Sunday, April 6, 2008

Weekly Wings 5 - Take Courage

Dame Carla must be living inside my head these days; the timing of her challenges is synchronicity deluxe! This week's challenge is a reflection of my journal pages from the last week.

Beyond Your Comfort Zone
What would it take for you to live a more expansive life, a life that was full of joy and meaning? Anais Nin aptly wrote that "life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage," and this week's challenge is all about taking the courage to step out of your comfort zone to live your life more expansively. [I always perk up at Anais Nin quotes - she is the reason I started a journal.]

Comfort zone is a deceptively benign term. Although it can mean the place or state of being where you are at peace and happy, humming along at just the right speed, it can also mean a place where discomfort has become a familiar, but safe feeling. Henry David Thoreau said that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," and perhaps part of that comes from cowering unaware within one's comfort zone.

Working Through Fear
It takes courage to create the life you want, to step out of a well-delineated circle of security and predictability - your comfort zone - into unknown territories. Staying within your safe comfort zone, ignoring the inner voices whispering that you should take a risk, is really living a life controlled by fears that have become entities unto themselves.

Step 1 - Listen to your Voice
Your inner voice speaks from your heart and soul, without fear. It speaks the truth to you, so it's the best guide to lead your life's journey. Tune into what your inner voice may be whispering indistinctly and really listen to what it's saying. Hear what it tells you about relationships, situations, any aspects of your life that have become uncomfortable for you, and write it all down just as your hear it. This may be very difficult, but it's an important first step.

I feel really fortunate. Having kept a journal essentially all my life, my inner voice and I are on pretty intimate terms. I know when it's speaking to me; I hear it clearly; I consider it a pleasure to document its voice. I also have a strong allergic reaction to the word 'predictability' as applied to myself - quite a motivator.

Now look over what you've written and try to define an action your voice is suggesting you take for your areas of discomfort. Some of these actions may be big things - leave that bad relationship, move to a different place, change jobs - or they might be smaller - call the friend you've lost touch with, start an exercise program, be more outgoing.

Important note, taken directly from my journal entry of 3 days ago: "Toni, Baby -- it's not enough to 'hear' your internal voice. The real acknowledgement is to honor it through action." Because it happens to be on my list of actions/changes to make, I'll talk about the exercise program as an example. Every day this week, I've taken one small action from a list I created, and just done it. Get out tennis shoes and workout clothes. Find binder with clipped motivational articles and favorite exercises. Retrieve Atkins book from shelves. Write list of what I hope to achieve via exercise. Take a walk as soon as I get home from work, see if that time of day works well. Get bike out of shed. Each step is a propellant to the next, and somehow makes the whole goal/process real, achievable. I've done everything but walking after work (Limo Mom duties interfere -- clearly that is NOT a good time for walking) and getting the bike out of the shed. And each step taken informs the 'list' of what steps come next. My way of grocery shopping is already completely altered. I've provided items for myself to allow for eating breakfast at work, and healthy lunches. I'm drinking my coffee black for one more week, in preparation for doing away with it completely during the week. I threw away my salt shaker at work, and ignore it at home. Every time I DO something toward my goal, I silence my inner critic, weaken it, dilute the noise it makes. So for me, HONORING my inner voice with action is really what defines my own style of courage.

Step Two - Define your Fears
Take a look at the items you listed in the above step and choose just one of the smaller, less "scary" items on your list. Brainstorm all the fears you have that are associated with this particular action. The fears will probably appear in the form of imagined consequences and negative scenarios.

My ultimate fear about an exercise program is basic: will I stay with it? Because I've been in this exact place before, done really well for an extended period, then slowly drifted back to my sloth. At age 46, though, I have serious concerns beginning about my extended well-being -- menopause brings its own list, such as the increased risk of osteoporosis. My recent annual physical revealed too-high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. I want to be a healthy middle-aged wench; I want to live in GOOD physical shape for a long time; my autonomy is dang important to me. So I feel a different amount of 'weight' added to this decision to get active, get fit. I'm tall and slim as it is, but I am NOT fit. I don't exercise to be skinny or wear a certain size of clothing. I exercise for energy, for better sleep (I have oodles of trouble with that), for overall tone and strength, for the well-being I feel and the way all of that feeds the other areas of my life.

Now respond to those fears with a matching list of positive outcomes and scenarios.
Finally, write how you would feel if you never explored the possibility of taking action.

I want to feel good. I want to stop losing all energy capacity at 2 p.m. I want to play soccer with Ciera and my brothers without getting winded after 15 kicks. I want my butt cheeks to get lifted up off the backs of my thighs. I want that panther-sense of myself back, feline grace & athleticism. I want the mental payoffs of higher energy and esteem. I want to wear a one-piece without a pair of shorts over the bottom, even if it's only in my own back yard. I want to take long hikes and bike rides when we camp instead of sitting on my duff by the fire with my journal in my lap. I want to try a yoga or Pilates class. If I don't do any of this, I'm still going to age, but I'm not going to do it as gracefully or independently as I hope to. I want to be able to LEAD the way with any grandchildren I might have. I want to retire from this paycheck-producing, mind-numbing job of mine and move on to my second career as an artist. That requires both sound mind AND body.

Step 3 - Do One Courageous Thing
You don't have to put on your armor and confront all your fears at once! Start small, experience success, and strengthen your courage. Choose one courageous action - it could be the one you worked on in Step 2 - to take this week and do it! Focus on the positive outcomes you will achieve as a result of taking action and remind yourself of how you will feel if you don't do it.
Journal your experience, and if you wish, share it with us on your blog.

Amen! It's not about taking something on in its entirety -- it's about breaking it down into it's parts, disassembling it and then putting it back together according to MY plan. I tell ya what, if you are skeptical at all that it takes courage to do something as seemingly simple as get out your tennies and workout clothes, relinquish that thought altogether! Every small step is ASTRONOMICALLY HUGE because it is training me toward the change I want to make. It's conditioning, practice, the way I transition from one habit (mental and outward) to the habit I want to replace it with. I.E.: I detest tennis shoes. [I can't begin to explain the level of that feeling. It makes no sense, it may be stupid, but there it is.] But they are a necessary component to this change I want to make. Getting them out of their corner of the closet under my fine-washables laundry basket is honoring my positive inner voice and silencing my inner critic. That takes courage. One teaspoon of courage is a big helping, not to be underestimated. I get that teaspoon in my system and it's there to fortify me when it comes time to put the tennis shoes ON. Pretty soon, I'll be loving the tennis shoes because of what I'm doing when I wear them, and how that makes me feel.

Step 4 - Get Support
Living courageously becomes easier when you have support. There are different kinds of support that are beneficial depending on the areas you wish to improve, ranging from informal support from a friend, group support, and professional support in the form of life coaching. Look at the different areas in which you want to take action and enlist the kind of support that will keep you focused and strong on your journey.

Here is where I seriously falter. I am exceedingly guarded when I begin to incorporate change, because in the early stages, I want NO NAY-SAYERS ... no sarcastic remarks, no discouragement, no skepticism. [Actually, I don't want to hear any of that kind of thing at ANY time!] Julia Cameron says to choose our company very carefully when we are in fledgling stages of creativity because the slightest criticism can destroy the small reserve of confidence we are building. Sharing this on my blog is in some ways pretty excruciating for me because I want to contain it in my cocoon of nurturing as it grows. I did find an online blog [FREE] that has some fabulous articles and different groups with different goals relating to food, working out, health conditions, HERE. Double BB is aware, of course, and wants to go on my walks with me. My sons, too, have noted the changes in the way we're eating ["It's fine, Mom, except please lose the Tofu"]. However, I know that I ultimately have to rely on myself. When I work out, I prefer to do it alone because I use it as meditation time, in the sense that I mentally mull over a project idea or a poem as I go. I can't work out in gyms because of the incessant NOISE -- Americans really seem to think a television is a required architectural and decorative element. I prefer to be quiet and inside my own mind. So my point is that for me, 'support' is a tough part of this process. This will require some brainstorming from me.


carla said...

Hurray for you, Toni! If you could hear me, you'd hear me clapping and cheering you on. Seriously... you know how to do this... one tennis-shoe-ed step at a time. It's great that you have family support... I wonder if there is someone who could be a regular workout/walking buddy for you. Accountability is a powerful motivator.

bluerose9062 said...

I'm taking a yoga class, and I love it! No TV's, and no shoes :]. Pilates is done without shoes, too. As a personal trainer, I'm big into pilates. I usually tell my clients to get a pilates tape to do at home. You can't really do it without shoes in a gym. All the latest research is showing that shoes in general, including high tech tennis shoes, are bad for the feet, and that exercising barefoot is essential to core stability and balance.

Also, from what I've seen, spouses/significant others are a huge factor in success/failure rates in exercise routines. If you have one that's supportive, take advantage of him. You'll improve your odds, as well as his health.