Start where you are

Indecision. Analysis paralysis. Perfectionism. Procrastination. Fear. And the list goes on. There will always be excuses for not getting started on the thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve used all of them myself, multiple times.

Today is just a short one to remind you (and myself) that you don’t need to have the whole thing figured out before you start. You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Stop waiting, just start. Put on your shoes, walk out the door, and start down the path. The next steps will reveal themselves once you get moving.

woman putting on boots

While dreaming and planning and finding killer strategies is great, don’t stay in the thinking space for too long. That can lead to spending a ton of energy in your head wrestling with things, when just taking some action will give you more clarity much faster. Imperfect action is generally always better than perfect inaction, as they say.

So, here’s to getting started. Have a dream, make a plan, take a breath, and dive on in. Take the first step, climb that first hill, and then suddenly you’ll have a new perspective and new information with which to determine where to go from there.

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
~ Arthur Ashe

And on that note, I will sign off here today, so that I can go and take the first few scary steps of a project that I’ve been dreaming about (but hesitating on) for months because I thought I didn’t have it all figured out. And I don’t. Which is exactly why I need to start.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The dreaded question. Deer in headlights was about all I could muster in response throughout school and well into my twenties. How was one supposed to know?

I liked a lot of things. Too many things. In fact, the endless possibilities and “you can be whatever you want to be” urgings of my generation’s supporters felt like an unbearable burden most of the time. Being a positive thinker and dreamer, I appreciated the sentiment, but my own inability to narrow it down to even a small list of options left me paralyzed.

Fast forward to the start of my decade in San Francisco when I was about 26 years old.

“Adventure travel host,” I wrote in my journal. Underneath the title of yet another far fetched career idea, I scribbled down my thoughts about why this job appealed to me and what the obvious stumbling blocks were (“How the hell would I get my foot in the door of that industry??”)

Next up was “Performer/Entertainer” followed by wistful dreams of acting, dancing, singing, painting, doing voice over work… followed by the inevitable insecurities (“What if I don’t make it in Hollywood? Do I really want to be a starving artist?”)

“Should I just suck it up and get a normal job? Something more professional? Am I wasting precious time exploring this other stuff that I should really be spending in a corporate setting getting real life experience?”

These are just a few of the thoughts that were swimming around in my head, back in 2007, near the end of my short-lived 2-year career in financial planning. I had taken some improv classes, was doing a lot of writing for a music tech startup, had started bartending, and was enthusiastically exploring other interests, but ultimately I was basically still completely lost.

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. 

Two years later, in 2009, I still didn’t know. I had stumbled into fitness, which was closer than any of my previous jobs. But I still found myself agonizing over that brutal mix of uncertainty and indecision, coupled with a sense of unfulfilled potential and a refusal to settle.

A typical week often looked like this:
Monday: convinced that I needed to spend a year abroad traveling while I was still young
Tuesday: excited about the prospect of being an entrepreneur and ready to figure out how
Wednesday: researching grad school, especially INSEAD, 100% sure I wanted to apply
Thursday: still dreaming of being an artist and looking for auditions on craigslist
Friday: exhausted, discouraged, and confused, crying in frustration
Saturday: convinced my dreams were silly, ready to give up and get a corporate job
Sunday: pissed and ready to do whatever it took to find a meaningful path

That year I made a commitment to myself. I was going to make “figuring out what I want to be when I grow up” my biggest priority. I didn’t care how long it was going to take, I just knew I couldn’t take any more of the back and forth.

Figuring out my purpose became my purpose.

I started reading countless books, blogs, and articles. I saw a hypnotherapist who was also an EFT practitioner. I attended workshops, seminars, and retreats. I hired coaches. I interviewed anyone who seemed like they liked their job. I talked to anyone who would listen. I journaled, and journaled, and journaled.

And the beautiful thing is, it totally worked. It was a messy, clumsy, disjointed process, but I found my way. Had I known half of what I know now, I would do things very differently. But looking back, I’m not ashamed of any of it. Instead, it all seems somehow delightfully earnest. It was my perfectly imperfect journey and it got me to where I am today. For that I will be eternally grateful.

Years of people pleasing, approval seeking, and caring way too much what other people think of me pushed me to a breaking point where my own lack of direction became so exasperating and exhausting that something had to change.

And it did. Once I stopped looked outside of myself for validation and got quiet enough to hear the wisdom in my heart (that had, of course, been there all along) it was obvious. All those years of voraciously reading self-help books and devouring anything and everything motivational, inspiration, and chicken soup for the soul-y suddenly made sense…

finally started being honest enough with myself to admit that I wanted to be a life coach.

Even though the words made me cringe at the time, I had to face the truth. It had actually been there all along – the rather radical calling. But it was expressed only as a gentle whisper underneath the loud, obnoxious voices of my inner critics, so I couldn’t hear it for so long.

Luckily, I ultimately made that powerful choice and started to listen to what my heart was trying to say. Given my hesitant nature, it actually took me several years to really go there. Even once I had broken the seal and headed down the path, I still only dipped in a toe or two at a time. I played it safe and dabbled carefully, but I DID move forward.

Of course, at the time, I had NO idea what I was getting into. I didn’t realize that becoming a life coach also meant becoming an entrepreneur. And that holy crap, that shit is hard! Or how profoundly life changing and fulfilling it would be.

I had no idea that I was embarking on my very own journey to personal freedom. 

That’s the journey that I’m on now. Everything I do is about freedom. Freedom to live a life by my own design, to be consciously creating my own reality, and to take full responsibility for every damn part of it. It’s also about freedom from my own self-imposed limitations and the old stories that used to hold me back.

This is what I’m about and it’s what my business is all about too. The cool thing about my story is that I had to slog my way through all that self-doubt, indecision, and fear in order to get here. So I get it. And now that I have the distinct honor of helping other people build their own paths to freedom and start to unleash their own beauty and brilliance out in the world, my tears of frustration have been replaced by tears of joy and gratitude.

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, many of the elements of those things that I thought I wanted (i.e. going to business school, traveling the world, performing and entertaining), even though they weren’t pointing me in any particular career direction at the time, were clues to values and passions that were alive and well in me already back then.

I’m happy to be able to say that now, in my business and in my life, I get to do some degree of all those things that make me feel alive. My wish for anyone who is reading this and feeling similarly lost is that you start listening to all the clues, the whispers, and the dreams that are already there, if you get quiet and calm enough to access them.

Create your own reality

Are you the author of your own life? In the driver’s seat? Mindfully choosing what to think, do, and say? Intentionally designing the life you want to live? Taking action (and course correcting as needed) on purpose, consciously moving toward your goals and dreams?

Unfortunately, so much of our conditioning teaches us to be victims of circumstance, to just react and deal with whatever lands in our lap. And that’s supposed to be the life we live.

To that I say “Oh, HELL no!”

I will go my own way and design my own life, thank you very much. And I hope you’ll do the same. You do NOT have to live your life the way other people expect.

I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul
~ William Ernest Henley 

Take a moment right now to be still, get quiet, and check in with yourself. Are you creating your own reality? If so, to what extent?

Where in your life are you going unconscious, and consequently being swept along with whatever inertia your family, friends, jobs, bosses, roommates, and the rest of the world around you has sucked you into?

(Not that any of those things are inherently bad. They’re not good or bad, they just are. The question is are you aware of where you are and what you’re doing? Do you want to be there, doing that?)

So, go ahead. Check in with yourself right now. If you were completely in charge of your own life, would it look any different than it does right now? If not, congratulations you are large and in charge!

If so, I challenge you to start exploring where you might step it up and start taking more responsibility for yourself and your impact. If you were completely in your power, what would you be doing differently? Since you always have a choice, you might start asking yourself this:

What are you choosing? And what are you creating, for yourself and for others?

Here are a few of the things I’m choosing: to honor my purpose (which is all about freedom), to chase my dreams, to be fearlessly authentic, to practice gratitude, to embrace the shit out of failure and my own imperfections, to live by my values, to have fun and be playful, and to spread joy wherever I go.

What about you? Comment below or send me a note if you feel like sharing or have any questions.

Fearlessly Authentic

Who would you be if you weren’t afraid of being judged? I love that question. It points to what is a very real struggle for many of us who, over the years, have developed different parts of ourselves to fit into different parts of our lives.

Recently I was listening to a call where a coach I don’t know was talking about her deep desire to integrate her two identities. Her one identity is the professional coach who helps Silicon Valley execs grow their teams and develop their leadership skills. Her other identity is a highly creative free-spirited woman who runs around at Burning Man in a corset and tutu, pole dances, and gives talks on the law of attraction.

She was struggling with her fears about people from either world finding out about her other identity and judging her for it. The business world wouldn’t take her seriously if they knew what she does in her free time. And her alternative friends would think she was crazy for working in Silicon Valley.

[Side note: some of you who are familiar with bay area culture are probably wondering what the problem is there, because you know there are actually a ton of people from Silicon Valley who go to Burning Man. And just as many Burning Man regulars who have “normal” corporate jobs. But that’s not the point, of course. Regardless of what the reality of any situation is, the stories we create in our minds are the powerful ones that can really hold us back. THOSE stories are the ones I want to encourage all of us to move past.]

How many identities do you have? Do you hide parts of yourself for fear of being judged? Have you created elaborate facades that you put up while interacting with certain groups? We all do it to an extent I think. While I’d love it if we could all be 100% ourselves all the time, I believe that sometimes it IS actually helpful to be able to tone things up or down, given the situation.

At the end of the day, I’m not arguing that being a slightly different version of yourself in certain situations is inherently bad or good. Things are rarely inherently good or bad. They just.. are. We are the ones who assign a value to them in our minds, usually due to our conditioning and deeply ingrained beliefs.

Really, the question is whether it’s helpful, effective, or healthy in any given circumstance. Should that coach show up to work at a big corporate gig wearing her Burning Man gear? Probably not. But should she have to hide either or both of her identities and live in fear of judgment? I say no.

I think it’s more a matter of learning how to honor the different, beautiful, unique parts of ourselves fully, to mindfully choose how to show up when, and to take full responsibility for our impact every time.

I often wonder who the fullest expression of me is. She’s constantly evolving of course, but as of right now, here is who I am when I’m completely owning my true self, and not worried what anyone will think:
– I dare to speak up, have strong opinions, and stand my ground
– I am brave, vulnerable, and courageously show all of my real raw self to the people I trust
– I don’t ask for or seek permission from others, I simply trust my own judgment
– I freely show my quirky, goofy side, laugh easily, hug everyone, and smile often
– I approach strangers easily, embrace awkwardness, and create warm connections
– I embrace my woo woo spiritual side in my business just as much as my practical side

What about you? Who would you be if you were fearlessly authentic? If you were sure you would not be judged, OR were sure you wouldn’t care? What is the fullest expression of you?

How to (Finally) Stop Beating Yourself Up

Do you find yourself beating yourself up when you fail? When you were good, but not great? When you are progressing, but not fast enough?

This is a recurring theme among some of my clients – those with perfectionist tendencies in particular. If you are someone with big dreams and high expectations for yourself, I bet you know what I’m talking about. Beating yourself up is challenging habit to let go of, to say the least.

Some of us hold ourselves to impossible standards and then tear ourselves apart when we fail. This focus on our inadequacies also prevents us from celebrating our strengths and accomplishments. Maybe we understand, at least intellectually, that it’s not serving us. But how do we actually break the cycle?

Edward Norton punching himself in the face

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. This is not a specific 10-step process, per se. It’s more of a collection of strategies in the approximate order I would use them. Feel free to use any or all of them in whatever order works for you.

HOW TO (FINALLY) STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP

1. Take responsibility
If you made a mistake, admit it. If you made a mess, clean it up. Whatever the problem is, own up to it. It feels great and it’s the right thing to do. Once you’ve taken responsibility, there is no need to dwell on it.

2. Let it go
Admit that, quite frankly, beating yourself up is a huge waste of time. It doesn’t actually accomplish anything for anyone. Kind of like holding a grudge against someone else. Remember that you always have a choice and decide to let it go and move on.

3. Feel your emotions
In order to move on, I believe we must go through our emotions, as opposed going around them (by ignoring or denying them), which may lead to dealing with the uncomfortable emotion in an unhealthy or unnecessary way. Find a healthy way to express your frustration / anger / disappointment to get it out of your system.

4. Forgive yourself
There is incredible power in forgiveness. There is also plenty of research that backs up the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of forgiveness. Make a conscious choice to forgive yourself (and others). It’s good for you.

5. Choose self-love and self-acceptance
Know that you are intrinsically valuable. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone to be worthy. You simply are. So, decide to love and accept yourself in spite of your failures and imperfections. Or, take it a step further and decide to love and accept yourself because of your failures and imperfections. They are part of what make you unique.

6. Practice self-compassion
Many of us are capable of showing incredible compassion for others, yet struggle to show that same compassion for ourselves. Try this. Remember a time that you felt compassion for someone else. Recreate the emotional state you were in. Imagine it vividly. While feeling this way, you certainly wouldn’t beat them up, would you? No. You would treat them with the love and respect they deserve. You’d be warm, gentle, and understanding. Now, take those same emotions and direct them at yourself.

7. Shift your perspective
Realize that every “failure” is actually an opportunity. Every time you fall, get back up, and dust yourself off, you gain something – like strength, experience, or wisdom. As they often say in yoga, “every time you fall you’re simply learning how not to fall.”

8. Embrace failure
Once you’ve shifted your perspective, you can go one step further and actually embrace failure. Celebrate the chance to grow! If you’ve ever taken an improv class, you may have learned the technique of following up a failure by throwing your arms in the air and yelling “TADA!” (If you’ve never taken an improv class, I highly recommend it.)

9. Have a sense of humor
Take your dreams seriously, by all means, but know that it’s really about the journey. The journey will always be full of surprises, challenges, and “learning opportunities”. Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself so that you can recover quickly from those hiccups and bounce back with enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll be a lot more fun to be around.

10. Be patient
Changing old patterns takes time. It’s not a light switch that you can switch on and off. It’s more like a dimmer switch. Every time you bring your awareness to the old unconscious behavior (beating yourself up) and decide to replace it with something else (self-compassion) you are rewiring your brain. It takes time.

10 Things I Used to Hate About Me

I am celebrating imperfection today. And so should you. “Perfect” is a rather outdated (and boring) concept, don’t you think? Not to mention nonexistent.

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” – Stephen Hawking

And yet here we are, chasing the unattainable. We are buying into the media’s idea of what perfection looks like, smells like, talks like, walks like, dresses like, and acts like. We know it’s unreasonable, but we run after it slobbering like a bunch of idiots, staring glassy-eyed at the photoshopped models on the covers of magazines, fantasizing about what it would be like to look like them, be them, or be with them. On some level we know that they’re not real people, we know they’re edited versions of real people, and still we compare ourselves to them. We hungrily flip to the section about that latest diet craze, glancing furtively around us to make sure no one saw that we’re buying into what is obviously pure bullshit thrown together to sell copies.

Obviously that doesn’t apply to all of us… But the essence of it is alive and well in many of us on some level, isn’t it? Are we maybe buying into some of it unconsciously, even if we aren’t consciously buying into any of it?

The concept of beauty is an incredible part of the human experience, albeit one that lies in the eye of the beholder. Naturally, ideals of beauty vary greatly from culture to culture. But when society and the media constantly shove unrealistic ideals down our throats, it has an impact. The pressure to attain these ideals leads to everything from bullying and body shaming to eating disorders and suicide. Especially among youth. Especially among young women. We know this now and we still let it happen. That is NOT ok. Please let’s step up our game and make a change.

I do think that things are beginning to shift and I’m ecstatic about it. I’ve noticed a significant change in the voice and tone of cultural messages about beauty in recent years, haven’t you? Definitely in social media. Less dramatically in traditional media, but it’s happening. I’m cautiously optimistic and my heart is filled with hope every time I see an ad or video that rises up and instead promotes more useful things to strive for like self love, self acceptance, strength, self awareness, respect, and an appreciation for different body types.

marilyn monroe

There is nothing sexier than a person who is comfortable in their own skin, no matter what they look like. <<Tweet this>>

As individuals we can take responsibility for building our own inner power and confidence and letting go of comparing ourselves to other people (and photoshopped people.) We can learn to own it, whatever “it” is. In addition to the attention and intention we focus inward, however, don’t we have a responsibility to move the collective consciousness forward and past this nonsense?

I want to do my part in promoting authenticity, truth, and vulnerability. I believe that our beautifully imperfect human bodies (and minds) deserve to be acknowledged and loved as they are. That doesn’t mean we can’t strive to improve ourselves. But, let’s make sure we understand that our worthiness as human beings doesn’t have anything to do with being any particular size, weight, race, gender, sexuality, or shape.

stevemaraboli

So, here are 10 things about me that I used to hate – 10 things I could easily continue to criticize, compare to others, hide etc. that I have instead chosen to not only love and accept, but to share and celebrate. Enjoy!

  1. Long arms. My arms are disproportionately long and I used to be super self conscious about them. Now I celebrate the awkward gracefulness of them (as well as being able to reach things in really high places.)
  2. Long fingers. I never knew what to do with my long alien fingers and used to hide my hands in pockets or behind my back. Now I let them dance and play as they wish. It doesn’t matter how they look.
  3. Small breasts. My lack of boobs used to make me feel like slightly less of a woman and, admittedly I sometimes longed for a nice C-cup that might actually fill out a top. Now I cherish my (small and perky!) girls because they make me feel and move like more of an athlete.
  4. Narrow hips. I used to hate that I couldn’t fill out a pair of shorts or jeans the way a curvy woman could. Now I embrace the fact that my curves are not in the traditional places. My curves, which I love, are my shoulders and my nice big ass!
  5. Small head. Yup, I used to bemoan the small size of my head (in comparison to the rest of my body.) Now I simply identify with my spirit animal, the giraffe. Big strong body, long graceful neck, small head, warm eyes, feet planted firmly on the ground (the part of me that is practical) and head in the clouds (the part of me that is a visionary) and I rather like it.
  6. Open bite. My malocclusion evolved as the result of a tongue thrusting tendency. It presents some functional challenges (I can’t bite through anything thin or flimsy) but mostly I was bothered by how it looks. Now I’ve let that go. There are much more important things to focus on.
  7. My lisp. Didn’t know I have a lisp? Yup, I do. It’s subtle and comes and goes. I used to try in vain to hide it (which of course made it worse.) Now I just consider it part of what makes my particular speech patterns and voice unique and recognizable.
  8. My shyness. It used to manifest itself in things like people pleasing, being quiet, avoiding conflict, and generally trying to fade into the background. It made me feel small and insignificant. Now I accept my shyness as a natural part of being an introvert and I’ve learned to work with it (e.g. by making sure I get lots of alone time to charge my batteries) instead of letting it control me. Now I know I can embrace being an introvert and still show up as the fierce, fun, loud, and powerful version of myself when I want to.
  9. Melasma. This charming form of skin discoloration basically looks like you have dirt on your face. I know because people have quite literally tried to wipe it off. I’ve had it in varying degrees on and off for 10 years and it used to be the only thing I saw when I looked in the mirror, especially during the times when I had it on my upper lip. Now I just think of it as no biggie and a great reminder to wear sunscreen and hats.
  10. My sports injuries. I used to compare myself to the runner I potentially could have been, had I never torn my ACL or developed achilles tendinitis. I’d get angry at my body for not being able to keep up with me and hampering my success. Now I do my best to accept my injuries and simply work from wherever I’m at each day. I savor the accomplishment I feel on a good day and humbly sit with the disappointment I feel on a bad day. I am grateful to be as able-bodied as I still am. If anything, my sports injuries have been a blessing in disguise. They’ve taught me to respect my limits and train smarter not just harder.

brene brown

I am walking tall and proud, owning my imperfection, and I am calling on you to join me in choosing every day to model authenticity, truth, and vulnerability. Let’s lift each other up and celebrate what’s raw and real for the sake of both our own aliveness and our connections to each other.