10 Life-Changing Lessons I Wish I Learned Sooner

In this article, Joanna Warwick gives us a reminder of 10 lessons we should regularly keep in mind – especially when our sweet little inner critics start talking to us. Below is an extract from her article:

“1. Being happy is not about what we achieve.

I had to start with this one, as someone who has spent so much of her life achieving, striving to achieve, and competing to win. The first half of my life I strived to ride for my country and compete in the Olympics, then to achieve in business, then academically, and always in relationships.

It doesn’t matter what I achieve. No job, promotion, money, relationship, house, highest mountain, or gold medal will ever change how I feel about myself.

Achievement is the icing on the cake, so it’s important to learn to like the cake that’s the sum of who we are first, so we have something to ice.

2. We are all doing our best.

I used to hold myself to the highest scrutinizing criticism and moral compass.

I was excellent at delivering self-punishment as judge, gaoler, and executioner for every small flaw, mistake, or underachievement.

However, I would forgive other people for every fallibility, choice, and indiscretion. I expected so little accountability or responsibility from other people and so much from myself.

I’ve learned to balance it out by being more lenient, forgiving, and loving towards myself and accepting that we’re all doing our best—and this rule applies to me too.

3. We have to know and respect our deal breakers.

Self-worth is an action, so I got clear about my relationship deal breakers. Sadly, I’ve let a lot of people throughout my life treat me with disrespect—lie, cheat, take liberties, bully, blame, shame, and even abuse. I didn’t stand for anything. I couldn’t say no.

Without no, my yes had no value.

Now my deal breakers are respect, honesty, and responsibility.

When we know our deal breakers, we don’t accept mistreatment because we know we’re worth more.

4. Other people’s actions aren’t about us.

When I was in my twenties, my ex fiancé cheated on me. For a long time I believed it was my fault, that it must have been something I did or didn’t do—that I wasn’t good enough.

I realize now that how any other adult chooses to behave is about them, not me. My ex felt there was a problem in the relationship, and in response, he chose to be the kind of person who lies and cheats.

We’re only responsible for our own actions, feelings, and words, which means the buck stops here, but this also frees us from wasting energy and time cleaning up other people’s messes.

5. We need to trust our intuition.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life because I didn’t trust my intuition, nature’s gift of survival, which helps us thrive.

I got involved with the wrong people, relationships, and jobs, ignoring that I knew they weren’t right for me from the start, and then paid the price by wasting time and energy trying to make them work.

Intuition can be as loud as someone shouting in your ear, and other times, it’s subtler.

When we slow down, take our time, allow it to get clearer, and listen, we save ourselves a whole lot of trouble.

6. All the studying in the world will never be enough.

I’ve spent years studying, seeking to understand people and the meaning of life, love, and the universe. I have letters after my name to prove it, and much of it was a waste of time.

Most things are just stepping-stones to somewhere else, often on a cyclical path back to what you knew already.

Knowledge is power, but experience in using it, applying it, seeing how it feels, and making mistakes trumps everything, because that’s wisdom.

Good old-fashioned hands on living and having the courage to get involved and experience makes you wise. Then you have a beautiful lesson to share.

7. Face the scary stuff.

I wasted so much time hiding from the boogie monster, the scary truth inside of me. I just had to be brave and come face to face with how I felt and what I desired.

I had to feel all that I had hidden, repressed, and buried instead of trying to unlock it all through my head with knowledge, or getting someone else to tell me what to do.

Only then was I free; I could I stop caring if other people approved of me or not and just love myself and know what matters to me.

We travel through life alone, and by becoming our own best friend we no longer have to fear being unloved.

8. Accept that life and people are inconsistent.

When I was little, like everyone, I was reliant on others and needed them to be consistent so I could feel safe in the world. Unfortunately, they weren’t, so I got stuck needing to please other people so they would take care of me, but I always felt let down and disappointed.

I was like a drowning young woman at sea, battered around by the force of the waves with nothing to hold onto, because I had nothing of substance to rely on.

Change is the only consistent thing there is. Accepting this empowers us to learn to depend on ourselves.

9. We can be our own best friends.

By facing the scary stuff, getting clear about my deal breakers, starting to trust my intuition, and forgiving myself, I began to like, love, and respect myself.

I turned my curiosity toward finding out about myself and what I actually like, enjoy, and don’t want. I became my own best friend and I’ve got my back if there’s a problem.

I came to know me, inside and out, and what matters to me, so I built a boat of substance and I’m no longer drowning. The world around me can be wild and changeable like the sea, but now I can ride out the waves without fear. The same can be true for you.

10. We are enough.

I never needed to strive to be anyone’s best friend, girlfriend, or wife by keeping a tidy house, cooking like a chef, and making wild passionate love every night, or by being a CEO, earning a fortune, or having a gold medal or a PhD.

It sounds exhausting just writing it, but that was how I used to live my life.

Yes, I sometimes do some cool, fun, interesting stuff; I am curious about the world and enjoying my life. But sometimes I can’t be bothered.

I like to slob around in my PJs watching old movies. I get morning breath and matted hair, but can scrub up well and attend the ballet.

I now know who I am, what makes me happy, and the value I can bring to any relationship or situation not because of what I do, but who I am.

We’re unique, priceless, and irreplaceable, and the sum of every experience.

Our greatest relationship is with ourselves, because it’s through that relationship that we learn how to truly love other people, including our children. And when we demonstrate how to love us, we can get the most joy out of our lives.”

Resisting the Temptation To Stay Comfortably Numb And Conform In Mid-Life

After reading Kathy Gottberg’s blog on Carl Jung and the Art of Aging well, I came across her blog on mid-life comfort and the choice of adventure and possibility over conformity, safety and comfort.

Kathy has a few questions for us to ask ourselves:

  • When was the last time you did something that felt scary or pushed your limits beyond what you routinely do most days of your life?
  • Do you constantly make choices that support comfort in your experiences or do you try to mix that up with challenges?
  • Do you ignore the pain and plight of anyone outside of you family and friends out of a need to “keep what’s yours safe?”
  • Do you routinely self-medicate and go numb in order to deal with what’s going on in the world?
  • Do you avoid all risk even when things aren’t that great because, “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t?”
  • Do you secretly crave to do/be/try something new and different but don’t want to rock the boat?

South Africa and the world is becoming increasingly uncertain – we never quite know what tomorrow will bring and what midnight changes there will be. It is not always easy to jump into scariness, adventure and risks in that environment and we prefer to stick to what we know.

But sadly, at the same time, more and more of our friends are dying far too young. Author and palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware shares the number one regret in her book ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“Dwelling in middle-aged comfort, nonconformity asks us to wake up, become more conscious, and be willing to sacrifice all our preconceived certainties for the potential of what lies out of sight.” – Kathy Gottberg

So I challenge all mid-lifers to choose adventure and possibility whenever you can and live a life true to yourself – and try not to worry about the judgement of those who would prefer you not to.

 

Be Unique – Live Counter Culturally

“We live in a culture that begs us to conform. Through its various messages, it calls us to squeeze into its mold. It exerts external pressure on our minds to believe in and buy its opinions, hopes, and aspirations. Yet, the pursuits that define most of our culture never fully satisfy our heart and soul.

In response, the world will tell us to just run faster, reach further, work harder, make more, and become conformed more deeply. But its promised offer of fulfillment always remains out of reach. Our deepest longings are left unsatisfied.

Unfortunately, through this vicious cycle, we lose our uniqueness. We lose our passion. We lose our energy. We lose our opportunity to choose a different future. And because we are too busy chasing the wrong things, we sacrifice our opportunity to find something greater and more fulfilling in this life.

Meanwhile, our heart begs us to live differently. Our spirit calls us to seek our own passions. Our soul cries out for us to not conform. Our insides long for us to live counter cultural lives. But all too often, the external pressure from the world calls us back into conformity. And we reenter the race. How then do we break free?” – Joshua Becker

In the complete article written by Joshua Becker he provides 4 steps on how to live a counter cultural life.

Drinking the Tears of the World: Grief as Deep Activism

“No-one escapes suffering in this life. None of us is exempt from loss, pain, illness and death. Yet, how is it that we have so little understanding of these essential experiences? How is it we have attempted to keep grief separated from our lives and only begrudgingly acknowledge its presence in the most obvious of times. Without some measure of intimacy with grief, our capacity to be with any other emotion or experience in our life is greatly compromised. It is our unexpressed sorrows, the congested stories of loss, when left unattended, that block our access to the soul.” – Francis Weller

There is so much loss in the world at the moment – death of those too young to die, destruction of the environment, losses of homes due to fire, the slaughtering of rhino……the list goes on.

In this article on grief  Francis Weller speaks of the Four Gates of Grief:

  1. the losses connected to losing someone or something we love
  2. the grief that occurs in the places never touched by love – these are the places within us that have been wrapped in shame and that we do not show to the world
  3. the losses of the world around us
  4. the expectations coded into our physical and psychic lives – expectations of a connection with the sacred

“It is difficult to resist the temptation to retract and close down the heart to the world. What then? What becomes of our concern and our outrage for the way things are going? Too often we go numb…”

It is a long article but really worth the read.

Why We Should Start Developing Self-Compassion

I remain amazed at how much pressure parents put on their children to perform and excel – and it seems to be getting worse and worse. How do those children grow up feeling good about themselves if they do not meet their parents’ high expectations? How do they learn to have self-compassion if they are getting no compassion from their parents when they do not meet these expectations? How do they feel good about themselves without the need to compare themselves to others and the need to be better than others?

Self-compassion enables us to feel good about ourselves without having to compare ourselves to others and meet our own high expectations.

Self-compassion is a willingness to look at our own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding.  When we are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, we neither judge ourselves harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all our awesome qualities to protect our ego.  We can be self-compassionate while still accepting responsibility for our performance and we can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals.

Dr Kristen Neff  writes about how we can learn to feel good about ourselves not because we’re special and above average, but because we’re human beings intrinsically worthy of respect.

If we develop self-compassion we will also develop compassion for other people – helping to make our world a kinder place to live in.

Carl Jung And The Art of Aging Well

A new client of mine told me that one of the reasons that he had chosen to come to me for life coaching was because I was “older” and that he believes that life experience is very important. Given the fact that he is not super young himself and that the photo on my website is a few years old I did not really relish his comment. But I do completely agree with him and also why Carl Jung urges us to use the later part of our lives to become more whole by discovering who we are and wisely sharing it with others.

I have spent quite a lot of time at a retirement village recently and I do believe that western culture is not encouraging us to do this – instead our culture continues to spread the idea that aging is best either denied or concealed – often even between old people themselves.

In this article Kathy Gottberg writes that ultimately it will come down to us to answer certain questions for ourselves: Does our continued existence at our increasing older age have value? Do we have something to contribute over and beyond just existing in a fairly well preserved body and mind, with enough resources to keep us reasonably happy, until it’s over? Will we as elders have a purpose that can benefit the world and others, no matter how fit, able and active we are?

“A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different….” – Carl Jung

 

The Fledgling’s Prayer

I came across this poignant poem written by Gretchen Schmelzer – a poem written by a young adult child to his/her parents.

The Fledgling’s Prayer

These are my wings—
Feathers and muscles and sinew
grown from your love and care,
sewn and mended
with your devotion and constancy.

And now—
I am ready to soar
with all that I am,
from all that you gave me.

All flights are practice flights.
They happen in that
blessed space between us.
A space wide enough
to stretch my wings
but not lose touch.

Tossed into the air
an arm’s length away.
Jumping off the dock,
three feet away.
Dropped off at Kindergarten,
three blocks away.
Dropped off at college,
Three hours away.
All flights are big flights.

And how did this happen?
None of us ever knows for sure.
I think perhaps Joy and Sorrow
grabbed hands and leapt
—forming the wings
that carry me forward.

But remember no one leaps, really.

I didn’t fly because I
jumped—so much as I simply
forgot for a moment to hold on.
I did. I forgot.
I forgot because the wind,
or is it God? –
whispered in my ear,
and sang the melody of my future.

I forgot for a moment to hold tight
and the wind caught my wings
pulling me forward.
It does. Life pulls you forward.

You are not the wind beneath my wings
as that old song croons.

No, you are the wings themselves.
I carry you with me and
you will always carry me.

The wind? Well that is God’s song
for each of us, our purpose, our passion.
It is the tidal pull of the universe
helping me to find my place,
helping me to share my gifts.

And you, sitting proud and brave
on the edge of our nest.
This small prayer is for you.

May the sight of my wings flashing
and the tales of my long flights
bring you as much joy as they bring me.
I can hear the wind calling and my heart
is full of the hopes we have both carried.

The fullness of myself,
the fullness of your love,
and the fullness of the world you gave me
take up my whole being.

This fullness defies language
except to say
that it used to be the feeling
I had when I leaned on you,
when you had hold of me.

And now—oh joy—
the nest I used to rest in
has made a place inside of me.

But for you, as for me,
there is also sorrow.
I am sad that this prayer
is all I have to offer you
in return for my wings.

And my heart aches imagining views
and vistas we will not share.
Do they exist if you don’t see them too?
Do I exist, if you can’t see me?
If I forget you for a moment,
will you remember me?

I pray that we both may find comfort
in the pages of books you read to me long ago,
that no matter what—
we are doing or
no matter where we are flying—
we both live under the very same moon.
And all we need to do is to look up
in to the night sky
to know that we are still connected,
to know that we will always belong,
to know that wherever we are,
we are home.”

           Gretchen Schmelzer

I am glad, but even more sad, that my two fledglings have left home (mostly) and are soaring (mostly).
I would love to think that they look at the moon and think of me. Realistically though, I think that they look at their rapidly reducing bank balances, lack of data, empty fridges, piles of laundry, and then think of me.
But I live in hope!

8 Simple Words to say When Someone you Love is Grieving

“Our culture treats grief like a problem to be solved or an illness to be healed. We’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. So that now, when you’re faced with tragedy, you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people — you’re surrounded by platitudes.”  Tim Lawrence

So what can we offer instead?”

This article was shared on Facebook by a good friend of mine. A friend who knows how to “be there with” people who are grieving. To her and my other friends who know how to “be with”  – a big heartfelt thank you for many years ago!

 

The Roots of Shame – the Shaming Witness

“When we become more compassionate witnesses to people’s challenges and traumas, we not only open ourselves up to better understanding of others and healthier relationships with them, but we also set ourselves up to receive that same compassion and understanding for, and relationship with, ourselves; and we then contribute to the growth of a society that makes validating and embracing our genuine experiences and feelings the new norm.” – David Bedrick

In this article on shame David Bedrick writes about the Shaming Witness – a really good read and sadly also very true for many people.