Are You Open to Change?

2017 has been a year of BIG changes for me.  As I was reflecting on my life over the last week, I realized exactly how many changes I've made in the last year, and it was a pretty crazy list.

-Got married

-Became a step-mom

-Moved to a new city

-Moved to a "real" house from a tiny house

-Quit my full-time job

-Closed my tiny house business 

-Launched my new speaking, coaching & consulting business

-Started professional speaking

-Started coaching training

-Sold a car

-Bought a car

-Launched my first mastermind & coaching program

This list represents some of the most exciting and stressful experiences I've had up to this point in my life!  

All of my changes made me stop and think about how often we are resistant to change and how poorly we sometimes navigate times of change in our lives.  Again, the changes in my life have been great, but they certainly haven't all been easy or stress free.  

If you had asked me a year ago what my life looked like it would have been very different from where I am today.  A year ago, I was pursuing my full-time Air Force career.  My dog, Rocket, and I were content with our lives in the tiny house (for those who don't know my story, I lived in 234 square feet for a little over 3 years...and yes it was by choice!).  I really wans't looking for a new life because I was OKAY with what I had...well sort of.  What I realized, is that while the life I had a year ago wasn't bad, it also didn't feed my soul or allow me to use my gifts and talents to impact others.  

Today I am married with two beautiful step-daughters.  And after 16 years of full-time Air Force service, I have transitioned to a part-time status so I can pursue my dream of building my own business that helps other women achieve their dreams and passions through entrepreneurship.  I am living in alignment with my values and purpose and that has made all the difference in the world.

As I've mentioned in my previous posts, the transitions I made over the last year weren't seamless.  There were some significant moments of fear and doubt that colored everything I experienced even though the changes I was making were great.  However, with two small mental shifts, change became exciting for me.

First, I started looking at change as an opportunity to grow.

The problem with change is that's hard to see what's just around the corner.  When we can't always predict the outcome or see the results up front, change can be terrifying.  We often view change as a negative life event.  Obviously there are times where change is not intentional, but rather situational (a job loss, the death of a loved one, a financial setback).  In those cases it can be extremely difficult to view change in a positive light.  However, the key to navigating change with grace and excitement is to view ALL change as an opportunity to grow and learn.  

My first round of significant life changes happened almost 5 years ago, and unlike the changes this year, most of them weren't planned or even really wanted.  5 years ago I went through a divorce that certainly wasn't on my bucket list.  I changed jobs, moved across the country and downsized to the tiny house as part of my new life.  Not all of those changes were choices I wanted to make at the time, but as soon as I started looking at them as opportunities to grow, it allowed me to move past the negative mentality.

I realized that the divorce was an opportunity for me to get really clear on the things I valued and get much more comfortable with who I am as a person.  It also helped me get clear on how I wanted to spend my time and money so that my life reflected who I wanted to be.  It led me to the idea of tiny houses and my eventual shift to smaller living, which allowed me to start speaking about intentional living.  That experience taught me that I loved speaking and set the foundation for my new business.  

These transitions were HARD, but they also gave me a chance to grow.  The growth I had during the hard, unwanted changes allowed me to become the person I am today and gave me the courage to pursue this more exciting round of changes this year.

When we can shift our outlook from the negative to the positive, change becomes a transformational event that allows us to become better versions of who we are in this world.   

By asking a few simple questions, we can help shift our mindset.  How can I use this change to grow?  What's one lesson I can learn from this change?  How can I use the change to impact others?

These questions are hard to remember when we are in the midst of change, but they can really help us experience change in a more positive light. 

The second thing I'm learning is to enjoy the journey of life.

The beautiful thing about life is that nothing stays the same.  We are in a continual process of change throughout our lives from a mental, emotional, physical and situational standpoint.  There isn't much that stays the same when you really stop to think about it.  After all, we aren't all still trying to learn how to walk or read in our 30's.  We probably don't have the exact same friends as we did 10 years ago and if we are honest, we probably wouldn't want to trade all of our life experiences for who we were the year we started high school (assuming you aren't still 15!).  All of those things reflect change in our life and they are all part of our journey.  

Allowing ourselves to enjoy the journey makes things so much less stressful and so much more exciting.  Sometimes being in our routines and doing things the same way as we did last year is good.  Routines give us predictability and stability, but the downside to routines is they can often take over without us realizing it.  When we start avoiding change our lives become stagnant and often pretty boring.

I am challenging you to enjoy the journey of change.  When we start looking at change as a positive force for growth it allows us to really enjoy the process.  That's not to say every minute is blissful, it's certainly not, even when the change is entirely positive, but it does mean we can enjoy who we are becoming and what we are learning.

Ask yourselves the following questions: What change is going on in your life right now?  Are you enjoying the journey?  How would it change your experience if you looked at the change as an adventure?

I'd love to hear about your thoughts on this post, please share your comments below.

Are You Thankful or Grateful?

Thanksgiving always provides a great opportunity to slow down and think about what we are thankful for in our lives.  If you are like most people, you probably make a quick list in your head of the things that you have in your life that makes it a little bit better around this time of year.  

My family even has a tradition of going around the table during our Thanksgiving meal and listing one or two things we are thankful for each year.  It's a great way acknowledge the things in our lives that make us smile.  In the past, my list of things I am thankful for included my family, friends, my home, my dog, the yummy food we were eating...you get the idea.  

These were all awesome things, but I think if I'm totally honest it was just a list that I made on Thanksgiving day (usually as the person in front of me was answering the question...shh don't tell my family).  I was absolutely thankful in the moment, but I'm not sure it really carried forward in my day-to-day life or had a lasting impact.

So what if this year instead of being just thankful we were grateful?  

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there is a subte difference between being thankful and being grateful.  When we are thankful we are acknowledging the benefits something provides us.  This is how we end up with our laundry list at Thanksgiving dinners.  We list the things in our lives that simply bring us a benefit of some sort.

But when we are grateful, we aren't simply conscious of what is happening in our lives, instead we are appreciative of the benefits received.  That appreciation makes all the difference in the world.

Appreciation means that we are not only aware of the things we are thankful for, but also really intentional about acknowledging how those things are impacting our lives in a positive way.  When we are grateful for the things in our lives it allows us to really receive the gifts of friendship and love.  It allows us to slow down enough to be present in the moment and take joy in the little things in life.  Being grateful allows us to live more joyful and purposeful lives.

It's so easy for us to get caught up in the negative events in life.  It's easy to look at our day and focus on the things that didn't go quite like we planned.  This mentality makes it really hard to be thankful or grateful.  As Janice Kaplan points out in her amazing book The Gratitude Diaries, "Announce too often that you're miserable, and you begin to believe you are."  Nothing could be more true!  

But what if we could make conscious choices to make ourselves more grateful on a daily basis?  How would that change our experience of this world?

The beauty of gratitude is it allows us to change our perspective and attitude.  When we consciously choose contentment and gratitude we open ourselves up to lives that our so much more enriching and rewarding.  Science has proven over and over again that people who are more grateful are generally happier, less stressed and less likely to suffer from depression.  I don't know about you, but those all sound like really good things!

Here are four simple steps you can take to cultivate an attitude of gratitude:

1. Make a gratitude list each day - By writing down a few things each day we are grateful for we can begin to change our perspective about our lives.  Instead of scanning our environment for things that aren't going quite like we hoped, we begin to scan our world for the things that bring us joy and contentment.  

It doesn't matter when you make this list or how you make it.  You can make this list in the morning to start you off on the right foot or in the evening to improve your sense of well-being before you go to bed each night.  You can record your thoughts in your phone as things happen during the day or in a beautiful journal that you can review and reflect on from time to time.  There's not right way to make the list, but the process of making it will improve your sense of gratefulness.

2. Reframe your experiences - There are some times where simply changing our mindset can allow us to be more grateful for our every day experiences.  There is an amazing quote in Hamlet that states: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  This such an obvious truth that it's easy to forget.  Our perception of our situation is what makes it good or bad.  

If we look for the positive in every experience we have we change our experience and by changing our mindset.  It's so important to remember that we can't always change the events in our life, but we can change our response.  One of my coaches says it like this, E+R=O.  In this formula events plus our responses equals the outcome. 

We can't always control the things or events we experience, but we ALWAYS have control over our response, which creates the outcome we experience.  Ask yourself how you can reframe the events in your life to create better outcomes for you and your family.

3. Choose experiences rather than things - If you are looking for a sure fire way to cultivate more gratitude try to focus on having experiences rather than acquiring things.  When we stop and look at our lives for the things that added value, it is likely that our time with family,  a great vacation or a fun concert come out way ahead of the new iPhone or outfit we bought.  

The things we buy lose their novelty shortly after we buy them, which means even though we might get joy from the initial purchase and enjoy the idea of owning them, the long-term emotional benefit is limited.  In contrast, most of our experiences get better over time.  

Think about the great memories you have from the vacation you took and think about the joy you can still experience by recalling the time with family or friends.  Experiences naturally make us more grateful for our lives.  So what experiences can you pursue on an annual, monthly or weekly basis to boost your gratitude and happiness?   

4. Don't save gratitude for Thanksgiving!  - I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait for Thanksgiving each year to experience the positive benefits of gratitude.  When we appreciate what we have (being Grateful!), we are less likely to be unhappy.  The more you focus on the things you are grateful for, the more content you become.

Let's make 2018 a year of Gratitude!  

I'd love to hear some ideas of how you practice gratitude in your life, share in the comments below.

Are Your Courageous?

I have never considered myself courageous....how about you?  Do you think of yourself as courageous?  

I think part of the reason I never really considered myself courageous was because I believed being courageous meant that you weren't afraid.  It meant that you took action in the face of danger without fear.

But what I'm realizing, is that being courageous doesn't mean taking action when we aren't afraid, instead it means taking action when we ARE afraid!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at TEDx Colorado Springs.  I stood on a stage in front of almost one hundred people and shared my story.  I explained why being dumb, dangerous and different is a great way to achieve more in life.  Now, the fact that I'm a professional speaker probably makes you assume that this didn't take a lot of courage, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I should explain...

I graduated from a very small high school with only 10 classmates.  Since our school was so small, we were all afforded a great opportunity, or at least that's how the school viewed it.  As part of our graduation ceremony, we were all required to speak to the audience about our high school experience.  Unfortunately, this was part of our graduation requirement.

Most of my classmates viewed this as an amazing opportunity, but I viewed it as a total nightmare!  The idea of standing up in front of anyone and speaking absolutely terrified me.  I guess the fact that public speaking is one of the most often cited individual fears, it makes a lot of sense!

I spent hours trying to figure out how to get out of speaking at my graduation ceremony, I even seriously considered not graduating!  I tried to convince my family and my teachers that getting a GED would be just as useful and a lot less stressful than speaking.  You can imagine that at 18 years old I didn't get a lot of sympathy or support for that plan.  

After weeks of agonizing and hours of working with a coach, I sort of survived my graduation speech.  In the end, I spoke on stage for less than 60 seconds (after calming my nerves with valium, which I wouldn't recommend!) and completed my graduation requirements, but I hated every minute of it.

In college I took a public speaking course as part of my undergraduate curriculum.  I didn't use valium each week, but I definitely did not enjoy the course!  The good news is that I did learn to stand up in front of my classmates and share my very well rehearsed and somewhat poorly delivered speeches.  What I didn't realize was that this experience was helping me build courage.

Flash forward a couple of decades and a lot of opportunities to face my fears later, and professional speaking has become part of my career path.  But the truth is that standing on that stage last weekend still took courage, but not nearly as much courage as it took to stand up on the stage in high school.

The great thing about courage, is that it is a skill you can learn, just like other skills.  It takes time and perseverance, but it is one of the most important predictors of success.

Here are three steps to start developing courage:

1. Face your fears  

As I discussed a few weeks ago, we all have fears that we have to learn to face, so finding opportunities to stretch ourselves is usually no problem.  When we avoid our fears they actually gain strength and power over us.  The longer we allow ourselves to sit and worry about things, the bigger the problem starts to seem.

When we are faced with fears, it is critical to ask the following questions:

  1. What am I actually afraid of?
  2. Should I be afraid of it?
  3. How can I move towards a favorable outcome?

Once we are able to answer these questions, we can evaluate our options and take reasonable steps to achieve our goals and move forward.  By facing our fears we gain confidence in our ability to move forward.

2. Adopt an action mindset

Adopting an action mindset simply means not allowing ourselves to settle or stop when fear shows up.  It means taking small steps, but consistent steps in the face of what feels like danger.  

Consistency is one of the hallmarks of courage.  

It means stepping a little bit outside of our comfort zones on a regular basis and moving forward even when we are afraid and don't know how things will turn out.

Remember, being courageous doesn't mean we won't feel fear, it just means we are able to take action even when we feel afraid.  Taking action makes us stronger and allows us to make progress in our personal and professional lives.

Sometimes it just comes down to taking a leap of faith and trusting ourselves to achieve our goals and overcome obstacles.  When you face your fears it's amazing how much you can accomplish.  I used to be terrified of public speaking and now I'm a professional speaker in part because I was willing to take consistent action to overcome my fears.

3. Build your confidence!

Courage means taking action even when you aren't feeling confident.  The good news is that the more you practice these skills the more confidence you will gain in your abilities.  Courage leads to confidence and confidence leads to courage.  

Having a belief in your skills and abilities is the first step in gaining more confidence and building your courage.  The second step is looking for ways to continue to improve and grow.  As we learn and grow, we gain confidence and the skills to move forward even in the face of fear.

By taking these three steps, you can gain confidence and build your courage.  The next time you face something that makes you nervous or causes some fear, remember to be courageous.  Face you fear head on, take consistent action and tap into your internal strength to give you confidence in your endeavor.  I have no doubt that you are courageous.