Stephanie Woodward

The one thing you’re doing that will hold you back from a fulfilling future

You may know that my dog, Jasper, has had a broken paw for the last 13 weeks. Splint, bandage, mandatory rest – no stairs, no more than three minute walks. Basically, a dog’s worst nightmare. After 13 weeks, though, he was hopping along on three feet, bandaged foot in the air, tail wagging with full enthusiasm. He had accepted his new state of affairs. (No, this is not a blog post about accepting your circumstances and allowing yourself to laugh and enjoy life anyway; although –that was a great take-away for me).

The bandage came off, and the rehab began. The vet’s warning: too much bounding about, and he’ll re-injure his paw, potentially causing permanent damage. Too little, and the joint may seize up and never properly heal. His immediate impulse: bound for the hills and run as fast as possible. My immediate impulse: shorten the leash and control his every pace. As I felt myself tighten my grip, I laughed, thinking about how often this happens in life. We get ourselves into black/white thinking; convincing ourselves that the extremes are our only option: bound for those proverbial hills (“leap and the net will appear!”) or tighten that leash and allow fear to hold us back from making any real forward movement.

I’m unhappy in my job but if I quit, I won’t be able to pay my bills. (black/white = stay in this job or face potential financial ruin)…

This relationship isn’t right for me but, if I leave, I could be alone forever (black/white = stay with this person or face a life alone)…

I don’t agree with what this person is saying or how they’re treating me, but if I say anything it will cause a huge fight and so I’ll just stay quiet (black/white = stay quiet or cause a dramatic conflict)…

Making decisions from a place of black/white thinking serves us. In fact, I’d say it’s the way most of us make our decisions most of the time. When you make decisions from this place…yes, you’ll pay the mortgage this month; yes, you’ll have a date this Friday; yes, you’ll avoid a fight today. But, over time, you’ll likely wind up resenting your job, your mortgage or worse – your home itself; or feeling lonelier in your relationship than you ever did when you were single; or finding yourself repeatedly in situations where people speak to, or treat you, in ways you don’t like.

So, the immediate gratification of black/white thinking and avoiding the discomfort of the bigger truth may very well be the one thing holding you back from your long-term fulfillment. So, how can you resist taking action and making decisions from this black/white place?

First, accept that you’ll feel uncomfortable. If you’re contemplating change, feeling uncomfortable is part of the process. Let yourself feel uncomfortable, and continue to consider your options and possible next steps despite feeling uncomfortable (I often say to my clients: if you’re feeling uncomfortable, it probably means you’re up to something good!).

Second, own your truth, and let that inform your action. Be honest with yourself – about what isn’t working, what you’re scared of, or concerned about. List everything you can think of! I want to quit my job but I’m scared that I won’t make enough money anywhere else to cover my bills. The truth is, I really like my lifestyle and don’t want to give it up. And my family really benefits from my income – what will happen to them if I change jobs?? Great! Own this. How does this inform your career change? Perhaps you set a minimum salary level for your next role; perhaps you review your lifestyle and really question your expenses; perhaps you have a heart to heart conversation with your spouse. There are so many possibilities to explore here. Just don’t let your fear (in this case, financial worry and family impact) prevent you from exploring your truth (need for career change).

Third, accept that it may not (likely won’t) be a solution or plan you come to overnight. Owning and facing the truth of your situation, and planning and taking action from that place, can take months or years. Your eventual plan may be a multi-year plan.

And so it was my dog’s recovery from a broken paw that reminded me: there can be a price to be paid for being too reckless (thoughtlessly bounding for those hills); but we often forget that there’s also a price to be paid for being too cautious and keeping that leash too tight (letting fear run the show). If you can feel into the discomfort, own your truth, and develop your plan from that place of truth – you’ll start moving towards fulfillment. As always, I’d love to hear what changes you’re facing right now. Email me, leave a comment, or share on the Facebook page and, if you think this message could be helpful to someone you know, please forward it along!

 

 

This New Year’s, trade in the resolutions for dream lists and (fun) action plans

The eve. This is my favourite night of the year. This statement usually elicits eye rolls and groans from those around me – with many stories of overpriced dinner menus, long wait times for cabs, line ups, and disappointment about expectations not met. I have three guidelines for my New Year’s Eve plans and activities:

  1. Do something that I wouldn’t do any other night of the year. This avoids disappointment or the “wow, if I’d done this next Tuesday, it would have cost me half as much” regret.
  2. I never do the same thing twice. Either the people, the activity, or the location have to change every year.
  3. I spend the day reflecting, honouring, and celebrating the past year.

The third guideline is quite possibly the most important. When I meet with my coaching clients, we usually start the call recapping and checking in on their commitments from the last call – we celebrate progress against goals, and honour what they’ve accomplished in the time between calls. It’s an accountability check-in and a celebration. It anchors in what’s working well, keeps the momentum going on their goals, and allows time to really savour the journey.

This is my New Year’s Eve, multiplied by about 100. It’s a day dedicated to taking stock of all that was in the past year, and celebrating all of it – the accomplishments, the missteps, the lessons, the detours, the surprises, and the fun. How did I start the year – who was I then? And how have I evolved since then? What am I most proud of? Where have I experienced great growth and success? And where have I stalled? Where have I failed and what did I learn? Savouring and celebrating 2015 is what today is all about.

And then the clock strikes midnight, and a new year begins. New Years Day. My favourite day of the year. This year, I’ll be hosting a group of incredibly inspiring women as we chat about our big, bold dreams and 5 year plans. There will be prosecco and green juice, post-its and coloured markers. There will be laughter and support, and nudging to push our dreams to the edge of our comfort zones.

These aren’t your typical resolutions. These are dreams and plans. Dreams that excite us, plans that we can’t wait to implement, timelines that are realistic and do-able. This New Year’s, I challenge you to trade in the resolutions for a list of dream items. What to you most want for yourself, and your loved ones, over the next 5 years? What are some fun activities, starting tomorrow, that can start to nudge you in the direction of those dreams?

I’d love to hear what’s on your dream list! Share here in the comments or over on the Facebook page, or email me directly. And, if you’d like to dive deeper, sign up for the Catalyst newsletter, my free monthly(ish) newsletter where we talk about books, resources, and accountability activities to keep you moving forward on your goals.

And…Happy New Year!

Contemplating career change? Take a 10,000 ft. perspective

I’m quite certain everyone has experienced this: you feel something brewing – a need for a change, a discomfort with your surroundings or a relationship – and you move into action mode.

 

Send an email!

Make a call!

Get so-and-so’s opinion!

 

Our brains really dislike uncertainty, the unknown, and discomfort. When these show up, it’s often very comfortable to move directly into action because, doing something – anything – removes that feeling of uncertainty and discomfort. Sometimes, fast action is necessary and very appropriate. But the majority of us spend way too much time hanging out in reactivity and fast action.

 

Our lives are made up of action; our actions guide the trajectory of our lives. So, the choices you make every day are shaping where your life is headed. (Note: the voice in your head may start speaking loudly right now: I’m messing up my life! I’ve made poor decisions! I may as well give up! What’s the point of trying to change course now? It’s too late for me, anyway. This is ridiculous – not every decision is that important!  Do any of these voices sound familiar? What is yours saying right now?).

 

Thoughtful, deliberate action is where the magic happens. And for those of you that love action and momentum, don’t worry, you don’t need to move at a snail’s pace to take thoughtful, deliberate action. And for those of you who may like to delay (dare I say procrastinate?) taking action, this practice I’m about to share works equally well to nudge you into action mode.

 

The practice is taking a 10,000 ft view (think aerial) of the situation before you. For example, let’s say you’re feeling really uncomfortable at work, and you’re getting the sense it’s time to move elsewhere. The fast action takers start writing cover letters, brush up on their interview skills, and block the night to send resumes. The slow action taker may push aside the discomfort, ignore it, tell themselves the situation really isn’t that bad, and go back to their current-job task. Both of these individuals have found a way around the discomfort and uncertainty. The problem? The fast action taker may end up accepting a job that is no more fulfilling than the one they are currently in; and the slow-to-act individual may stay in an unfulfilling situation way longer than necessary.

 

Taking a 10,000 ft. view involves recognizing the discomfort and looking at it as an observer. What’s REALLY creating the discomfort at work? Boredom? Lack of autonomy? The culture of the organization? The 10,000 ft view has you get to the root of the matter. Getting specific about the root of the matter informs your next steps – which leads to deliberate, thoughtful action. If you’re bored, defining your need for intellectual challenge will be critical. If it’s the corporate culture, examining the types of people you most want to work with will be key. For fast action takers, this practice has you pause and reflect, so that you can focus your actions. For slow action takers, facing the root of the matter makes it harder to ignore – which can provide the needed impetus for action.

 

So, over to you: where do you feel change brewing? What do you notice about your life from 10,000 feet? Share in the comments, email me, or share in the Facebook community. And if you’d like to get free coaching activities, tips and tools, sign up to the Catalyst – the monthly Navigate with Intention newsletter. You can sign up by entering your email in the box at the top right corner (or, if you’re on your mobile device, scroll down – or visit www.navigatewithintention.com to sign up).

Finding, and staying in, heart-centered action (yes, it’s possible)

My good friend Erin and I were sitting and chatting about our respective business passions a few months ago – for her, it’s yoga and for me, it’s coaching. At one point, she turned to me and said, “think about how pure and strong your mind feels when you leave a yoga class – but how quickly you can get into a case of road rage as you drive home.”

Yeah that. Those glimpses we have of feeling pure, strong, centered, joyful and totally connected to what matters to us. I have those moments on my morning walks; when jumping around with my nephew; and after a coaching-intensive weekend. My heart actually feels full, time moves more slowly and gracefully, and for those moments (sometimes only minutes), I experience pure joy. Can you relate?

And then, just like that – boom – life happens and you are swept away in the drama, the emergency, the frustration, the overwhelm – your own, or other people’s.

As we chatted, Erin and I started brainstorming, how can you deliberately find, and hold on to, that feeling?

I spoke about how much more powerful the coaching process is when clients and I can channel that heart-centered, joyful place, and approach their decisions, plans, accountability and action from that place. Erin spoke about Sankalpa, which is the Sanskrit word for a vow or commitment we make to support our highest truth – our purpose for being on this planet at this time. A Sankalpa helps us ground ourselves to our journey and true purpose. Erin explained to me that Sankalpa doesn’t evolve from the intellectual mind, but instead from deep inside of us – our deepest truth, our authentic self. When we live in alignment with our authentic self, our Sankalpa unfolds naturally.

From here, our workshop, Unlock Your Most Beautiful Life: Sankalpa in Action was born. Erin and I are bringing the movement of yoga together with the powerful action and accountability framework of the coaching process to bring you to a place of magic: where you can access this heart-centered place, and create a plan to keep your Sankalpa closer to the forefront of your awareness as you move back out into the world. This will ground and support you in taking heart-centered action long after the workshop ends.

Whether you are new to coaching or to yoga, or well versed in both, we’ve structured the workshop for all experience levels. Interested in joining us on October 25th? Please note that workshops are not available for drop-in, so you need to sign up ahead of time to attend – to register, click here: http://www.unionyogastudio.ca/events/?mobile=false&options%5Bids%5D=240&options%5Bsite_id%5D=175285

Unable to attend? Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll share some tips on how to access some of this Sankalpa magic on your own. I’d love to hear from you – are there any questions I can answer about the workshop? And as of now, start paying attention to those moments you experience of joy, connection, and clarity. When do you feel it? Snap a pic and share your experience in the Navigate with Intention Facebook community, or on Instagram, #mysankalpa @navigatewithintention

Personal iteration: a 4-step process to living on purpose

If we chat in person, you’ll hear me use the word “iterate” (or a variation of it) often. Are you in the midst of emotional muck, working your way through a low point? Or have you landed the new job of your dreams? Or maybe you have a feeling that a big change is needed in your life and you’re afraid to think or talk about it, let alone actually make it?

If you were sitting across from me at the café right now, or on the other end of a pair of earbuds, I’d smile and say: “Yay – you’re iterating.”

If you look up “iterate” in the dictionary, you’ll find a definition that reads something like this: to repeat a process. I know, it doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. It’s the “process” part that never ceases to fascinate me, though. To ask ourselves: what processes am I repeating every day? Or, put another way, how am I iterating?

The way we personally iterate (the processes we repeat every day) directly impact how we navigate life. How you choose to iterate can help you determine what matters most, and continually nudge you towards personal fulfillment and purpose. I believe whole-heartedly that committing to a personal iterative process that follows a path of learning, choice, action, and growth can transform the way you approach and perceive your journey in life.

For example, let’s look at the emotional muck. You know, when you’ve hit a low point and are feeling pretty lousy about things. We can hang out in that place for a while. Sometimes, a very long while.

Learning

What if at these times of emotional upheaval, you shifted your perspective, sat back and got curious. What if you chose to “learn” as part of your iteration and genuinely asked yourself: what is the muck telling me? What have I learned about myself? What feels really important to me right now? What do I know now that I didn’t know before?

From this place, truth emerges and options suddenly become clearer; choices present themselves. Granted, the options and choices may scare you, have your knees wobbling, and the butterflies moving from a flutter to a nose dive in your stomach. From here, though, you can continue the learning: What’s scaring me about the choices I’m facing? What’s exciting me? What does my gut have to say about this?

The learning here is about ourselves, to uncover what we really stand for, who we really are, and what we really want. When you get curious about yourself, what do you notice?

Choices

Let’s say the emotional muck is due to challenges you are facing at work. Your learning has helped you notice that you are feeling out of alignment with your organization. There are many choices before you: you could stay and work to change the corporate culture; you could explore other career opportunities; you could accept the status quo for now. It can be so tempting to write off choices immediately – labeling them unrealistic or impossible. In the “choosing” part of the iterative process, playing around with the choices is part of the fun. Let the options swim around in your mind; keep asking yourself: what other options are available to me here? Let the list of options and choices grow, and allow yourself the fun of imagining each scenario. What does it feel like to sit in each of the choices?

Action

With a list of choices and options before you, and having let yourself explore and sit with these options, which ones feel best to you? When you check in with your heart, your gut, what direction is it pointing you in? What feels right to you today, in this moment, in your particular circumstance? It may be a leap, it may be a baby step. The beauty of iterating is that you only need to answer these questions as they relate to you today. Let your answers nudge you in the direction that feels right and take action. In the example here, let’s say that exploring other opportunities and leaving the organization feels uncomfortable and too big of a leap; the action may be to commit to being a catalyst for change at your organization. Get specific with your action: what, exactly, will you do? And when will you do it?

Growing

You did it! You took action! Just simply by taking an action, you will have grown. You have iterated. You are a different version of yourself than you were when you started the process. Sometimes the action will be just right; other times it may feel like a giant mistake; or it may turn out better than you could have ever imagined. The key here is that you have nudged yourself forward, and tested out a choice that was calling to you. You didn’t wait to have it all figured out. Too many times, we remain stagnant because we don’t have a clear picture of what the end game looks like. When, maybe, simply nudging ourselves in a general direction prepares us for what comes next. And gently, over time, we move in the direction of what fulfills us.

And…repeat. Now that you’ve taken action, what have you learned about yourself? What’s clear now? What choices are you now facing? What action will you take?

Yay, you’re iterating. Let me know in the comments or through email how your iteration is going. Know somebody who may be in the midst of an iteration and could benefit from these words? Forward this over! And if you’d like to dig a little deeper, sign up for the Catalyst (top right corner), my monthly coaching newsletter designed to support you in living deliberately and on purpose.

In a funk? How to get un-stuck

It’s the same routine every day. The same issues at work. Or the same issues at home. Or both. You’re wanting, craving a change – but too busy putting out fires to actually concentrate on what that next change will be. Or, you may know what that next change is, but are too exhausted to take any meaningful action towards it. Right now, the last thing you feel like doing is scanning job ads, or writing a cover letter, or sitting at the computer and writing, or heading to the gym, or preparing that healthy meal you clipped from a magazine last month….or any of those things you think you should be doing, or that you told yourself you would do.

Enter the guilt, the unhappiness, the overwhelm, the funk. You feel stuck.

So now what? First, consider the big picture change you are craving: a new job? A promotion? Your own business? More balance? Getting in shape? Eating healthier? Jot down that big picture goal (you probably have a pretty good idea of the big picture change you want to make).

Now for the action. I’d like you to start taking a tiny little action in that direction…5 minutes, every day, for the next 2 weeks. Here are some examples:

Wanting to bring more creativity back into your life? Take one picture on your phone every day of something that inspires you. Share it with friends and family.

Looking to make a job change? Find 5 minutes every day to jot down a skill you really hope to develop in your next position, the type of people you’d like to work with, responsibilities you never want to take on again.

Looking to get in shape? Commit to 5 minutes of jumping jacks/sit ups/action on commercial breaks.

Stack of books piling up that you’ve been meaning to read? Read 3 pages in the 5 minutes before bed every night.

You get the idea! The key here is 5 minutes, every day, for two weeks. Something small, do-able, that is nudging you in the direction of that bigger change. In the next blog post, we’ll build on this.

I’d love you to share in the comments below, or on the Navigate with Intention Facebook page, what it is you are going to commit to…a public declaration can work wonders! And if you know someone who is in a funk, forward this post along, and chat with them about what 5-minute action they want to take on.

Life’s a climb…what mountain are you scaling?

When I passed this message on the sidewalk in my neighbourhood, I was immediately reminded of that saying (often delivered in difficult times, or in response to “why is this so HARD?”): Well, who ever said life was meant to be easy?

No doubt, in life, there is a climb. How prepared, energized, and fulfilled you feel on the trek, though, may very well depend on the proverbial mountain you’re scaling. The mountain in this case is the life vision that you are striving for right now: that house purchase, the promotion, possible career change, finding your partner, re-connecting with your partner, navigating your relationships, raising happy and healthy children, completing that iron man challenge…

Your mountain trek is your life, and it comes with resting points, guides, flat spaces, steep inclines, and decision points. Do you continue to summit? Or return to base camp? Do you sleep now, or power forward? Strengthen or slacken the harness?

If you feel challenged on the climb right now, sit back and reflect: what feels like an upward trek right now? And, then, with that in mind, consider which of these scenarios best applies (and once you have, I’d love to hear what you discover. Share in the comments, or over on the Facebook page, or email me):

Scenario 1: I’m climbing someone else’s mountain

When you consider what you’re striving for, is it your own voice pushing you forward? Or is it someone else’s? Are you climbing a mountain someone else chose for you? The fact is, the vast majority of us are. Social norms squeeze us into some very tight boxes sometimes. Choosing life on your own terms may be the most courageous decision you ever make. If you are currently in this scenario, my request of you is this: write out a schedule for one ideal day – from the moment you wake up, to the moment you close your eyes to sleep. Schedule that one day and live it.

Scenario 2: I chose this mountain, but it doesn’t feel like the right one anymore

When you reflect on where you’re heading, are you excited? Is the excitement here, now, today? Or is it excitement from earlier days when you began this trek? If you’re being truly honest with yourself, is this the summit you want to scale? This can be a scary place: but I already told people I was going to do this! But I’ve invested so much money! [insert whatever your inner critic has to say here]. Sometimes the most courageous decision is to say: this path is not for me anymore; it’s time to course correct. If you are currently in this scenario, my request of you is this: write out everything you learned on this path, all the skills you acquired, the people you met. Read it over and ask yourself: what do I most want to experience next?

Scenario 3: I so want to summit this mountain, but I’m staring down a crevasse – it’s pretty darn terrifying

As you reflect on your life path, yep! This is it! You feel aligned with where you’re heading. Except for….this giant obstacle in front of you. It’s time to actually take a leap and you’re terrified. Or you just had a disappointing blow to your plans. You got a “no” instead of a “yes”. If this scenario feels most like where you’re at, my request of you is this: fast forward 5 years, you’re exactly where you want to be. What advice does this 5-year-wiser you have to offer you right now?

If you enjoy the blog and are looking to dig deeper on some of these topics, the Navigate with Intention newsletter, The Catalyst, is for you. This free monthly newsletter is sent out to subscribers only. It discusses great reads (books, articles, resources) to push you forward on your personal path, and sets up monthly accountability challenges to get you into action mode! Sign up for the newsletter above, in the top right hand column. And, as always, if you have any questions about coaching, I’d love to hear from you, stephanie {at} navigatewithintention {dot} com

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