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how to stop putting yourself last on your list

soccer teamThe photo to the right is Griffin with his soccer team after their first game of the season. You can see from all the happy faces that they are off to a great start!

This is Griffin’s fifth year playing soccer—the longest time he has ever devoted himself passionately to any activity—and he recently told me how glad he is that he’s never given it up.

If you’ve followed my work for any length of time you know that I believe that when you get clear on your deepest values and align your actions with them, you feel so much happier and more effective.

How can you make sure your actions are in alignment with what you value most?

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell

Have you heard of the story of the American banker and the Mexican fisherman? I love it because it illustrates well the argument that you don’t need to make a lot of money to live a rich life.

The Mexican Fisherman Story

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, “Only a little while”.

The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The banker scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA, and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the banker replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?”

The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions…Then what?”

The banker said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

In that story the Mexican fisherman obviously had a little more insight into what wealth actually is than the investment banker. But an insight that seems obvious in a story may not seem so obvious in real life.

So ask yourself: do you wish you had more time for yourself and your health? More time to spend with your family and friends?

Of course you do! And yet those relationships are often the ones that are left on the back burner as we pursue other things—most often obligations related to our jobs.

So here’s the question: what if you had plenty of time to get heart-healthy exercise, or sit in meditation, or write in your journal, or read your favorite literary magazine, or take a walk in your neighborhood?

What if you were able to answer your child’s call the first time and not respond with “just a minute” because you felt like you had to respond to a work-related email first?

What if you had the time and energy to host regular gatherings for your friends and family?

It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? In fact, it would be awesome!

But if you’re like me, carving out that sort of time in your life is going to take some attention, and—more importantly—some intention.

Your Take-Action Challenge:

making a planFirst the attention part: find a pen and a piece of paper or open a Word document on your computer. List your usual daily activities in order of how much time you spend on them, from the most time to the least.

If you’re drawing a blank, general categories are daily tasks (like household chores), work, school, church, time with partner, time with children, time with friends, time for self (quiet time), time for self-care (exercise), entertainment, and “lost” time (Facebook).

Got it? Now review this list. And ask yourself if these activities are in alignment with your values, your goals and your dreams.

They probably aren’t, right?

Now get another sheet of paper or work within your Word document. Take the list you just made and rearrange it so that the list order—from most time to least time spent in the day—reflects your true priorities.

Now to start on the intention part. The big question is: Which areas of your life need more attention and which need less?

You can answer that question by creating an “ideal” schedule in which you get to do everything you want in a day—even things that you’re currently leaving out of your daily activities but want to start including. And then write down a plan to align your time spent with your priorities.

If making a plan sounds too daunting, I’ll leave you with a place to start. What’s one small thing you can you do *today* so that your two lists come closer together? Think of a tiny action, like meditating for 2 minutes while your coffee or tea brews, hopping in place for 30 seconds while you wait for your computer to restart, or sending a quick note with an “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” message to your mom or best friend (I’ve timed myself and it takes no more than 2 minutes to write the note, lick the envelope shut, stamp it, and put it out in the mailbox.).

Then tell yourself every day to look for that one small thing (you can think up a new one or borrow from the day before) you can do that will put you more in alignment with your true values. I can promise that you will find every day that you do this happier and more satisfying.

And if you’re having any trouble figuring out what your true values are, and the actions you can take to line up with them, that’s what I’m here for! Just sign up for a completely complimentary Discovery Session with me. Find out more and sign up here: https://midwifeforyourlife.fullslate.com/

How to let go of resentment after a betrayal

Stacey, Elijah, GriffinThat’s a photo of me, Griffin and his best friend, Elijah, after a very satisfying and sweaty soccer session! Doug and I played soccer with them for over an hour – and then they continued to play long after we left.

The play date lasted over 5 hours and Doug and I hardly saw them for much of that time, because they were so content by themselves.

Later that evening I was reading The Sun Magazine and Griffin asked why I looked sad. I said I just read, “Your children leave long before they leave.”

He asked what that meant and I told him that even before he leaves home, he’ll want to spend more time by himself or with other friends, than with his parents.

He said that’s one of the saddest things he’s ever heard, but he didn’t deny it either.

Griffin still wants to spend the majority of his time with me and Doug, but his play dates with friends give me a little window into what the future holds. It’s bittersweet, for sure.

Speaking of bittersweet, I’ll never forget an interview with the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn in which he describes suffering as the mud from which the lotus flower grows. We need the mud in order to make the lotus, he explained, and in the end, “Holding our suffering, looking deeply into it, we find a way to happiness.”

This week I’m talking about how you can deal with suffering caused by the people in your life you trust the most. That’s surely one of the biggest challenges we ever face.

One of my clients is haunted by the memory of a former lover. She wonders how she allowed such a “bad” relationship to go on for so long.

Of course she did the best she could with the awareness she had at the time. But now she has 20/20 hindsight.

We’ve all been in her shoes. We wish we could’ve been more conscious, more able to act on the signs that things were not going well, and avoided the “bad” thing that happened.

But when we focus on the past, we ignore the clarity that is available to us right now, and the insight that can help guide us to an even better place.

That shift in focus from the past to the present to the future takes some effort. Blaming the other person is much easier, of course.

And we can also pretend that we were duped or unconscious the whole time. But we are much more likely to find peace—as well as some benefit from the experience—if we withhold this kind of judgment.

letting goSo if you’re looking back on a betrayal and blaming someone else, try this instead: Rather than looking at the person with whom you had the conflict as the enemy, try to look at him as an old war buddy.

You shared a tough time, for sure, but you got through it. You did your best under hazardous conditions, and now you can recount your “war stories” without any remorse that things should have been different. You accept that they happened and simply move on.

If you feel some resistance to letting this person—a partner, friend, family member, or even a past you—off so easily, then perhaps consider that when you choose to forgive someone whose behavior hurt you, you do yourself a huge favor.

Someone once said that holding on to resentment is like eating rat poison and hoping the rat will die, and I agree.

Think about it this way: You release the hurt, anger and sense of betrayal not because the person “deserves” it, but because you will feel better when you do.

If forgiveness is out of reach right now, then just don’t think about it. Refuse to think or talk about what happened until you can look at the topic with some equanimity.

The less you return to the painful memories, the sooner that time will come.

I’m not saying you should condone the behavior that hurt you. And I’m certainly not saying you should jump back in the foxhole with your old comrade-in-arms.

I’m just saying that when you can accept what happened—which means, more than anything else, that you understand that what happened truly did happen in a past you can’t change—then you’ll start to move on.

And where are you going? You are moving forward on the path in front of you, right here, right now. Just start moving.

And if you don’t get “the lesson” from the experience, that’s fine, too. Forget about figuring out what happened in the past “so as not to repeat it.” Just start paying attention right now.

But how can you be sure that history won’t repeat itself? Again, the answer is simple, and lays the past to rest by keeping you in the present.

Simply learn to notice when things are out of balance in your life.

And how will you know when things are out of balance?

You have a built-in signal that will always let you know: it’s called stress.

You want to take your awareness of the stressful feeling and try to find the stressful thought that is creating it. From there, try to identify a thought that feels better. It may take some practice, but you will get better at it.

And when you consistently engage in the practice of identifying your stressful, negative thoughts and find alternative, better-feeling thoughts, research shows that you are creating new neural pathways that will lead to long lasting benefits, like decreased anxiety and depression, and increased satisfaction and happiness.

Bottom line: you will change, and as a consequence your world will change for the better, too.

Not everyone gets to make a new world. But people who want to put their past behind them have a golden opportunity to do so. And that is a gift. You can thank your old war buddy for it the next time you see him.

how to stop putting yourself last on your list

September 13, 2016

The photo to the right is Griffin with his soccer team after their first game of the season. You can see from all the happy faces that they are off to a great start! This is Griffin’s fifth year playing soccer—the longest time he has ever devoted himself passionately to any activity—and he recently told

Read the full article →

How to let go of resentment after a betrayal

September 6, 2016

That’s a photo of me, Griffin and his best friend, Elijah, after a very satisfying and sweaty soccer session! Doug and I played soccer with them for over an hour - and then they continued to play long after we left. The play date lasted over 5 hours and Doug and I hardly saw them

Read the full article →

How to Let Go of Guilt

August 30, 2016

Last week Griffin started seventh grade! He keeps saying that each day gets better and better – don’t you just love that? One of the things I work with my clients on most intensely is getting them to look forward to their days with the same enthusiasm. Often, though, one of the things they have

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What to Do When Anything is Possible (and it always is!)

August 23, 2016

Doug took the photo of me running along the beach at dawn one morning last week when we were at Folly Beach, and it helps me remember the incredibly powerful feeling I always have as I run with the surf crashing beside me. Every morning Doug, Griffin, and I woke early so that we could

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How to Change Your Brain (for the better!) in One Easy Step

August 16, 2016

The picture to the right shows Griffin having fun with some of his buddies by the pool. The summer was mostly filled with low-key, happy moments like the one above, but I’m thrilled to share that we’re enjoying a highly anticipated vacation at the beach this week! Griffin will start 7th grade next week, and

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How to Change Your Focus – and Your Mood – in Record Time

August 9, 2016

The picture to the right was taken after the game-winning, adult-beating goal for the kids’ team during a soccer playdate Griffin had recently with a boy who will be joining Griffin’s class this year. (Thanks in part to their shared victory, they’re now fast friends.) I’m the “Parent Mentor” to help new families make a

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How to Get Lucky

August 2, 2016

The photo to the right was taken at our local park after a fruitful day of Pokemon catching. If you haven’t heard of the PokemonGo craze, I encourage you to go to your local park and check it out. One of the very cool things about PokemonGo is that there are no published instructions, so

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Stephen King’s 5 Killer Life Lessons

July 26, 2016

The photo to the right was taken during a sweet moment cuddling on the couch during our family vacation. It was a blissfully low-key, fun-filled week after what seems like months of one crisis after another. My husband Doug professes that his favorite vacations are all about “reading and eating,” and although I love vacations

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