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The Key to Being Happy

listen to yourself header
 
I just received this post from my esteemed colleague, Carthage Buckley, a wise and passionate
coach from Ireland I had the pleasure of doing a BlogTalk Radio episode with earlier this year.
I thought this post was so relevant and perfectly worded that I decided to share it with all of you.
 
For anyone wanting more of Carthage’s down-to-earth, practical advise go to:
CoachingPositivePerformance.com.  He’s a prolific writer who deals with all sorts of subjects
relating to maximizing one’s personal best. Read this and check him out!

Listen to yourself and you’ll always be happy

Coaching requires the coach to spend a great deal of time listening the client. When appropriate, the coach will interject with a question. There are a number of reasons why the coach may choose to ask a particular question but quite often the question is saying one thing to the client – listen to yourself. It is important that the client does not just listen to the words they speak, but also to the way in which they say it and the feelings they experience when they say it. This is listening at a much deeper level than most people are used to. When you listen to yourself, you live your values and pursue your dreams. This is one of the most effective strategies for reducing stress and increasing personal happiness.

One day, a heart-warming message was posted on my Facebook page. My Australian friend, Marshall, had posted to tell me that he was enjoying his holiday in North America – the post was made from Vancouver. He wrote to thank me for encouraging him to take the plunge and follow his lifelong dream of visiting North America. It was clear from his message that Marshall was having the time of his life. I had previously spent a year in Australia, working with Marshall. During that time, he had told me many times of his desire to travel. I had offered lots of advice throughout the year but it could all be summed up with one phrase – listen to yourself.

While it is always nice to receive appreciation; I am afraid Marshall’s appreciation is largely unwarranted. For it was not me who inspired him, it was his own dreams. Marshall and I had often talked with our friends about travelling and about our experiences. Marshall was always keen to encourage us to fulfil our dreams. As the year moved on, I noticed a slight change in him. He began to talk more about the places he wanted to see and the things he wanted to do. It became clear to me that he had begun to listen to the advice that he was offering to others.

Marshall’s message reminded me of how I came to be in Australia in the first place. I had been working in Ireland when a colleague asked me for advice. He told me that his girlfriend had bought him a holiday to Egypt for his birthday. It was the one place that he had always wanted to go to. His concern was that he would have to give up his job – it was a summer job. We talked for a short while and he realised that he had to take the opportunity to go to Egypt. He thanked me for the advice and immediately handed in his notice. As he thanked me, my inner voice was screaming

listen to yourself. I had always wanted to go to New Zealand and Australia. I decided there and then that I needed to follow my own advice. 4 months later I had saved €4,000, acquired the necessary visas and was boarding a plane at Dublin airport. I was about to enjoy the best 2 years of my life.

When you listen to yourself it is easier to discover your purpose and live your values.

We all like to offer advice to our friends but sometimes, when we are offering that advice from the depths of our heart, we are not just speaking to our friends, we are also speaking to ourselves. So, take the time to listen to yourself; it may be the wisest advice you ever receive.

 

Slow

I do almost everything FAST. I walk fast. I eat fast. I talk fast. I think fast. Regrettably, I drive fast. When I moved to Maine from New York City I felt like I’d landed on the “Slow Planet.” Drivers on local roads coming from opposite directions would wind down from a frenetic 20 miles an hour to a dead stop, and have a conversation with each other while everyone behind them would wait patiently, never beeping their horns. (?) Cashiers at checkout counters would wrap every purchased item as though it was made of 14 karat gold, then fish around for the right bag, all while shooting the breeze with me. People on elevators would wait courteously while others filed out first – all in slow motion.

Where I came from in New York I was typical – everyone rushing around everywhere as though North Korea had finally launched an ICBM with a big warhead on it headed toward NYC. With millions of people around, it always felt normal and necessary to be quick on the draw! So the transition to the “Slow Planet” has been a challenge. Not only that, but in my line of work as a psychotherapist slow is often needed to be attuned. Clients don’t want to feel they’re playing “Beat the Clock” in their precious time with me, so I’ve had to be mindful of pace and intensity there as well.

The good news is that I’ve found an anti-zoom antidote to “Fast” through kayaking, which I’d highly recommend to everyone. Even though my kayak is capable of moving very quickly and efficiently through water it feels like an oxymoron to be doing “fast” there. What’s the rush? There’s no email or texts calling, as service if often nil, no laundry, no dishes, no blogposts, no bills, no nothing except the beauty of the water, the mysteries under the surface, the cottages on the shore, the breeze, and the lapping, rhythmic sound of my paddle pushing me gently forward. Unless you’re an olympic contender for “speed kayaking,” (don’t think that actually exists….), there’s no point in being fast when you’re in that realm. Calm reigns and stress is quieted. Reflection and being present in the moment is natural. I’m finally home, and you will be too, where “Slow” is the gift……

Wednesday, June 3rd 8:30 PM BlogTalk Radio episode “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood”

Don’t miss my next 45 minute BlogTalk Radio episode, “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood.” We’ll discuss this prize-winning, vital book which provides a compelling approach on how to manage the constant “Go! Do! Be Better!” stresses of 21st century American life.

Get some really useful insights on how you can use your instincts and intuition to find balance and confidence, and how to move more intentionally toward a happier, more fulfilling life.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join us on the air with questions or comments, or to just listen and benefit from the conversation about such an important topic.

Can’t make the live show? Catch the recording afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

End of Summer 2014 – Here Comes Winter……….

Here it is October 1st, the leaves are falling, the temperature has dropped radically, and most noticeably, it’s getting dark at about 5:30 PM.  No doubt about it, the summer of 2014 has come and gone. Before we know it, we’ll be bundled up in winter coats, shoveling or snow-blowing our driveways, freezing our butts getting into frigid cars, sliding around on icy walkways, looking at a grey and white landscape and hiding out indoors. I love it!

When I admit that, everyone I know, (except for one sleepy client today), looks at me like I have two heads. They freely complain about all the above developments, expecting me to commiserate, and when instead I get all warm and fuzzy about the upcoming six-month winter, they probably begin to wonder if they’re sitting with a sane person. Some never come back for another session…

I’m convinced that I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – the condition in which some people’s brain chemistry shifts into depressive mode around the lowered level and duration of light in the colder months. For me, I get happier as the skies get grayer and the weather gets murkier. I call it “sultry” weather – nice and cloudy and real chilly. It reminds me of happy adventures in Ireland and England. It may also be some nostalgic fragment of genetic memory from my slavic ancestry, harkening me back to the cold, dark weather in Russia and Poland where my grandparents grew up. Or, maybe I really am psychotic. But whatever the origin, I’ll share some reasons why you too might look forward to the six month “winter” we’re famous for here in Maine, instead of getting all bummed out about it:

  • If it was warm and sunny all the time you’d lose the excitement about seasonal changes
  • When it’s murky and cold out there’s no pressure to do fabulous things outdoors
  • Grey, cold days give you space to be still and contemplative, less busy and frenetic
  • There’s no need for air conditioners, fans, and other costly energy hogs
  • You don’t have to tend to your garden or your lawn when there’s 2 feet of snow outside
  • Without the chill of winter you’d never have an excuse to wear all those groovy boots
  • Baths and hot tubs are much more delectable when you’re freezing your ass
  • You have much more reason to tuck in with a good movie, book or instrument
  • How would you ever experience the joy of skiing or snowshoeing without the snow?
  • Without winter there would be no savoring of good soups, stews or comfort food
  • There’s no earthly joy like climbing under a cozy down quilt when it’s frigid outside
  • Monotone landscapes rest your eyes and brain from all those vibrant summer colors
  • You pet your thankful dog, cat or hamster more when you’re hanging out indoors
  • You have more time to read deep, thought-provoking blogs like this one

What more can I say?

So, if you have S.A.D. and are starting to get depressed facing the arctic blast, get one of those special lights to reset your brain chemistry, sit back and relax!

Happy Birthday To Me!

happy_birthday_

Believe it or not, another year has passed, and today was my birthday (along with all the other “June 4th Gemini”s out there). Surreal how time inexorably marches on. Had a good day, as we all should on our birthdays. Engaged in some significant self-honoring activities, as we all should. Felt honored and loved by the key people in my life. Reminded, once again, how insignificant each of us is in the grand scheme of things, yet how significant an impact we can make, in spite of our smallness. I also think: this is the youngest you will ever be for the rest of your life – enjoy it! Happy Birthday to me.

Knowing Your Life Verb

If you think about it, there’s probably a central defining action which punctuates your life. In my case, it’s “striving” – to develop more competency professionally, to achieve more balance, to play guitar better, to be a more compassionate person, to lose weight, etc. Definitely “striving.”

I have a close friend whose verb seems to be “coping” – with her husband’s stonewalling, her family problems, her depression. She’s always in “coping” mode, but doesn’t seem to move on to solving the problems. My “striving” mode has impatience at times with her “coping” status quo. She feels my “striving” mode makes me too hard on myself.

One of my sisters admits to chronically being in “surviving” mode – trying to stay afloat financially, professionally and emotionally. She feels that my “striving” mode at times takes me out of appreciation for all the blessings in my life, and she’s probably right. I don’t get why she doesn’t seem to do more to fulfill her dreams.

So, your verb can tell you a lot about how you’re doing your life, and perhaps shed some light on where you may be blind sighted, and limiting your experiences of joy and fulfillment.

What is your life verb?

Feel free to contact me to schedule a remote session to explore the current defining theme of your life, and what might need to happen to shift your verb to a more empowering one. I’ve identified a list of verbs you might not have considered on your own. You can reach me via my voicemail at 603-431-7131 or through the “Schedule an appointment” button on the right side of my website home page at www.SusanLager.com

How To Have Better Relationships

Every day in my private psychotherapy practice I work with people who feel miserable in their relationships with family, friends, co-workers or partners. Often, they don’t have any idea why the relationships are going so wrong, or what they are doing to contribute to the problem.

One thing I encourage people to do to avoid some unnecessary dilemmas on the front end is to get clearer about their expectations, wants and needs in their different relationships. Developing this self awareness is critical to doing better! Knowing what makes you tick and also, where you have vulnerabilities which are likely to play out, is a big part in creating more positive outcomes.

Here are three questions you can ask yourself to raise your self-awareness in relationships:

1. What circumstances are emotionally triggering to me?

2. Do I tend to blame others? If so, whom, and about what?

3. Do I apologize when I’ve been out of line?

For 17 more soul-searching questions to ask yourself in the spirit of raising your “relationship IQ,” get a copy of my second book, “Become Relationship Smart Without a Lifetime of Therapy.” It’s available on Amazon as a paperback as well as an ebook. It will help!

Here’s the link:  http://amzn.to/WBK83q

Getaways And Your Sanity

At this writing, I’m on a C & J express bus to my old stomping ground, New York City, for a weekend with my little sister. I’m a strong believer in short getaways as a way of refueling, particularly if the getaway gets you away from your spouse for awhile. That may sound cold, but sometimes a little space has a big positive impact on a marriage. How, you ask?

1. You reconnect with separate friends and relatives on your own without worrying about the mix with a spouse who may not share your enthusiasm for jewelry shopping, lattes, and schmoozing.

2. You re-experience your individual selves which brought you two together. My husband will probably be doing yard work till midnight, watching the news for hours each morning, eating no vegetables except for vodka (made from potatoes), puttering around his workshop, answering no calls, and fondling his new camera he’s afraid of using. He’ll be in Introvert Heaven. I’ll be tooling around the city with my baby sister, bossing her around, buying makeup and doodads, going to museums if it rains, people watching, yakking with strangers, and eating every ethnic thing in sight. I’ll be in Extrovert Heaven.

3. You break up the sometimes oppressive routine of your life with more consciousness. In my case, I was amazed to see how many vitamins and creams and solutions and meds I take on any given day just to go on living! I could barely fit it all in my suitcase! I like to think of myself as robust and traveling lightly on this Earth. Apparently, not so….

4. You appreciate all the comforts of home in a renewed way. I don’t usually get excited about having a level, stable surface to type on, but today, with the bus jiggling and swaying, I’m realizing how special it is to have tables and desks to put my laptop on, and not worry it will go flying off into the yonder. Small things…..

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Because I’m a bit morbid and fatalistic, I don’t presume I’ll make a safe return from ANYWHERE, so I kissed my husband goodbye four times, and hugged him as though I was leaving for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. And now that the bus is approaching the slums of the city limits, I miss him already….. 😐

Happy weekend,
Susan Lager

PS. Get a still early copy of my new book, now newly anointed with the Couplespeak™ trademark! If you live long enough, it may be considered an important 21st century artifact! On Amazon: http://amzn.to/WBK83q

“Become Relationship Smart Without A Lifetime Of Therapy”

Conscious Relationships – How Awake Are You?

I have recently come out of my annual tax trance – the time of year when I’m so immersed in columns of figures and tabulations that a meteor could hit the house and I’d barely notice it. Luckily, my impression is that this oblivious state seems to abate in mid March when I return to my usual therapist’s occupational hazard of incessantly questioning and noticing things.

I like to think that I’m generally pretty committed to a process of self-examination, particularly in my relationships. It’s a daily practice, though, to do this, kind of like working out or maintaining good sleep habits. Like sobriety, it’s easy to fall off the wagon and go back into a behavioral and attitudinal trance at any point, so I’ll share a few of the 20 key questions I’ve devised that you can reflect upon in order to be more awake in your relationships:

  1. What am I most insecure about?
  2. What defenses do I use to protect myself emotionally?
  3. How might these defenses be hurtful to others?
  4. Are there other, more benign defenses I could use?
  5. Do I apologize when I’ve been out of line? If so, how?
  6. Do I self-medicate with substances? If so, how, when, and with whom?
  7. What would happen if I were more open?

If you start with these questions, and are honest with yourself about what you see, I think you’ll open up a process of taking more responsibility for yourself, and move toward being more awake in your relationships. For more details about the other 13 key “consciousness questions,” as well as a wealth of information about how to thrive in all your partnerships, grab a copy of my new workbook, “Become Relationship Smart Without A Lifetime Of Therapy” available in paperback, and now also as an eBook on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/12ALenB

I know you’ll enjoy it!
Susan Lager

Tucking In

Have you ever spent a weekend in solitude, tucked in doing various kinds of self care? If not, I’d recommend that you try it sometime, especially if your daily life / work involves intense contact with lots of people, (like my work as a psychotherapist).

I seem to spend one weekend in an extroverted mode, going places and doing things which involve a lot of social contact, then the next weekend living like a hermit, attending to the long personal “to do” list. This weekend I barely went outdoors, except for a few hot tubs, and an excursion to bring out the garbage! Instead, I tucked in yesterday during the snow, reading and writing in front of a roaring fire, cooking, doing book work, having a lovely workout in my gym, and visiting briefly with family when they were here. I thought about going for a snowshoe hike, but that seemed like too much work in the wind and the cold.

Today was equally lovely – up late, a long, Pilates workout, writing letters, answering emails, doing laundry, petting the cat, and just hanging out!

If you can overcome some negative self-talk about behaving like a sloth, the whole idea of slowing down and “going internal” can be absolutely delicious. Everything in our world is geared to rushing around and packing multiple things into a “productive” day. I find it oppressive at times. I’d definitely recommend reconnecting with yourself in a quiet, caring way, with some regularity. Just remember to brush your teeth and get some exercise, and you’ll be fine……. 😉

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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