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Naomi

Are you having enough fun?

“Huh? What? Of course!” you may think. And if that’s you, my friend, I’m not talking to you. I live with someone who will prioritise fun in life over any serious business. In fact, he doesn’t take life too seriously most of the time. And as somewhat of a “serious-addict”, this has given me some much-needed balance in life. Plus he’s quite funny, so lots of smiles to be had throughout the day, even if his impersonations of various characters drives me bonkers from time to time.

No, this piece is for the serious, hard-working (dare I say workaholics?), time should always be spent in a useful way kind of people. Present company included. Now I really don’t mind hard-work, I enjoy it… until I don’t. And then I don’t in a big way. I get cranky, a little resentful, and personal practices like meditation that I know are good for me go out the window.

And all the while, I’m in control. I could say no, I could not take on more, I could just put away the laptop and go do something fun.

And yet I don’t.

It’s easier for me to retreat back into work, there’s always something else to do, another topic to delve into, another book to read, another commitment I have made to someone else that I will hold myself accountable to.

What I’m really doing is being completely absent-minded from the life that is taking place right now, right in front of me. My life is taken over by an endless list of to do’s, commitments that have been made in the past or need to be done in the future. And whatever it is, it keeps me from being present in the moment and the life that is here.

To have pure fun?

I sometimes forget what that even means to me. Spending time with friends is an absolute yes, but other than that? Hobbies? I don’t think I’ve ever really had many. I was recounting this to some friends the other day, until one of them point blank asked me:

“Are you having fun?”

And the reality was that I had to say no.

What a shocker.

Because really, if we’re not having fun and experiencing joy in our lives, what’s the point?

Now fun isn’t the biggest happiness denominator for me, overall meaningfulness still tops the chart. And fun is a very meaningful component of that.

So I’ve made a commitment to myself. To do at least one fun thing a day, big or small. Something that has no other purpose than to bring me joy. Because joy is ultimately the nourishment and food my soul needs to do its best work and live my best life. And because I want to slow down life, so I can take as much of it in as I can.

My life is not a list of action points. My life consists of all the small little moments where I take in what this life is really about for me. The time I spend with friends, the pleasure and yes, sometimes the sorrows I experience on the adventure of life, the places I travel to, the experiences I can have, and yes, also the work that I do.

If you’re feeling a little stuck in a rut, and want to create more fun and joy in your life, try some of the following:

What will really matter to you in the end?

  • Give yourself permission. Understand that fun and taking breaks are essential to your health and happiness. Schedule time on your calendar for fun activities and make these a priority. Once you’ve scheduled this time, you will also focus more on the work that you actually have ahead of you. Knowing that you also have other activities planned, allows you to focus more on the task at hand.
  • Try to remember what you enjoyed as a kid. What things did you consider fun then? Make a list and try these things again. It might take a bit of practice again, but you’ll get back into it. Just give it a shot.
  • Pick up the phone. And no, not to check your social media. To call a friend and say, let’s go do something fun. A walk on the beach, a chat over coffee, a yoga class, or whatever rocks your boat. Friends, family, and community are essential parts of what makes a life meaningful and fun.
  • Go do something you’ve never done before. I love to dance, but it had been quite a while. So I drove myself off to a dance studio nearby and tried something completely different: dancehall! Yes, I shook my booty, I looked rather silly, and I had a ton of fun.

I usually find that when I come off-balance, it’s because I’ve moved away from myself and have started living other people’s priorities or have simply lost track of why I’m doing what I’m doing. Slowing life down to assess and adjust your life again to what matters most is therefore essential. So take that time and take the responsibility, your life is in your own hands! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to shake your booty!

Photo by Kristopher Roller.

How to become more resilient when life is hard

Life can be difficult sometimes. It’s part and parcel of our existence. Our lives are in constant flux, we experience the highs and the lows in a constant ebb and flow that together makes up the fabric of our experience.

Life is change. Nothing ever stays the same, it’s the nature of our existence. So will the days that feel difficult. But what can we do when life feels really hard to move through this and become more resilient?

Resiliency refers to our ability to deal with life’s ups-and-downs, and how quickly and well we can respond to stress and difficult events. All of us will face hard times, sometimes small events, sometimes big life experiences that can leave us gasping for air, wondering whether we will make it through.

There is always a way through and with practice and effort, you can increase your ability to roll with the punches. Sometimes this will happen quickly, yet other times, it will take time and they may even leave us a scarred. Yet it is also exactly these events and scars, that can serve us most powerfully and make us the people we are.  If we choose to learn and if we choose to take responsibility for our own lives.

Some of the toughest times in my life have also allowed me to become a more resilient, stronger person with a deeper appreciation of life.

These are the stories of our lives, the layers of our personality, that if we choose to make them so, can allow us to become our own heroes in the story of our life.

So how do we become more resilient and learn to flow with whatever life gives us?

  • Be kind and compassionate with yourself. When emotions are running high, be patient with yourself, giving yourself the time, space and care you need. Denying that you have been hurt only prolongs the pain that you might be going through. Can you find space to allow these emotions? To express them to others, on paper, or in whatever other outlet you might have? How can you treat yourself like you would a close friend?
  • Take care of yourself. This seems like a no-brainer right? But how often do we allow ourselves to crumble under the weight of what is happening? Not eating healthily, not moving our bodies, not reaching out to loved ones. It’s almost as if we’re saying, I give up. With every act of self-care, you’re saying, I love you, I care for you. This is the time when you need it most. Take care of yourself like nothing else, prioritise your own health and well-being.
  • Take responsibility for your own life. Regardless of what might have caused the event, and it may not be something that is in your control, you will have to take responsibility for your own life. This is one of the most powerful realisations you can have:

your response to an event determines the outcome of an event

You choose whether you will be defined by the events. Will you let yourself be dragged down or will you choose to rise to the occasion?

  • Focus on what you are grateful for. This can be tough when life has thrown you a curveball. Focusing our attention on what is working, on what we do have, on the people that are in our lives, can really change our perspective from what we don’t have to what we do. There are so many things that we can always be grateful for. The fact that we are still alive, that we are still breathing each morning, that each every day the sun comes up.
  • Find meaning in the learning. What can you learn from this event? What is life trying to teach you? What is it that needs to change and how can you do so? Taking time to learn from all your experiences infuses your life with a deeper meaning and direction. Sometimes this can take quite a long time, but often the most difficult hardships in life give you the biggest lessons. If we can allow ourselves to look back at the events with a sense of curiosity.
  • It’s not all about you. What that means is that life doesn’t always happen to you. We are small specks on this vast planet of ours. The events of our lives are not always about us. While that may be difficult sometimes, herein also lies the power of acceptance. Sometimes we have no choice other to accept, but again, we always have a choice in how we respond.
  • Get closer to your fear. Resiliency is like a muscle. If we can expose ourselves to pain and fear, we will become more accustomed to feelings of discomfort, allowing ourselves to grow each time. Develop confidence in your ability to handle whatever may come. This confidence again grows each and every time you expose yourself to whatever it is that you might be scared of. The trick here is to start small. This might not work when we are in the full throttle of hardship, but resiliency can be practised in small ways each and every day.
  • Share with others. When we can share our experiences, receive love and care, we can feel strengthened by the support given by others. Allowing others to see what is going on with us, can bring us closer to each other. This doesn’t mean that you have to share everything with everyone around you, but find that special friend, that small circle of people you truly love and trust, and allow them to support you.

If you’re reading this at a time when life feels so very hard, I feel for you. Know that this too shall pass. One day you will look back and understand the deeper meaning of why this happened to you and what life was trying to teach you. Life is a perfect imperfection, a constant flow, it cannot help but change.

How can you use what life is giving you to become the stronger and more courageous one?

Stay strong beautiful one.

How to receive gracefully

Until we can receive with an open heart, we can never really give with an open heart. – Brene Brown

For many of us, it’s easy to give. We give our time and attention. We find ways to help others, we give money, presents and compliments. And we do it because it feels good and we want to live up to the values that are important to us. There is something incredibly gratifying and fulfilling about helping another.  (If you haven’t done it, try it!)

But so often, it isn’t the same story with receiving. Our first reaction is often to decline the gift of attention and care, or if we are in receipt, to feel uncomfortable with what we are receiving. I’ve been grateful to have many opportunities to receive in different ways, but somewhat embarrassingly I must admit that my ability to receive with grace and gratitude has been quite abysmal.

So what is it about receiving gifts of attention, time and care that can make it hard to accept and how can we do better?

  • Our inability to receive may at its heart come from feelings of unworthiness. We can feel as if we’re undeserving or as if we’re imposing on someone else. Yet what happens when we do this is that we only confirm our own belief about who we are. We believe we are unworthy of this care, so we decline it or push it away in some other way, which diminishes the gift of receiving and confirms what we believe to be true about ourselves.
  • We may perceive the support given as a sign of our weakness and inability to do something ourselves. It can feel like there is an underlying power dynamic at play. We want to believe that we are independent, and do not need help, so we refuse it. The help offered makes us feel weak and vulnerable.
  • We are worried that there might be an expectation of reciprocity, that we somehow might now owe a debt. The way we receive often reflects something about the way we give. Look into the way you give, do you have any underlying assumptions somewhere deep down?

To give and to receive. They are two sides of the same coin. One can’t exist without the other. By not receiving we are out of balance. How can we give truly and freely when we can’t accept with grace and gratitude? How can we do better?

  • Give the gift of giving. Realise that the person who is giving is, may, in fact, be the one who might be receiving more. How great does it feel to be able to support someone else? To be the one who your friend turns to when they need help? When you can ask and accept someone’s help, you are honouring who they are and what they have to offer.
  • Understand and know that you are worthy of receiving. We all need help from time to time. Simply say thank you and feel the gratitude within. The gratitude you can extend to another is a great gift in and of itself. And when it is the right time, you, in turn, can extend the giving in some way to another person and continue the cycle of giving and receiving.
  • Giving and receiving builds intimacy. Help build closer relationships with those around you by showing your vulnerability, understanding our interdependence and accepting the offer of help. When we can share our vulnerability we are saying, we are all at heart the same. By giving and receiving, we build closer relationships. The more vulnerable we can be with each other, the closer we become.

The reality and beauty of our lives is that we are all dependent on each other – it’s the nature of our existence and as human beings, we seek connection with each other.

Look around you now. The laptop or phone you’re reading this on, the chair you’re sitting on, the clothes you’re wearing, that cup of coffee you just had. Just think about all the different people that have worked together to help create this. Look at your family and friends, the loved ones around you who help make up the life that you have.

Our power lies in the fact that together we are so much more than we are alone.

Working together, supporting each other, doesn’t come from a place of weakness, it helps us to do and be more for ourselves and for each other. Learn to accept with grace and gratitude, and from that place of wholeness, you, in turn, can give to another – and build a closer community around you while doing so.

 

 

Witnessing the self through meditation

It’s quite the revelation isn’t it? To sit down, be still and feel the words ‘I am pure joy’ come up. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I went on a 4-day silent retreat last week in the mountains of Bali. I joined a group of women, led by Shira van Spanje from Frameless Feminine, in silence at the beautiful Sanak Retreat, nestled in between rice fields. A tad nervous at what might come, but more than anything curious at what might unfold and present itself.

Our days in silence were ceremonially opened with a blessing at a holy spring with a Balinese priest. In the following days, we were guided in silence to meditate throughout the day. Group meditations were interspersed with individual sessions, massage and the most relaxing sound healing by Shervin Baloorian.

It isn’t often that we immerse ourselves in the wide open space of silence. And open it is…. Thoughts come rumbling through at high-speed, clamoring for attention, one shouting louder than the other. But the breath is a powerful instrument. By focusing your attention on the breath, you can each and every time find your way back to yourself. Letting go of every thought that passes by, and coming back to the breath each and every time. And eventually, the thoughts and busyness die down and a feeling of contentment and peacefulness comes through. It doesn’t always last, but for the moments it did, there was a deep inside knowing that all was well.

What perhaps surprised me the most was that I suddenly remembered a story my mother used to tell me about when I was a child. As a young girl, I happily skipped home from school down the street, each day passing the window of a neighbouring painter. Eventually, the artist approached my mother and asked whether he could do a painting of me as he wanted to capture the joyous little girl on canvas. The painting never happened, but for whatever reason, the image of this little girl just came back to me, reminding me of who I am within. Still that girl, skipping along, content and joyful with life. Just simply being!

I forget sometimes that this too is who I am. I think we all forget sometimes. We get bogged down by ‘adult’ life, work and responsibilities. But within us all is still that child, careless and free, skipping down the street, just enjoying the adventure of life as it is.

To feel that she is still within me was such a precious experience. A beautiful reminder that I want to let joy be my compass in life rather than the focus of achievement or some goal in the future. Really, I just want to skip my way through life. I forget sometimes, focusing so much on doing things the right way that joy goes out the window. Yet I truly believe that success and achievement will come as a result of the joy, love, and pleasure that we put into the things we do.

Joy comes from the simple daily things that we experience in life, the people we meet, the experiences we share. The everyday moments that pass by so quickly and that are easy to miss if we don’t pay attention. Happiness doesn’t come from the extraordinary moments in life, it comes from how we experience the everyday moments that together make up a life.

The benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven and without a doubt, they are huge ranging from stress reduction, increased focus, reduced anxiety, increased empathy and compassion to increased creativity. Personally, I believe meditation allows you to slow down life and to approach with a much greater sense of clarity. Meditation creates the mental and emotional space to respond to life rather than react, putting you squarely in the driving seat. It allows you to reconnect to yourself, to really see how you are doing and tap into your own inner wisdom – and isn’t that a beautiful space to be?


Further information

For more information on Frameless Feminine Silent Retreats, please contact the lovely Shira van Spanje. For me, Shira is the personification of pure joy. She comes from a place of deep intuition and brings such warmth and energy, you can’t help but love her.

For more information on the wonderful sound healings by the gentle and warm Shervin Baloorian, please see his website. I still can’t explain what happened during the session I had with him, other than that I have never been so deeply relaxed.

Meditation: Enjoy the Silence

When is the last time you sat in silence? Removed from the everyday hustle and bustle, and created a space to sit and be still, to meditate? To observe your thoughts, to really sink into your body and see what is going on?

Next week the Balinese will be celebrating their new year Nyepi or Day of Silence. As the name suggest, the day is celebrated in total silence and the island is in shut-down mode for the entire day. Lights are not allowed, nor is there to be any working, entertainment, or travel. The only people allowed on the street are the pecalang, the local security, who monitor adherence. It is one of the most important days on the island, and I marvel at the fact that the entire island will participate. Can you imagine your hometown or country doing the same thing?

I will be celebrating the day myself at a silent retreat, led by the lovely Shira van Spanje from Frameless Feminine. She will be guiding us during 4 days in a quiet space of silence and reflection. No speaking, no reading or writing, just quiet time and meditation (and perhaps a massage too… )

Meditation has become a key part of my daily practices to keep me grounded and focused. This doesn’t mean that I sit willingly every day, I sometimes struggle with the idea of sitting still and allowing whatever there is to be there. Meditation is the space where I meet myself most, and sometimes it’s more tempting to run from whatever might be lurking underneath. I find excuses in being too busy, or just needing to do something else first. The trick is to catch myself in exactly those moments. It is often the time when meditation is most beneficial.

So often, we spend our lives running towards what gives us pleasure or running away from whatever we don’t like. Yet our greatest power comes when we can see our reality for what it is. Meditation allows us to check in with ourselves, make conscious decisions about how we want to spend our time and how we want to show up in life. We can hit the breaks on the speed of life, savouring the small moments that together make a life.

It is the space where you meet yourself most, and where you can find your own answers within. The answers that have always already been there, you might just not have heard your own inner voice yet. For me, this is true empowerment. It is away from all that you hear around you, to listening to what is within.

So from Sunday on, I will sit and be still, and allow whatever is there to become visible and make the journey within. So with that, I bid you adieu for the moment, I’ll be logging off completely during these days. Stay tuned and I’ll look forward to sharing what I learn following the retreat…

Photo credit: Kristina Flour

The doorway to confidence is vulnerability

Life is a daring adventure. Or nothing at all. – Helen Keller

Life is an adventure, or that’s how I like to see it. It’s just that once in a while I hit a snag on this adventure that I’m not so keen on. And this particular snag I know a little too well.

Call it lack of confidence, self-doubt, fear of failure, it’s often there, lurking in the background – ready to come in as the uninvited guest to the party. We’ve known each other for some time now, and while we’ve become much closer, we’re not quite best friends yet. Self-doubt has the uncanny ability to make me feel vulnerable. I wish it away, asking myself why I’m not more confident, wanting the feeling to just go away.

But the moment I expand, grow or even start thinking about doing something new, there it is, showing up as one of my most loyal friends. I’ve come to realise that this friend is always going to show up to the party in some way or other – so we might as well find a way of hanging out a little more comfortably.

I also know that I’m not alone in having these feelings. It’s just something we’re often not open about. Saying out loud that we’re feeling less than confident, feels like a taboo – especially in a cultural setting where slogans like “Just Do It” are still the king of the stage.

We’re told to be confident, or we won’t succeed. What does that mean for those of us who aren’t always feeling the most confident? Are we doomed to fail from the start? Is it something that is only reserved for the fearless few?

Of course not. These are the stories we keep telling ourselves to keep ourselves playing small.

Confidence can be gained. It’s something we can acquire over time through effort, changing our mindset around what it means to be confident, and by opening up the conversation, which we don’t often do. Self-doubt comes with feelings of vulnerability that we don’t like to feel, see or talk about.

Yet it’s also precisely this vulnerability, or our willingness to feel this discomfort, that will allow us to become more confident. To feel more confident, we need to take action that takes us out of our comfort zone – and that means getting uncomfortable.

And while I will be the first one to admit, that I’m still not the most loudly confident of people, I’ve come to learn some things that have helped me change my story around confidence:

• You might lack confidence in some areas, but that there will be plenty of areas where you are confident. Simply understanding that your self-doubt is not all encompassing can already change your perspective. OK, I may not feel confident in this part of my life, but here I’m ok. Look back and see how you were able to become confident in one area? What did you have to do? What mindset did you adopt?

Recognize the inner voice of self-doubt as an important guidepost. Feelings of lack of confidence will pipe up right at the moment when you are about to expand, grow or do something new. It means that you’re actually heading in the right direction and that this is something that will allow you to grow.

Stop waiting and move into action. Don’t get stuck in the confidence trap. There will not be a day that magically appears when you will feel confident enough to do something. It’s the other way around. Practice, practice, and practice again. Develop the skill set, become competent, then you become confident.

Confidence comes from moving forward and taking action. To do that means that you will have to go through feelings of discomfort, which are an inevitable part of life. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings, like vulnerability, will keep you stuck, which ultimately could be the much bigger price to pay. If we can recognize that discomfort is temporary and part of our general shared experience, you can and will work through it.

• Manage the inner critic, regulate your self-talk and be compassionate. It’s not abnormal to have a strong inner critic, it’s just part of who we are. Rather than trying to ignore this voice, see what it’s trying to do. Most often, your inner critic is trying to protect you from something. Bring compassion to yourself. Something I often ask my clients is, what is it that you need to hear right now? How can you speak to yourself in a way that is more empowering and supportive?

Break down your bigger goals into smaller steps. Stretch yourself, but don’t over stretch. If we’re looking up at the mountain to climb, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Break it down into smaller steps, and you’ll find that things just feel and become a little easier. Booking small successes will increase your confidence. You don’t need to find all the answers right now. Just ask yourself, what is the one thing that I can do right now that will have the most impact?

Reframe failure. Yep, this is a hard one for many, present company included. Fail, fail, fail again. Get up, fail again. Repeat. Learn how to fail without feeling like a failure. If something doesn’t work, what you have is feedback about what worked and what didn’t. Learn from the experience, and try something different. Repeat.

The true failure is to not try, to not chase after your dreams, to not do the things that are meaningful to you.

• Develop resiliency. Persist, and learn to shake off uncomfortable feelings. Stop believing the myth that just a select few of us are destined for greatness, and that greatness is innate. It’s not. It’s learned, it’s fought for, it’s earned. It takes hard work, and perseverance.

• Work on your mindset and develop faith in your ability to grow and learn. Rather than focusing your thoughts on whether you can do it, ask the question: what do I need to learn to do this? Confidence will come from the competence that you develop as you learn. Buddhists will say “adopt a beginner’s mind”, be unassuming, open, approach things with curiosity and a willingness to learn.

Breathe into the fear. Say what? Yes, stay with it. This is not one of those empty sentences. Take a moment to just feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Don’t start doing other things. Be with it. Feel it. Where is it in your body? Direct your attention to that area and breathe into it. See whether you can give it more space. While it may feel as if the fear and anxiety will get bigger, giving it more breathing space, will actually allow the feelings to dissipate a little quicker. Your nervous system will calm down, allowing you to take the next step.

• Share how you’re feeling with people you trust. Dare to be vulnerable, dare to show what’s really going on. Allow yourself to be supported by others. You don’t have to do this all alone, and you aren’t alone in what you’re feeling and experiencing. Have the courage to open up and see what you will receive in return.

Confidence for me at the end of the day is much more about knowing who we are and having the courage to show up, and live according to what is important to us – despite the feelings of self-doubt. I actually think we don’t need to feel confident to go out there and live our lives in the best way possible. The confidence will come as a result of the action we take, the moment we move forward and live the intentional life. Our power resides in our ability to make conscious choices. We are so more powerful than we realise. So take a deep breath, and move forward – you’ve got work to do!

Photo credit: Cristina Gottardi

How to live with more intention

I’m incredibly lucky. I’m in beautiful Bali, a place that allows me to operate from a well of peace and calm. It’s one of the key reasons why so many come to the Island of the Gods in search of contemplation and rest (and their own Eat, Pray, Love adventures, but that is another story entirely!). It’s a haven to nourish the soul and reconnect to the heart, allowing people space and time for what I like to call intentional living. As discussed in my last post The Power of Intentional Living, there is incredible personal power that comes from that. But we can’t always be in places like these, and for many of us, the reality of our daily lives doesn’t take place in lush, green rice paddies with the sound of chirping birds all around, where we can really slow life down and become more intentional.

So how do you bring more intention into your daily life – so you are living a life that is on purpose and is the highest expression of who you are?

  • You start by creating space and time regardless of where you are. Whether you do this by yourself, with a good friend, or with a coach or therapist, create the space to stand still and observe. Look at what is there, look at what is really going on in your life. If you think you’re too busy, all the more reason to take this time.

How are you doing? No really, how are you?

It’s nice and comfortable sometimes to hang out in the not-knowing, the not-seeing – but it can be a trick we play on ourselves.  Whatever is bugging you, tugging at your heart to be heard, you carry with you wherever you go. Consciously, or subconsciously, your energy is being used. Wouldn’t you rather make conscious decisions about how you use your life and energy?

  • Be honest with yourself. Sounds easy, no? Getting really honest with ourselves can be difficult but it’s probably one of the most empowering things we can do. When we identify what is working for us, and what is not, we open up to the way to acceptance of the situation as it is, and from there, the door opens to change. We can’t change what we don’t see.

You could simply look at the various areas in your life and see how are things going. If you had to rate your health, your work, your relationships, etc – what would it look like? And what could be ways to improve?

  • Use values as guideposts in your life

Values can act like the guideposts in your life that help you make decisions about what is important to you in work and life and what you will or will not do. If you’re living in alignment with your values, you’ll feel good, but when you’re not, that misalignment will show up. It will likely show up in some nagging feelings inside, the feeling that something is just not right.

It’s really worth spending some time on getting clear what your values are, and then seeing whether you’re living in alignment with those values. You’ll probably find that you are in some areas, and in others, you are not. And that is ok, we’re not perfect human beings. Just see it as an opportunity to perhaps make some tweaks here and there so that you are more aligned.

  • Create a vision for your life

One of my all-time favourite books is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Honestly, I don’t think Covey did himself a lot of favours by picking this title, as I think many people shy away from the book thinking it’s all about productivity hacks. It is, but at a much higher level, this beautifully written book is about personal effectiveness and leadership in your life: what are the things that are important to me and am I living in alignment with those priorities?

One of the exercises he suggests is writing down how you want to be remembered at your funeral. Sound a little morbid? Not really, it’s just a very useful exercise to look into what is most important to you. What do you want your partner to say about you? Your friends? Your children? Your colleagues?

Another way of approaching this is about thinking what your ideal day would look like. We human beings have been gifted something extraordinary, which is imagination. We can actually create a mental picture of what it is that we want, and then go and create it. So spend a little time daydreaming, and write down exactly how you would like to spend your ideal day. And again, once you have this mental picture, check it against how you are living your life now. Are you aligned? What clues have you found to move closer to your dreams?

  • Set the intention, keep it small, and be ok with not knowing yet

There are more exercises you can do to get clear on what your bigger picture is for your life, and what your priorities are, but what is important is that you don’t become afraid of asking the questions. These can be big questions, but what is important to realise, is that they don’t have to be. As you’ll likely have heard from me before, life takes place in all the small decisions that we make each and every day. Intentional living is much more about bringing consciousness to those small everyday moments, and a call for you to step away from the daily grind.

These can be big questions, but what is important to realise, is that they don’t have to be. Also, be ok with not knowing yet. Just put the question out there, and the answers will eventually come.Life takes place in all the small decisions that we make each and every day. Intentional living is much more about bringing consciousness to those small everyday moments, and a call for you to step away from the daily grind.

  • Be present in the moment and choose what to focus your attention on

Be mindful about how you choose to focus your attention. If you feed it negativity, your life will feel negative. If you feed it positivity, it will flourish. Your thoughts determine the experience you have in life. Similarly, you choose how you respond to the things that happen in your life.

For me intentional living more than anything else is about taking personal leadership: how do I make the most of this adventure called life? How do I want to show up? What are my gifts and how do I bring these to the world? It’s a way of being. Conscious, open, present. A purposeful slowing down of life so we can make sure that we are still on the right path, doing the things we love, seeing our loved ones, and savouring the passing moments that together create a life we love.

Conscious, open, present. A purposeful slowing down of life so we can make sure that we are still on the right path, doing the things we love, seeing our loved ones, and savouring the passing moments that together create a life we love.

 

The Power of Intentional Living

As we bring in the new year, there’s been quite a bit of reflection and soul searching for many of us. It’s almost a must-do at this time of year, as we close down the old and bring in the new. As a Capricorn, it’s a bit of a double whammy for me, as I venture into another new year of life.

Yet I’ve also noticed that some of us, present company included, feel a sense of pressure around this time of year. An expectation that all types of new things and adventures will start once we enter the new year. A new life will be born. For some, there’s also a taste of slight disappointment when we realise that life goes on as it is. As Danielle Marchant puts so beautifully in her blog “When the clock strikes twelve, what remains is reality”.

And that, my loves, is a beautiful truth.

Reality has deep beauty in and of itself. Our life is a perfect imperfection. Throughout our lives, we will experience highs and lows, or as the Buddha said 10,000 days of joy and 10,000 days of sorrow. In some areas of our life, we will feel good, in other areas maybe not so much… and this together constitutes a life. This life doesn’t magically change when the clock strikes midnight.

Yet it is also here in this reality that lies the basis for what I like to call intentional living. Seeing the reality of what your life is, its beauty and its flaws, also allows you to see where you are and identify what is working for you and what is not. Intentional living for me means bringing awareness into how you want to live your life rather than letting life just shoot by, and setting some guideposts to direct your life.

It has always amazed me that we can spend so much time on organisational strategic planning processes yet when it comes to our own lives, we are so often on automatic pilot. I don’t believe we are capable of completely planning out our lives and frankly, nor would we want to, but there is a real opportunity to become more intentional about how you want to show up in life, what qualities and characteristics you want to bring to the table, and what your priorities are.

Essentially, the question is:

Am I living my life in a way that is meaningful and joyful to me?

Not a small question I know – but oh so important and oh so rich!

There is incredible power in living an intentional life and asking some of these powerful questions: How am I spending my time and does that reflect my priorities? Am I using my precious energy, time and other resources on the things that truly matter to me? How do I define success in my life?

The power lies in the fact that we are all responsible for our own lives and that our life happens in the small decisions we make every day. When we become clearer on what our priorities are and how we want to live, we become a force of nature. We focus on our own personal power rather than looking outside of ourselves – what is it that I can do? How can I contribute?

This requires you to know yourself and live an examined life. It requires stillness and space. The space within ourselves to hear what we have to say and to hear our own desires. It requires you to take responsibility for your own life and be aware that we always have a choice. We choose in every moment how we want to live our lives, how we respond to the events around us, who we choose to be.

Setting out our intentions and following those, putting the responsibility on ourselves and ultimately holding ourselves accountable to be the highest version of ourselves that we can be is one of the most powerful things we can do.

With that power comes a strong sense of purpose, motivation and focus because we know what we are working toward – what it is, ultimately, that we want to create. From that well, we tap into a vast amount of energy and motivation to push us forward to bring into life what we envision.

The start of a new year gives us that space to become intentional, but it is a space that we can always create at any time of year, at any time in our lives. Mostly, it requires a conscious decision to live a life of intention, the space to hear our own heart’s desire and the commitment to act upon it.

And while this can all sound quite serious, at the heart of it all lies joy. Because what can truly give us joy is really doing the things that we love to do, that light up our days – regardless of what the outcome will actually be. And once that light shines brightly, it is one of the most beautifully contagious things around.

With love,
Naomi

Hello lovely one,

While we’re still hard at work on the new website and finishing up some exciting work for this year (more to follow soon!), I wanted to share some further thoughts on how to put self-care into practice. The last post was about creating a mindset shift, where we talked about the importance of reframing self-care from something that is selfish or indulgent to essential to our being. Today, I’d like to take the next step and talk about seeing how we can put self-care into practice. Might be something that you’d like to use as well for the upcoming holidays, I know that for some of you, this can be quite a stressful time.

Also very happy to share this Self-care for the givers workbook with you, which includes a set of questions that can help you to take stock of your self-care, identify what you would like it to be and identify some things that you could set up.

At its heart self-care is about self-love. Love is a verb, it is something we need to put into practice and take action on, and we can do by taking the following steps:

  1. Taking the time out to really hear yourself and see what you need. This can be dedicated time that you create for yourself on an ongoing basis. Once a day, week or month for longer, whatever works best for you.

So what does checking in with yourself mean? At its most basic, it’s about asking yourself a range of questions to see how you are doing at a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual level. This can be done through meditation, journaling, working with a coach or healer of some kind, or whatever it is where you feel you can take time out to really see and feel how you’re doing.

Personally, I really enjoy journaling as it helps me to process my thoughts and feelings and clarify what’s going on with me. This doesn’t mean that you have to write a novel, my journaling practice is more a 10 minute a day activity and I usually take a longer time at the start of each month to set my goals and review how I’m doing.

And in this, handwriting wins from typing anytime, so grab yourself a journal and a pen. With goal-setting in particular, it has been proven that the simple act of writing down your goals improves your chances of achieving them. So for your self-care, write down what your intention is for your self-care and why.

  1. Look into different self-care practices and figure out what works for you. In essence, just try different things!

There are a ton of great resources online, so I don’t want to just add yet the tried and tested. I know that most of you would sign-up for a nice warm relaxing bath or a massage in a heartbeat, or that you know by now, that you should be eating mostly veggies, hydrate like you’re the Sahara desert and sleep at least 7-8 hours. And please don’t forget the exercise, get that body moving.

While by no means have I got myself completely covered in all these areas, I have included some of my self-care practices that you could also consider:

  • How many times have I already said journal? So yes, journaling is a big one for me. Enough said.
  • Meditation and/or breathing exercises. Calming the nervous system down is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Bring in calm, out with stress. Bring in love, out with fear. I know I have written about meditation before, but really just 10 minutes a day can already make a difference. If meditation is not for you, breathing can be highly effective too. A simple breath counting up to 4, holding, and then out to 4 can work its magic very quickly.
  • Slow things down & become more intentional. This can also mean spending time on thinking through how you want to lead your life and what your priorities are. Further thoughts on slowing down in “The busyness trap and how to slow down”. And what better time of year to do so as we’re coming to the end of the year. More resources on this coming your way too soon…!
  • See a coach, therapist or healer. Invest that time in yourself to process what might still be holding you back, get clear on how you’re doing, and seeing what’s in the way of you living your best life. For me, this is self-care 101. I have had the luck to work with a range of therapists and coaches throughout my own life, and they have all had a deep and profound effect on my life.
  • Take personal responsibility, set boundaries and say no. We touched upon this in my last post. The simple fact is that no one else is responsible for your well-being other than you. You can’t wait for others to give you permission to do so. This can be hard sometimes as you need to be honest with yourself and with others about what your needs are. Courage my dear friend…
  • Be ok with feeling whatever it is that you’re feeling. Often we end up telling ourselves stories about what we should be feeling, and push our feelings away. This disempowers you, takes you away from the reality of what is, and even worse, stores the negative energy in your body. True power and freedom lie in acknowledging who we are, what we feel and what we need. You’ll likely see that when we can allow ourselves that space to feel whatever it is that we feel, it often means that we can move forward again a lot more quickly.
  • Be kind to yourself and choose your words wisely. What we’re really talking about here is self-compassion: treating yourself with the same kindness as you would a friend rather than the harsh internal critic that most of us have come to know a bit too well. Dr. Kristin Neff, one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion shares some exercises that you can try on her website.
  • Create and maintain time and space for yourself. That means limiting time at work to create a better work-life balance, and perhaps also limiting time on social media, television, and even news. Try to make sure you have unscheduled time to just do whatever it is that you feel like at the time.
  • Spend time outside and in nature. Get away from the daily grind and create time where you can feel connected to a bigger world away from regular routine and the daily hustle & bustle.

Last and perhaps most importantly, taking stock of our self-care isn’t about creating yet another to-do list of things that others have told you that work.

Self-care more than anything else has to work for you. So be clear about what your intention is for your self-care and see what might work for you.

And with that my dears, we’ve come to the end of today’s post. Don’t forget to download the self-care for the givers workbook. This doesn’t have to take long but see whether you can give yourself some quality time with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine!) and check in with yourself. I hope this resource will be useful to you. And of course, if you have any feedback, please do send it my way.

Have any questions? Need someone to help you think through your self-care practice and what might be holding you back? Send me an email at info@naomisaelens.com

Know someone who might be helped by reading this? Please feel free to send this to them! Just use the links below.

Any particular topics you’re really interested in? Please do let me know – my writing is here with the hope that it brings you something!

With love as always,

Xx Naomi

On the importance of shifting the mindset around self-care and investing in the most important asset you have, your health and well-being.

Self-care is a topic that keeps coming up in my coaching sessions that I really wanted to take the time to address this in a range of blog posts. I find it’s a topic that often comes up with women in particular (although by no means exclusively), which isn’t a big surprise. I’ve noticed it in particular with people who work in “mission-driven” organisations like NGOs or wellness and healthcare professionals – where providing care is at the heart of their work. They are the “givers” of this world and much importance is placed on virtues like altruism and selflessness– a beautiful thing in and of itself, but it becomes tricky when we start giving out of obligation, when the giving comes from a place of “not enough” and when it comes at the expense of our own well-being.

Self-care is important for all of us, as it lies at the heart of everything we do. If we do not take care of our needs, physical, mental or spiritual, we will start to lose energy and slowly but surely deplete ourselves. We become ineffective, putting more and more effort into things with fewer results, and at great cost to ourselves.

But what is it that makes us give of ourselves too much?

Self-care at its essence is about the relationship we have with ourselves. How do we care for ourselves? How do we value ourselves? Our time? Our health? Our happiness?

If we somehow believe that our health and happiness are not as important as that of the person or the organization we are serving, we can end up in a vicious cycle where we keep ignoring our own needs for those of others and always put others before ourselves.

Self-care is really about self-worth. We can’t have one without the other. While we can pull up a list of self-care practices, we will not actually implement them if we don’t believe that we are worth this care.

Similarly, we are often driven to give of ourselves because of fear. The fear of not being or doing enough, the mind that keeps telling us that we should continually be productive and work hard to have success. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a mindset of hard work and perseverance in and of itself. But again, it becomes destructive when we feel we can’t allow ourselves the time to rest or take care of ourselves. We turn into hamsters perpetually stuck in the wheel, running because we’re afraid to stop and ignoring our need for self-care.

At its worst, this behaviour can result in burn-out, where we’ve literally burnt up all of our physical and emotional energy and have given till we literally can’t’ give any more at great cost to ourselves.

So how can we change the story around self-care to be more supportive of ourselves?

  • Reframe self-care from selfish to preservation. For many of the “givers”, self-care feels selfish and indulgent.  We feel we only deserve it if we have worked very hard or done something else to deserve a nice treat.

But we miss a couple of important points. Firstly, self-care is an essential part of living that we need for preservation.  If we want to be the best we can be and do our best work, we need to be and feel emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually healthy. We make sure we plug our phone in every night. I’ve even seen people carrying extra batteries around for their phones – but taking care of your own health and wellbeing? No, that’s the last priority. We’re a little strange like that really. 😉

Self-care is not selfish. If we truly want to care for others, we must care for ourselves first. Because we can’t give what we don’t have. Moreover, if we keep on giving from a place of obligation, there’s a risk that we build up resentment. It’s not true giving anymore, it’s much more transactional. I give because deep down I expect something back and if I don’t get it, just watch the resentment build. The healthier and more fulfilled we ourselves are, the more and the more freely we can give.

Self-care is the most important investment you can make as you are your most important asset. You are the single most important instrument you have.

Self-care is not about treats and rewards. In fact, true self-care can mean making decisions that will benefit you in the longer term rather than in the short term. That bar of candy might feel like self-care to you in the short term (I get it, really!), but in the longer term, the added sugar might lead to more serious health problems.

  • Learn to set boundaries and say no. Self-care is about taking responsibility for yourself. Don’t wait for others to take care of you – you are your own biggest asset and responsibility. Taking responsibility then also means that you need to speak up for your own needs, and focus on the things that are important to you.

This also means that we need to let others know what is and what is not acceptable or feasible for us and where our boundaries are. It requires us to take up our personal space, which requires courage. It is often easier to say no to ourselves than to others because we’re conflict-averse or want to please people. But it comes at the cost of doing things that are not on our priority list or that we simply don’t want to do. Our time and energy are limited, use it wisely and listen to yourself. What are the things that are most important to you? How am I doing and what do I really need right now?

And don’t forget, saying no can be done in a kind and respectful way. No can mean “no, this is not my priority”, but can also be “no, not now, but later”, or “no, but perhaps we can do it this way”.

  • Be kind to yourself and see yourself as a friend. Observe yourself and see how you treat and speak to yourself. What many people notice is that they are in fact very harsh with themselves. Many of the things we say to ourselves, we would never say to anyone else. Just start observing how you speak to yourself could you be kinder? More compassionate?

Really, this is about shifting the mindset around self-care and recognising it for its importance. This isn’t about another add saying “you deserve it” but seeing self-care as an essential part of living, so we can lead our best life and have the greatest impact. Shifting our mindset is essential to actually implement the practice of self-care.

Stay tuned as I’ll be posting more information about how to assess your self-care and discuss some practices that you could try to implement and see how they work for you!

And that my love is all for today. I’d love to hear how you are doing with your self-care practice? What’s working for you? And perhaps what challenges do you come up against?

Leave a comment or send me a little note: info@naomisaelens.com

Please feel free to share with a friend who you think might benefit from this. You can simply use one of the share buttons below.

And oh so excited, and just a tad nervous, but will be launching the new website soon. It is a labour of love I tell you – and made all the more special because it’s done by my love B. Watch this space and I’ll be back soon. I’m planning on launching some new and free tools to take us into the new year and make use of this special time of year as well for some reflection!

With love as always,

Xx Naomi