There are two kinds of people in this world: people who energize you and people who drain you.
Those who energize you leave you feeling better. You catch a sense of their confidence in you and find yourself thinking more positively. You find time with them just flies by and you can’t wait to spend more time with them. And I’m not just talking about love relationships either. These are the people in your life that you always count among your blessings, who inspire you and provide a safe space for you to just be you.
And then there are the drainers, those people who, for whatever reason, zap the energy right out of you. They may be people who need constant reinforcement and attention, who always want more, more, more (the term hungry ghosts comes to mind – you can never fill them). Or they could be the downers in your life that always look for how things can never work out and give you all the reasons why you should worry, prepare for ultimate doom, and just give up now. Maybe you don’t know exactly why, but after spending time with them, you feel completely and utterly spent.
If you’re lucky, you can surround yourself in your personal and professional life with only those who energize you. More likely, you have some energizers and some drainers in your family, social circle and at work. So how do you keep the drainers from depleting your energy resources?
- Awareness. It sounds so simple, and yet, if you’re not conscious about it, you can’t change it. Start noticing how you feel after interactions with different people.
- Reduce exposure, where possible. Think of it like x-rays: a couple dental x-rays are okay, but you don’t want full-body radiation all the time. When and where you can, limit your time and exposure to the drainers. For example, I love my relatives dearly but some drain the life force right out of me. I try to reduce the duration of time I spend with them to a couple hours at any one time when possible.
- Balance with energizers. We can’t always limit our exposure to the drainers, so find ways you can fill up your energy deficit by scheduling in time with people or activities that raise you up. When I was in the corporate world, even a quick walk around the block or taking the stairs instead of the elevator between floors gave me a chance to breathe and reflect.
- Set a boundary. This may sound crazy, but try it with an open mind. I don’t know how it works, but I know it does. Before you encounter the drainers in your life, or at the beginning of your day, imagine a boundary around you, like an orb that completely surrounds you. The surface is semi-permeable: love can pass through. All other stuff is kept out. Try it and see if you can feel a difference.
I recently read a great analogy on energy that resonated with me. Think of your energy for each given day as a bowl with 24 beads in it. You get to choose how you want to spend them, but you only have so many. Make conscious decisions about how and on whom you want to spend your energy beads, and don’t forget to keep a few for yourself.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged career coach, emily downward, energy, energy management, life coach, managing energy, people who drain you | 2 Comments »
What if I fail?
What if I’m not good enough?
This will never work.
How the hell am I going to do this?
I don’t know what to do next, but I should do something. What am I supposed to do?
Who do I think I am?
What if I make a mistake (AGAIN)?
What if I’m making the wrong choice?
Ah, my old friend Self Doubt. There have been times in my life when I felt confident, but it seems those times are fewer than the ones in which I’ve been accompanied by my steadfast companion Self Doubt. I honestly thought, by this point in my life, I would be past all this nonsense, that I would have mastered the doubts and felt more sure of myself and my abilities. Lately, I’ve stopped trying to get rid of it. I’ve come to accept that Doubt’s along for the ride. In fact, as long as I keep trying new things – and I do so love new experiences and challenges – then Self Doubt will continue to be my companion.
I’ll admit, there are times when Self Doubt gets the better of me, when I am so wrapped up in all the “what if’s” and “I can’t’s” that I’m paralyzed into indecision. But I’ve found that these simple steps can help me continue to move forward:
- Speak your fears. Often times, the fears seem so large in my head, but if I actually say them out loud to a compassionate witness, they are so silly I might even laugh. Speaking them out loud can take the energy right out of them. It’s important to find the right person to share them with – I highly recommend NOT saying them to someone you know is a worry-wort. Bless their hearts, but they will just stir it up to be worse and more fearful. Find someone you know can provide calm, honest feedback, and if you don’t have someone like this, hire a coach to be your sounding board.
- It’s all feedback. Evaluate your fears and determine which have merit. They may be trying to tell you something, like you need to do more research or preparation. Or they may just be frightened in general. It helps me to evaluate them from a higher perspective, taking myself out of the moment and looking at it from the broad picture of my life.
- Minimize risk where possible. If your doubts have merit, address those issues to minimize risk where you can. Determine what is acceptable risk to you, and realize that for each of us that’s different.
- Wait to worry. What do you know and what do you not know? Focus on what you know, and wait to worry about the possible outcomes until you know more. There is always time to worry about that later. (Or not.)
- Take a leap of faith. At some point, you’re going to have to take that leap, or at least a step, into the unknown. After you have done the research, made preparations as best you can, and addressed the potential risks, take a chance. It actually helps me to think of worst-case scenarios and figure out how I would deal with them. Yes, I may fail. I have failed before, some real whoppers of failures, and I have survived them. This too shall pass.
(Full disclosure: I had doubts about posting this.)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged career coach, confidence, courage, emily downward, fears, leap of faith, life coach, overcoming self doubt, self doubt, what if | Leave a Comment »
“Is your life as fabulous as it looks on Facebook?” I was recently asked by a friend I hadn’t spoken to in awhile.
So I’ve decided to come clean: Yes and No.
How my life isn’t as fabulous as it looks on Facebook: I’ve had some crappy days lately. I don’t post about that. Actually, after attempting to get through it on my own, I finally “broke down” and asked for help from some of my trusted and loving colleagues (my ego hates to admit this, but it’s true, I can’t do it all alone). Coaches rock!
How my life IS as fabulous as it looks on Facebook: Even on the crappy days, I count my blessings. I know how lucky I am to have found someone amazing to share love, to have a loving family, to have an incredible group of friends, colleagues, and past colleagues who are supportive and inspiring. I am so thankful to know my passion for coaching and to be a certified coach. I have phenomenal clients that I get to work with, and to watch them grow in their confidence and realize their dreams is my distinct honor.
The field of positive psychology, the basics of which I apply in my life and in my coaching and find myself craving even more, focuses on increasing people’s resiliency, our ability to bend without breaking, to bounce back when life knocks us down. One of the quick ways to help yourself is by using the ratio of 3:1. For every negative experience, have 3 positive ones to increase your positive emotion over negative emotion. Interestingly, the frequency is more important than the intensity, so even if you count the simple positive things, it can work. I think this also helps by focusing your attention on what you do want rather than what you don’t want. Positivity, besides just feeling good, also broadens your mind and inspires you to be more creative. It also leads to stronger relationships with others. All these benefits can give you even more positive experiences to cherish.
Oh, and another thing? Positivity is contagious! (Did you catch it?)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged career coach, coaching, emily downward, positive emotion, positive psychology, positivity, resilience, resiliency | Leave a Comment »
One of the keys to unlocking my attachment to my own thoughts that I learned in coach training a couple years ago was “What are you making that mean?” At first, my mind went in circles. “What do you mean, what am I MAKING that mean? It means what it means…doesn’t it? …What else could it mean?”
The brain likes to prove itself right, so when it comes up with a thought, it looks for evidence to prove it. The accumulated evidence then becomes cement for that thought to become a belief. Biologically, it creates a strong neural pathway, and when circumstances occur, the brain fires along those existing neural pathways to make sense of what’s going on. The left hemisphere of the brain in particular looks to the past to determine the future, so it’s always trying to comprehend what’s happening based on what has happened before.
But, as the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you don’t like how things have been going and are ready for a change, it might be time to rewire your brain. If that sounds impossible, it might be because you’ve never done it before! Brain scientists have proven it is possible to create new connections, new neural pathways, in the brain. One of the simple (but not necessarily easy) ways to do this is to question your thoughts.
Of course, in order to question your thoughts, you have to be aware that you are not your thoughts. Awareness is a huge first step. Eckhart Tolle writes in The Power of Now about being “the watcher of your thoughts.” Try meditating and clearing your mind, getting to the quiet stillness between the thoughts. (I found this incredibly difficult at first and still can only maintain the stillness for brief periods.) If you find your brain spitting out all kinds of thoughts and ideas and to-do lists during this time, don’t despair – just notice. Imagine your thoughts going across your mind like a scrolling electronic ticker at the bottom of a television screen. Or imagine them floating away in bubbles.
Once you have become the watcher of your thoughts, simply ask “is that true?” and “could the opposite also be true?” and of course, “what am I making that mean?” Sometimes that’s all it takes to have a shift occur. However, I still find there are some subjects and beliefs that I am so attached to that it’s helpful to have an unbiased outsider to help me. This is one of the biggest benefits in hiring a coach.
Remember, you are the author of your own story. If you don’t like the story, you can change it.
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Early on in my career, I had the privilege of working with a sassy, sweet and inspiring group of breast cancer survivors. Coming in at the age of 22 with my freshly printed college degree, I was hired to manage a group of volunteers who ranged in age from 35 to 65. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to listen more than I talked, as they had so much wisdom to share. Over time, I heard each of their personal stories, as well as hundreds of stories from women who called in to our helpline. A cancer diagnosis is one of the most shocking and dreaded things to hear, and yet, there was a remarkable beauty in how each woman chose to live her life and what meaning they gave their cancer diagnosis. It can be the worst thing that can happen to you, or, as many of them would tell me, it can be the best thing that ever happened to you. It gave them the opportunity to take stock of what was working for them – in jobs and relationships – and what wasn’t.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about catalytic events – those occurrences in our lives that knock us off our feet, take the wind out of our sails, and cause us to redefine who we are and how we think. Catalytic events come in three types: shock, opportunity and transition. Shock and opportunity are pretty self-explanatory and arrive unexpectedly. Transition events come from within, often beginning as a slight inner dissonance that grows and becomes impossible to ignore. All types of catalytic events send us into a period of death and rebirth, as we grieve what we were, or how we once defined ourselves, and give birth to a new, redefined version of ourselves.
I’ve been going through a few catalytic events simultaneously in my life recently, all of the opportunity variety. I am thoroughly grateful for these opportunities, so I have struggled a bit to allow myself the accompanying grief. It took a loving friend-coach pointing out to me that I was ignoring my grief. I then realized I was avoiding it, afraid of the depth of the sadness.
Catalytic events bring up our issues, and I’m finding that although I’ve done a lot of personal work on my issues already, there’s still a little more to work through. What I thought was a banana is now looking like an onion, as I peel off one layer to uncover yet another. Martha Beck teaches her coaches to “live it to give it.” So I will continue to peel away the layers, exposing the limiting beliefs in my mind and creating new ones that will serve me better (hint: they are more kind and empowering).
If you are grieving, and if you, like me, tend to want to avoid that, remember that pretending to be happy or to not feel what you’re feeling only prolongs the process. Allowing yourself to feel it, although it seems unpleasant, is the quickest way through. Resisting the feelings only makes them persist longer.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged cancer survivors, career coaching, catalytic events, emily downward, grief, life coaching, opportunity, shock, transition | Leave a Comment »