Posts tagged ‘intentions’

February 5, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Managing Expectations Begins With Setting Clear Intentions

It’s important to manage expectations in preparation for healing and that begins with setting clear intentions. Aaaaand, we’re back. I promised you a post about preparation as we begin to draw a map of the healing process. The Super Bowl is over. Most of us have either given up on our resolutions for the year or are quickly forming new habits. It’s a great time to settle down and set some intentions for healing.
quick guide
Some of us are healing from physical injury. Some of us are healing from an acute episode of a chronic disease. Some of us are healing from loss. Some of us are healing from social injustice. Some of us are healing from acute or prolonged trauma.

Others are stuck but want to heal. We can be stuck waiting for someone to rescue us. We can be stuck frozen in fear, fighting the world, running from reality, or brown-nosing for approval. We can be stuck believing we cannot move forward. Many of us believe this because we have tried to move forward before only to end up in the same spot over and over again.

I’m familiar with ending up in the same spot. I am good at setting and achieving goals. In spite of this, I spent many years choosing partners who were different on the surface, but the same underneath. I could see, evaluate, and change visible parameters, but my subconscious kept me stuck choosing the same sort of man.

The first time I managed to get it together enough to choose differently, I got dumped after two years. That was 10 years ago. It took years after that for me to hear the inner voice that had been telling me all along I didn’t deserve this kind, dependable man. That deep-seated subconscious belief crept into my behavior.

That rejection, painful as it was, happened to be the impetus for real change – the kind of change that comes from healing very old, very deep wounds. Healing I had searched for through church, therapy, and marriage without making any real progress.

Like many people, I could successfully meet the benchmarks required by those institutions while feeling defective, unloved, terrified, and depressed. I started and managed a successful business, created lasting friendships, raised two boys, traveled the world, and became a pilot while I was still part of the walking wounded. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. You are surrounded by other people who are struggling whether you can see it or not.

I am also proof positive that healing can happen and change can be lasting. I suppose it begins with awareness. I can’t tell you that in the beginning I was aware of much that I now know, but I knew I needed to sit still. I began with that intention.

Managing expectations for healing begins by setting clear intentions. If you intend to heal the symptoms of diabetes with the least medical intervention possible, you will walk one path. If you choose to follow whatever regimen is recommended by your doctor, you may follow another. Improving your life by getting a more meaningful job will lead you one direction while healing the effects of childhood abuse and neglect may lead you another.
In order to set clear intentions, I ask myself:

What do I hope to accomplish?
I try to find a goal that’s doable and specific. When I stated my intention to sit still in a room with no stimuli for 30 minutes per day, it seemed to fit the criteria. Then I found out I was wrong. For me at that time, it wasn’t immediately doable.

As it turned out, I had to break that intention into hundreds of smaller pieces over a significant period of time in order to be successful. I was willing to do that, and now I have the ability to comfortably sit still.

That experience taught me that no intention is too small. Sometimes my only intent for a conversation is to stay present, feel my feelings, and end the conversation when I reach the point I feel too much discomfort.

How do I want to treat other people?
You don’t have to ask yourself this, but one of the reasons I choose a healing path is to become my best self. I can’t be that if I am not treating people well.

I’m a pretty nice person generally, but if a conversation triggers an emotional flashback, I can find myself feeling terror or rage so quickly it’s hard to get ahead of the situation. What I need in that moment is to process through the flashback. I do not have the emotional strength to do that while having a civil conversation. I do everyone a favor by ending the conversation at that point and coming back to it later.

How long am I willing to commit to these intentions?
When I decided to go gluten-free, I committed for a year. My agreement with myself was that if I did not see improvement in a year, I’d go back to a regular diet. I saw improvement within weeks and major improvement in months. Long before the year was over, I amended this intention to remain gluten-free forever.

How will I measure success?
When I was preparing to start my first business, my attorney told me most businesses fail because those in charge don’t know where they are. For example, they may know they have money in the bank today, but they may not be aware that they have not sold enough to have money in the bank for the rent next month if they pay their other invoices on time. This piece of common sense for business translates to life in general.

In order for you to remain on course, it is important to have a general, realistic idea of where you are. It’s also important not to become attached to a specific result as a measure of success. If you plan to improve your life by buying a larger house but use the money you saved for a downpayment to pay unexpected medical bills, it isn’t helpful to view yourself as unsuccessful because you’re still in a small house. You adapted to changing life circumstances and made a responsible choice. I view that as a disappointment and a change in timeline, but also a successful adaptation.

If I had been married to the goal of sitting still on the couch without distraction for 30 minutes per day, I would have ruled myself an unmitigated failure at the end of a month. I didn’t even manage to sit down and stay there more than once in that month and not more than three times in the first year!

Instead, I recognized that I was gaining insight each and every time I failed. To me, that meant I was on the right path. I was failing, but I was failing up. That didn’t feel like failure. It felt like success even though I was not close to the particular goal I set. I let that goal morph into an intention to feel whatever feelings bubbled up when I sat still that I believed I needed to do something, anything, to avoid.

For me, there is a natural flow to assessing and reassessing. It’s something I do without much effort like an app constantly running in the background. That’s not true for everyone. If you need scheduled reviews, timing will be a consideration. Setting a scheduled meeting with yourself or with someone else you trust can help you feel accountable to review your progress.

Do I need feedback? If so, how much?
Feedback can be useless, helpful, or detrimental. Choosing the right type from the right sources is important. Sometimes we gravitate toward feedback that reinforces what we already believe. If we are hoping to change, that’s probably not helpful.

Some people will feel like giving feedback that’s not positive is a form of confrontation. Many people avoid confrontation like the plague. These people are not a good source for feedback because they will withhold the information you most need. As you grow, this will create an atmosphere of distrust.

Feedback can be used by others as a tool to retain or regain the status quo. When you change, everyone around you will be forced to adjust to the differences. This can feel threatening and produce resistance. Such resistance can take the form of feedback that is intended to make you stop changing.

The healing process often involves letting some relationships go in favor of others that are more in line with the direction you’re going. It may be that you opt for no feedback for the first few months while you get your sea legs.

Any feedback that causes you to doubt yourself is not productive. It’s okay to question whether your approach is the most efficient, maximizes health, or is consistent with the results you’re hoping for, but anyone whose input undermines your sense of self or trust in your body will be detrimental to the process.

If that is a therapist, feel free to change. If that is a family member, feel free to set different boundaries. If that is a colleague, limit conversations to work topics. If that is your minister, find someone else to confide in. If that is your physician, get a second opinion and/or find one who will work with you instead of against you. This is your process and it is always okay to make choices that best support you whether anyone else agrees with those choices or not. You, whether you like it or not, can be your own best advocate!

How will I celebrate success?
We expect physical healing to tax our bodies. We don’t often anticipate that emotional and spiritual healing will also tax our bodies. I prefer to celebrate success with activities that energize or inspire me, but sometimes I celebrate by taking a nap or mindlessly binge watching.

Am I willing to improve my boundaries?
Most of us will answer yes without a second thought, but the first time we are faced with telling our mother we’ll be missing an implied mandatory family gathering, we may reexamine that answer. Thinking this through in advance while setting intentions will help solidify your determination to improve boundaries that support your intentions.

Will I practice gratitude even when the process is painful?
This could be considered a separate intention, but I incorporate it as part of the primary thought process because committing to a gratitude practice enhances my chances of feeling positive during difficult times. From experience, I know practicing gratitude will automatically shift my focus in a positive direction.

Can I be kind to myself and still make progress?
Healing requires a delicate balance of self-kindness, accountability, patience, gumption, truth-telling, and bravery. Without kindness, you’ll wear yourself out and give up. You can’t white-knuckle yourself through anything forever. None of us are that strong. Factoring in kindness from the beginning will leave you less tempted to chuck accountability in favor of relief.

I am highly motivated and rarely have to push myself even during difficult, painful times. The Universe brought the lesson of self-kindness to me by bombarding me with so much over such an extended period of time that I got worn out from the sheer relentlessness of every day. I literally hit the wall and had to go to bed for a few days.

This kind of exhaustion was new to me. If I meditated, I had to lie down and let the floor hold me. Sitting up was not an option. I could not muster the energy to plan a getaway. I slept 10 – 12 hours per night. I completed every task as it came to me because I knew if I didn’t it would never get done. I was in no position to be strategic. Now I pay attention to a feeling of tiredness long before I reach the point of exhaustion.

If you think of healing as a marathon rather than a sprint, it will be easier to be kind to yourself along the way. Self-kindness includes eating well, sleeping enough, and making time for vigorous activity on a regular basis. It also includes speaking to yourself in a kind manner, pausing to receive and absorb compliments, leaning into hugs, adding beauty to your environment, allowing your feelings to flow, and making time for moments of simple pleasure.

I realize I may have just made setting intentions sound like an arduous task. Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and I believe taking the time to be clear on where you’re going and how you want to get there will give you the best chance of arriving. It certainly works for me!

December 11, 2017

A Bottle for Ideas Brings the Enticement of Exploration

I went to an art sale today where I bought this bottle for ideas. I chose this one rather than a bottle for courage, truth, or inspiration. As you can see, my bottle is empty. Although I consider myself a veritable well of ideas – many of them good…right now I got nothin’. Maybe I should have opted for a bottle of inspiration, but I digress.
Since I’m fresh out of ideas, I think I’ll just share some things I’m pondering:

Why are cowboy boots so comfortable?
They don’t have memory foam or padded soles or special arch supports, but they always feel great! Maybe that’s why my dad had a closet full of them.

Who decided high heels were a good idea?
While I’m on shoes, I may as well question why anyone thinks the unnatural stance and awkward gait created by high heels are a good thing.

Why can’t all clothes feel like pajamas?
Of course I mean feel like pajamas and look like tailored, polished, professional clothes! Actually, they can look funky and creative but fit well while feeling like pjs and I’d be pretty happy.

Have I ever had a favorite color?
I like lots of colors and color combinations, but I can’t think of a color I consider my favorite. I think I used to answer paisley to this question because the question annoyed me.

Why do popcorn and coffee smell so good?
You don’t even have to like coffee to like the smell of it. Before I was a coffee drinker, I wanted to pour it over my head so I could feel the warmth and breath in the fragrance. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve craved popcorn simply because its aroma filled the air.

Why do products I consider superior disappear so quickly?
The obvious answer is that I like things very few people like. That could be true, but I don’t think so. Anyone else have this problem?

Why would anyone think you need to add sugar to dried fruit?
Ever notice how hard it is to find dried mango, papaya, cantaloupe or pineapple without added sugar? Fruit is sweet to begin with and drying it concentrates the natural sugar. That seems sweet enough to me.

Am I going to have to create a winter garden in my house to get vegetables and fruit with flavor?
It is a constant source of frustration that my local grocery stores are filled with fruit and vegetables that have no flavor. In the winter, farmers markets are not an option.

Why do we still use QWERTY keyboards?
Hardware has outgrown the need to slow down our typing speed. Wouldn’t we be more productive if we could text faster?

Why do fire trucks use sirens when driving in Christmas parades?
Those things are really loud and kinda scary for small children.

Why do weather reports seem less accurate now that we have more technology?
Maybe there is so much information available that we can’t interpret it properly or maybe we just arrogantly believe weather can be predicted with certainty. At this point in time, it cannot.

Should an increased genetic tendency for a specific cancer lead to preventative surgery?
This is an individual patient choice and should be an informed one. To me, it seems dicey to recommend surgery when, like the weather, we cannot predict with certainty whether a patient will develop cancer. Many camps will disagree with me.

If an increased genetic tendency for a specific cancer can be a reason to recommend something as invasive as surgery, why would a physician be remotely hesitant to recommend a gluten-free diet to someone with a genetic tendency for celiac disease?
This has stumped me for years. A gluten-free diet can be nutritionally complete so ?????

Why would a healthcare provider automatically send me home with a prescription for 30 opioid pills after a minor procedure instead of waiting to see if potential pain could be controlled with acetaminophen, a NASID or naproxen?
There are probably a lot of people asking this question right now.

What are my intentions for 2018?
Will they lead to changes in my job process, friendships, boundaries, or financial transactions? Will they lead to ideas?

No matter how much I ponder or what direction my thoughts take, I know I feel best when I can see a wealth of possibilities opening up in front of me. Sometimes the best way to get to that point is to sit still and allow myself to visualize what can be without the encumbrance of fear or practicality.

I can figure out the how later. I don’t need ideas right now. All I need is the enticement of exploration.

April 6, 2014

Measures of Success

This week I’ve been pondering measures of success. Why? I have a friend who is struggling. He seems paralyzed to make a change because he believes he recently failed, as he would characterize it, for the first time.

Prior to this “failure”, he had already accomplished great things. He earned a college scholarship, received a Masters Degree, made 6 figures, had a 15-year marriage, traveled extensively, won gold medals, and mentored numerous young men. He still works hard, is an excellent salesman, blogs regularly, writes poetry, loves his children, can do numbers in his head, and behaves ethically in a cutthroat business. I simply cannot see him as a failure. He’s not.

A few years ago, he tried a business venture that didn’t work out and cost him a lot of money. Around the same time, his family situation changed; his work situation became impossible because he refused to lie about his boss. Since that time, his financial situation has deteriorated leaving him feeling powerless to do anything but scramble to try to make the next payment – rent, car, cable bill, electric bill…. He does this by working at a job that he hates in an environment that is toxic. His successes are not celebrated by his boss or coworkers.

From my point of view, he is caught in a loop that goes something like this: I feel like a failure…I could file bankruptcy and be in a better position to make a change…Everyone would see I’m a failure….I feel like a failure…I could get a new job, but it has to pay enough to get me out of my financial hole…I am not qualified for the jobs I see that pay that much so I must depend on someone to give me a break…no one has given me a break…I feel like a failure…I am not a failure…if my ex-wife were more reasonable, my financial situation would be better…she’ll never change and I have no money to legally fight her…I feel like a failure…if I had been willing to lie about my former boss, I’d still have plenty of money…I wouldn’t respect myself, but no one else would see me as a failure…it’s their fault I feel this way…it’s their fault I no longer have that job…it’s their fault I feel like a failure…as long as I   stay at a point where I am struggling, I can blame them for my bum deal…I’m not a failure, I was mistreated…I am miserable, but that is better than me being a failure…I will stay miserable…it is not my fault…I am mistreated…but I feel like a failure…I could take the initiative to change my situation, but then any possible failure would fall directly on me and I simply feel too terrified to fail again…I am a failure.

The seductive part of this loop is that there is some truth in there. He was mistreated, horribly. No one was held accountable for the maltreatment. The internet legacy of uninformed gossip that resulted still haunts him. Why does that result in him feeling like a failure and paralyzed for fear he will fail again?

Some of the blame falls on all of us and how we have come to measure success. The reason that this important is that most of us – me, you, your husband, your wife, your daughter, niece, son, cousin, best friend – run the risk of getting caught in a similar loop. The specifics will be different, but the result is the same. We sacrifice our potential best, healthiest, happiest, most loving and engaged selves to the fear that we will not measure up. We posture, pretend, acquire the outward trappings we (often correctly) believe others use to measure success and we hang onto to those while feeling miserable.

Some of us will make a valiant start out of the loop and then succumb only to start and succumb again. Some of us will attain the culture’s measure of success in our work lives, but fail in our relationships with spouses or children. Some of us will destroy our mental, physical, or spiritual health attempting to appear successful as husbands, wives, bosses, employees, and parents.

I am a less difficult person at work and with my children than I am with a partner. I know this and even now I catch myself behaving in ways that keep me from contributing to a partnership in the way I intend. Why? I feel scared. When I feel scared, I look for outward measures of what is normal or acceptable. Why? I don’t trust how I feel or am simply so caught in fear that I don’t know how I feel. Why? Because I grew up in an unsafe environment.

What I’ve had to, and continue to, learn, and what I hope for my friend to learn, is to no longer measure success in accumulation of money or possessions, working the hardest, being error free, meeting external expectations, having the right answer, having a perfect house, being the most organized, cooking the perfect dish every time, or even in great leaps forward.

My measures of success are now based on whether I stick with my intentions, give myself a break, have compassion for others, manage to be fully present in the moment, learn something when I feel I have erred, live according to my values, stay in touch with my feelings, allow myself to feel fear, practice healthy habits, tell myself the truth, say no when saying no is in line with my intentions, allow others to shift and change, fulfill my obligations, practice courage, apologize when appropriate, communicate my needs from a place of kindness, feel grateful for the lessons difficulty teaches me, celebrate progress, and make baby steps along the journey.

There are still moments I feel like a failure, but as long as I’ve learned something it is hard to get stuck there.

I’d love to hear how you measure success. Let me know in the comments section below.

January 5, 2014

Happy New Year? It’s all in the choices we make!

Happy New Year to all of you! Every year as the calendar rolls to a larger number, we get a new beginning. Reset to zero or pass go and collect $200 – which choice will you make?

It’s easy to just continue around, around, and around the board buying property and transportation, paying taxes, and avoiding jail as much as possible. In fact, isn’t that the choice most of us make – the monotony of Monopoly?

Why do I say that? Well, if we were really choosing to reset to zero and begin differently, wouldn’t all those New Year’s Resolutions soon be our new reality? Instead, most of eventually leave behind the illusion of even making resolutions and just keep trudging the same direction.

Does this mean that we’re destined to continue round and round and round, never quite able to let go of our unproductive or unhealthy habits in order to make the space for new, healthy ones?


Sorry if I sound irritable. I started the new year with the flu. Yep, it started at 6:36 am on New Year’s Day. I’m still dragging. In this bit of half-medicated limbo, I’ve been pondering what to hold onto, what to let go, what shift will bring me the very best today each and every day of 2014. What choices can I make that will encourage me to thrive?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Light bulbI’ve decided to hold onto incandescent light bulbs. I’m happy to turn them off and use natural light to reduce my carbon footprint, but I find florescent light unpleasant.



Lap PoolI also plan to hold onto a regular swimming routine. While I’m not too keen on the idea of going to the pool when it’s 20º outside, I love the way I feel when I’m in the water.



BlackberriesI’ll keep eating raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries as often as possible.




I’ll continue to eat at regular times because I feel best when I do this.




TrampolineI intend to add more planned play time beginning with a trampoline park birthday party.




I also intend to continue to say no when it feels important to say no.

I recognize that this list isn’t done, but I don’t feel bad. I’ll add to it when I’m ready. And it doesn’t have to be in the next week or two. There’s no deadline for creating positive intentions, finding inspiration, feeling content in the moment. It’s never too late to make another positive choice. That’s almost enough to make me forget the flu.

How about you? Want to share how you’re feeling about your choices for 2014?