There’s always been a certain charm of Europe that grabs hold of you, a sense of great architecture, grand design, great food, amazing culture, and women who know how to wear a scarf effortlessly. I particularly like to be in Europe for the holiday season. It’s done so well, so elegant, old-world charm, light-handed, and all your senses are immersed in holiday cheer. Not the unabashed, neon, tinsel-town fakeness in America.
So my BFF and I decided to spend this holiday in Italy and Belgium to surround ourselves with Christkindlemarkts, gluehwein, kaesestanger pretzals, and French fries with mayo in a cone and little forks as only the Belgians and the Dutch can do so well. When we arrived in Bruges, one of our favorite towns in the world that we thought couldn’t get any more charming and quaint. Well… cue the horse-drawn carriages clip-cloppping down the cobblestone street, the smell of chestnut roasting on an open fire (no kidding), and the smell of chocolate, the sight of 18th century canal homes decked out in greenery, simple white lights and red ribbons, ice skaters on the square encircled by holiday market stalls, and holiday music piped through the streets. Bliss, simply bliss from all angles. All we needed was reindeer and some snow. It did spit rain, so we ducked into a 15th century convent turned hotel for high tea by the roaring fire in the walk-in fireplace along the canal. We were the only ones in the sumptuous drawing room replete with champagne, tea, and crumpets – just what we needed to complete the holiday mood.
Several trips and years ago we had decided to up our game in several areas of our lives. It’s funny how little things can be improved and when you string together all the areas you have stepped-up, it turns out your life has been up-leveled in interesting ways. This trip was no exception. We continued to step up our scarf game because they are plentiful in Europe, take up no room in the suitcase and don’t break. I’ve come to know that eyeglasses are much more creative and interesting in Europe than in America. Why can’t American’s have imagination when it comes to eyewear. There is no comparison. This trip was no different when we met a woman whose dad has been the creative force behind some wild and crazy designs since the 60’s. Of course, we couldn’t leave the country without a pair of hot pink and purple frames to add to the collection.
One this trip we decided to step up our balsamic vinegar and chocolate game. Visiting a tiny artisanal vinegar house in Modena was a perfect entre into the world of fine balsamic vinegars. They produce only 2000, 100ml bottles per year and the entire operation is in the attic of their 1800’s home. The sweet, tart scent of vinegar wafted throughout the home where they took such pride in aging their stash for 12-25 years completely naturally. Of course, we had to buy bottles at $65 – $130 each. The complex taste is out of this world and the consistency of heave syrup is divine. I had long stepped up from the watery balsamic of the grocery store to specialty vinegars, but had no idea this amazing concoction existed. It rocked my world.
The same held true for chocolate. The Europeans have the Americans beat to shreds in chocolate-making, bread-making and many other things. When we strolled the Galleries near the Grand Place in Brussels, the high-end chocolate shops looked like fine jewelry stores with Mary chocolates holding the seal of the royal family. Another divine sensory overload. Eat your heart out Hershey’s.
The cherry on top was the sensory overload in the Grand Place at night with a light show set to holiday music while eating a warm waffle and turning in circles to not miss a thing trying to catch a glimpse of the fabulous buildings from the 1600’s bathed in flickering lights timed perfectly with the music. It was magical, it was marvelous, it was setting the bar very high for holiday experiences European-style. Yet another area where we had up-leveled our experiences and our awareness of bigger and better things available.
What kinds of things have you up-leveled in your life? How have you stepped up in different areas of your life? What are you consciously letting go of in order to make room for newer, better things, experiences, ways of being, doing, having? From things such as pens, furniture, fabrics, foods, jewelry, books, what you watch on screens, how you choose to use your time, dishes, thoughts, habits, colleagues, job/work, friends, behavior, bed linens, towels, lingerie, bags, paper, lotions and self-care products to hotels, villas, restaurants. Treat yourself to some up-leveling at any level this year. One small thing or big leaps and be conscious of what works for you and how it feels and what feels right for you. It’s all part of continuous improvement in all areas of your life. Make an effort to notice your space, your closet, your kitchen and refrigerator. What can you improve to represent who you are or who you want to become?
I’ve decided I probably need to be in Europe the month of December from now on. It feels like home. I’ve always tried to stay off the road and out of the malls and stores between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day in America. It feels bad for me and I refuse to get caught up in the self-imposed stress of running around for sales and buying obligatory gifts that you wouldn’t normally be buying. The rushing around and fake blow-up decorations are a big turn-off for me. What feels more right is the old-school way of celebrating the holidays is how it is done in Europe. One more way of stepping it up and stepping out to enjoy what feels best for me. What do you do to feel your best and take care of your soul, your psyche, your body and your mind?
Look further down in your story than today’s page and see how you want it to turn out. What is the plot in your ideal story, who are the characters, and how does it end? Plan for the ending chapter and the twists you want to add along the way. Adding new sub-plots will keep your attention piqued. To help get you through a tough spot or difficult time in your life, page down a day, a week, a year or two from now to get perspective on how important this particular difficulty might be.
What does your ideal outcome look like and what do you have to do now to get to that point? Something that may seem unsettling or stressful at this moment may not be such a big deal after you page down a few pages to see what affect it might have on the storyline. Expand the story a bit more and make a lifeline listing the things you want to accomplish in each decade of your life.
Fast-forward to your 105th birthday and look at your life. What will they be saying at your funeral? What is the legacy you want to leave? Be aware of how you would feel about the decisions you made. Are there any regrets? It has been said that most people end up regretting the things they didn’t do more than the things they did do. What would you regret not having done in your lifetime?
If you’re going through turbulent times, remember that the hero of most stories always have to overcome obstacles in order to become victorious in the end. If you didn’t have some conflict, it wouldn’t be a very interesting story. Are you living a pager-turner life, with lots of pages dog-eared to mark the good spots, or are you living a text-book style existence with lots of dry material between the covers?
Are you as interesting on the inside as your cover might represent, or is your life more flash on the outside with some emptiness on the inside? What are you doing to make your life something others would want to read about? (As in a great novel, not the National Enquirer.) Page down from today and see if you are living a best-seller and start creating your storyline right now.
Defining your boundaries makes it easier to turn down unwanted offers or requests on your time that are not in alignment with your clearly defined values and principles. Stick by your guns to keep you from wavering and accepting anything that is incompatible with your standards. Doing so gives you the energy to follow through with your plan congruent with your stance.
One in four workers in America have an anxiety-related illness such as stress or high blood pressure, and the sales of antacids, pain killers, and anti-depressants is at an all time high. These signs of the times represent a workforce and a nation out of alignment. Is your body telling you that something is out of alignment in your life?
Take a close look at your work life and personal life and decide if you are acting with congruence. Monitor your body signals and heed the warning signs when it is telling you something is out of kilter. Be rock solid in your principles and your values and make sure that what you do when nobody is looking is what you really stand for – that’s called integrity and that will keep you from the energy drain of covering your tracks or operating below the proverbial line.
Hone in on the goodness of your values dear to your heart and be true to them. Ensure that your work is in alignment with your values in order to avoid energy-sapping stress. Living in congruence with your deeply held beliefs is enlightening and keeps you authentic to your mission here on Earth.
As we grow, our values may shift priorities – be aware of what you value and why, to give you more guidance in your daily choices. Once you truly know your values, it is much easier to say no to requests on your time, which do not correlate to your beliefs.
Set high standards for yourself and stretch your limits. Set short term and easy peaks as well as long term and higher peaks to build on your successes, build your self confidence and build your energy to gain momentum for the big stuff. Reach for the outer limits and rejoice when you accomplish what you formerly thought impossible.
Author and artist Susan Kennedy, a.k.a. SARK, says “impossible” means “I’m possible!”. Peak performers take care of themselves through body, mind, and spirit to ensure they can meet their challenges. Acquire solid, healthy habits to help you attain your peak: restful sleep, nutritionally balanced eating, exercise, emotionally stable relationships, and following your passion.
If you do not have a healthy balance in your personal life, there is no way to be a peak performer in your professional life. Get organized, get your act together, get goals, get support, and get going to reach your peak.
I’m sure you have heard “do what you love and the money will follow”. Well, so will your enthusiasm. The time you spend on something is directly proportional to the priority you give it in your life. Watch how and where you are spending your time to get a true picture of what you subconsciously think is important. Consciously choosing to do what you love often will increase your sense of control over your time and your life. (And your time is your life energy, remember?)
It may help to schedule a date with yourself on your calendar to block out the time to do what you love. List-makers know the power of the written plan. Take a look at the list of all the fun things and energy inserts you like to do and make time for creative renewal. When we are burned out, rusted out, pooped out, and tuckered out, then we have no energy left to give to others. If we don’t fiercely guard our personal energy by doing what we love often, then we run the risk of running on empty and not being there for others when they need us most. To be at our peak energy, we need to take care of ourselves, employ a healthy lifestyle, and honor our wants and our needs to be true to ourselves for optimum health.
A healthy lifestyle includes: hobbies, hope, honesty, home, heart, holistic thinking, happiness, hand-holding, healing, helping, humming, hanging out, hiking, good hair days, humanity, and honoring the human being inside the human doing.
I couldn’t imagine a life full of energy that wasn’t filled with these things. Currently stress costs American industries over $150 billion annually. What healthy habits are you cultivating to avoid being a statistic? Try including a new activity per week or a couple per month to get in the habit of practicing healthy lifestyle choices for a longer, enriching, and energized life.
You know how businesses regularly share best practices with each other or study their competitors or benchmark other industries and copy their best practices, right? It’s how they improve in areas they’re not so great in. Well, how about taking inventory of your own personal best practices and sharing them with your mentors, coaches, friends or other role models to lift everybody up? When groups of people get together to do what they do best, they thrive. It gives them energy do to what they like to do and feel successful at doing. When they spend most of their time trouble-shooting, putting out fires and fixing problems, they become exhausted, unhappy and inefficient.
Focus on how you best run your life and build on it and take from others what they do best and see if it fits. If it doesn’t, throw it out. Gain energy by building on your successes and not fixing your failures. This is a great exercise for your mastermind group or success team or personal board of directors – whatever you call it – your support system. These are gleaned from the good folks at Canyon Ranch Spa.
Here are some constructive questions as a place to start. Now get out your pen and paper or digital tablet and start writing/typing:
- What makes you happiest?
- When were you happiest?
- How did you become happy then?
- What do you like most about yourself?
- What creates that quality?
- How do you make that quality last?
- When did you have that quality the most?
- How could you create more of it?
- What gives you peace of mind?
- What brings out the best in you?
- Who appreciates you the most? Why?
- What are your primary strengths?
- What re your core beliefs?
- What values do you live by?
- Who is in your emotional support network?
- What best helps you feel creative?
- What are you doing when you feel at your best?
- Who are you when you’re at your best?
There are hundreds more similar questions to help us take stock of our best practices in every area of life. These should help you get started and light the fire to illuminate what may be hiding in the shadows. All the best in your personal Q and A session.
What is your function in life? Studies show that those who have a purpose, and are actively working towards achieving their goals, are happier than those who just show up for life each day. Set goals, change them, as your needs or situations change, and actively work on them. Do you have a mission statement and vision statement for creating your personal life as well as running your business or working in your organization? How does your professional function merge with your personal purpose? Writing down your goals, your purpose, and your function help to ingrain those visions into your subconscious to assist you in achieving them and giving you energy by looking forward to them. I’ve said it before in other posts – find your why that makes you cry and you’re on your way to living out your calling.
Anticipating and preparing for congruent personal and professional functions add energy and enthusiasm to your life. Knowing your function can give you the strength to face adversity in the world. Help increase your resilience to stress by choosing to align your workplace values with your personal values and purpose. When these two foundational things are congruent, you get the least stress and the most energy from the partnership. A playbook by Kathie Hightower called Your Enchanted Life: A Journal of Discovery & Delight at www.JumpIntoLife.net has tons of exercises and action steps to help you discover your function and what you really want. Spend some quiet time and meditate on your fuction and your why, then match that to how you can best serve. I find that being in nature helps me clear my head and clarify my thoughts.
Daydreaming is a good thing, bigger dreams bring on a bigger life. . . but only if you are doing something to achieve those dreams. What you want doesn’t just, POOF, appear while you’re sitting on the couch. As one saying goes, “as you pray, move your feet”. That means make a plan and do something about achieving what you want.
Your desires are your homing device signaling your conscious self from your subconscious self about what you truly want in your life. If you have the desire for it, you have the resources for it, period. Thos with bigger dreams attract others into their lives who also have big dreams. I know I’ve posted previously about DECIDING to take action, DECIDING what you want as the indeispendible first step to getting the things you want in your life. You first become aware of what you want and bring it into your conscious sphere, then you decide if it’s something you want to work for or take action towards.
The Universe takes orders and your thoughts, dreams and desires are your order for the Universe. Fries, baked potato or mashed? Make your decision and step forward in faith in that direction to take action towards what you desire. Without faith in the Universal law and without faith in the process, you keep one foot behind (just in case it doesn’t work like you’ve heard it does) and only one foot forward, and then you’re stuck. Ever feel stuck? Perhaps it’s because you don’t have faith in the process, faith in the Universe and you get stuck stepping out of your comfort zone. More on comfort zones in future posts. You must decide and then jump in with both feet to move you towards your desires and the Universe will conspire in your favor to make it happen. People and opportunties will be brought into your path that you never noticed before once you’re on your true path of your dreams and desires.
You must believe it is possible, because you get what you expect. You must be committed to staying in the positive when you think about and speak about your “I am” statements because anything you say after “I am” will come looking for you. Avoid the negative in any of your statements that concern you or what you want so you don’t mix up your order with the Universe. Be very clear with your orders to the Universe so there is no question about what you want.
Setting big goals to move you towards your big dreams is the first step in creating momentum and acting on your desires. If you’re ever bored or don’t wake up with a burning desire, then you don’t have a big enough goal. Take stock of your dreams and desires and take 100% accountability for what results from your actions. We create our world around us from what we thought about, did and created in the past. Our choices of yesterday created our today.
We created it – not the economy, not your mother, not the job, not your family, not any other misfortune. We did. We create our reality – 100% accountability. Sometimes it sucks to be respsonsible for all that. It sure is easier to blame the economy or where you live or your boss, or colleagues or kids or whatever, but the buck really stops with us. We must take 100% accountability for our choices, our outcomes, our dreams, desires and what we do about them. You know you’re on the right path towards your true true purpose and the big dreams when your joy is bursting out of you. Your inner guidance system is your joy. Things that bring the biggest joy are in alignment with your purpose and the right dreams and desires in alignment with your purpose – that’s how you know you’re on the right path.
When your dreams and desires and your doing are in alignment with your true life purpose, then all of your actions automatically serve others. It’s when your actions, thoughts, desires and wants are not serving others and only serving you that you should know you are out of alignment. AND it may all fall away because the Universe likes us to serve others and improve the world and expand, not contract and be selfish. Just sayin…..
What are your dreams and desires? Are they big enough to fill your heart? Are they serving others? Or are they only serving you? When we have a goal big enough, that in the process of achieving it, we become someone worth becoming too. It may be scary big – why not think BIG to create the momentum and get you unstuck? What are you DOING to move you towards your dreams and desires? It helps to write things down. We have too much swimming in our heads to remember it all. Write down your dreams, who they serve, write down everything you want.
Sometimes it helps to write down everything you DON’T want on one side of a paper and then write the opposite on the other side. Sometimes it’s easier for know what you don’t want than what you do want because society conditions us that way. THEN, what are you doing to get there? What is the gap analysis? What are your goals and objectives to move you in the direction of your dreams and desires? Do you have a plan of action? What is your order to the Universe and do you have faith that it will be delivered and the resources will be made available to you as you need them to make it happen?