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March 2, 2012

8 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love

As friends, daughters, moms, sisters, wives, partners, girlfriends and above all, fit women–we have our plates full. Often times we put our own needs aside for the benefit of others. Such is the way of the Super Woman.

But when was the last time you did something nice for yourself, for you and only you? Ok, fair enough. But when was the last time you did something for yourself and didn’t feel GUILTY about it?

I think sometimes it is really hard to decipher “selfish” from “self-love” and though I am not a real believer in the negative connotation associated with the word “selfish” (I instead look at it literally–“about one self”–and don’t see that as a bad thing, so long as you are not harming anyone), I can understand that for many people, the idea of putting yourself first can feel odd at times, or not comfortable.

This month in the Best of You Coaching Club, we are discussing productivity, and one of the biggest themes is having “down times” when you are not trying to work, or workout, or cook food, or run errands, or all the other crazy things we do all day long. But to just be.

Huh? You are probably asking yourself how you could justify taking down-time with all the CRAP you have to get done, but I would argue, “How can you afford to NOT take down-time?” Without times of rest and recovery, how can we possibility expect to be at our best at those times we are really needed? It’s not a game of will-power and whoever sacrifices the most for others or does the most wins. It is simply about understanding that your energy needs to be managed in order to garner the greatest output.

And so, without further ado, here are the 8 ways you can and should begin using to show practice self-love (and yes, it is OK!):

1] UNselfishly take “alone time.”

When was the last time you had a night to yourself? No one else around, just you, a new book and your thoughts? Many times we insist we cannot get away, and maybe that is the case if you have small children but at the very least, learn to take 15 minutes each day, perhaps before the kids get up or after bedtime when you can be alone with your thoughts. I suggest journaling about your day or insights about relationships or work. You can also do visualization during these times, when you visualize where you want to go, what you want to do or who you want to be in the world. Ideally, if you can swing it, think about taking a whole WEEKEND alone, travel to the mountains or the beach or anywhere you can relax–recoup and decompress. It’s only by strategically using down-times that we can be at our most productive during the go-times.

2] Don’t be available.

I love this. It’s actually ok to NOT check email or to simply turn your phone off at certain points during the day or even once a week, say, on a Sunday afternoon. I always joke that I “ignore my phone” on Sundays because it’s my weekly time to not be available. Believe it or not, people can get along without you for a few hours :) If someone calls you for something, and you are not there, that’s what voicemail is for. Return it at a convenient time for you–within 24 hours. Most people do not expect to have constant access to you, unless they are your partner or child, so if you have someone in your life who can’t get along without you being by the phone 24/7, then chances are, you might have taught them that behavior at some point. Help them unlearn it by setting new rules for yourself.

3] Feed your creativity.

We definitely don’t do enough of this, and I think perhaps it’s because we don’t know what it means or how to go about it. There is nothing more fulfilling than coming into your power–feeling like you can DO or BE anything you want. However, this kind of empowerment doesn’t just happen. We have to flesh it out for ourselves, and that is through the creative process.

How to begin? Here are a few ways:

  • Think about the times when you are happiest, when you lose track of time–practice those actions. Read a nonfiction book that interests you. Not talking history here. Go for psychology, business, spirituality, relationships, self-help, whatever. These types of books always inspire insight and are applicable on some level to where you are in life.
  • Write in a journal. Take 5 minutes each morning to write whatever, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this.
  • Listen to music.
  • Talk with a close friend or significant other about something besides the day-to-day activities: politics, religion, interpersonal relationships, etc.

Practicing this feeds your mind and builds on itself, so just get started with something small, and go from there.

4] Ask yourself some questions.

I always challenge my mentorship group to think long-term. It can be tough to pull ourselves from the grind that is the day-to-day and to justify “dream-lining,” as Tim Ferriss calls it.  But isn’t that what life is about? Making the most of this short time on earth, to go for it, not delay joy but instead to create it today, tomorrow and ensure it’s existence next year too?

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How satisfied am I with where I am in this moment?
  • What is the one thing that I would change if given the chance?
  • Is changing that one thing a complete impossibility or would it be feasible to do next month, next year, ever? If not, why not?
  • Where do I see myself in 1 year? 5 years?
  • Am I really doing what I love? And if not, what are the obstacles I am facing?
  • Could I see a way around those obstacles? If not, how can I add or subtract from what I am currently doing to make myself feel more fulfilled?

Sometimes asking yourself the toughest questions is necessary if you want to get to the next level. If you are scared of them, or are waiting for someone else to ask you, you may never get to that next level. Ask now, and remember, there are no right or wrong answers, just YOU!

5] Explore your passions.

Building on #4. Sometimes because of circumstances, we cannot do what we love for a living, at least not right this second.

However, even if you are not able to financially follow your passions via your job/career, you can still explore them. An example would be an office worker who has developed a passion for fitness. Maybe they cannot leave their job this second, but they can certainly get certified as a trainer, take on a few evening clients or teach a fitness class in the evening. They can start a blog on nutrition and exercise or explore a certification as a health coach (there are many credible programs online like WellCoaches). It can be a passion explored while simultaneously doing what you need to do to pay the bills (and who knows where you might end up??).

How do you explore your passions? Think about what blogs you frequent, who you follow on twitter, what books you like to read, what you spend your “down-time” doing, etc. These are all hints for you to understanding what makes you happy–your passion.

6] Give yourself permission to do nothing.

Oh, and don’t feel guilty about it. A foreign concept, I know :) But it’s ok to have a day where you really don’t get anything done.

Sometimes being unproductive is the way to ultimately be more productive.

Often, we are going at half-speed all the time, rather than at 100% intensity at times, followed by times at 0% intensity. It’s like Rest-based Training from Metabolic Effect–the harder you push, the more you are going to have to rest, and the more you rest, the harder you can push. Same thing applies to the day-to-day. So relax about the dishes for 2 seconds, laundry can wait until tomorrow (really it can), unless you are on a competition diet, even skimping on weekly food prep every once in a while can be a welcome reprieve. How does that thing go? “Let go or be dragged” :)

7] Practice gratitude.

This is a complete game-changer. When you can look at any situation–happy, sad, angry, disappointing, etc–and ultimately see it as a gift, you have truly embraced optimism. There are no straight lines to success or to happiness. It is achieved through challenges, obstacles, struggles and ultimate resiliency. And it will be the people who can feel grateful in all moments who will ultimately take it to the next level. This is a practice. For me, right now, I am grateful for the coffee I get to drink, the people at Starbucks who are up early making it, the farmers in South America growing the beans, and everything else in between. I am also grateful that I get to write this blog, and that anyone even cares to read it. I am endlessness grateful for my friends, family, mentors, clients and most importantly, the people who push my buttons or who challenge me. In those moments, there is a lesson to learn if I so choose, and even though in the moment I might be angry, upset or disappointed, I am ultimately appreciative for the opportunity to learn new lessons and gain new insights.

You might not “get this” right away, but the “getting good at it” is all in the practice: be aware and RECOGNIZE your opportunities, and be grateful for them. The more you practice, the better your outlook, and your reality get!

8] Use positive affirmations to stay focused on your goals.

Similar to statements of gratitude, using positive language  helps to affirm that which we are and that which we want to become or do. For example, if I am prepping for a fitness competition, I might create an affirmation (on a post-it or in my notebook, e.g.) that says, “I am strong, I am fit, I am beautiful.” or “This food that I CHOOSE to eat is nourishing my body, fueling my tough workouts and helping me to attain the ultimate version of myself.” or “My physique, dress size, weight or body fat percentage DO NOT DEFINE ME. Self-worth is inherent, and I have it always, at any size.” Etc, etc. These may seem cliche or “out there” at first, however, once you begin writing them, they slowly start the positive feed-forward cycle of outcomes.

I do mine like this: I create only ONE affirmation for whatever it is I am trying to accomplish at that time, and I post it on the fridge, on my bedside table, at my computer and on my bathroom mirror. So I see the same powerful message throughout my day, over and over again. And even if I don’t consciously look and think about it, it is there in my periphery as a reminder always. Call it the Law of Attraction or whatever, but the effects are subtle, though they do work over time.

And that’s my little self-TLC list! I hope you can begin with even one of these techniques. They are all powerful self-realization tools in their own right, so even practicing and mastering just one can produce big results. As you know, I am a big fan of introspection and these techniques have a track record of helping me reach my best self, and become more in tune with my self-accualized passions, fulfillments, dreams and inner workings. With love, Jill ox

Do you use any of these techniques? I would love to know how you use them and how they have helped you!

Related: Gratitude: My Mentors

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