When was the last time you celebrated yourself?
Thanks to Caroline, my tight-knit group of girlfriends give ourselves (and each other) weekly praise on Celebration Fridays. Celebration Fridays is a simple email chain circulated by my NY gal pals. The tradition encourages us to reflect on our week and share achievements and accomplishments that we're happy about. Celebrations can be big things (engagements, running marathons, successfully handling difficult conversations), small things (finally getting a new toaster), personal or work-related. We've been doing the exercise for the past five months and I now find myself:
1. Taking notice of small wins I might otherwise glaze over.
2. Feeling closer to my friends, even if we're traveling or living in different states.
3. Supported by my own personal cheer squad.
Caro is a member of my New York Friends-Who-Are-Family-Tribe. Blond, tanned and toned, the German beauty sleeps directly 12 feet below me in our Brooklyn apartment building (I'm in 8D, she's in 7D. I often brag that my view is WAY better than hers : ). She moved to the United States from Bad Füssing (a small German town on the Austrian border) 14 years ago. People assume she's a Californian, even after having a conversation with her (despite her cute audible Bavarian accent).
When Caroline moved to New York from Northern California in 2012, we met through a dear mutual friend. Our first hang outs were spent sitting on a bench overlooking the Hudson River during my charity: water lunch breaks. She had just graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara with her M.A. in Counseling Psychology, with a focus on mind-body harmony. She moved east with her then boyfriend (now fiance), Rasmus, when his tech company, Qwiki, migrated from SF to NY. At the time, Caro was frustratingly embarking on a job hunting and didn't know where to start. We sat and wrote stream of consciousness lists. First just words that made us happy: environment, movement, outside, biking, etc. Then descriptions of what she wanted her life to look like, including specifics about her ideal commute, the type of shoes she'd wear to work, how she felt every morning before heading off to this future ideal job, imagined interactions with colleagues, and how she'd spend her days.
Via some serious soul searching, realized that her perfect job meant being her own boss, and helping women feel empowered. So, she started her own life coaching business. Most clients seek her out when they are looking to make authentic and lasting change in their lives (primarily in the realm of work, love, or body image). Clients typically don't know where to start, feel stuck, and/or are plagued with self doubt, but they want to be empowered to actively and intentionally lead their lives in a desired direction. Together, they develop a personalized strategy to identify factors that may be holding them back, participate in goal setting sessions, and build a plan to reach those goals.
I'm so lucky to have a Caroline as a friend all the time, but especially in tough transition moments like this one. Caro is an incredible listener. Being a good listener requires being fully present, absorbing the words of another -- avoiding the natural human tendency to plan what we will say next. She always makes me feel like I'm her solitary focus when we're talking about life-stuff. She creates a safe space and encourages me to reach deeper and communicate more openly.
This Friday, I will be celebrating HAVING A LIFE COACH LIVING DOWNSTAIRS!
1. Time is our most valuable asset.
Caro and I went to a leisurely lunch on a Friday. In our neighborhood. For two full hours! What a treat. I'm appreciating having the gift of time in this transition period. For many years, my meditation has been asking for the ability to hear myself. I know deep down I know the answers to big questions. But it's really hard to listen when life is so loud with obligations, movement, preoccupations and stress. It's taken me a few weeks to settle into the idea of having time; time to read, go to mid-day yoga classes, meet up with friends, see matinee movies and take myself on creative dates to museums. Allowing myself to enjoy the time and brain space, without self-imposed guilt, has been a surprising challenge.
2. Outside help can aid our personal self awareness.
We all have scripts that we repeat in our minds. If you want to think differently, find a tool to knock yourself onto a new thought path. The first exercise Caro suggested for me was re-writing the story I tell myself about my past work experience. In doing this, I realized the power of language and how I've undervalued my interesting life experiences and hefty job responsibilities. Sometimes our greatest skills seem so natural to us that we don't recognize them as skills. When analyzing my strengths, Caro said, "You are a visionary whose default answer to everything in life is yes. You see why something is do-able and possible instead of getting caught up in why it may be difficult. That makes you the ultimate do-er and action-taker. I think being in a position with forward momentum is key for your professional success and personal happiness." Since our session, I'm paying more attention to the words I choose to talk about myself and want to honor myself, as I'd honor a good friend.
Life coach, therapy, books -- these tools are available to help if you feel stuck. Find the tools that work for you, then use them.
“You don’t need to have everything figured out in order to be thriving, cheerful, or in love.”
3. Plan ahead.
Caroline suggested I use Hootsuite to automate social media and to get out in front of blog posts. What great advice! In fact, I planned to post #6. Caroline Zwick last week, but my days didn't go according to plan. I ended up going to a long lunch with my girlfriend and her father, who is visiting from Australia (an impromptu engagement that I wouldn't have missed). Afterward, I had three hours in the city to finish and post the blog before a dinner commitment. I landed at a coffee shop with no internet. Ugh. The weather was rainy and cold, so I wasn't motivated to seek a different cafe and decided that posting Caroline's blog next week was A-ok. What's the balance between sticking to a self-imposed schedule and allowing myself flexibility? In this case, I think I made the right decision, but if I was a couple posts ahead, Caroline's would have been on time, and I'd have more room for flexibility.
4. Writing is hard!
Even when (or especially when?) writing about people who are really important to you. I found myself experiencing a few moments of writer's block because I wanted to capture all of Caro's greatness in just a few paragraphs. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked out and massaged. And right now, my muscle feels small and weak. Practice will hopefully start to make this easier.