Changing Seasons and Moving Forward

I am writing this post in the first week of the dark, cold return to Central Standard Time. This is always a sad time for me because the end of daylight saving time marks the end of my cycling season. Returning to standard time in the curtailed sun-lit hours of autumn eliminates any possibility of weeknight rides because it is dark by the time I get home from work. The cold, blustery Kansas fall and winter will make cycling opportunities hit-or-miss, even on weekends.

This is hard for me. I love cycling. It is my release and my freedom. The bike is where I remember who I am, when the everyday challenges and responsibilities of life, even those I have chosen, threaten to obscure my true self. On top of that, this is heavy advising season at the University, so I really, really need my bike rides.

I have been continuing my basic page-a-day plan for writing my book. This week, I have been working on the early pages of Part 2, in which I will share many lessons learned from the perspective of a bike saddle. As I wrote in my inaugural blog post, back in 2015, cycling has shaped my mindset and the structure of my life in so many ways. It continues to serve as the inspiration and framework for my book and to be a source of joy (as well as fitness) for which I am extremely grateful.

I hear people say, “I like the change of seasons.” Honestly, I don’t. I would be perfectly content with perpetual summer. I like long days and warm air. I realize I would still lose my long days in warmer parts of the country or world, but that might be easier to take if it were not also cold. The end of daylight saving time, admittedly a human-made construct, and with it, cycling season, feels more significant to me than the autumnal equinox.

My goal with this post is not to whine and complain, though. It is to move forward positively, as I reflect on another season of safe and healthy cycling with gratitude. While I honestly believe that I would be just as grateful for my safe and healthy cycling if I could ride as much as I want all year, I can choose to reframe this time in a constructive way.

I can use this off season for increasing my yoga practice, working to strengthen my body for life and cycling, and comporting myself with grace and gratitude through these next four months to achieve as much peace and productivity as possible.

All of us will encounter periods of life when things are not exactly as we would choose. We have two options in those situations. We can stew over our displeasure and feel victimized by circumstances, or we can find a way to make meaning of our situation and create something positive.

That is the challenge for us. When trapped for a period in conditions that deviate from our ideal, what are we going to make of the time?

The key is catching ourselves before we slide into a trench of despair or self-pity. We have to notice when we are at risk for taking this plunge. This requires self-awareness and a conscious decision to choose a higher, more uplifting path.

Then, it takes the determination and self-discipline to pursue that path. Daily meditation helps me, and continuing my rides on the weekends and days off work, weather permitting, will also help. Once we have made the decision to choose better, we need reliable means of staying centered or recalibrating when something throws us off course.

Maybe you love winter. Maybe you are one of the people who relish hibernating indoors and love nothing more than a movie marathon. Even if that is true, and you are in your element with the short, dark, cold days, there will be times, seasonally or otherwise, when you are less than satisfied with your current conditions. What choice will you make—self-pity or positive forward movement? What centering or recalibrating strategies will you use? Do you need help finding your way?

It benefits us to have a consistent daily practice and a strong commitment to our values in place, so that when circumstances unsettle us, we can fall back on them to remind us of what matters most and help us keep moving forward, even if slowly.

Today, Saturday, is forecast to be a nice day. Pretty soon, I am going to gear up and go for a bike ride. Getting my bike fix when I can makes so much difference. It is a matter of making the most of our circumstances and taking opportunities when they present themselves. I’m grateful for this gift of a reasonably warm and sunny day on weekend. I will use the gift to continue to propel myself onward in the best, most positive way I can during this off season, so that I can accomplish the physical, creative, professional and personal development goals that are important to my commitment to living with no regrets.

Let me know how I can help you establish the habits and practices that will enable you to continue moving in your desired direction, regardless of what life throws at you.

What Drives You?

I love good questions. I enjoy pondering a provocative question on my bike or at other times when my mind is free to consider it. I experience a visceral surge of excitement when presented with a question that begs for deep exploration.

As I prepared to get into the shower after my bike ride yesterday, I was reading (and loving!) Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People. As he recalled an interview with one of the individuals featured in the book’s case studies, he explained that he had asked his subject, “What drives you?” That question elicited the familiar surge of excitement, letting know that I needed to explore what drives me. Since I was getting into the shower, the question presented itself at the perfect time. The shower is a great place to think because it is private (except when I am on Biking Across Kansas) and quiet, and I am usually able to wash myself without concentrating too hard on what I am doing, freeing up mental bandwidth for exploring interesting questions.

As I washed off the road grime. I asked myself, “What drives me?” It didn’t take long before I settled on “growth and improvement.” As I thought about it some more on today’s bike ride, I recognized that “growth and improvement” are the ways that my internal drivers manifest themselves. A more complete picture is this formula:

Strengths + Values=Internal Drivers (Motivation)

My top Clifton Strengths are: Intellection, Input, Relator, Learner and Maximizer.

For many years my core values have been: Compassion, Excellence, Integrity and Fitness.

The combination of my strengths and my values comprise my internal drivers, which manifest as growth and improvement.

Although each element—strengths, values and internal drivers—looks different for every individual, I think strengths and values are the consistent building blocks.

Ultimately, I want to be growing and improving continually in my life. I have come to view this as my personal evolution. Always ripe for a (mechanically imperfect) cycling analogy, I picture the equation formulating my evolution as turning wheels on a bicycle. My progress—evolution—ebbs and flows with the revolutions of the wheels. They take me to the next stop on my ride, but, like a bike tour, I keep getting back on and moving forward to the next destination. This is what growth and improvement are to me, continual evolution, rather than a transformation that takes place as a singular event. My strengths and values are like the hubs of the wheels, with my internal drivers (or motivation) the drivetrain.

Over time and with a lot of introspection, I have fine-tuned my life to allow me to grow in the ways that feed my soul and are important to me.

I am driven to use my strengths to think and learn and grow within the boundaries of my values.

I am driven to grow in compassion by living a vegan lifestyle and helping others to learn about plant-based nourishment, as well as by treating all human and non-human animals with compassion. I am not perfect in my practice of this, but I am driven by my aspiration to live in full compassion.

I am driven to provide excellent service and to put forth my best work in my advising, writing, coaching, teaching, parenting and relating. By continually striving toward excellence, I can pursue a higher level of one of my core values, while employing all my major strengths.

I am driven to pursue integrity by living my values, even when it is challenging, in a world that does not always support them or understand me. This is an ongoing growth opportunity.

I am driven to maintain a high level of fitness because doing so allows me to live my other values more fully and to ensure that I can keep growing and improving.

What drives you?

I encourage you to ask yourself that question and to create time and mental space to explore the answers. Then—and this is key—find ways to allow your deepest intrinsic motivation to play out in your life.

Find your strengths: One excellent and informative way to gain insight about your internal drivers is to take a strengths test. Both Clifton Strengths (linked above) and Via Strengths can provide valuable self-awareness. Via is free online. Clifton requires the purchase of a book and/or a code. They are different, but both can help you consider what makes you tick.

Clarify your values: You can find many values lists online and in books. I have never found one that I really consider to be comprehensive. (I’m not sure there is such a thing.) The best one I have found is in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., which I am also currently reading, for the Wichita State University Leadership Book Club. Years ago, I discerned my values through my own reflection and introspection. Brown gives some excellent tips for guiding this process. She says, “Ask yourself: Does this define me? Is this who I am at my best? Is that a filter that I use to make hard decisions?” Brown recommends settling on two core values. As I said, I have four.

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice—they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.” –Brené Brown

Consider what the combination of your strengths and values suggest about what drives you. (Strengths + Values=Internal Drivers): What is it that propels you forward in life? Whether you consider it an internal driver or drivers, motivation or your “why,” I think there is value in knowing. Thinking about it is a worthwhile endeavor.

When you figure out what drives you, take an honest look at your life. Does it reflect your motivations, the things that push you forward? For me, it is continual, progressive evolution in key areas of my life. I need to feel like I am living my values and maximizing my strengths more effectively each day. For you, it could be family or financial freedom or a cause that is close to your heart. Whatever it is, own it. Honor it. Find ways to build your life around it.

If you are interested in exploring this and other deep questions as a way to optimize your life, make the difference you want to make and live with no regrets, contact me at sheri@justwindcoach.com to schedule a coaching call. I’d love to help you figure out what drives you and find ways to honor those motivations in your life. I believe there are reasons that certain things are driving forces in our lives. These intrinsic drives are part of our unique mode of expression in the world—the contribution we want to make and the legacy we are here to leave.

The First 10 Days: Proceeding as if Success Were Inevitable

Think about the last time you embarked on a big project or started working toward a major goal. How did you feel? Excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Calm? Confident? Maybe it was a combination of some or all those emotions, or, maybe it was a different feeling. Chances are, though, if it meant something to you, there were strong feelings involved.

In my last blog post, I announced for the first time that I am writing a book. At the time I wrote that post, I had several pages of notes and a working title, but I hadn’t officially started writing it. That changed over the last 10 days, when I developed a comprehensive outline on September 1 and then launched into content on Labor Day.

My Labor Day bike ride was full of reflection because launching into the writing feels momentous. I know there is a great deal of work ahead of me, and I have a lot to learn about publishing and even about the differences between writing a blog or an essay and writing a book. Yet, I realize that I feel calm and confident, as well as excited and encouraged. There are several reasons why.

I have a couple of mantras running through my head. One is Marie Forleo’s “Everything is figureoutable.” (I am really looking forward to reading her just-released book by that name.) I trust that I will be able to figure out the things I need learn about the publishing process. Somehow, I believe it will work out. I will learn what I need to learn. It helps me to remember that there are many, many books in existence and that all authors were once first-time authors. If they can do it, I can do it.

Another mantra that really helps me believe that I can do this is Ann Lamott’s reminder that “A page a day is a book a year.” My life is VERY full. As I said in my last post, I am choosing to keep that fullness during this season of life. I may choose differently at some point, but, right now, there is no “spare” time (whatever that is). So, I could let myself become overwhelmed and think, “How can I even think about writing a book when I am so busy?’ Instead, I am calmed and reassured by heeding Lamott’s advice and setting a rough goal of writing a page a day. That seems doable. Even so, I am making some modifications to that goal. For instance, there are some days when it may be truly impossible to write at all. So, I will average seven pages a week, making up for lost days on Saturday and/or Sunday. I will also use some days for editing sections. All in all, I have set a loose goal of completing the writing in a year.

Much of the time, it is wise to set a “firm” deadline or target date for completing a project or achieving a goal. This feels different, though, because it is important to me to keep this a joyful project. That doesn’t mean it will be stress free or blissful every moment, but I don’t think I have much to gain by adding time pressure. I realize that there could be reasons to tighten up my deadline, as I learn more about publishing. For right now, this feels good.

There is value for me in writing publicly about this goal. When you launch a new endeavor, do you share your goal with others, or do you keep it to yourself? I do both, depending on the goal. Some people need to talk about their goal because they need external accountability. That is not the case for me. As an Upholder, according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, I respond favorably to both internal and external expectations, meaning that I keep promises I make to myself, as well as those I make to others. I don’t need to feel obligated to another person or group to make sure I do what I say I am going to do. If you haven’t taken Rubin’s quiz, I encourage you to use the link above and take it to help you determine if you would benefit from having some external accountability when you take on a big goal.

In his popular TED Talk, Derek Sivers explains that there is some evidence that talking about our goals makes it less likely that they will be achieved because we experience a surge of satisfaction just by talking about them. There is gratification because we receive social acknowledgement when people respond positively to our pursuit of a goal. He recommends either not talking about our goals or talking about them in ways that minimize gratification. Instead of saying, “I am going to lose 10 pounds,” you could tell a friend or a coach, “I really want to lose 10 pounds, and I need you to scold me if you see me eating something I shouldn’t.” From the first time I heard or read this perspective on sharing goals, I was hesitant to buy in to it. It just didn’t resonate with me. Maybe that is because I am an Upholder. This may be a worthwhile consideration for those who have a different tendency. What has been your experience? Do you benefit from the accountability of sharing a goal, or have you experienced the phenomenon Sivers describes?

My husband Kenny has talked about how he felt when he was training to ride his bike across the United States in 1995, four years before we met. He told all the important people in his life. He said doing so created pressure, and it got to the point when he was just ready to get started and stop talking about it. He doesn’t indicate that he would do anything differently, just that it felt like pressure because so many people knew what he was working toward. Maybe that was a form of accountability for him.

For me the value of sharing my goal is that it makes it feel real. I am putting it out there for the Universe to support me and to position myself to start living as someone who is writing a book. I could do that in secret, too, but putting it out there feels a bit courageous. Of course, there is no guarantee that I will be successful according to any particular definition of success, whether that is completing the manuscript, getting published or earning money from my book. Yet, I feel that I am honoring myself and my vision by stating my ambition and letting the world know about this aspect of my life.

In general, I like beginnings. They feel hopeful and loaded with possibility. That is how launching into my book writing feels. It reminds me of how I feel at the beginning of a long bike ride, early on a weekend morning, when there is a flurry of excitement in my belly as I imagine the adventure the ride could become. Do you experience a similar rush of excitement when you begin working toward a goal? How we channel that feeling makes a difference. It could be recognized as either excitement or fear because the neurological response is very similar.

What strategies do you use to position yourself for success in your big goals and dreams?

How do you stay calm and avoid overwhelm?

I recommend a calming mantra, like “Everything is figureoutable.” I also recommend breaking down a big project into bite-sized bits. If you need help doing that, a coach or trusted friend could serve as a guide to creating a manageable plan. Depending on your goal, scheduling time to work on your project may be a critical component.

Exercise is a longtime lifestyle for me. I always schedule it into my week and know when I will exercise and what I will do (ride my bike, practice yoga, strength train, etc.) each day. It is too important to leave to chance.  I am not formally scheduling my writing at this time. I am going to see how my “page-a-day” strategy works. I might reassess scheduling, if I find that I am not making the progress I desire.

It is also worth considering whether talking about your goal will help or hinder your chances of success. Do you need the accountability of a coach or workout buddy or friend? Do you need to publicly commit, so that you will feel embarrassed if you don’t follow through? Do you think you would be less likely to succeed if you experienced gratification by sharing what you are doing? Or, like me, is sharing your goal a way of honoring the validity of what you are doing and of welcoming the support of the Universe?

The next time you begin something big, take some time to consider what conditions best position you to achieve what you set out to achieve. In my health coach training, we were encouraged to “proceed as if success were inevitable.” Part of that is to start with the right conditions in place. Let me know how I can support you in living with no regrets by helping you establish the right circumstances and strategies for accomplishing what you what to accomplish. (sheri@justwindcoach.com)

Owning My “And”: Embracing My Intrapersonal Pluralism

Publishing this post feels a bit risky, knowing it could be read by anyone, but it also feels important to share. Although I had planned to continue my “Top 5” series a bit longer, I have decided to depart from it because I have been inspired lately with a greater understanding of myself that I believe can help others.

As an academic advisor for undergraduate college students, I frequently hear students say, sometimes with great angst, “I don’t know what I want to do!” Until very recently, while I have empathized with them and tried to reassure them that they have time to figure it out, I have felt like I was holding on to a dirty little secret: Neither did I.

I have done several different things throughout my career, mostly in higher education and nonprofit, and, to be honest, I have held shame and fear that I was “wishy-washy” and indecisive because I felt called in different directions. Many people my age have spent 20, 25 or 30 years in a single role, in a single field or a single institution, continuously moving into progressively higher positions. Although, collectively, I have spent around 12 years at the University (not including my time as a student and graduate assistant), it has been a bit of a zig-zag path. I know that I have done work that has mattered—advocating for and supporting people living with HIV in the 1990s, coordinating volunteers for the American Red Cross and assisting and teaching college students. I also took a few years away from work after my son was born (although I tried to start a couple businesses during that time). Partly because of the anguish I felt to find the right fit and contribute to the world in different ways, I pursued a second Master’s degree, which I completed eight years after earning my first.

I have been in this role as academic advisor since 2014. (To be fair, I am working in the same department where I earned my second Master’s degree.) I know I help students. I know I make a difference for them. I have liked this work from the beginning, and I am good at it. However, for the first few years, there were several issues that created a lot of stress and unhappiness for me. I was so disappointed when that turned out to be the case several months after starting this position. I already felt (especially after a disappointment when Red Cross restructured, causing me to leave there) like my career lacked coherence and that I hadn’t accomplished what I “should” have accomplished professionally. Struggling with shame, disenchantment and a sense of powerlessness, I decided to return to a goal that I had held during my last stint in grad school and when my son was little. I enrolled in health coach school and got certified as a health coach and life coach over the next year and a half. At the time, my plan was to build my business and then leave the University. I decided I wanted out, and I didn’t want to work for anyone ever again.

In October 2017, a few months before I completed my health coach training, it all came to a head for me at the University. The pressure that had been coming every semester, due to a difference in opinion with the College administration about how I should do my job, started again. I decided I had nothing to lose because I was really unhappy. So, I wrote an email, copied to several people in administration and to my department chair (who supported me) and set boundaries about what I was and was not willing to do and what I would no longer tolerate. It wasn’t a threat, but it was clear and direct.

An amazing thing happened. The pressure stopped. And my job improved. (This was a lesson in itself about having the courage to stand up for myself and what I believe is right.) I finished my coach training and set out to grow my business, and then the torment set in for me. I had promised myself that I would get certified, grow my business and then leave the University, but I suddenly felt myself struggling because I no longer really wanted to leave. However, I still wanted to grow my business, and I wanted to do other cool things.

What was wrong with me?!

I often felt like an imposter when I talked to my students and guided them on their career paths. I couldn’t even figure out my own!

This struggle persisted, waxing and waning over more than a year.

Recently, light has flooded in for me, though, and I want to share my insights because I no longer believe I am the only one who feels this way.

I have heard several thought leaders and coaches—Kristin Lajeneusse, Tess Challis, Marie Forleo—use the term “multipassionate” to describe people who are pulled in many different creative and professional directions. When I was first exposed to this idea during the summer of 2018, it didn’t fully resonate with me. I understood the concept, but I couldn’t embrace it as a description that fit and felt okay.

In the last couple months, though, I listened to Emilie Wapnick’s excellent book How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. I happened to listen to David Epstein on Lewis Howe’s School of Greatness podcast right after listening to Emilie Wapnick’s book. Coinciding with this, I had the opportunity to attend an in-depth training on Clifton’s strengths at the University. I was not new to strengths, having participated in the University’s spring 2019 Leadership Book Club, which featured the book Strengths-Based Leadership. I had read it several years ago, and I have also been interested in Via Character Strengths for years.

However, this time, it all came together for me. My top-5 Clifton strengths are: Intellection, Input, Relator, Learner and Maximizer (Brief descriptions of these and the other 29 strengths here). As I learned more about these and thought about what I had heard from Wapnick and Epstein, I started receiving hits of inspiration and understanding on my bike. It was very exciting and very comforting. Emilie Wapnick uses the term “multipotentialite.” David Epstein talks about having a “range” of interests and activities. Wapnick offers many other possible labels and invites us to choose what works for us. Noting felt quite right, although the ideas I heard clicked. Because my best processing always occurs on my bike, I started toying with different descriptions while I rode. For a week or so, “multi-layered professional” seemed to be right. A couple weeks ago, though, I realized what really fits for me.

It is about owning my “and.” By this I mean that I was suddenly enveloped with self-acceptance and acknowledgement that what feels right for me in this season (to use a term I liked when I heard Rachel Hollis use it) of life is that I am an Academic Advisor, and I am developing an online course that I will start teaching in the spring, and I have a health and life coaching practice on the side and (going public with this for the first time—more to follow) I am writing a book. AND, I feel good about this, and I own it all.

On my bike a couple weeks ago, the term “intrapersonal pluralism” came to me and nestled in comfortably. To summarize briefly, my top five strengths mean that I am a thinker (Intellection)—very introspective. This is no surprise. I crave time in my head. I need it to survive. Having so little ability to escape noise and be alone in my head was one of the most difficult parts of becoming a mother for me. Additionally, “Input” means that I collect and organize things. For me, these are words, quotes, ideas, interests and ways to contribute in the world. As a Relator, I value and cultivate deep conversations and relationships and avoid small talk. The Learner in me MUST keep growing. And, as a Maximizer, I long to turn the “great into the superb.” All this feels true for me. And, having received the input from Wapnick and Epstein recently, it all came together. What I had perceived as lack of direction or wishy-washiness was just the way I was put together. It was how my very busy mind worked. I need to grow and contribute in many different ways. I suddenly felt that I could own my “and.”

The freedom this has given me feels so comforting. This has been such a struggle, and I have felt ashamed to express it to anyone.

“When life begins, God takes this huge jigsaw puzzle with a zillion pieces in it, messes it all up, and throws the pieces into a box called ‘your life.’ Most think the object of life is to painstakingly put that puzzle together with great solemnity–thinking that there is only one to make it fit. We’re all hoping to get that big prize at the end of the rainbow.

But the truth is, there are a zillion ways to put your puzzle together–and you get to make it up as you go along! From what I can tell, God often throws two or three puzzles in the same box, depending on what you need to learn at this particular point in time. . . And if we’re not having any fun putting it together, then it’s time to mess it up one more time and put the fun back in.” –Joel Rutledge

So, along with owning my “and,” I am owning my past shame. And, I am releasing it. Doing so has allowed me to use my new understanding to comfort and support two students already. I felt compelled to write this post because I would like to help others who may be facing a similar internal struggle. Maybe my lessons can shorten their suffering.

To use Rachel Hollis’ term for describing where I am in life, in this season, I am contentedly an academic advisor as my primary paying work. I feel like I want to settle in, help students and stay in this role “as long as love shall last,” maybe until retirement—possibly early retirement. We’ll see. I will add the online course because is an it is an opportunity to grow and learn. I have been amazed how much is involved in setting up this course. It all must be developed ahead of time and is quite different than my past in-person teaching experiences. I am going to be sharing a message that matters to me about Mind and Movement (I’ll share information about enrolling with my readers, once that becomes available.). I am still very clear that it is important to me to grow and evolve my coaching business. Maybe it will look different than I originally envisioned, and maybe it will change over time, but I am clear that I must do it. I am saving for a coaching experience of my own early next year, and I expect good things to come of it. And, the book has been calling to me on my bike and growing and becoming clearer and clearer in my mind. I thought that a book might be 10 years or so in the future. Now, I know I am supposed to start working on it. There is a message I need to share with the world, and the time has come to work toward that end.

Who knows how this will evolve and change in the next “season” of my life, or even when and what that will be?

So, for any of you who are (or who know) intrapersonal pluralists, I hope you can find peace, too. There are some of us who are just put together in such a way that we don’t decide what we want to be when we are six or 18 or 28 or 48. We want to be and do and experience a lot of things. We have so much to contribute in so many ways. (People who do pursue a single, linear career path make important differences in the world, too, of course.) Yes, we must pay the bills. The reality is that there are a lot of ways to do that honorably. We don’t have to choose just one in this season or in this lifetime. We may be busier than others. As long as we make room for the things that feed our souls—including work and creative projects that call us—I have come to realize this is okay.

As a coach, I help people live with no regrets. I aspire to do the same in my own life. I have released the baggage of shame and disappointment. Moving forward, I will own my “and.” I am no longer ashamed to have several interesting projects—including my full-time job—going on in my life. I recognize that honoring these interests is part of living with no regrets for me. I need to make room for them and embrace them fully. They are all part of how I am called to contribute to the creation of a healthier, more compassionate world.

My wish for my fellow intrapersonal pluralists is that you, too, can own your “and,” living it proudly into the world. We will all be richer for it. This requires creativity to figure out how best to combine all our interests and pursuits. One may be in the forefront during one season of life, while a different one may move into the lead during another. Some may run their course and move out of the lineup. Others may present themselves as we continue to learn and grow and are exposed to new ideas and opportunities.

We can’t do everything at once, so we have to consider honestly what we can make fit, if we should make it fit and if our current pursuits are aligned with our core values.

I have come to believe that intrapersonal pluralism may be as much a personality trait as introversion or extroversion. When we embrace it, rather than hide it in shame, we are richer humans, better able to make meaningful contributions to the world.

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what you needed it to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” –Asha Tyson

My Top 5 Tips for Reaping the Benefits of Journaling

Sometimes I have to write to think. This isn’t always true. I do my very best thinking on my bike. But, I do my second-best thinking when I write. My most consistent writing is my daily journaling practice.

There are several practices I use to keep myself on track toward my vision. Journaling is one of these. Without it, my day would be incomplete, and I would feel disorganized and rattled. As Benjamin P. Hardy says, “Daily, you need to ensure you’re going the direction you want to. If you’re truly committed to those changes, you’ll need to prime yourself daily to be and act from the position of the new reality you’re striving to create.” Journaling is a key component of my daily priming.

There are many benefits of journaling. The biggest one for me is its centering effect. Journaling helps me organize my thoughts into a coherent whole, so they make sense. Doing so brings me a sense of peace, returning me to a feeling that all is right with the world, if my day has left me frazzled or scattered. As I shared in this post, I use a fairly structured approach to the journaling I do each night. That may or may not be the best tactic for you.

Journaling is a very personal practice, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. There are some techniques that can make your journaling more rewarding, however. Most people think of journaling as writing in a blank book or diary. This is what I generally mean when I talk about journaling. For people who better express themselves with drawing or other graphics, journaling doesn’t have to be restricted to the written word.

Here are my top five tips for getting the most out of a journaling practice.

One of my previous journals.
  1. Choose tools you love. As I get close to filling up one blank book, I look forward to selecting my next one. Personally, I don’t use anything fancy, but there are features that I prefer. I usually look for a spiral-bound book because I like to keep my pen there when it is not in use. Beyond that, I want a book that has lines, rather than plain, white pages. Those who incorporate drawing may want unlined pages. Finally, I consider how it makes me feel. Is it peaceful or inviting? Does it have a meaningful quote and/or picture on the front? I want a journal that feels like a treat to use. Some people may prefer to journal electronically, either typing or speaking into a device. This is valid, too. Utilize whatever means of capturing your thoughts, ideas, dreams and musings feels the best. If you are writing or drawing, use a pen that is pleasant and flows smoothly over the page.
  2. Develop a habit. I do most of my journaling right before going to bed. The potential downside to that is that I sometimes doze off while writing. It does help to put everything in place before I go to bed, though. Whether you choose to write at night or some other time, I recommend choosing a consistent time and making it a non-negotiable habit—simply what you do before bedtime, upon awakening or after meditating, for instance.
  3. Include questions. I love questions, both for myself and for my coaching clients. Provocative questions open doors to ideas that might not otherwise present themselves. There are some that I use consistently. Two that I currently find very beneficial are: “What is the boldest leap I took today? And, “What bold leap will I take tomorrow?” The possibilities for your questions are endless. Questions help me reflect on my day and position me to set a powerful intention for the next day before I go to sleep.
  4. Free write when you are so moved. Although there are certain components I include every night, I also free write when I feel like doing so. This is a terrific way to explore and understand my emotions. Sometimes, I do this when I am upset or angry. Sometimes, I do it when I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my many blessings. I simply write from my stream of consciousness. It can be tremendously cathartic, and I recommend trying it.
  5. Record your inspirations, vision, dreams, goals. All of these and more go into my journal. Lately, I have had several bursts of inspiration in the middle of the night. I sleep with my journal, and book light right next to me, so it is easy to reach for them and record the inspiration before I lose it. Similarly, I will write down ideas that come to me on my bike. I try to get them on paper as soon as I can after returning home from a ride. Make your journal your place to express your deepest desires for the future and to spell out your commitment to bringing them to life.

There are so many ways to benefit from journaling. In my experience the most important thing is that your practice is authentic to you. Try my ideas if you are new to journaling or if you want to give journaling a more prominent presence in your life, but, ultimately, your practice should serve you. It should help you grow and increase your ability to live with no regrets because writing your aspirations and sorting out your feelings on paper add clarity to your life. When you are clear, you can take the steps you need to take to turn aspirations to facts in your life.

Catch up with the previous posts in this “Top 5” series:

  1. My energy tips here
  2. My mindset tips here
  3. My well-being tips here
  4. My plant-based nourishment tips here
  5. My meditation tips here

Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible and get regular doses of inspiration, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.

My Top 5 Tips for Building a Spirit-Nourishing Meditation Practice

Continuing my series of “Top 5” posts, I share here my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you want to catch up on past posts, you can read my energy tips here,  my mindset tips here, my well-being tips here and my plant-based nourishment tips here.

I want to be clear that I do not consider myself a meditation expert. However, I am proud to have practiced meditation on a consistent, daily basis for the past year and a half. I realize that is nothing compared to many practitioners, who have meditated for decades, but it feels like an achievement to me because I believed for many years that I was incapable of meditating. I realize now that part of the reason for this was my narrow view of what constitutes meditation. Mostly, I have referred to what I am doing as a mindfulness practice, as opposed to a meditation practice. Lately, though, I have come to view mindfulness as a broader state of being, of which my daily meditation practice is a part. I feel like I have developed my own, evolving practice that serves my needs and feeds my spirit. My goal in this post is to share the most helpful strategies I have used for cultivating this practice.

  1. Approach your practice with self-compassion. The single most helpful idea I have come across regarding meditation is contained in these words by Sharon Salzberg: “Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real meditation.’” That idea is so freeing and makes so much sense. Much like what I have learned about living in the present moment, rather than waiting for my “real life” to begin at some future point, when everything is in place, Sharon Salzberg’s words encourage me to recognize the value of compassionately beginning again, when my thoughts distract me. The discipline of doing so is the practice. It validates that, as long as I continually release the thoughts when I recognize that they have highjacked my mindfulness and return to my breath, I am meditating exactly as I “should.” There is nothing to correct, and I am experiencing all the benefits of a meditation practice built on commitment and resilience.
  2. Develop a ritual. Make your meditation practice a non-negotiable part of your day. It has become as crucial to my well-being as exercise. I find that it works best for me to practice in the morning, either immediately upon waking or directly following my morning workout, if it is in my downstairs gym. My mindfulness extends to my time on the bike and, to a lesser extent, walking, but this does not replace my daily dedicated practice time. It is bonus time that is often extremely fruitful, yet my day would be incomplete without my meditation ritual. Look at your schedule, decide what works best for you and implement a ritual for getting into the right mental space. Part of my ritual involves solitude, at least mentally. I am pleased to report that I successfully maintained my daily practice while Biking Across Kansas by meditating in my sleeping bag immediately upon waking each morning. Although I was in a room full of people, I found solitude in the darkness. By establishing a clear ritual that includes a time and place, as well as a beginning routine, you will set yourself up to practice consistently.
  3. Open your mind to what meditation can look like, and allow your practice to evolve.  For a long time, I thought meditation was only sitting cross-legged on the floor and releasing all thought. I can’t remember what changed my mind and allowed me to consider a more expansive definition. My health coach training? Maybe. Whatever it was that opened my mind to crafting my own practice, I am grateful. I believe in finding what resonates with you and allowing it to evolve when your instinct leads you in a different or additional direction. My current practice looks like this: I begin with square breathing. Then, I mentally recite my Sankalpa (which I updated after reflection on my 50th birthday). I express gratitude for guidance, wisdom, direction and protection and release what no longer serves me. Affirmations and visualizations help deepen the meaning of m practice. I include a couple Kundalini yoga poses that I find calming. Depending on what I feel I need, I may include Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I also always choose a quote for reflection before I begin and spend time simply focusing on my breath. This assortment of components really works for me. Experiment and trust your instincts to develop a practice that is uniquely yours. Be open to allowing it to evolve. This has made all the difference for me.
  4. Use a meditation app. I use Insight Timer (free version) and love it. There are others out there, as well as a premium version of Insight Timer. Find what works best for you. The functions I find most useful are the timer, ambient sound and the tracker. I set the time My life is full, and, at this point, I generally set the timer for five to 15 minutes, although I sometimes choose to continue meditating after I hear my ending tone. I like the variety of ambient sounds offered by Insight Timer and vary them day by day. Finally, I feel motivated by the “streak” I have built up on the tracking log (318 days consistently using Insight Timer). Although it is not the reason I meditate, I want to keep my streak going!
  5. Feel and express gratitude for your practice. Recognizing the benefits meditation has bestowed on me, I am deeply grateful for the freedom and dedication to meditate. I feel like a whole world has opened to me. Part of my practice reflects this gratitude. I truly look forward to my daily meditation and feel a burst of excitement in my body when I prepare to practice. I am so thankful that meditation has become part of my life. Remembering this adds depth and richness to, and enhances the benefits of, my practice.

I have been amazed at the benefits I can attribute to my consistent practice. I feel healthier than I have ever been. There are other factors contributing to my well-being, but I believe that my meditation practice has put me over the top, apparently enhancing my immunity and certainly improving my stress-management ability. I am happier and more peaceful. My gratitude for the many blessings in my life is deeper. I still have plenty of room for growth, but I have become a true believer in the power of meditation. I would love to assist you in your journey toward living with no regrets. Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.

My Top 5 Tips for Plant-Based Nourishment

This post is the fourth in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you missed the others, you can catch my energy tips here,  my mindset tips here and my well-being tips here.

As I have mentioned in some of my other posts, one of the most basic ways I take care of myself is through plant-based nourishment, wich contributes significantly to my energy, mindset and well-being. Here is a very brief overview of the many health benefits of plant-based nutrition.

I hear a lot of questions, concerns and objections to eating plants exclusively. I won’t address all of those here, but I hope these tips will help you understand that it is easy to eat nourishing, delicious plant-based food.

  1. Keep it simple. Use this simple formula for preparing plant-based meals that are tasty and nourishing: Beans + Greens + Grains. You can choose from any number of combinations of these three types of foods to create quick meals that satisfy. One of my favorite examples is black bean burritos. Rinse and drain some black beans (or any bean really). Combine them with spinach and frozen corn in a saucepan. Sprinkle some cilantro and any other seasoning you like into the mixture. Serve as a burrito, on whole-grain tortillas, or as a bowl. It is quick, delicious and full of nutrients.
  2. Find a go-to resource or two for recipes and meal-planning. Two of my favorite are The Engine 2 Diet, which contains a meal-planning matrix for every day of the week, and lighter.world, which allows you to set up a profile of preferences and will then give you three recipe choices each for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. Whether or not you follow these resources precisely, they are great guides for getting started, as well as for ongoing inspiration. A good plant-based-eating resource (There are countless others. These are just two that I use regularly.) will help you avoid ruts and keep you motivated to stick with your commitment to healthful, compassionate eating.
  3. Be prepared. It is easier than ever to eat a plant-based diet in the mainstream world. However, it still requires some planning and flexibility to do it well. I just finished my 21st trip across Kansas on a bicycle (www.bak.org). Over the years, I have had more and more options to eat, largely because the Board of Directors (of which I am a part) does a terrific job of communicating with the host cities to raise awareness that there will be people with a range of dietary needs and to suggest to them what they can serve vegans and vegetarians in their fundraiser meals. Still, on BAK and in my everyday life, I carry back-up snacks. I don’t function well wen I get hungry, so I make sure I have something to eat if a catered function or restaurant dinner is disappointing or inadequate. Fruit, nuts, nut butter packets and bars (like Macro Bar or ProBar, among many possibilities) are easy to carry and will hold up in a bag or purse. If you are going to be traveling, use an app, like Happy Cow, to find restaurants that are friendly to plant-based eaters.
  4. Ask questions. Just as you need to read labels to make sure there are not sneaky animal-based products in food that you purchase, it is important to ask questions in restaurants or at catered functions and potlucks. It can be done in a friendly, courteous way, such as, “Do your rice and beans contain any animal products, like lard or animal broth?” If you are committed to taking excellent care of your body and/or to living your ethics through plant-based nourishment, it is important to take the initiative to find out if a certain food will meet your needs or not. Your health and ethics are too important to acquiesce to the mainstream, out of fear of offending someone.
  5. Be adventurous. There was a time when I was frequently asked, “So, all you eat is salad?” That was never the case (although a good salad is wonderful), but it is definitely not true now, when there is so much more awareness of, and interest in, plant-based eating. As long as it is made from plants and serves your nutritional needs (minimal added oil, sugar, salt, processed items), be open to trying new food. Just this past weekend, in Holton, KS, a sweet, grandma-looking woman told me that she had “researched diligently” to learn how to make vegan breakfast burritos with tofu, potatoes, onions and a delicious combination of spices. She was adventurous and willing to try a new way of cooking. Those of us eating plant-based should be open to trying new things. Pick a vegetable you have not tried and Google a recipe or preparation instructions. Try tofu and tempeh, if you have not. Experiment with different plant milks (almond, flax, coconut, rice, soy, oat, cashew—endless possibilities!).

There are so many delicious ways to nourish yourself with plants. Commit to the lifestyle, own it proudly and take responsibility for making it work for yourself. Let me know how I can help. Although my primary motivation for being vegan is ethics, health is close behind. I am grateful for my good health and am convinced that the way I eat is a major contributing factor. I would love to assist you in your journey toward living with no regrets. Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.