Stretch right out of your comfort zone
Everything you are good at is in your comfort zone. If you are a runner, running is in your comfort zone. If you are a smoker, smoking is in your comfort zone. If you are constantly thinking negatively about yourself and beating yourself up, in your comfort zone. If you are a people pleaser, you got it, people pleasing is in your comfort zone. If you are a dancer, dancing is in your comfort zone. It’s not whether the action is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s just saying that you are comfortable doing that action. It’s habit, you are good at it, you are comfortable doing it, thus the comfort zone. The problem is that no growth happens in the comfort zone. We are already comfortable, no growth needed. In order to grow, we need to stretch.
Imagine you are sitting about two feet away from a wall. If you want to set a goal to reach the wall, you have to put effort and energy in, lean forward, and stretch your
muscles towards the wall. You have to do something. You can’t just think about
reaching the wall and have it magically happen. You can’t just will it to be so and realistically think it will work, that you’ll reach your goal. The growth is in the doing something different than you’ve done before.
The key to stretching and growing is to set a goal that is challenging but doable. You wouldn’t want to set a goal that is way beyond your comfort zone, say, behind the wall. That’s just not possible, unless you are using a sledgehammer. You want to stretch, not strain, your muscles. The only thing that comes from setting too big of a goal for yourself is you fail, feel like a loser, reinforce your belief that you can’t really do it, sink back into your pit and cover yourself up with destructive lids. Not what you are striving for here. You want to build your success and belief in yourself by setting baby step goals that are attainable. By doing that, you start to realize that you are capable of change, that maybe all this growth stuff is applicable to you after all. The more you stretch out of your comfort zone and practice a new skill, the more you grow. Once you get comfortable with the new skill, that skill set becomes part of your comfort zone. Say, for instance, that you are practicing saying ‘No’ when someone is asking you for something you don’t want to do. This would be the opposite of having the skill set of people- pleasing in your comfort zone. As you practice saying no, you stretch yourself, using the power of repetition and consistency to create a new habit, you learn a new skill, incorporate it into your way of being and it becomes part of your comfort zone. It gets easier and easier to say no, you are comfortable doing it. You are now skilled at saying no. Then you get to set another goal. You stretch, grow, get comfortable, and have yet another new way of being in your comfort zone. Before you know it, you are stretching and growing and change is happening! All it took was a goal, a bit of effort, and a stretch. That’s good stuff right there. Oh look, I think I see a stalk growing!
What are some of your goals for your work here?
Take a minute and jot down in your journal what things you’d like to be different about your life. There is nothing too big or too small for your goals list. You’ll learn how to make them more achievable in a bit, but for now, just write down whatever comes to mind.
• Example journal entry: When I think about what I want to achieve, these things come to mind....I want to stop being so anxious. I want to stop thinking about my body size all the time. I want to be thinner. I want to be happier. I want to not yell at my kids all the time. I want to laugh again. I’m tired of beating myself up over every little thing. I’d like to let that go.
Breathe, baby, breathe
We all know how to breathe, but few of us do it well. When you get anxious as you start doing this work and your ANTs are threatening to derail you, your power lies in bringing yourself back to the present through your breathe. People often forget to breathe when they start worrying. They hold their breathe and get lost in their worries. Or they breathe into their upper lungs, which is shallow, anxious breathing. That kind of breathe does not calm you, it increases your anxiety. Not what you are striving for here. So, to give my clients, and now you, an instant tool, I teach everyone to breathe. If you are familiar with yogic breathing, this is the same thing. For the rest of us that haven’t thought about breathing, ever, it’s just something we do automatically, here’s a simple way to get started learning how to consciously breathe calmly so you can powerfully regulate your emotions and central nervous system.
Put your hand on your belly, without criticizing the size of said belly. Remember, judgment squashes learning. Your ANTs are not welcome here. Calmly tell them to take a break and refocus on your breath. Imagine there is a balloon in your belly and on the inhale you are inflating the balloon. Breathe in through your nose, inhale all the way down into your belly and inflate the balloon. Try not to get caught in upper lung breathing. When we get anxious, we usually get caught in short, shallow breathes in
our upper lungs. This is not calming; it’s anxiety-increasing, the opposite of what we are working towards. Ideally, your upper chest is not moving at this point. Just the balloon in your belly is expanding. You will feel your hand move outward as you inflate the balloon. On the exhale, deflate the balloon and exhale through your mouth. You can push your hand in and towards your back, to prompt you to stay focused on just exhaling the air in your belly. There is counting that can be done along with this, but sometimes that gets cumbersome and confusing as you are starting out. It’s enough for now to just focus on inhaling through your nose, inflating the balloon in your belly and then exhaling through your mouth and deflating the balloon. I typically have my folks practice this a good bunch of times so they get comfortable with this new skill of consciously breathing. Now is a good time for you to practice too. It’s an amazing tool to help you get out of your head, decrease any overwhelming feelings, and get back into your body, to slow it all down so you can refocus where you want to be putting your energy. Is your toolbox handy? You have a new tool to put in it. It’s a power tool for sure.
Give yourself a quiet space to sit and focus on your breathe for the next 2 minutes.
Reread the instructions above and just practice this new way of breathing. Remember, in through the nose, all the way down into your belly. Expand the balloon in your belly and then exhale through your nose, deflating the balloon. Try doing this about 6 times.
How do you feel after those breaths? Any different than you usually feel when you aren’t consciously breathing? Make notes in your journal of how it feels different.
Can I get a witness?
Okay, now I want to teach you what I call a witness perspective. I tend to date myself with this reference, but I’m guessing most of you remember the Flintstones, right? Do you remember Fred had the little green martian that popped up above his shoulder that only he could see and hear? He went by the name of the Great Gazoo. I tend to think of my witness like the Great Gazoo except I changed his name, my witness is called Gizmo. I let him pop up when I want to really see myself from the outside, to neutrally observe myself, my thoughts, feelings, actions, and triggers. Start envisioning your own little Gizmo. Feel free to change his name to something that works for you. The point is to get comfy with your new pal. Your Gizmo will help you step outside yourself and witness your thoughts from an observer perspective.
Without judging, changing, or hiding from them, start becoming aware of your thoughts. Ah, did you catch that? Awareness. Step 1 of our 1, 2, 3 process. Often, we aren’t even aware of our thoughts. They are just a constant stream of background chatter on the soundtrack that has been playing all our lives. You might barely notice your thoughts, but be sure, they are impacting you. They are the steam that powers the train down the wrong track. That’s why you call forth your Gizmo, so you can start noticing them. You’ve got to know what you are working with in order to accept it without judgment, so you can get to choice. You want to start identifying your thoughts, becoming more aware, really start understanding what’s going on in that mind of yours. It’s the first step to getting you where you want to go. Remember that
judgement is the antidote to learning. To really gain awareness, have your witness observe neutrally, without critical commentary. Just start witnessing.
So you already have a lot of new information, some new skills, tools for your shiny, new toolbox, and techniques to practice. It’s a lot, I know. Just let yourself take it in and absorb it. Catch your breathe. A deep, ballon breathe, right? I want to arm you with new tools to take on the road with you. You are embarking on a new adventure and you’ll ensure your success if you shore yourself up with as many resources and new tools as possible. I’m all about learning new stuff and figuring out new ways of being. I’m not a huge fan of just talking. Sometimes folks get distracted from their power to make change by ruminating, obsessing, and complaining about their past and can quickly fall into the victim trap where they don’t think they have the power to make change. Not the direction you want to go. Reflecting, unpacking, learning, combined with doing? Now that’s starting to harness your power. Toot, toot. The train is moving down the empowered track!
Act on it:
Name your witness and give it an identity. Really get an image of what your witness looks and sounds like. Remember, your witness is judgement-free zone!
Anytime you think of a new goal for your work with Transform, jot it down in your journal.