Don’t take the bait

Here are two monumental self-care lessons I’ve learned in this adult life:

  1. how to identify what’s my work and what’s someone else’s.
  2. how to identify when someone tries to position themselves as more credible to get what they want. 

Don’t take the bait. 

  1. Your own work will keep your plate full enough. And anyway, you’ll deny the other person opportunity to grow into a better version of themselves by taking theirs on as your own. 
  2. Don’t take the bullying tactic. Trust your gut. You have one, I swear. 

We have an inner compass that elicits a visceral reaction as we consider the actions to take. Listen for it, then listen to it. The more we follow it, the more we trust ourselves. The less we follow it, the harder it becomes to trust ourselves. 

It’s not easy to set healthy boundaries when it’s unpopular, even if it’s unpopular by just the one person that’s sitting across from us, and especially if we aim to please. But it’s easier than what happens when we don’t.

Setting boundaries with myself

I look for what takes energy, focus and agency away from me.

The first one is obvious: Netflix (or other streaming service). When I decide to get into a show, what would it take for me to be able to watch just one or two episodes and turn it off? When my children were small, they had a two-hour-a-week screen-time rule. Can I enforce that on myself now?

The next four may not be as simple, but here they are:

Having a process: If I don’t have a ritual for the things that I want to do, then it’s more likely that obstacles will get in the way. And if I have too many of them, then I become compromised. Also, the more I break ritual, the easier it becomes to keep breaking them. The more I uphold them, the more automatic my rituals, translating to stronger boundaries.

Having a keen understanding of my philosophy and values: This helps me prioritize and stay constant. Sometimes prioritizing isn’t a question of do I write, or do I watch an episode of The Good Place? Sometimes it’s a battle between two important values. The best example I have is of when my two children were in their grade school years. I fed them mostly whole, fresh, organic, unprocessed foods with high pranic value. I had a practice at that time in my life where I literally cooked all three meals for the day first thing every morning for two hours, infusing the food with breath and sound meditation during the cooking process. This is based on my belief that what and how we eat weigh heavily on our physical and mental health and can be the best and sustainable sources of medicine, nourishment and joy. We befriended our neighbors who had 3 children of similar age, and the 5 of them were immediately joined at the hips, spending all of their days together. As parents, we either had 5 kids to oversee, or none, as co-parenting ensued. Our new friends ate a more standard American diet, and the kids had unlimited access to packaged snacks and processed foods. I was faced with the question: do I tell my kids to come home every time they are about to have a meal because their food choices weren’t in my value system? While I have a strong philosophy around the diet, my value for community and relationship rank higher, so I chose “eat with friends,” and don’t poison that choice with messages that make anyone feel bad about it. Choosing food over relationship would be damaging on multiple levels; in this case anyway. Of course, they got to experience my kitchen when I was the parent in charge. Bottom line is, I had to be clear on my philosophies and priorities in order to be clear on my decision and not suffer every time I thought about them eating what I considered to be “bad food.” Instead, I felt truly blessed for the friendship we had, including the shared meals.

Digital notifications: I keep them off. I get to decide when I will check my emails and social media. Banners, sounds and badges undermine agency. Even a split second of interruption can take the deep dive focus away from whatever we are doing (including relaxing and having tea with friends). I won’t let the dings or red circles indicating a new text message, email, or update, pull my concentration away from delving deeper. It takes too long to go back in.

Willingness to be uncomfortable: My boundaries unravel when I become unwilling to deal with something difficult, continually putting it off. It could be that I don’t want to call Comcast, I don’t want to have a difficult conversation with someone, I don’t want to follow through on an agreement because it would be emotionally harder, at least at that moment, or that I overeat because it’s uncomfortable to feel “not full.”

These are boundaries that protect us from the energy drains, prolong anxiety, and block us from becoming the full expression of who we are.

My now college-aged daughter still has a 4 year old post-it note on her full length mirror in her bedroom that she seldom occupies anymore: You are better than Netflix. I might need a version of that for my own mirror.

Do or do not, there is no try

I recently listened to a podcast where the host, Rich Roll*, interviewed Todd Herman, who coaches athletes and executives to run at peak performance. To determine whether or not he engages them as a client, Todd asks:

“Are you interested, or are you committed?”

There is technically no right or wrong answer to this, but there is definitely a huge difference between the two in how we put ourselves out there and how we behave when we run into obstacles.

There are some things we are committed to, and some things we are interested in. Personally, I am interested in a whole lot of things and committed to a few. It’s good to know the difference. It can save us a lot of time, money and mental anguish when things don’t go because we’ve confused interest for commitment. For me, having this question as a litmus test is already shifting my own decision making process. It’s helping me get through the bullshit so much faster. How awesome is that?

*if you haven’t listened to his podcast, what are you waiting for?

How do you love?

When we say “I love you,” we have a subject, verb and object. Love is in the position of action.

We love something when we feed, pay attention or act in service to it.

We love what we continually think and talk about. How we angle our dialogue speaks to what we actually love. Do we love to be right by focusing on the seeming mal-intent or shortcomings of others? Or do we love ourselves and others by looking to what might really be going on and assuming the best of what they can give at the moment?

If something needs to be called on and worked through in a relationship, can we focus our attention on that which we can truly change? Can we say, “how can I manage, do, or see this differently to affect the change that I want?” Because change doesn’t happen by putting someone down or by telling the other person that they are wrong. It happens through our ownership of it. And when we do that, we act in service to what we truly love: peace and harmony. When we can’t, we may be acting in service of our own sense of lack, of needing to feel right, which we then perpetuate.

Whether or not we know it, the objects of our love grow. How we love them is how we experience them.

It’s worth noting

that whatever you do, every time that you do it, you get better at it.

Every time you hit that snooze button, you get better at delaying getting up, for instance. When you want to break that, it will take that much more effort, because you are breaking a habit, but each time you do, you will get better at getting up the first time around.

Every time you give something your full presence, the easier it gets to give something your full presence.