Recently the four of us (collectively, The Crowells) stumbled across baby videos of the small ones learning to walk, crawl, and talk. Much oohing and aahing ensued. Then came a video with an actual adult… it was me with my daughter, who was 2 at the time, showing her what it’s like to see herself on video (when you turn the cell phone camera around in selfie mode) and she was laughing which made me laugh. Oh how we laughed! It was adorable. I said, “Someday- when I’m gone- you’ll be watching this video and crying, “‘Oh, how I miss my mother!'” Yes. I said that. Sorry. My husband, who is hip to my game and not having it, then said, “Not if I marry some other woman who hides all the videos.” I, obviously easily riled up, said “What?! Why are you remarried so soon? And why would you remarry a woman who hides the videos!”
Some escalating back and forth ensued while our children are watching, confused. “Wait… what do you mean when you are gone!?!” It took me quite a while to calm down from that. (My husband is a bear poker, he knows how to calm me down, but he’d rather rile me up. Such is the story of soul mates.) And here’s what you already know:
Our brains don’t discriminate between the stories we are telling ourselves and the things that are true. What story are you making up and then worrying about? Is it that people are judging you? Is it that people don’t like you? Is it that you aren’t a “math person?” Is it that you are lazy? All of that is a choice- these are stories you are choosing to tell about yourself. And that choice has consequences. Once you’ve said it, your brain is going to respond. Get worried, see the world through that lens, build up the back story to support it, turn it into a belief, and then you’re stuck. Watch out for the stories you are telling yourself. Choose the good ones.
What comes to mind when you read this: “VICTORY!”
Is it an image of a sweaty, smiling, totally fit person with all the right gear arriving at the top of a mountain, gazing in wonderment at the vista she’s earned?
Sometimes it’s like that. And isn’t it nice!
Sometimes, however, it’s something more like army crawling through an abandoned and collapsed coal mine, ravaged by intense claustrophobia, coming face to face with rats, and totally cut off from the light of day. When you finally emerge into the still dark cave before the opening into rainy day beyond, there’s no happy dance. You just put your head down and ask, “Can we be done now?”
It’s the victory of making it through burnout. It’s the victory of really being there for someone you love who has cancer. It’s the victory of coming out the other side of an autoimmune flare up. It’s the victory of launching a product that flops. It’s the real stuff of being a hero.
Be proud of these victories, too.
When we returned from vacation last month, my family arrived home late and went straight to bed only to wake up and realize that there was NO COFFEE ANYWHERE IN MY HOUSE. My husband’s position was that it was “fine, I’ll survive.” I was… less like that.
I get up at 5:30AM and was cranky and off my game for an hour and a half before it occurred to me… “Two weeks ago when we left for vacation we took our coffee grinder with us, and some of the those beans fell out. I think they are still in the way back of the pilot.”
COFFEE BEANS. Just outside!
I ran outside in my pajamas and dug around on the floor my car for coffee beans. I collected them in my shirt the way you do when you are foraging for berries in the woods. I got just enough and headed to the stairs to grind my way to the nectar of the gods. I reached for the banister to climb the stairs and CRASH! Coffee beans dropped out of my shirt and onto the ground.
I stood looking at them for a full minute.
Well, when you are all in on something you get down on your hands and knees and pick up those coffee beans. One at a time. In your pajamas. In full view of your neighbors. With zero shame because COFFEE.
What will you drop everything for, embarrass yourself for, and risk communicable diseases for? It’s helpful to know the answer to that question.
Sarah LaFleur the lovely creator of MM LaFleur was speaking at a Change-makers chat last year and she describes what it takes to succeed (and I would say that it’s what is required to be live your best life) this way:
Imagine that you are stranded on a deserted island and you want to swim to an island that docks cruise ships that you are pretty sure is “over there-ish”. Too far to see it exactly but you have a good feeling. You joyfully throw off your shoes, get down to your bathing suit and wade out into the warm water close to shore. “This isn’t too bad!” You say, with the naïvetée of the uninitiated. “It’s a good thing I took those swim lessons in 4th grade.”
And you start to swim.
“Am I still swimming? I’m getting kind of tired.” You stop, and doggie paddle for a while to look around and see how far you’ve come.
You can very clearly see the island you just left. There’s your palm tree with the delicious coconuts. And the hammock you made out of palm leaves. And your little rain catcher made out of an animal skin (that was gross, but needed) propped up on sticks. Looking in the other direction you see… nothing. No island, no cruise ship, no dolphins ready to carry you to safety on their backs. You look back at your little island.
“Some fresh water would be pretty good right now,” you think. “Maybe I should go back?”
It’s entirely rational to go back. Back to the coconut tree and the rainwater and guaranteed (loneliness but) survival. And you can always hope someone will come and save you, right? And that’s what almost everyone does. Who can blame them?
But what do YOU do?
You keep swimming. Because the waves and chill and the muscle spasms and jellyfish are the opportunities you needed to practice believing in yourself. To get deep into the mental game of being in action without guarantees, to practice not giving up on your creations, to claw your way one exhausted stroke at a time, into the belief that you are good enough, right now. You’ve got what it takes, no matter where you are, no matter how you got here, and no matter whether you land on the island with the cruise ships.
And so, here’s to you, fellow swimmers!
Sometimes we are smart enough to take a break and sometimes the universe knocks you down so hard that the only way to survive is to take a break.
Earlier this year I fell carrying my son to the hospital. When your 6 year old son is on his way to the hospital and you fall, it’s really only you who falls. He was (and is) fine. I, on the other hand, fell hard on my outstretched hand, spraining my elbow in 3 spots. And I was banged up kind of everywhere. But I kept going despite the pain. I worked in his hospital room, planning for a product launch that I executed. Despite that it was getting worse. Despite that it was starting to spread. At one point, every major joint in my body hurt at the same time… but I can handle it! I “had to” because I was in the middle of a self-imposed free call campaign. 100 calls in one month. Even though my coaching practice was full, and the timing was right to take a damn break.
In between calls, I would lie down to recover, my exhaustion was so extreme. I think that was my last chance to pull it together on my own. I didn’t and got sidelined.
I could’t walk, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t work. Finally. I stopped working.
That was about 6 weeks ago. I’m feeling better. I’ve got help and I’m coming to grips with how overworking for the love it is almost as bad as burnout at the hands of other people’s expectations.
So, my friend I’m asking you- are you taking care of yourself? Are you ignoring the signs? Please don’t do it, it’s just not worth it. Let’s create a saner tomorrow, together.
What are you waiting for? For it to be easy? For it to be clear? For it to be fun all the time? For it to be streamlined? For it to be a guaranteed success? For it to be someone else’s idea?For it to be a new/unique/mind blowing idea?
Sign up for the hard, the fragile and the murky. Be cool with the tears and the mess. Go ahead and be cookie cutter or totally weird. Go with the grain or go against it. It doesn’t matter!
What does matter is that you live and speak and BE what you believe. To do that, will you please stop waiting and start already?!?!
We are SO QUICK to forget our successes! I have this little acronym for the four things that support my mental health- it’s WHEN: Writing, hypnosis, exercise and novelty. That’s the order of importance, too. My early morning writing/journalling ritual is CRITICAL to me being a person you want to be around. And— maybe more important (no offense)— it’s critical to me being a person I want to be around.
There have been times when that ritual has fallen all the way into obscurity. I have journals that span YEARS. Entries with months in between! It’s so sad for me to think about because, like I said, life is just so much saner, funner (what? MYOB), and more grounded when I write.
In the past 2 years I decided that no matter what I am going to get up at 5 (or 5:30… or 6…. Damn it, WHY is it already 6:15?) and write. And I have.
Here is the stack of journals that I’ve filled in the past 2 years. I called it “leaning tower of untangled previously panicked thoughts.” And that’s a dang victory! But of course, I’m all, “It’s all fine and good that I’m writing and doing hypnosis every day, but why am I not exercising?!?!”
I’m such a jerk!
What have you already forgotten that is well established and silently supporting your success? Bring it to mind and be grateful to yourself for being such a good caretaker of you.
Have you ever noticed that the thing that other people admire about you is the same thing that gets you into trouble? Me too. People ask me all the time “How do you do so much?” And I come up with some kind of mindset related truth, “Get your head clear and begin to take steps!” Which is true… but another equally true statement is, “Be a pathological finisher who overworks until you run yourself into the ground!” So, can we shortcut the growing pains for a minute- think about your greatest strength and just admit that you are going to overdo it and start working on getting that extremism under control. Driven to climb the big mountains…and sometimes you sulk about a board game so much that no one in your family wants to play with you? So generous and caring with your friends and family that they wouldn’t know what to do without you… but you never make enough time for YOU to finish your novel? So creative that you write poems and paint pictures that bend our perception of time and space but you just cannot focus enough get the bills paid? I feel you, friend. Now you know… how will you control your biggest strength when it starts wreaking havoc?
One of my clients said last week, “If my profile doesn’t resonate with them, then I’m happy to provide a referral.” BAM. That’s the sound of someone stepping into their power, leaving fear and scarcity behind. “I have something to offer. It’s this, it’s not that, and when you recognize it as what you want then I’ll be here.” This is the kind of confidence and clarity that turns you into a magnet, drawing clients toward you. They want to be seen by you, helped by you, and spend time more in the world you create where they can feel better. And it’s hard, you can’t fake it, and it’s usually on the other side of struggle. This is something to be proud of.
As I work on my book about burnout it sometimes surprises me how certain everyone is that they simply cannot take a break. I beg to differ. In fact, what I’m here to tell you is that if you do not create a deeply resilient habit of rest you will not accomplish what you want to do. You will not make the difference that you were put on this earth to make- whether that’s inspiring people to change, being an incredible mother, or discovering how to bring stability back to the bee population. It’s not going to happy unless you stop and take a break. Often.
But that does’t mean that you have to take a vacation or go to bed at 9pm
You can take a break in 15 minutes (called micro-breaks). You can take a half day off of work and feel like you went to the Bahamas (called Oases) and you can do a whole lot more with your weekends and bedtimes. To get you started, here’s a little resource I put together with 10 ways to take a break when you can’t really take a break