Testing my fears in the Galapagos

I recently went on a yoga adventure retreat and did that ever happen at a time that I needed it! For the last year since signing up with a few friends, we’ve been preparing for our trip to the Galapagos and had something to look forward to. I came back feeling recharged and renewed with some new perspective.

Reflecting on my trip got me thinking about how important it is to get out of our usual environment and mix it up, try new things, and get outside of our comfort zones. Of course, it’s not always possible to do given different circumstances but there’s still opportunity to get outside our usual environment if we’re creative about it.

I’m a landlubber who enjoys being in the outdoors with a little flat water kayaking thrown in so I knew I was in for testing some fears when I looked at the itinerary: long boat rides to snorkeling locations x 3 and a morning kayaking trip – was it into the deep blue wavy sea – I didn’t know. So I packed my Dramamine and Sea Bands, my wetsuit top and all of my other self preservation needs and headed south to the equator.

Turns out, the kayaking was my favorite adventure and was in a flatwater bay. We could see Green Sea Turtles swimming beneath us and reef sharks napping along the mangroves. I could have spent all day there.

The three unique snorkeling outings WITH long boat rides turned out to be very enjoyable too – well, maybe not when the swells knocked us around! We got to see so much unique wild life above and below the water and from unique vantage points from the boat. Such a cool experience I may never have again. You wouldn’t think the water along the equator would be cold but surprisingly it was! I settled into the snorkeling experience once I got my breathing under control. (It was an interesting observation and test of how our breath can help or hinder when faced with a trigger.)

What helped me was staying present to the experience I was in and to truly appreciate having the opportunity to have it. I didn’t overthink it or let my fears take over; instead I just stayed in the moment–even when getting ready to jump into the COLD water. And some deep breathing helped too. 😉

I feel so grateful to have been able to see endemic wildlife in its natural habitat: Giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, land and marine iguanas, green sea turtles, little asshole frigate birds, and so many birds.

It was also great to meet new people, make new friends and try new foods – which is one of my favorite things to do. I had hot chocolate – the real stuff – 70% dark cacao, locally grown coffee on the daily at our guest house, and the ceviche was the best ever! Conversations with our guides learning about the culture, their families and upbringings is so meaningful and makes the experience so much richer.

I could go on and on so if you’re curious about going to the Galapagos I’d love to share more and give you some helpful info from my experience.

So my message to share with you is how can you use vacation time to get outside of your comfort zone to try something new, maybe push yourself to test some fears, and get to know the people and culture. It really gives you new perspective, appreciation, and deeper experience.

Just Sit and Do NOTHING

Just sit.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But notice how your mind wanders, maybe you get anxious like you need to be DOING something or feel like you don’t have the time to just sit and do NOTHING!

Take time daily to sit in silence for at least 5 minutes and try not to think of anything at all.  Focus on your breath or another anchor and when you notice your thoughts drifting, come back to focusing on your anchor.  It sounds so simple but it’s really a challenge for our busy minds.

You don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to meditate and you don’t have to sit for hours to reap the benefits!

There are many benefits of meditation and it’s becoming more mainstream, as you may have heard.  Building a regular meditation practice can help us stay centered and help with our inner peace and calm, benefitting our health and wellbeing.

The Mayo Clinic says, “During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.”

Healthline.com lists 12 Science-based benefits of Meditation read here for more: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation

1.     Reduces stress

2.     Controls anxiety

3.     Promotes emotional health

4.     Enhances self-awareness

5.     Lengthens attention span

6.     May reduce age-related memory loss

7.     Can generate kindness

8.     May help fight addictions

9.     Improves sleep

10.  Helps control pain

11.  Can decrease blood pressure

12.  Accessible anywhere

Let’s get started and keep it simple.

1.     Find a quiet place.  Find a consistent time in your day to sit undisturbed for a minimum of five minutes.  You may want to build your time over time but five minutes is a good place to start.  

2.     Set a timer for five minutes.

3.     Focus on an anchor, when your mind wanders come back to the anchor.  An anchor could be your breath, the sound of birds, or anything that holds your focus.  When a thought arises, catch it and let it go, going back to the anchor.  That’s it!

There are also wonderful guided meditations that can be helpful as you start your practice. Download a meditation app. Here are some that my clients use: Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm.

Set aside consistent time in your day to just sit and breathe for 5 minutes. You may want to start with a shorter time, like 2 minutes, to get into a routine practice and then build time on that.  There are some great guided meditations in the apps I included.

Do you already take time daily to sit WITHOUT your thoughts? Share your practice below in the comments.

Just Two Minutes for Reflection

Journaling our thoughts and reflections can help clear our minds of clutter, sort things out, and gain deeper insight and understanding.  This helps us become better anthropologists of ourselves.

Mari L. McCarthy writes in The Great Book of Journaling, Over time, you will start to see the positive changes journaling is making in your life — giving you a safe place to blow off steam, process emotions, explore ideas, or set goals. 

You don’t have to be a good writer to journal – anyone can journal and it can be effective if we don’t criticize ourselves while doing it.

Journaling is for your eyes only.  Some people like to read their old journals, some like to have a ritual of burning their old journals, and some (like me) just use our journals to get the thoughts out of our heads and onto paper and never read them again.  You will find what works best for you once you jump in.

To get started and develop a consistent routine it helps to set your timer for just 2 minutes and begin writing, don’t get hung up on your penmanship, your grammar, or if it sounds coherent – just let your consciousness flow out onto the paper without judgment or criticism.  You may find that 2 minutes is up and you still have more to write.

This is how you get started:

1.     Find a nice journal that feels good and looks appealing – something you want to come back to. You’ll be more inclined to use it.

2.     Is there a consistent time every day when you can take a few minutes for reflection?  Maybe with your morning coffee or right before bedtime would be a good time.

3.     Start your timer for two minutes and begin writing.

You might be asking… “Well, what do I write about?”

Daily Intentions and Reflections

Begin your day with an intention – what do you want to be intentional about today?  Where do you want to focus your attention on?

End your day with reflection – using discernment rather than judgment, notice any impediments that came up in focusing your intention.  Notice any trends here as well as other things your attention takes notice of.

A Few More Prompts

Begin to shift from what do I need to change or be to what if I already have it in me?  What does personal development look like for me? How do I keep getting in my own way? How does my inner critic present itself? What do I really want? And What’s stopping me?

Notice patterns and trends in your reflections and thoughts and deepen your inquiry into these patterns.  These patterns provide an opportunity to discuss with a coach or self-exploration.

Do you already take time for reflection? Share with us how you’ve developed your reflection routine and what prompts you use.

It takes a System to reach your Goals

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits writes, “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”  He makes a distinction between goals and systems: “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”

The word “goal” can be very off-putting and even intimidating for some people.  In our coaching work together I use the word “purpose” to help people feel that it is an unfolding and evolving process that we’re constantly learning more about and may shift not as expected.

The systems then are the intentions and practices you put into play to help you reach your goal or purpose – whichever term feels better for you.

We can set goals all day long, but what are the actions we’ll take to get there?  What will you do differently than you did before to help you reach your goal? 

These are the small, little actions that you are intentional about that lead you to your goal.  You may discover along the way that your goal may change or shift from what you initially set.  

When we focus on the system of smaller intentional actions, we may also see other benefits come as a result.  Not to mention, when we focused so intently on the goal, we become blind to other things that may be needing our attention along the way.  

Being rigidly focused on a goal also brings up issues with inner critics that can totally derail your progress and even prevent you from moving forward at all.  Instead, when we focus on intentional actions in our system we give ourselves more room to make adjustments as we learn and grow.  The system you build is experimental and you can learn from mistakes along the way so self-forgiveness is important.  There is a lot of opportunity for building your self-awareness and personal discovery in this process.

It is important to come back to the goal you set to check progress, see if it’s still relevant, and remind yourself what you’re working towards.  Have you ever noticed in the past when you were working so hard towards a goal and achieved it, it was exciting for a short time, but the journey of getting there had the biggest significance?  That’s the focus on building that system.

One final quote by James Clear who sums it up, “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game.  The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.” So once you accomplish your goal is that the be-all and end-all or do you want to continue the momentum?

When we set a goal it can seem so daunting at times as we work on it, by focusing on the day-to-day actions you take to get there in the system you build, that’s where the adjustments can be tweaked and it feels much more attainable.  So have fun and enjoy the ride!

success is a journey

My blog post, Make it a Habit, can help you see how habit loops can help you build your system to achieve the goals you set.

So, what goals do you have that you can build a system to work towards?    Share your ideas to make your declaration and inspire others!

Make it a Habit

Isn’t is so difficult to take on a new healthy habit?  And by healthy I mean healthy for mind, body, and soul – things that we do for our own self development and care.  We might do that new thing a couple times before resorting back to our old behaviors. 

It’s important to be intentional when starting a new routine or habit you’d like to implement when you initially begin; otherwise you will be where you have always been so it’s time to take intentional action. 

Many people find it helpful to take on something new with another person or group for accountability and support.  Some prefer to share it with people close to them for support.  And yet others put it on a vision board or post it and make their declarations a daily visible reminder.

Any way you do it is a good to state your intention… but to help it stick is behavior change.

Habit stacking is helpful to begin a new routine or habit.

Habit stacking is deciding on a habit you do every day and then stacking a new behavior on top of it. Your current habit becomes the trigger for your new one.

You would write in your journal your habit stacking intention: After (current habit), I will (new habit). Example: After I brush my teeth before bed, I think of one positive thing that happened today.

Rewarding yourself immediately after your new behavior also helps it stick and encourages you to keep at it.  A reward doesn’t have to be a new pair of shoes (although it could but you’ll soon fill up your closet).  A reward can simply be taking a moment to notice the positive feeling you received upon completing the new behavior, or it could be the action that follows the new behavior.  Adding a reward to your habit stack creates a habit loop. 

A habit loop is like:

  • Trigger: The current habit that can act as a reminder – can be neutral or negative
  • Behavior: The response is the new habit you’re building.  After (current habit or trigger), I will (new habit). Followed by…
  • Reward: The positive feeling or action immediately followed by the behavior. 

Examples. AM Sitting routine

  • Trigger: 6:00 am alarm
  • Behavior: immediately get out of bed and go to your quiet place to sit in meditation 
  • Reward: Make yourself a cup of coffee

To stack this habit, this could be followed by…

  • T: After I make my coffee, 
  • B: I will spend 5 minutes journaling
  • R: A sense of openness and clarity

Another helpful tool is a habit tracking app.  I prefer to use these in conjunction with my habit loops.  They act as additional motivation and reward.  Here are a few that I like: Streaks, SticK, and Habitshare.

There are a few different ways you could do this and you will find the right way that works for you.

  1. Use habit stacking and the habit loop.
  2. Use markers in your day as reminders like when you get up in the morning or before you leave your office or your lunch break.
  3. Download a habit tracking app.  Downloading a habit tracker onto your phone and setting up reminder prompts are a great way to build these new practices.
  4. Put it in your calendar for self-care time and don’t overlook it.

Start small. As James clear states in Atomic Habits,  “Getting one percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run.”  For greater “sticking power” start with just one new habit you’d like to bring into your daily routine and start there.  When you feel like you have that down, add another.  When we take on too much change at once, we set ourselves up for failure when we can’t do it all and then we give up.  So just start with one.

This summer I started a daily exercise routine.  I just couldn’t make anything stick consistently until I tried the habit stacking approach and I have successfully worked out 5-6 days per week for the last 4 months.  I started with a goal of three days per week and was rocking that so it just felt better for my routine if I did it every weekday then the occasional Saturday.  This is what my habit loop looks like:

  • Trigger:  Finish my morning coffee – I NEED that first 😉
  • Behavior: Walk the dogs for a warm up immediately followed by my workout for the day
  • Reward: I FEEL so strong and accomplished AND I get to eat breakfast. Double reward!

Share your new habit stack in the comments below!