Can you believe it’s November? How the hell did that happen? I have mixed feelings about this time of year. It’s beautiful and yet it can feel a bit manic with stress mounting around the annual three-ring circus that is year-end goals, holiday preparation, and party-palooza. Throw a little extended family time into the mix and you might be ready to crack open the tequila before the party even starts. ‘Tis the season.
I’m here to remind you (and me) that, in the midst of it all, we have a choice: to create our life or to allow ourselves to live at the effect of it. Creating our lives means getting clear on what we want, how we want to live, and where we want to spend our time, and then setting firm intentions and boundaries around those choices. It also means pumping the brakes a bit so we can be present to – and truly savor – the experiences we create.
As my coach Rich Litvin likes to say, “we have to slow down in order to speed up.” It may sound crazy, but it works like a charm. Especially when we’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t have the time to slow down – that’s when we need it the most. It’s an opportunity to check-in with ourselves and course-correct as needed. When we slow down, we can finally hear our inner voice, feel our instinctual feelings, honor our intuition, and get clear on what we really want and need. We can say “Hell Yes” or “Hell No” with 100-percent certainty – and stop playing in the soul-suck, time-suck space of “maybe.” How liberating does that sound?
So, you’ve probably already figured out that this edition of Soul F.U.E.L. focuses on stillness and self-care, approached from a few different perspectives. My hope is that these thoughts and ideas will inspire you to create time for stillness in your life – if even for 30 minutes a day – and to double-down on self-care in whatever way serves you best. Remember that self-first is not self-ish. If we’re not taking care of ourselves, how can we possibly have enough energy to bring to who and what we care about most in this world? (You’re welcome. Enjoy.)
WHO OR WHAT IS INTRIGUING ME AT THE MOMENT
I’ve been thinking a lot about the role discomfort plays in our lives. More specifically the role it plays in the avoidance of hard things – including spending quiet time with ourselves. The thoughts were originally inspired by Dare to Lead conversations with Brené Brown and further fueled by reading Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal. One of the most eye-opening insights for me in Eyal’s book was this line: “All motivation is a desire to escape discomfort – especially when it comes to distractions that help us to escape the pain of discomfort.” As a result, he suggests that time management is really pain management. Essentially, so many of the things that distract us from gaining traction on what we really want in life are a result of numbing, or avoiding, the pain. WOW.
Reflect on that in the context of your own life for a minute. It really hit home with me, especially as I recalled the many wine-and-Netflix binges that provided an escape from the pain of recalling emotional memories for the purposes of the book. In the end, I had to learn to sit with the discomfort in order to share a raw, vulnerable, and courageous story.
You see, some of the most important components of a meaningful and impactful life are uncomfortable (at least initially):
Silence is uncomfortable.
Stillness is uncomfortable.
Self-first is uncomfortable.
Vulnerability is uncomfortable.
Courage is uncomfortable.
Growth is uncomfortable.
But you know what? On the other side of the pain and discomfort is insight and freedom and what we really want (or need). And the only way out is through. Our job as soulful and enlightened humans is to practice sitting in the discomfort (versus tapping out of it); choosing courage over comfort (the hard thing, not the easy thing); and leading the way to normalize discomfort in our relationships, families, and workplaces (so we can all put our armor down and get to the heart of what matters).
As I often remind my clients: if you’re comfortable, I’m not coaching. It’s my job to push you to your edges and help you to see what’s possible. In my book I wrote:
“We’re a culture in perpetual search of shortcuts. Hacks are in vogue these days: beauty hacks, bio hacks, game hacks, dating hacks. Google delivers over four hundred million results for the query “life hacks” alone. Houston, we have a problem.
I can wrap my head around hacking when it comes to finding MacGyver-worthy solutions for household chores, home projects, etc., but I get really suspicious when the concept expands into emotional and experiential realms. In my experience, the most profound breakthroughs come from doing the courageous-messy-uncomfortable-deep-sometimes-shitty work. Not from trying to find a bypass for more immediate gratification. Life is for living, not hacking.”
With that in mind, here’s an edgy live-life-don’t-hack-it challenge for you: do one thing every day through the end of the year that scares you. That might be sitting still for an hour despite a growing list of seemingly urgent things to do; saying no to something you’ve always felt obligated to do; saying yes to carving out more time for your own self-care; sharing that bold new idea at work; deciding to quit sugar right before the holidays; or pre-ordering my book for all of your friends even though it may scare the hell out of all of you.
You get the idea – play with it. And have fun. Remember: if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing it right.
WHAT’S GOT MY ORANGE HIGHLIGHTER IN OVERDRIVE
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday. This is a book you need to have on your nightstand. Permanently. Spoiler alert for a few of you: this is likely to be my go-to holiday gift for the people I love this year. It’s a soulful handbook for thriving in our ultra-noisy, high-distraction, always-on world.
One of the biggest realizations I had early on in my Soulbbatical journey was that busy-ness is a bitch of an addiction. Even after I left Harley-Davidson, I found myself filling every last bit of white space on my calendar – out of habit and fear, no doubt. I had perfected the art of self-avoidance. I was afraid to be still; terrified of what I might have to face; looking around me for the answers that could only come from inside. (Anyone else know those habits and feelings?)
I love Holiday’s definition of stillness: “to be steady while the world spins around us. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude – interior and exterior – on command.” Mastering stillness is about unlocking all that we are capable of achieving in this life. It’s the master key to discovering that so many things we seek externally are, in fact, already inside us (if only we would just slow down and listen):
Enough-ness is inside us.
Clarity is inside us.
Strength is inside us.
Peace is inside us.
Purpose is inside us.
Possibility is inside us.
Stillness is the Key takes you on a journey through insights and practices for Mind, Spirit, and Body, learning from characters as varied as the Stoic philosophers, JFK, Winston Churchill, and our beloved childhood friend Mr. Rogers. Along the way, there are practical recommendations for creating habits and building routines that invite stillness into our lives; that open the door to a healthier, less anxious, less overwhelming, and ultimately more successful and fulfilling existence. How’s that for laying the foundation for a brand-new decade? #lookout2020 #readthisnow
Here’s one to practice: SAY NO. I talk about this a lot in my coaching and Holiday nails it: “When we know what to say no to, we can say yes to the things that matter.” So next time you’re asked to be some place/do something/spend time with someone, think about what a “yes” really means; what you’re being asked to give in return. The answer is often a “piece of your life” for something you don’t even want deep down. Here are some powerful questions to help create clarity for yourself:
- What is it?
- Why does it matter?
- Do I need it?
- Do I want it?
- What are the hidden costs?
- Will I look back from the distant future and be glad I did it?
- If I never knew about it at all – if the request was lost in the mail, if they hadn’t been able to pin me down to ask me – would I even notice that I missed out?
WHO/WHAT/WHERE IS GIVING ME ROCKET FUEL
Right now, I’m focused on the simple things that warm my body and soul; small experiences that pack a big punch in supporting stillness and self-care. This is going to feel a bit like Oprah’s Favorite Things list so apologies in advance that I’m not shipping you all freebies of each of these! One day – when I have my own TV show. 😉 (Hint hint – keep spreading the word and let’s make Soul FUEL a thing!)
Scented Candles. I know Pumpkin Chai Lattes are the seasonal rage at Starbucks right now, but I’m off all refined sugar for good (a big part of my self-care mission). So, I’m finding new ways to indulge that feel equally decadent yet less compromising. One of my favorites is the gorgeous orange Pumpkin Chai candle by Nest. It’s like Fall in a jar – a delicious blend of wild pumpkin, spicy Masala chai, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Seriously, you can almost taste it! (I have both of mine burning right now alongside a fabulous fire. Let the nesting begin.)
My sister and her family are creating a more rustic, woodsy vibe. They’ve been burning the spot-on Cabin and Campfire scents by Hawk + Hatchet. Turns out these might also be a budget hack. As my penny-pinching sister says to her cabin-craving hubby, “Honey, this is cozy and so much cheaper!”
Gravity Blanket. Have you tried a weighted blanket? Am I the last one to discover this snuggly goodness? It’s like a big cozy hug. Honestly, if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or overstimulated, just shimmy under one of these babies and in seconds you’ll feel held, supported, and calm. It instantly relaxes your nervous system. My Gravity Banket has taken my sleep to whole new levels of deeeeeeeep. And I’ve also found it really useful for 15-30-minute recovery periods – you know, that little moment of “napitation” (part nap, part meditation) that helps restore your waning energy. Welcome to a new dimension of self-care.
Funny (er, eye-opening) aside: I ordered the 20lb weight (highly recommended). When I went to pick up the package from my mailroom, I was astounded at how heavy the box felt. I nearly threw out my back as I shouted to no one in particular, “Holy Hell! Twenty pounds is heavy AF. I’m gonna suffocate under this thing.” As I was lugging it upstairs, it dawned on me that I was carrying the exact amount of weight I had lost since August in my quest for wellbeing. The idea that I was carrying that much more weight around every day – up and down stairs, at the gym, any-freaking-where – blew my mind. It was all the incentive I needed to carry on taking care of myself. I’m more committed than ever to release the next 20. Sharing in case this helps anyone else today – if only for a little antidote to I-thought-I-was-the-only-one-ness.
Sleep Stories. If you’re anything like me, you sometimes have trouble winding down at the end of the day. Your mind is often racing with what didn’t get done, tomorrow’s to-do list, or worries about family/relationships/work/health/finances/you name it. So, it helps to have an evening “shutdown” routine to ease our minds and bodies into a natural sleep. My routine starts with powering down devices at least 45 minutes before bedtime, journaling three things for which I am most grateful that day (and anything else I want to release from my mind), and doing a 10-minute meditation. Then my favorite part: someone reads me a soothing sleep story about the elephants in Nepal, sacred sites in New Zealand, the Northern Lights in Norway, the lavender fields in France, or the poetry of rain.
I mean, seriously, when’s the last time someone read you to sleep?! It’s magical. And you don’t even have to bother your partner with the request. The Calm meditation app has everything you need – at least 50 stories/soundscapes to choose from, some even narrated in the tranquilizing tones of Matthew McConaughey, Nick Offerman, and Bob Ross. You’ll be sawing logs in no time. Oh, and a side benefit is that playing the stories acts as a kind of white noise in hotels and urban dwellings. Sweet dreams!
FYI: Calm is a paid subscription app which I highly recommend, but you can find sleep meditations on Insight Timer for free.
PODCAST EPISODES, VIDEOS, OR WORDS OF WISDOM
FROM MY TRIBE
As most of you know, self-care and self-compassion are foundational to Soulbbatical. Things I have to work hard to remember and practice every damn day. And, yes, I still struggle with them (especially under a writing deadline it turns out). So, I schedule time for workouts, white space, play, rest, and inspiration. I’m always seeking new inspiration – but that doesn’t stop me from revisiting my favorite standbys.
Here’s one of those favorites: a TEDx talk from my dear friend and soul sister, Cheryle Jackson. She’s a trailblazer and fellow corporate refugee who’s now focusing full-time on her passion project, Grit & Grace. As she describes it, “Grit is your fight, passion, and determination. Grace is love and action toward self. You need both.”
The next 18 minutes are a perfect excuse for you to sloooooow down and take time out for yourself. Cheryle would call it a “grace moment.” Watch her here.
By the way, Cheryle is also creating a new show called Grit & Grace with Cheryle. It’ll stream live each month. I’m honored to be her first guest on November 7th at 7:00p CT. Tune in to Cheryle’s Facebook page (or on www.cherylejackson.com) to hear me lead an intimate conversation on becoming Chief Soul Officer of your own life.
As always, I would love for this newsletter to be the start of a deeper conversation and community of like-minded souls. I’m working on a community platform for us but, for now, feel free to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or jump into the conversation on @soulbbatical (Instagram) or Soulbbatical Coaching (Facebook). Let me know what lit your soul on fire, what shifted your perspective for the week or month ahead, or how I can support you in any way.
And don’t be shy. If you love what you’re reading, share it with friends, family, clients, and colleagues who need a little more Soul Fuel in their lives. I mean, in this day and age, don’t we all?
Happy November, Soul Fam!