Friday, November 20, 2009

Self-Care, not Self-Repair!

Hello everyone! I have made it back safe and sound to sunny Florida. I am blessed with sunny weather and even slept on the plane! I can never sleep on planes. Getting a good 6-hour nap has really helped me get over jet lag quickly. I will be spending a month at home replenishing my energy and recharging during the downtime. A month is quite a long time, and if I took better care of myself on a daily basis (more on this later) I would not need such a long vacation, hence the topic of today's post.

The key point of proper self-care is whether it is performed as maintenance or damage control. Do you have bodywork done? If so, is it because you suffer from stiff shoulders (damage control), or because it feels good and you enjoy indulging yourself? (maintenance). If you postpone being good to yourself until you hit damage mode, it somewhat defeats the purpose. It becomes self-repair instead of self-care.

Treating yourself well will help prevent the need for damage control as well as shore up energy reserves that can quickly be depleted in times of severe stress, illness, or trauma. Expensive massages are not a necessity, for example hot baths with healing salts, daily meditation, a yoga routine, or a morning walk are all forms of self-care. For couples, getting a good book on massage techniques is a very low-cost way of doing bodywork with the added bonus of increasing your quality-time together.

Figure out the little things that you enjoy, and find a way to incorporate them into your daily or weekly routine. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Story of Rose

It's getting quite cold over here in Tokyo! I'll be spending a month back home in Florida starting next week. Three weeks will be spent visiting various doctors, and the final week will be spent on a cruise to the Caribbean! I hope to talk about that in a later post.

Things have been quite hectic since my last post, and I have been coming up with new themes and topics to discuss in future posts. If any of you out there have any suggestions or requests, please feel free to contact me!

Today I would like to share the story of Rose with you. This story is printed in my coaching manual, and made the rounds on the Internet about 10 years ago. The author is unknown but the story has been published on various sites. For those of you who haven't read it yet, I hope it encourages you to take more risks in your life, and damn the consequences.

The Story of Rose

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze. "Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began:

"We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success."

"You have to laugh and find humor every day."

"You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!"

"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change."

"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose." She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.Follow Your Dreams, and remember to buy Roses for your Grandma!

We send these words in loving memory of Rose.


--Growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pleasures and Gratifications

I have always had a love of learning, and despite not going into the psychology field, I am very glad that I majored in it. As with most things in my life, I didn't have specific plan upon entering college. If I remember correctly, I chose my alma mater (Stetson University) because they had a good sports medicine program, and at that time, I was interested in maybe being a trainer. That lasted probably about halfway through the first semester of my freshman year. I don't think it's a coincidence that one of my first classes in the sports med track was Sports Psychology.

During my junior year, I still hadn't declared a major, so I went to the records office (or wherever they kept a list of the classes I had taken), asked for a copy of my class history, and decided my major right then and there based on which area I had taken most of my classes. This wound up being psychology. I loved every class I took, with the exception of the statistics class and my Senior Thesis class. Research was so boring to me, and I had the unfortunate experience of making all the necessary changes to my thesis as requested by my professor, only to have him give me a low B...despite following all of his recommendations! JERK!

I have continued with leisurely reading in this field since I graduated. Most of my reading has involved books on personal development, personality, spiritual growth, etc. A fairly new field in psychology is called Positive Psychology, headed by the very-famous Dr. Seligman. There is a link to his site, Authentic Happiness, on the right side of my blog. I bought his book, which has the same title, to learn more about this field. I want to write on many topics covered in his book, but this time, I would like to focus on Pleasures and Gratifications.

Dr. Seligman makes a distinction in his book between the above two aspects of happiness. Pleasures involve our more basic ways of acquiring happiness via the senses, which have a strong, immediate, and short-lasting emotional aspect. These would involve eating delicious chocolate, awesome sex, smelling your favorite perfume, a post-workout high, etc. Higher on the scale might be enjoying an expensive cognac or a luxurious spa package. It's very easy to see clearly that this is how the majority of people operate in first-world countries in order to improve their mood in day-to-day life, to the point of excess. Seligman points out, (and those of us who eat a whole tub of strawberry cheesecake ice cream already shamefully know) repeated exposure in a short time to the shame stimulus severely blunts the body's response. The fifth spoonful of Haagen-Dazs doesn't taste as heavenly as the first, and the last spoonful of the carton DEFINITELY tastes the worst. Yet we keep consuming, buying, eating, screwing, etc. trying to recreate that first high, without any downtime for our minds to reset.

In my own experience, I would even go as far to say that there's a negative component, as our increasing frustration with being unable to reach that initial high causes anxiety, frustration, and in some cases, maybe even desperation.

Whereas Gratifications, as Seligman calls them, require work to achieve, without any strong emotional component, yet we like doing them anyways.

Spending countless hours in cafes studying to receive Level 1 Certification for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test was definitely NOT a good time while I was doing it, but now I have the certificate on my shelf, and I feel better about myself for having accomplished it.

Giving 300 yen to the local homeless guy to buy a copy of The Big Issue (I urge everyone to support the homeless in their area by purchasing a copy, if available. Around half the cost of the magazine goes to the seller themselves) doesn't benefit me in any immediate way...I'm out 300 yen. Yet I have a much lighter feeling that last for a few days for supporting someone trying to better themselves. The articles are good, too, and I can use it to practice reading Kanji.

Seligman goes into much further depth in the chapter entitled, "Happiness in the Present," so I highly recommend purchasing the book if you are interested in learning more about the distinction and how to create more happiness in your life. The main point I want to emphasize with this post is the distinction between Pleasures and Gratifications. How many of them do you have in your life? Which group is more prevalent? I'm willing to bet the majority reading this, myself included, lean towards the Pleasures side of the spectrum.

How does filling your life with only the easy, quick fixes limit and inhibit you? How many of you reach for the cold slices of pizza in the fridge when taking a gourmet pizza-making course will help you learn more about cooking, ingredients, and improve self-sufficiency? I'm sure your homemade pizza would knock the socks off any delivery brand, if you applied yourself.

How many of you enjoy a parade of NSA relationships because you claim to dislike "baggage" and "drama" yet the real reason is YOU have the baggage and drama, and being with a supportive partner would force you to face these head-on? You dismiss the effort and time required for close intimacy when, in reality, the act of sex IS the most intimate act. You are showing all of you, in more ways than one, no matter what level of meaning you assign to it. How much more euphoric could the experience be with a supportive, caring, and committed partner?

I am a big proponent of the short-term, ego-soothing properties of "retail therapy". Sometimes buying a new purse or a new MAC lipstick really does the trick when you are feeling a bit down or bored. But when you open your bathroom drawer and dozens of tubes of lipstick fall out, some of them from 4 months ago and never opened, well, what is that really saying?

The media has told us that acquisition of "stuff" will make you happy and make you feel like you belong. Both of these factors, happiness and belonging-ness, are strong motivators, otherwise this type of advertising would fail horribly. You belong and feel happy, until the new model comes out. Then, you are left out again.

I would like you to reflect on your life and your behaviors for meeting your needs, and find ways that might be more satisfying from the Gratifications side of the spectrum. Your general level of mood will improve, you will have a positive effect on others around you and on your own self-development, and probably save some money! You will also allow your brain/nervous system time to reset so when you do have that second spoon of ice cream, it might just feel as rewarding as the first.

....but probably not the last spoon of the carton. That's gotta be Murphy's Law or something.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Miracle Question

What if, overnight, a miracle occurred, and you woke up tomorrow morning and the problem was solved? What would be the first thing you would notice?

The above is called the "Miracle Question" (de Schazer & Lipchick, 1984), and it is used in various forms by both coaches and therapists. It's a powerful question that puts a person in a forward-thinking state of mind, and helps a person gain clarity about their problems or unattained dreams and the importance they put upon them. The answer to this question reveals things about a person's priorities and unmet needs, and sometimes a flash of insight behind the desire for this goal or dream. At first it seems simple, but in the context of a coaching conversation, it can open up many doors.

When I posed this question to myself concerning a problem that had severely affected me for a long time (I'll spare you the details), at first I could not imagine what I would notice. I posed the question to myself several times over a few days, my mind was always blank. I could not see past this one problem that I was so obsessed about. Around the 15th or 16th time I asked myself the Miracle Question, the answer appeared in a flash in my head:

"Oh no. I'd be stuck in Japan forever"

Wait what? This can't be right. The first thing I'd notice is that I'd be trapped in Japan? But the solution to this problem is supposed to fix everything that's wrong! Why would my first thought, after solving this problem, be one of dread?

This flash of insight is exactly what I needed to sit down and examine the problem in detail, and really figure out if 1) it was an actual problem and 2) Did I really want it to be solved the way I thought it I wanted it to. From my answer, it was obvious that my desired solution would create a possibly much bigger problem. Although not easy at first, I had to accept that what I thought I wanted wasn't what I really wanted or needed for my future. The severity of this perceived problem was greatly diminished, and I was able to focus my time and effort on other areas of my life.

For lack of a better word, the "problem" still exists, but instead of having a stronghold on my life decisions, it is now relegated to the level of "I forgot to buy toilet paper," or "I overslept".

For those of you with issues in your life that you struggle with, I urge you to pose this question to yourself. At first you might not be able to see past the initial relief of the problem being solved, but if you give yourself enough time for introspection, the answer will come. If the answer is shocking, perhaps it's time to reevaluate what's really going on. If the answer gives you even more energy and more motivation to push on, then start mapping out some possibilities to get rid of the problem. Either way, you'll learn more about yourself and where to go from the present.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Champagne and Celebration

I'd like to welcome everyone to my inaugural blog post! I wish I had a bottle of champagne on hand, but cracking the bottle against the monitor isn't exactly a good idea.

I am fulfilling my dream of being a professional coach and I have created this blog with the hopes of sharing what I have learned through my experiences, networking (of course), and being a positive influence on my readers.

In future posts, I plan to share information regarding life exploration, life improvement, and articles I have run across that might help people enrich their lives or motivate them to achieve more.

I chose the title "If Not Now, When?" because from all the inspirational quotes I have run across, this one rung the most true to me. It is from the Talmud, and in four words, expresses the very core of my passion for helping others and seeing others live happy and fulfilling lives. Truly, if you don't chase your dreams now, then when?

A coach's path is also one of discovery and exploration, and I am looking forward to seeing the impact my blog has on others and on myself as I navigate through this exciting journey. I hope you find the information valuable and helpful in crafting the life you seek.

The journey begins!