Tips For Finding Joy in Life and Relationships

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 2.56.58 PMI had so much fun with my cohort Laurie Hardie hanging out, talking and prepping to host ‘Live From Seattle’ that it got me thinking about how much good it does a soul to have fun.

When I say fun, I just mean doing something enjoyable. Something you look forward to with a smile on your face…. something you want to do and you will be glad you did.

I intended for this post to concentrate on relationships and how fun times together can move us into more rewarding relationships but I have to start with addressing individuals because it takes a healthy person to have a healthy relationship. That’s not to say Relationship Coaching doesn’t work with unhealthy individuals, it can – it just takes a slightly different approach.

Depression is very very common. If you struggle with it, here is one simple step that can help. Plan to have fun. I’d suggest planning something little every day, something a little bigger weekly and something really fun at least once a month. If you immediately think ‘I don’t have money so this won’t work for me’, you’re wrong! Learning to enjoy, relish and appreciate the little things helps bring life back to a dark soul. The daily kinds of things might be having a cup of tea with your daughter or taking an indulgently long hot shower after a good workout or dusting off and playing your guitar again.

Just taking the time to think about and put them on your calendar helps us really be present in the experience and cherish the moments. Whether or not you have money, if you think you can only have wonderful experiences when your spending money, I want to challenge you to get creative and return to the things that really matter and plan things that take little to no money. Often this very act will help reframe your thinking and get you back into a place of joy.

Struggling relationships are often revitalized by fun. Playful activities that both parties enjoy can take the edge off being together. If you are in a really bad place, you might want to be sure that there is not a long car ride involved the first time you try this. The more often you are able to make these enjoyable moments/hours occur the better. Just make sure the activities stay untainted from ugly behavior. What often happens is that the more fun times that are incorportated into the relationship the less tension there is regarding other issues and healthier communication begins to flow.

Give it a whirl and remember having fun, on a regular basis, does a world of good for a darkened soul!

Dave & Suzette’s Story

weddingCake_1424403cMy husband and I have a healthy marriage, but that has not always been the case.

With our 27th anniversary quickly approaching we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs but two of our downs have been bad – real bad!

I tell you our story (with permission :)) because: I want you to know that if your marriage isn’t what you want it to be – we can relate! And more importantly, to give you hope.

Miserable would be a good way to describe us. It lasted a couple of years, back in the mid 90’s. I’m not proud of it, but it was so awful I threatened to leave. I said I didn’t want a divorce but I was leaving unless things changed – immediately. I would not advise this, but I told him that he had less than a week to figure some things out or I was on a plane and would not return until he had. He was shocked but knew I was serious. Things changed. It was a slow process, but once I saw him making an effort my patience was restored. No doubt, I had some changing to do myself but I didn’t know it then. Most of my changing came years later! Poor guy!

The next decade was great. Then it happened again. Who knows what triggered it, but we derailed off a lovely track. We sought help – together. This time it was him who was fearful that we might not make it. We worked hard and both grew individually and as a couple, but it was our individual growth that reignited the romance and fun and provided the strength and security that we had jeopardized.

After a few months of healing some wounds our sessions stalled out. We began talking about the same things from week to week with no new growth. Dave finally said, “If we are going to continue getting professional help we need to find a coach to help us move from good to great.”

We didn’t know of any Relationship Coaches back then, so we just decided to apply the skills I’d learned in coaching to ‘us’. It worked so well I wanted to try it out on others and became certified.

Being instrumental in taking relationships from good to great is wonderful but walking hand in hand with couples who are on the court room steps back to the arms of a loving spouse is more fulfilling than any job I can imagine.

The end of our story to date is ….. “and they lived happily ever after.”

Unresolved Issues

uncertainty-aheadWouldn’t you rather just avoid unresolved issues? Bringing them up can feel like we’re asking for a fight. However, unresolved issues that have caused wounds tend to raise their ugly head when new conflicts arise yet if we can keep our minds focussed on the current conflict, resolve to that issue comes much more quickly. Until past wounds have healed those memories will, more than likely, arise causing pain, uncertainty and unneceesary turmoil over current issues.

I recently took care of a 4 year old issue. I know, that’s crazy – I’m a relationship coach! But I do happen to be human. It wasn’t that I’d meant to stuff it. At first it was too painful to talk about. Every time I tried I’d end up in tears and then get flustered and couldn’t make my points and he’d get mad because we had a good and loving relationship so he thought we should have been able to move on -and I agreed. So I stuffed it.

Years past and it didn’t rear it’s ugly head anymore – except when it did. I was going to say it was only because current circumstances seemed to mimic what had happened. I wasn’t mad but the pain felt a little raw so I’m sure hormones and other factors also played into it. Fortunately, being a relationship coach, I did realize that trying talk through it when I was feeling the pain was a terrible idea, so I waited for an opportune time. To him it seemed odd. We hadn’t dug up old stuff in years – we just don’t do that because we’ve forgiven and given most things a proper burial.

But this one thing . . .

So, one evening when we were dreaming together I caught myself backing up very quickly because a wave of fear swept over me and I knew it was the right time to bring it up.

Another thing I’ve learned is that prefacing sensitive conversations with the intention helps tremendously so I told him I needed to talk about something before I could dream freely. I told him I wanted to be confident that we could move into this new phase of life on the same page and know for certain that we would work through differences by communicating openly. I let him know that my intention for the conversation was to give me the security and confidence I needed for us to have the best relationship possible. While he still wasn’t excited to have the conversation he understood the importance.

It wasn’t an easy conversation but by prefacing it with my intention and expressing how I was hurt rather than accusing him we were able to work through it pretty quickly. Funny thing is, there wasn’t a lot of forgiving to do. Just hearing how he viewed what had happened acknowledging both his part and mine gave me the assurance that we were on the same page. Finally it could be laid to rest permanently.

No couple will ever agree on everything and there may always be sadness around some issues, but wounds that fester and are buried do not die quickly. These memories hurt our relationship. They need to be laid to rest properly and permanently. It takes two mature people who love each other deeply and are committed to a good and growing relationship to tend to old wounds. If you’re not there, don’t rush it. The last thing you want is more damage done.

One way to test the waters to see if your relationship mature enough to handle tending to old wounds is to preface your conversation with your pure motives and see how it flies.

For me, I knew that I couldn’t dream about certain things with him or entertain ideas that were even remotely close to looking like the situation that our unresolved issued was around. I was afraid that a nightmare would creep in and steel the dream again. I wanted us to acknowledge that without intentionality it could happen again. And I wanted assurance that we would be make our relationship more important than the dream.

A demand for a confession or forgiveness is never helpful, so don’t go there even if that is what you think you need. Instead ask yourself, what is the benefit I want from talking about this issue? And proceed with confidence and sensitivity. Another day may be a better choice. Choosing your time wisely will help ensure the outcome you desire.

How to Strengthen Any Relationship

Strengthen_RelationshipsThink about how you feel when someone asks you a question but they don’t listen to your response. Or when you are having a conversation with someone but when you begin speaking they are obviously less than engaged. It doesn’t feel good. Checking phones, or worse yet texting, looking back at the tv, interacting with a toddler are distractions that happen all too often.

Learning to be a great listener is not that hard and it’s one of the best ways to strengthen relationships. Most of us are guilty of being less than great listeners, and need to be reminded of it’s importance.

We are busy people and great multi-taskers – often at the expense of great relationships. It has been proven that it is not possible to multi-task with 2 streams of words. Forbes News Post writer Erika Anderson reports, “Your brain just can’t take in and process two simultaneous, separate streams of information and encode them fully into short-term memory. When information doesn’t make it into short-term memory, it can’t be transferred into long-term memory for recall later. If you can’t recall it, you can’t use it.”

Maybe you don’t multitask – good for you! Interrupting, thinking about our response, or analyzing/judging what is being said are other signals we are not listening well. These often stem from a good motive. We are listening, but we are more concerned with our role in the conversation than with the person, so we are thinking about what we will say next rather than listening with empathy and for understanding. When we begin to understand what they are saying and how they feel we know we’re on the right track. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with them or adopt their feelings – it just means we have and understanding of the content of their words and can see where their feelings are coming from.

Some conversations are simply for information, so the importance is about content, but not necessarily less important. Just yesterday my son told me where he was going and who he was going to be with. When he returned I asked him if he had a good time and he began telling me about it. I was stunned to realize I had not listened well. He was with an entirely different group of people than I had thought. I didn’t let on, but when I looked back at his texts, there was evidence he had told me, both verbally and by text who he was hanging out with! In this case, no harm was done because he didn’t know – unless he is more perceptive than I think! But generally, when we get information wrong that people have taken time to relay – they feel slighted and we have damaged our relationship. Writing this is convicting me. I am guilty way too often of not retaining this kind of information.

Whether it’s business, friends, family or acquaintances, relationships are what keep the world in harmony. Relationships blossom and grow when we respect each other enough to listen well.

Realizing the importance of good listening skills is the first step. There are many tools and tricks to help you, like eye contact, repeating back what was said, asking clarifying questions etc. A google search will quickly pull up all kinds of articles if you need more ideas.

We all have the capacity to be good listeners and we become one when we begin valuing people more highly. When we place a greater value on our relationships we choose not to multi task and we have a desire to understand so we engage in their story and/or take interest in the informations that is being shared. This may mean we need a moment before we respond, but that is ok. Being quick to listen and slow to speak is wisdom from above!

Is Your Shadow Haunting You?

shadowpersonsWhen the sun is shining on you your shadow falls behind you so it generally goes unnoticed. Occasionally if you look to the side you may catch a glimpse of it in your peripheral vision but rarely do you wring your head around and stare at it, yet it follows you wherever you go.

When we are headed in the direction we desire it feels good, like a warm sunshiny day. The path is graced with things that make our heart smile and we are excited to reach our destination. We are energized, our thoughts are clear and we are not distracted by our shadow. It is always with us but it has no power to hold us back or cause us to second guess the direction we’ve chosen.

Most children go through a phase where they are fascinated with their shadow. Some kiddos try to jump into it, others try desperately to grab hold of it and some try to run away from it. So it is in life. Our past is like our shadow – it will always be there following us. We cannot jump back into it for a re-do, we can’t hold onto it trying to keep it alive, nor can we run away from it. It is just there. Our life resembles it’s shape, but it has no power. Like a child who obsesses over their shadow, many of us obsess over our past yet we can’t move forward until we stop looking back. It serves us well to acknowledge it’s existence so that when we catch a glimpse of it in our peripheral vision it doesn’t scare us – we just laugh at ourselves when we realize our shadow scared us for a second!

The difficult thing about the shadow stories of our past is that they create beliefs, many of which are subconscious beliefs. These beliefs are often warped by our unpleasant experiences. It may be easy to let go of our past but it is far more difficult to change the belief it created. We often don’t realize where the belief came from. As a coach, I do not work with people analyzing the past. It can take years of psychotherapy and in some cases people have unknowingly created false memories in an effort to understand themselves. In coaching we let the past be what it is – over.

Thank God we have the choice to change the shape of our shadow! Every day we create a little piece of history that will follow us the rest of our lives. While altering our hairstyle or losing/gaining weight can make our physical shadow drastically different, every choice we make in life has the potential for creating new beliefs.

Pondering who we are and what we believe can be empowering because subconscious beliefs rise to the surface. By noting what they are, we have the power to embrace or denounce them. (This is where coaching can be helpful.)

What are your shadow stories and what beliefs have they created that hinder you? Do you identify with any of these?

Common Shadow Stories and the Beliefs They Can Perpetuate: 

* Shadow Story: I thought I had a happy family but my parents divorced as soon as I moved out. Belief: People just pretend to be happily married.

* Shadow Story: “I was brought up in a poor family and saw my rich relatives act condescendingly toward my parents.” Subconscious Belief: “Wealth makes people arrogant snobs so I want nothing to do with rich people and I certainly don’t wan’t to be one.”

* Shadow Story – “My mom had an affair shortly after she lost 40lbs.” Subconscious Belief – “My husband loves me just the way I am. If I lost weight I would be attractive to other men and could be tempted to have an affair.”

* Shadow Story – “My dad owned and operated a thriving business and mom stayed at home.” Belief: “I can’t go back to work because my husband would have to pick up the slack at home and I want his career to thrive. Plus, my kids need me at home. It’s for the best – no one knows I hate every minute of being a housewife.”

* Shadow Story – My grandmother raised me, and had a career while my grandpa and mom did nothing. Mom and grandpa drank too much but they never worried about much either. Grandma was always stressed out and angry. Belief – I don’t want to be stressed out all the time so if I do have to work it’s going to be an easy job – not a full blown career.

*Shadow Story – My parents had great careers but spoke negatively about people who were more successful than they. Belief – I can’t be more successful than my parents or I’ll lose their approval.

You may not identify with any of these Shadow Stories, or, maybe you do, but your belief is different. The point is we all have a past that has shaped us and we have adopted beliefs that do not serve us well.

Realizing that my choices today will tomorrow be the history that shapes me help me put a better perspective on today. As adults our circumstances are largely determined by our choices and/or our response to uncontrollable circumstances. We get to choose what we believe.

Thinking about how we think if overdone makes us crazy! However, it is extremely helpful to recognize the lies we believe so that we can retrain our brains with truth, putting our past behind us like our shadow on a sunshiny day.