How self acceptance can compensate for being ‘NEVER ENOUGH”

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(This series of 8 posts on self compassion is a continuation from my earlier series on self care. If you have not read my earlier series, you can do so HERE. And once again as you go through this series, you can use journaling as a tool to get to reap the full benefit ) 

“and i said to my body. softly.

‘i want to be your friend.’

it took a long breath. and replied

‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”

― Nayyirah Waheed, poet

 

Many people struggle with low self-confidence, constantly seeking out praise and approval from others and making choices based on what everyone else does rather than what they really want or truly believe in. The innermost belief is usually "I AM NOT ENOUGH".

As a result of this, as adults, we often endlessly criticise and express our lack of self-worth by

Mistreating our bodies

Choosing to believe we are unlovable

Comparing ourselves with other people in terms of achievement, body size and shape and social circle

Judging our worth by the number of likes on social media or the number of friends rather than the quality

We also believe that loving and nourishing ourselves is somehow selfish. There is a myth that self love is the same as vanity and being arrogant, but nothing could be further from the truth. This conditioning is usually as a result of the messages that we receive from our families while growing up, media and the society at large. The focus here is not for you to find whom to blame for this conditioning, rather, it is on finding ways to overcome your negative and limiting beliefs about yourself. 

I see this with many of my health coaching clients in my practice who struggle with making themselves and their health a priority. While most of my clients are women, I would think that men would have similar issues as well. And so, even as I start working with my clients on improving their diet and lifestyle, simultaneously we start working on changing the way think about themselves. Women, in particular, have a much harder time than men believing they need to take out time to care for themselves first.

For if we do not value ourselves and believe that we deserve to love and cherish ourselves, how can we ever take out the time for ourselves in our busy lives? 

And very often, this lack of self worth leads often leads us to have a long "SHOULD" list.

How long is your "SHOULD" list? 

How often do you tell yourself that 

I SHOULD…

Be taking better care of myself

Start the new diet that I came to know about recently

Be taking better care of my family and my children

Join the gym and start exercising soon

Be meditating every day

Be spending more time with my children

Be eating healthier

Lose more weight

Does this all sound familiar to you? Do you think you “should” be doing all these things because you genuinely want to or a combination of the following- misplaced sense of guilt, childhood conditioning, comparison with others, self-criticism? Are the choices that you make in your life based on someone else’s standard or your own? 

As the author, Richard Bach had said,

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours”

Instead, you can choose to drop some of these from your “should” list so that you can focus on what you really need and thus could do at this moment. This will empower you to feel there is actually a CHOICE that you can make right now. And that instead of living life on autopilot you can choose to take a different path.

A path that starts with a single thought and that is to CHANGE - the way you think and hence the outcomes in your life going forward. As you embark on this journey, you may also soon realise that we all pay a high price for remaining in the "comfort" zone in terms of unfulfilled dreams, a life half lived and countless "if only"s.

However, merely knowing this may not be enough. We need to learn to approve of ourselves and accept the way we are at this very moment in order to move forward. For it is only when we accept ourselves completely that we can create an inner world that feels safe, deserving of love and positive changes. For most people, this often begins with dealing with self criticism first.

Self criticism and judgement often take place at a very subconscious and a subtle level that we may or may not be aware of. Being critical and judgemental is the default option as it often seems safer than making changes. Change forces us to move outside our comfort zone and can be rather uncomfortable for most. However, not doing so keeps us stuck in the same patterns and keeps us from growing into the person that we always wanted to become. Showing kindness to ourselves, being patient and trying to understand ourselves helps us to move through this.

For no matter how old you are, the rest of your life ahead of you; whether it is 5, 10, 20 or 40 years. The past cannot be changed but you can change your entire future by focussing on the here and now. The sooner you realise this truth, the sooner you will be able to take the necessary steps to change your situation.

So ask yourself

What is it is that you truly need at this moment? What do you want from life? What are your dreams?

What is there on your "should" list that you can drop right now? 

(You may want to take out some time to answer these questions in your journal)

However, this is not about how others can fulfil these needs for you but rather clarify what you need, mostly from yourselfIt is far easier to let things be rather than confront the fact that just like others that we take care of, we too deserve to be looked after and taken care of. That we too need to nurture and nourish ourselves and know that there is so much more to life than who we are, what we are and where we are at this moment.

"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear"

-Rumi

As you take out some time to quieten your mind to actually listen to your inner voice, you may notice constant negative ideas and beliefs that hold us prisoner to our thoughts about ourselves.  

It can help to ask questions like

Where did this belief come from? Does it hold true for me now and serve me today? Or do I need to let go of it?”

Over time as you are able to let go of these, they start losing their power and hold over you. Replacing these instead with positive self-talk can be an incredibly powerful tool if you are just starting out.

Some examples are given below

  • I have the power to change my mind
  • I am proud of myself for trying since I know it takes courage to do so
  • I may still have a long way to go but I am proud of where I have reached
  • I know I can try again tomorrow and learn from the mistakes I  made today
  • I can learn from this challenge and grow as a person
  • Every opportunity that comes is an opportunity to learn from irrespective of the outcome

As you move forward in this path you will soon realise that as you begin to have a good sense of our own worth, other people’s values, judgements and negative opinions matter less and less. This is the starting point of truly being present to yourself and discovering the sense of inner peace that comes with it. Simply knowing that you can show up just as you are, without any shame or guilt whatsoever, can set you free.

You will realise that.... 

 

You are WORTHY and you are ENOUGH

You are a unique individual whose eccentricities are to be celebrated

You are flawed just like everyone else and this is OK

Your mistakes do NOT define you, you need to learn from them and GROW

You are worthy of receiving love without feeling any guilt

You are truly free...

 

Self care series (wrapping up)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

As we reach the end of the series of 6 posts on self care, I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts over the past several weeks and have been able to benefit from them in some way. If you have not read them, you can read them HERE.

My next series of posts that I will be sharing with you over the next 8 weeks will deal with the issue of low self worth that many of us are dealing with which usually shows up in different patterns of self neglect. It is also one of the primary reasons that we do not make our health a priority and take the steps that are required to move towards our health and wellness goals. This feeling of low self worth is also often accompanied by a lack of self compassion both of which I will be addressing in the next series. The posts will cover topics like understanding our needs, overgiving and deprivation, the power of a NO, celebrating your unique self and others. 

"Self care means giving the world the best of you, instead of what's left of you"

-Ratie Reed

However, before I go any further, I would like to share something with you first. 

Several years ago, our daughter was seriously unwell and hospitalised with a life threatening infection when she was just 7 years old. We are extremely fortunate that she survived the ordeal but it took her a long time to recover completely. Mostly, it was a struggle to find a way to manage the severe chronic condition that she had which had put her in the hospital in the first place. Four long years after her hospitalisation she went on to go off all her medications and today her condition has healed with the help of Functional Medicine- but that's a story for another day. 

The reason I mention all this is that as her mother and primary caregiver, this situation forced me to understand that if I wanted to take care of her effectively over a period of time, I needed to take care of myself FIRST. As is the case for most women, as primary caregivers of our families, we simply do not have the time to take care of ourselves. However, without an active self care practice, it is easy to get angry, frustrated and resentful in a difficult situation with ourselves and those around us. We need to learn to take care of ourselves deeply and intentionally so that we can take care of our loved ones without feeling guilty and obligated and getting burned out.  

In my Health Coaching practice, I see this happening all the time with the majority of my clients most of whom are women (this would likely be true for men as well).

We may not realise this, but true self care need not be an expensive or time-consuming affair, we can take care of ourselves in the smallest of ways, especially when it is the last thing on our mind. 

What about you? Does this sound familiar to you? Is there any way that you can relate to what I have written here?

If you are ready to explore different ways that you can choose to take care of yourself, you can read my earlier post on this topic Selfcare- you cannot drink from an empty cup (Take back the power to heal yourself)”.

You can also choose to join the 7 day online self care challenge for women "LOVE YOURSELF FIRST"

(details are given below)

 "LOVE YOURSELF FIRST

I would like to share at this point that I am hosting a free 7 day online challenge for women which has started TODAY. You can still enrol for the same using the link below. 

STARTS ON 30th of September 2019 (Monday) 
ENDS ON 6th of October 2019 (Sunday)

 

This challenge is for women who feel overwhelmed, exhausted, depleted and/or frazzled and are running on empty with little to give to themselves or others

This challenge is ALSO for you if you are ready to

accept yourself completely

refuse to feel guilty for taking out time for yourself

feel more energetic savour time with yourself as well as take care of your family

WRAPPING UP 

As we wrap up this series, I would like to highlight the key points from each of the six posts.

Do you know your ‘WHY” ? (And why you should)

So let us dream and let us take out the time to reflect on what is truly important for each of us. Let us find the courage to face up to reality and make the changes necessary to live in our TRUTH. To look at ourselves in the mirror every single day and be proud of who we are. At the same time be able to view life compassionately as we deal with our own pain and suffering and that of others.

Let us live our life knowing that we did our best to become the "best version of ourselves".

Read the full article HERE

Rocks, pebbles and sand…the key to knowing what is important in your life

The problem is that we fail to realise that many activities which are actually "important" to us gets overlooked and even ignored in this process. As we move from one "crisis" to another, we get so caught up in the "doing" that we never stop to reflect whether it really needs to be done in the first place.

Read the full article HERE

5 simple morning habits for a calmer, brighter day

At each moment we have a choice. You chose to read this article today. You choose the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the activities that you indulge in. You choose to be angry or to forgive people. You choose to be happy or to remain sad. You choose to be grateful for what you have or to focus on the things you lack in your life. You choose all these things and much more. BUT what you need to keep in mind is that this power to choose resides only in this present moment. In time, it is what we do every single day that matters much more than the profound decisions that we may make once in a while.

Read the full article HERE

Unplug and reconnect (change your relationship with technology)

Each of us has a relationship with our phone which in most of the cases is not in our favour and infact puts us at a major disadvantage. Unfortunately, this relationship often takes precedence over our real life relationships. It is time that we paused to think about what kind of relationship we really want with our phones. 

Read the full article HERE

What are you doing for others? (community and our health)

Being a part of a community is a powerful tool that we need to use to combat the illnesses that threaten our modern societies. Of course, wellness and good health starts with each of us taking personal responsibility for the choices that we make daily. We need to nourish our bodies with the right foods, take adequate rest, move our bodies and take care of our spiritual needs. However, it certainly does not end there.

Read the full article HERE

As I have already mentioned earlier in this post, the next series of posts that I will be sharing with you over the next 8 weeks will be covering the twin topics of SELF WORTH AND SELF COMPASSION. The posts will cover topics like understanding our needs, overgiving and deprivation, the power of a NO, celebrating your unique self and others. This will be followed by a Challenge on Self Compassion. 

As Eleanor Roosevelt said so beautifully "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"

See you next week in the next series of articles!

What are you doing for others? (community and our health)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(In past 4 weeks I have been writing a series of posts on self care covering related topics like finding your purpose, knowing what is important and what matters, creating a morning routine and why we need to unplug regularly from technology to reconnect with ourselves and others. You can read these posts here).

In the first four posts, I had focussed mostly on the relationship that we have with ourselves. In the second last post in this series, I am focussing on our outer worlds, namely, the relationships that we have with others. In other words, our social connections.

"Alone we can do so little. Together, we can do so much"

-Helen Keller

However, before we go any further, I would like to mention here that I have started taking baby steps to start a community (closed Facebook group) for like minded women with similar values and goals. Keeping that in mind, I am hosting a free online challenge for women whose details are given at the end of this post.

7 day online "LOVE YOURSELF FIRST" challenge for women

STARTS ON 30th of September 2019 (Monday) 
ENDS ON 6th of October 2019 (Sunday)

As social animals, we have evolved over millions of years to cooperate with others to hunt, to gather food and to survive. Like most primates, if we were ever to have become separated from our tribe, we would have not survived in isolation. Hence each of us has a very primitive need to be connected with others. The accompanying feeling of anxiety that often accompanies our feeling of loneliness serves a very real and useful purpose of making us feel insecure and pushes us to reconnect with others. Infact, our disconnection with other people is one of the most critical aspects leading to the surge in loneliness, anxiety and depression that is so pervasive in our world today. Having meaningful social relationships then is the antidote to the feeling of disconnection and in turn loneliness.

In our busy, hectic modern lives what often gets short changed are the meaningful relationships that we form and maintain right from childhood to adulthood. A lack of such relationships usually leads to loneliness and isolation. There are numerous studies which have been done in this space by scientists studying loneliness and its effects on our health. Numerous studies show that for all the progress our modern society has made in the fields of medicine, science and technology, we are struggling with high rates of mental health issues like depression, suicide, poor health, loneliness and anxiety. One of the research also shows that being isolated is as stressful as experiencing a physical attack from a stranger.

What I really find shocking, however, is a meta-analysis of studies on loneliness which reveal the following-

Living with air pollution increases our odds of dying early by 5%

Living with obesity, 20%

Excessive drinking, 30%

Loneliness increases the risk of dying early by 45%

Every status update is just a variation of a single request "Would someone please acknowledge me?” 

-Marc Maron

Our dependence (and a form of addiction) on social media usage can then be explained in terms of our need to really connect with each other. As social animals, we need to interact face to face, see, feel, hear and smell each other in a non threatening and caring manner. Simply put, social media and phones our simply does not and cannot replace our social lives. The time has come for all of us to become aware of what this kind of disconnection is costing us in terms of our health, happiness, life goals, achievements and preventing us from living a life that is full of joy and passion.

(I have written more on this topic in my earlier post)

The power of community in safeguarding our health

Being a part of a community is a powerful tool that we need to use to combat the illnesses that threaten our modern societies. Of course, wellness and good health starts with each of us taking personal responsibility for the choices that we make daily. We need to nourish our bodies with the right foods, take adequate rest, move our bodies and take care of our spiritual needs. However, it certainly does not end there.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, our lives are inextricably intertwined with all of nature and certainly with that of all other human beings. Being well and keeping well is then a community affair. This includes our families, our schools and colleges and finally our workplaces and society at large.

However, even while being a part of any community, we all need to be heard and feel recognised, understood and accepted as we are by our families, friends, our colleagues and our peers. This becomes even more relevant in the modern social context as traditional social community ties are changing and dissolving. We need to find ways to form social groups and work even harder to make and maintain close relationships.

(I have shared book recommendations and articles below f you would like the explore these topics in details)

Community IS Medicine

It must have become clear by now how our emotional and physical well being is tied up with our sense of belonging and being a part of a tribe. Here, I would like you to pause for a moment and reflect on the following questions

Do I have rich, satisfying relationships with others? 

What is my most valuable relationship?

What are some of the ways that I am nurturing and taking care of my need to belong? (eg. being a part of a book club, religious community, gym, women's groups, FB groups)

What does being a part of that group make me feel? ( eg. feel accepted, heard, safe)

What are some of the ways that I can join or even form social groups which inspire and challenge me to grow and thrive?

In terms of reaching our health and wellness goals,  being a part of a community can support us in the following ways by providing

  • accountability
  • new ideas and fresh perspective
  • inspiration and keeping you motivated
  • you with a collective wisdom

 

As you ponder over these questions, you may want to go through some of the ways that you can choose to enhance your relationships and be a part of a community that fulfils your need to belong in a healthy manner

You can choose to.... 

connect a bit more by listening, communicating, and allowing your heart to remain open

be truly present in a face to face conversation by noticing the posture and body language and making eye contact

show up as yourself and create a space where others feel safe enough to do the same

make your relationships your top priority in life and consciously make time and space for it 

As  the author, Mathew Kelly said so beautifully,

"Learn to waste time with the people you love"

"LOVE YOURSELF FIRST"

A 7 DAY FREE ONLINE CHALLENGE for women

"Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with"
Author unknown

 

STARTS ON 30th of September 2019 (Monday)

ENDS ON 6th of October 2019 (Sunday)  

This challenge is for women who feel overwhelmed, exhausted, depleted and/or frazzled and are running on empty with little to give to themselves or others

This challenge is ALSO for you if you are ready to

accept yourself completely

refuse to feel guilty for taking out time for yourself

feel more energetic savour time with yourself as well as take care of your family

Unplug and reconnect (change your relationship with technology)

Reading Time: 8 minutes

 

(This is the fourth post in the series of 6 posts that I writing on self care. You can read the earlier ones here, here and here)

Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master

~Christian Lous Lange

If you have gone through the earlier posts, you would know that we have been discussing topics like purpose and meaning, knowing what is truly important in our lives and what matters to us. But all of this would be made redundant if you could not apply what you have learned about yourself to carve out the life that you want. We have a lot to be grateful for in our lives towards modern technology including but not limited to comfort and convenience but we are certainly paying a price for it.

When I planned out the series of posts on self care, I knew that one of these posts would be to highlight the issues that are connected to the way that modern technology is impacting our lives. It has been clear to me for a while now that the very fabric of our society, our attention span and our health are all being affected by the very same technology that has been designed to revolutionise our lives (which it has). But it is even more disconcerting that many of us are blissfully unaware of the ways it affects each and every aspect of our lives. And even when we are aware of this, what makes it so difficult to do something about it is the way that it is designed. The many ways that technology has been designed to be fun and easy to use are the very same things that keep us hooked on to it.

One of my personal struggles today in terms of getting creative and meaningful work done is in connection with my own phone usage. Technology is something that is constantly being reinvented and keeps changing and has always fascinated me. I have always embraced it happily and learned how to apply it constructively in both my personal and professional life. But the flip side is that my smart phone usage is certainly more addictive for me than anyone else in my family. The good thing is however, I have known this for a while now and this awareness has helped me to take steps to deal with this issue.

Modern technology has enriched our lives and helped us make significant progress however, smartphones are really quite different from the other technologies that preceded it like telephones, telegraphs, movies, radios, video games etc. These were also game-changers in their own right but are still quite different from smartphones in terms of impact. The main reason for this is that smartphones, in particular, have been specifically designed to grab our attention and get us to spend an inordinate amount of time on them. 

The result is that the smartphone has permeated our lives and become ubiquitous like nothing that we have ever seen before. Whether is our social, personal or our work life, no one is immune to the addictive nature of our gadgets and social media adds another layer to this addiction. And I do not use the word addictive lightly at all. Our phones have been specifically designed to make us spend more time on them based on the way our brain works.

As Tristan Harris (a former Design Ethicist at Google and co founder of Centre for Humane Technology) said “Our generation relies on our phones for our moment-to-moment choices about who we’re hanging out with, what we should be thinking about, who we owe a response to, and what’s important in our lives. And if that’s the thing that you’ll outsource your thoughts to, forget the brain implant. That is the brain implant. You refer to it all the time."

(If you would like to know more on this topic and how it affects us, read his article Tech Companies Design Your Life, Here’s Why You Should Care_)

These are just two of the many books on this topic of how smartphones are affecting our health (and especially that of our children)- iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean M Twenge and How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life: The 3 -Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price. 

However, this post is not so much about technology as it is about the impact of modern technology and specifically the smartphone on our health. You may already be aware of some of the ways in which your digital technology use (including social media) is affecting your life and your relationships, your work and attention span.

However, to gauge the true extent of this issue, do take out some and answer the questions below-

Can you imagine life without a cellphone? What kinds of feeling comes up for you when you visualise such a scenario?

Have you ever noticed yourself using it not so safely? For e.g. talking or texting or watching while crossing the road or even while driving?

Have you noticed yourself feeling anxious and uncomfortable or even bored in a social situation and reaching for your phone to soothe yourself?

Have you ever noticed yourself losing hours at a time reading or watching social media posts and articles by simply losing track of time?

If you are cringing now after answering these questions, be rest assured that you are not alone. My own personal struggle with regards to my phone usage has reached a place where I am constantly trying to ensure that my phone works for me and not the other way around. The price that we pay may seem innocuous at times but make no mistake; we (and our children) are paying a hefty price by being constantly distracted due to the way the smartphone is designed to engage us.

Each of us has a relationship with our phone which in most of the cases is not in our favour and infact puts us at a major disadvantage. Unfortunately, this relationship often takes precedence over our real life relationships. It is time that we paused to think about what kind of relationship we really want with our phones. 

To have more clarity on how your phone usage may be your relationships, think about your answers to the questions below.

Is there...

a particular relationship that is suffering more than others as a result of your being constantly distracted? 

any way that a relationship will get more fractured in the long run due to your distracted ways if you do not take some steps to curb them?

some part of your life that you are missing out on now that you will regret not being present for later on?

some anxiety or worry that you have of letting go of these distractions?

(Take some time out to reflect on these questions and write down your answers to these questions in your journal as you have done for my earlier posts)

It is up to us to become aware of these pitfalls first and foremost at an individual level and then ultimately at a larger societal and community level. It is only with this kind of awareness that we will be able to modify our behaviours and make conscious choices in the way we use technology. This will help to make it work for us and NOT the other way around.Too often we lose sight of the fact that it is only when we squelch the constant chatter of our outer world that we can truly start to hear what our inner world is trying to tell us or warn us about.

Real self care starts the moment we start listening to ourselves and start taking steps to give ourselves what we truly need.   

And as we work towards becoming more present and less distracted, we can truly show up for our own life in a way...

that is truly aligned with our purpose and our goals

in which we are present for ALL the moments that make up our life and NOT just the special occasions

that is conducive for healing and taking care of ourselves

that helps us share our unique gifts with the world

that enables us to take risks, grow and show up as our authentic selves

that allows us to enjoy and live each and every moment of our lives without putting off "living" 

 

In the section below, I have highlighted some changes that you can make TODAY with regards to your phone/technology use to help you to reclaim some level of control

(I will be writing in more details on this topic in my series of posts on increasing self awareness and creating meaningful connections).

You do NOT need to be available every second of the day

You can answer your texts, emails and calls at select times during the day by blocking out time for it. Schedule switching off or at the very least taking some time off from your phone /technology each day and giving yourself a break (unless your profession demands you to be on call). This can be done by either taking 10-15 min phone breaks several times each day to either take some time off OR to focus on the work that needs to get done. I routinely put my phone on silent for at least a few hours each day to work on something that is important without being distracted all the time.

Your phone is NOT a substitute for human companionship or connection

Even when we are with people who really matter to us, we may not really be present. Instead of spending the limited but precious amount of time with our children, parents and friends who are in front of us, we may actually be spending time with our phones. I am guilty of this myself and I make a conscious effort to be really present in the presence of others especially my family.

Here are some distraction and phone free time zones that you can incorporate into your daily routine-

  • first thing in the morning
  • before your children leave for school (wherever applicable)
  • right before bed time
  • meal times
  • family time in the evening and on weekends

Take control of your phone

There are many ways that you can take back control of your phone and I have highlighted some of the most effective ones below.

(courtesy: https://humanetech.com/resources/take-control/)

  • Turn off ALL notifications apart from the ones you receive from people (calls and text messages)
  •  Go GRAYSCALE- this particular strategy is one I have recently implemented and has been really effective in reducing the time spent on my phone
  • Try keeping your apps on the home screen only
  • Launch other apps by typing so that it gives you just enough time to pause and reflect if that is truly the action that you want to take
  • Remove social media apps from your phone as it is the easiest way to cut back on the usage. They can be used when truly needed either from the browser or a desktop/laptop
  • Check out apps like Freedom (I personally love this one), Thrive Away, Offtime to track, monitor and control your phone usage

Isn't it ironic that a technology that was designed to foster communication and enrich our lives is, in fact, the very thing that is hindering interpersonal connectedness?

Ultimately, we need to remember that as human beings we have a primal need to be connected to others. But true connection usually happens in the micro moments in our life and that makes it very easy to miss out on those moments if we are constantly distracted. We can end up paying a heavy price by looking for this kind of connection elsewhere and becoming addicted to social media, shopping, alcohol, drugs, "busyness" etc.

So the next time you are with another person, look up from your phone and put it away. Take the time to be really present, to look into their eyes and to truly listen to what they are trying to tell you. Let us all reclaim our precious connections one conversation at a time!

As the author, Johann Hari has said so well

"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection"

5 simple morning habits for a calmer, brighter day

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This is the THIRD in a series of 6 weekly posts that I am writing about self care- if you have not done so already you can check out the first part "Do you know your WHY?" and the second part "Rocks, pebbles and sand...the key to knowing what is important in your life".

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver (from the poem "The summer day")

Take some and reflect upon your answers to the following questions

What do I want from life?

What am I doing that really counts?

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?

What is the unique gift that I can share with the world so that I can contribute and make a difference?

For many of us, somewhere deep inside we have this niggling feeling that what we are doing is not contributing to what really matters to us and what is important in our lives. Taking the time out to reflect on the questions shared in all the three posts should give you some clarity and inspire you to think about what you need to change in order to move towards your goals and focus on what is important to you. As you do this, you will be able to take out the time to listen more, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy and indulge in your hobbies, relax more and get to know yourself through meditation and self reflection. It would then be much easier to identify those areas of your life that need an overhaul or some tweaking in order to become the best version of yourself.

However, sometimes even when we have the clarity and the inclination to make changes in our lives, the external world can get in the way. Without realising it, we can start and end our day on autopilot merely reacting to circumstances and people, fulfilling their agendas and not ours. For many of us, as soon as the alarm wakes us up, our habitual thoughts take over and our mental playlist of activities, worries and to-do list fill our every waking moment. Each day turns into a month, then months turn into years and pretty soon we have lost decades of our lives simply by remaining on autopilot. We may also feel that because of our circumstances- financial, personal, professional we do not really have any choice but to live like this on autopilot.

This is simply not true

At each moment we have a choice. You chose to read this article today. You choose the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the activities that you indulge in. You choose to be angry or to forgive people. You choose to be happy or to remain sad. You choose to be grateful for what you have or to focus on the things you lack in your life. You choose all these things and much more. BUT what you need to keep in mind is that this power to choose resides only in this present moment. In time, it is what we do every single day that matters much more than the profound decisions that we may make once in a while.

Once we are clear about what we need to do, we need to rise above excuses and do what is important and needs to be done. And one of the best things that we can do to increase productivity and get things done is to have a well thought out morning routine. Having a consistent morning routine is infact a common and recurring theme amongst many successful people. It helps to counteract the pull of distractions and overcome daily obstacles that can and do pop up. You can and should harness the power of an empowering morning routine as well. And in time, it can literally transform your life.

Whether it is the Olympic winner Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Ratan Tata, Indira Nooyi or countless other successful people, crafting a sacred space in the morning has made all the difference in their productivity and achieving their dreams. It has enabled them to start their day with intention and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. In other words, an empowering morning can set you up for 'wins' and motivate you to keep going with a calm and productive frame of mind.

Now that the power of morning routines is clear, let us see what it would look like for you. The first thing to note is that it is NOT and SHOULD NOT be the same for everyone. It is not about waking up at a particular time OR doing the same things that everyone else is doing. It is about finding, creating and then sticking to a routine that is right for YOU.

Remember, your mornings are a blank slate and it is up to you to fill it in with what work for you

What is a morning routine?

It is a set of activities that you do upon waking up in the morning. It can and does vary from person to person and includes activities like exercise, meditation, brushing teeth, prayer, journaling, writing and reading.

Take some time today and think about how you usually start your day. Simply start by making a list of all the things that you do upon waking up. The next step would be to identify what is important right now. (This becomes easier if you have already reflected upon this as I have mentioned in my earlier post) Once you know that you are doing the RIGHT thing you can get started crafting out a routine that works for YOU.

In this post, I have shared with you 5 simple habits that you can intentionally develop for a calmer and brighter morning

(It is up to you to incorporate as many of these that you want in your own routine)

Setting intention

Set the tone for the day by finding out what your intention is. The questions below can help you bring some clarity as you think about your activities for the day and set an intention-

How can I show up today that is in line with what I want to achieve today?

What do I want to see more of today? (good news, wonder, acts of kindness, joy)

What is my heart's desire at this moment?

How do I want to feel?

A few examples are "Today I will take care of myself better, show compassion to others and myself, remain calm, be more open to joy".

Journaling, meditation and reflection 

Prayer, meditation and journaling are all beautiful ways that you can use to ground and connect with yourself. There is no one right way to meditate or write in a journal, you simply need to find what works for you.

If writing free form is difficult, you can use the prompts given below (from the book "The Mindful Day by Laurie Cameron")

What I appreciate most in my life right now is....

 I am at my best when I am....

What brings me alive is.....

What I really need right now is....

What gets in the way of me being present is....

My next best action is.... 

Even if you do not have a formal meditation practice, the simple act of paying attention or being more mindful in how you start your day can have a profound effect. The beauty is that you can be more mindful with regards to any activity that you do already. The simple act of paying attention while having a cup of tea, brushing your teeth, showering, exercise will help you to bring awareness to that particular moment and replenish and rejuvenate you.

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Reading

Another way of connecting with yourself and the world in the morning is to read a book (and I don't mean the news). This will be different for each of us as we choose to read something that inspires and motivates us. I find that I prefer to read about other people whom I respect and who inspire me to grow and live a better life. Books like The four things that matter most by Dr Ira Byock, First things first by Stephen Covey, Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, The power of habit by Charles Duhigg, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Mindset By Carol Dweck, The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John Mann are just some of the books I have read over time.

Spending time with family

Spending time with your family is one of the best ways to start your day. It helps to connect with what is truly important for each of us on a daily basis. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, it is the quality of the time spent that matters more than how much time you actually get to spend with your family in the morning.

Since there is always a rush in the morning during school days (I have two school going children), I try and wake my children up around 10 minutes earlier and spend some time with them, giving them a hug or a cuddle and sometimes switching on their favourite music to get them started on the right note. My husband and I also make sure that we savour our quiet time together over our cup of tea and newspaper before we start preparing for our day.

Exercise and mindful movement

Research shows us that moving our bodies first thing in the morning whether it is through exercise (cardio, aerobic, strength training etc) or mindful movements like tai chi and yoga have a profound beneficial and positive effect on our health and how we deal with the rest of our day. By doing this first thing in the morning we have the opportunity to harness the benefits of exercise and movement throughout the remainder of our day. Schedule a workout or activity that you like doing already and then stick to it.

However, the key to having a successful and consistent routine is to PLAN for it and REMOVE anything that might get in the way

A few things that ensure that I stick to my routine are

  • preparing the night before by keeping my journal, workout clothes ready; preferably somewhere I can see them immediately as I wake up
  • using an app to make sure that I cannot access my emails and social media first thing in the morning (I will be covering this topic in details in one of my later posts)
  • having a simple structure that I can follow in terms of activities and time for the first couple of hours
  • setting an intention for the day; sometimes I set one for the entire week
  • complete my workout in the morning so that unexpected work or family issues do not come in the way later during the day
  • lastly, creating an environment that is conducive to self reflection and gives a peaceful start to my day; I love playing music and lighting incense to awaken my senses

My own routine is very much a work-in-progress and is not something that you need to emulate as is. The whole point is to find what works for YOU and then stick to it. It should be something that you enjoy doing and feel good about doing on a regular basis.

So take a pen and paper and start creating an empowering morning routine for yourself. Every day that you stick to it treat as a small "win". It is only when we pause to celebrate each step that we take in the right direction that we can stick to it and achieve what we set out to do no matter how long it takes.

Finally, take this magical time to connect with your body, breath and spirit to give yourself the best possible start to your day and to your life

As Marcus Aurelius said, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love" 

(As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down the questions that I ask along the way. You may end up getting to know yourself better and even surprise yourself with your answers. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)