for a really good reason. While seeing another’s point of view can be helpful for creating intellectual understanding, empathizing helps us feel into the emotional factors that guide other’s beliefs. Empathy forms a “human” bond. It allows us to disagree and still relate to other person’s emotional experience. This increases our desire to find solutions that benefit both parties.

We stop the cycle of reaction:

When we chose not to listen, understand or empathize, we’re likely to get caught up in reactivity. In these moments, we will inevitably disagree or get triggered by another person’s actions. If we don’t stop to listen or try to promote mutual understanding, we’re likely to react to what is being said versus responding to it. This makes matters exponentially worse. Listening helps us break the cycle of reaction and creates new outcomes.

We see our limitations:

If we have enough ego-resilience, we can deal with being wrong and we recognize that we are limited – just like everyone else is. Listening to others and suspending our judgments can help us recognize our own limitations and support us to grow and change in positive ways. The very first limitation that listening is likely to reveal is our need to be right. In order to listen well we need to put aside this need. Instead, we must chose to truly hear what the other person is saying.

We see our contributions to misunderstanding:

We often unconsciously do things that perpetuate misunderstanding Our default patterns can go unnoticed if we don’t listen to other people’s perception of us. By deeply listening to others, we can start to see how we have contributed to the challenges at hand.

So, if you want to change the world, you can start by getting quiet and listening to the people around you. Begin to let what others say and how they say it challenge or even change your limited ways of being in the world. And, by doing this, you may open up the potential for all of us to co-exist more peacefully.

Discover and Use Your Strengths

Discover and Use Your Strengths

When I went to high school my teachers had it backwards. Instead of helping their students to develop the right thinking necessary to solve a problem, they simply encouraged them to have the right answer to a problem. Their answer-based rather than thought-based focus of education amplified my weaknesses and not my strengths. In turn, my observations of my teachers’ motivations were less than welcome.

So, I got out of high school with the belief that I just wasn’t smart. I had no idea what do with myself because I had no idea what my strengths actually were.

After making the choice to explore what I loved, because, well, why the hell not… I learned that I had some strengths that never before seemed like strengths. Ever since this point, my life has been infinitely more fulfilling.

This week’s article is devoted to helping you clarify what your personal strengths are and how you can use them more often in your life and work.

Discover and Use Your Personal Strengths

Many people have the experience of getting a good chunk of the way through their life without really knowing what their strengths are. Because of this, they can feel inadequate, unable to take risks, or just plain unsatisfied. This is especially true for people whose strengths are not clearly defined by our academic and work institutions.

It would be great if as children we were educated about how to see our own innate strengths and brilliance and if our education encouraged us to use these skills. However, this is rarely the case.

The following is a list of questions that will help you get clear on what your strengths are as well as some suggestions about how you can use your strengths to create more success and fulfillment in your life.

What do you love to do?

You’ve heard it before. If you want to be happy do what you love to do. Yet, an often overlooked fact is that what you love to do is also a reflection of your strengths. In other words, because you love to do it you’re likely to do it better. So, if you’re unclear about what your strengths are – do what you love to do.

What do others say about you?

We get feedback from others throughout our lives. This feedback can be very similar at times. We might hear the same things over and over whether they be good or bad. If you’ve heard others say things about you that you like, they’re most likely pointing out your strengths. If you’ve heard things you don’t like, then I suggest that you try to reframe what you’ve heard to be more positive. For example, if others have called you flakey, a positive twist on this would be that you demonstrate spontaneity. If you can’t remember what people have said about you, ask some of the people you trust most in your life what they see as your strengths and why they see them as strengths.

What are you particularly good at?

Sometimes we do something so well that we take it for granted and don’t recognize it as our strength. We often think: “how could this be a strength if it is so easy for me to do?” Yet, our strengths make things easy for us to do. So, pay attention to which things seem effortless and ask other people how they feel about doing them. See how effortless – or effortful – these things are to them. By doing this you will gain a greater appreciation of your strengths.

What do you feel great after doing?

Doing what we love and know we do well leaves us feeling GREAT. A sure sign that you’re using your strengths is that you feel energized after doing something. Once you recognize where and when you feel this energized feeling, you might notice that there is potential for you to feel it more often. To do this, stay with how you feel after doing something you love. Notice what small changes you can make to other things you’re doing that might help you sustain that energized feeling.

What do you do differently?

If you zig when others zag, you might be looking at a strength of yours. Sometimes our strengths have us doing things differently from the masses. So, if you find yourself playing Bach to other people’s three chord wonder then take a moment to figure out why. Since marching to your own beat can be frowned upon by others at times, make sure to give yourself ample latitude to see the value in what you’re bringing forward.

Who do you admire?

If you get totally stumped about your strengths, one of the best things to do is to think about people you admire and why you admire them. This exercise gets us out of our own way. We don’t have to think about our own strengths, we can just think about who we admire and why we admire them. Take this information and see how you can find those qualities in yourself. Even if they haven’t been nurtured, they are likely to be strengths that you possess.

You can also take a quiz like Personal Strengths quiz on Penn Universities Authentic Happiness page https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/ to help you discover your strengths.

Once you start to see your strengths you can take any activity – or part of your life – and see how you can use a particular strength to improve your satisfaction and your results. For example, how might I use my strength of spontaneity to strengthen my relationship?

The Benefits of Being Vulnerable

The Benefits of Being Vulnerable

Brene Brown caused a big stir when she stood up and started talking about her own vulnerability. As she candidly put it in her TED talk, she did not think that she was supposed to feel vulnerable. Only to discover, that she actually was missing out on some of the best of life—namely intimacy—by being unwilling to surrender to being vulnerable. I am so grateful for her efforts to make the world a little more real and a little more humane.

It takes a lot of discipline to open up when you feel threatened but that is just what vulnerability asks us to do. It asks us to let go of our pride –our need to be right—and open to the greater truth of ourselves, the other, and the situation. When we are vulnerable we loose the stranglehold of our lesser selves. Vulnerability requires that we are able rely on a much deeper and stronger part of our self –one that is not caught up in our ego.

Let me describe the process:

It happens all the time! I get myself into a situation where I can feel myself armoring up. I feel judged, disrespected, misunderstood. It does not matter what the specific situation is, really. Just that I can feel it coming on. This intense desire to protect myself -sometimes, at all cost. My heartbeat goes up, my muscles tense, my thoughts start running away, taking my rational self with them.

I know that nothing good can come with this approach but, it is so automatic sometimes. Can you relate?

It takes everything I’ve got to remember that my reaction is causing the problem not protecting me from it. I remember I have nothing to lose but my pride and I let go. My breath deepens. My muscles soften. I can feel my heart open up. NOW, I can make something good happen.

Now let’s break it down step by step:

  • Recognize that you are triggered (i.e. having a reaction)
  • Stay conscious enough to minimize your reaction and not escalate the situation
  • Remove yourself if necessary
  • Let off steam if necessary. Vent but recognize that it is not the truth of the situation.
  • Look for the real reason you are upset. (hint it has little to do with the situation)
  • Give yourself love, understanding, and acceptance.
  • Tease out the parts of your experience that are blame, victimhood, and denial. Simply name them for what they are.
  • Give yourself love, understanding, and acceptance (You need to keep doing this ☺)
  • Remember what you really truly want to see happen with this other person.
  • Re approach from that perspective

Why is this important?

I am going to give you two reasons why this is so critical to our overall fulfillment in life. First, we are unable to develop real relationships that are deeply caring and intimate if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Second, if we need to pretend that we are not vulnerable then our whole life becomes a charade. We have to work all the time to keep up appearances and in short that makes us miserable.

Short and sweet summary: If you want to be happy, learn how to be vulnerable.

Tune into this weeks Real Answers Radio for more on how to create meaningful relationships through vulnerability. The show is always live and your questions are always welcome!

Tips For Being Your Personal Best

Tips For Being Your Personal Best

I learned after years of working my tail off that if I did not take care of myself one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to lose my health or I was going to lose in terms of my results. Self-care became my battle cry where as before I would sneer a little bit at people that talked about self-care thinking “How bourgeois!” Little did I know that I would be biting my tongue!

Not only did I learn the merits of self-care but I also learned that it was not as easy to get and keep on track with as I thought. In other words, the biggest tip for being your personal best is: Self Care, Self Care, Self Care!

Self Care is an investment in our personal resources. Whether what you demand of yourself is large or small you need to take care of your most important tool – you. Here are a list of 10 self care tools that you can use to be your personal best:

  1. Move your body/ Feed your body. Both movement and nutrition in balance create optimal self care. Learn to lovingly and joyfully move your body. Dance, do yoga, stretch, walk or even exercise. Feed yourself everything that your body needs to be healthy. If you are not sure what this is start by drinking more water and eating more greens.
  2. Take time in nature and with animals. Both of these experiences have a wonderful effect on us. It helps us destress and relax. If you can’t get out in nature, go to a local park, or get a plant (or two or three!). As far as spending time with animals, their playful and loving ways are a particularly healing form of self care. While there is little substitute for the real thing, you can always supplement with some photos or videos.
  3. Unplug and watch less TV. We are wired 24/7 these days. We go to sleep and wake up with our first things being smartphones and TV’s. If you have not already adopted a technology diet, putting one in place can have a fabulous effect on you.
  4. Be less negative and be around negative people less. It takes two to tango and if you are negative then chances are the people you are around are too and vice versa. Take some time to work on yourself first. Change the way you think and speak and then start making choices to be around people who reflect that.
  5. Let go of grudges. Nothing pulls you down more than uncleared anger and resentment towards others. The only person you are hurting with your negative thinking is you. People can be short-sighted and make mistakes but holding on to the mistakes is the biggest one of all.
  6. Spend time with awesome friends. Spending time with people you love and especially doing fun activities and laughing is a wonderful way to relax and connect – two important elements of self care.
  7. Mental Hygiene. Obsessive thinking and worry are so commonplace that people think they are normal. While common for sure, these are not healthy patterns. Learn to stop yourself when you are on a tear. Simply say “Stop” and focus your mind on something more pleasant or productive.
  8. Make A Difference. Being of Service in the world is a powerful way to feel better. It gives us a sense of meaning and we get the benefit of making other people happy. Take a weekend to volunteer at a food bank, Habitat for Humanity or any other cause that calls to you.  Put some good energy in the world.
  9. Emotional Hygiene Sometimes you just need to clean the pipes. If you have a lot of built up emotion or if you have been dealing with a lot of stress, the best self care might be throwing a fit. Lie down on your bed and kick and hit with your arms and legs. Scream if it feels right. It may sound silly but after you will feel like a million bucks.
  10. Gratitude Nothing changes your attitude like gratitude. Take a moment every day to write or state at least three things that you are grateful for. So many of us have so much to be thankful for. Remember this is a form of self care.

What are some ways that you care for yourself? Please share below!