The Joy of Being Spontaneous

I started with an experiment to intentionally slow down for a month. But what I ended up getting is a gift I am keeping forever.

How I Slowed Down

In case you feel like trying this yourself, here is how I planned it.

It takes many boundaries to slow down.

It wasn’t a “slow” season for me. To give myself time to slow down, I intentionally reduced my work hours for the month. I didn’t completely stop working.

The purpose was to not feel "busy" with a busy schedule.

I explained this to my clients. I was really surprised by their response. Some of my clients loved the idea and decided to do their own version of this experiment. I saved some work hours to be sure my clients were seen and getting the support they needed from me. But I want to be honest and share that reducing work hours was an important part of slowing down.

I had to slow everything down, not just some things.

There was no expectation of how I would feel or what I would do.   I decided I would not start any new work or home projects. As tempting as it was with time on my hands, I decided that just filling it with projects would not allow me to know what slowing down was. I would just be distracted with other things to get done.

In addition to no projects, I made minimal commitments to leave space to be spontaneous. This allowed me to see the weather and decide what I wanted to do. We had a smoke filled sky from wild fires, rain on a Saturday, and I had the space to be present, flexible and decide what would be fun to do based on the weather. I didn't feel disappointed by the weather. It didn't matter. 

I moved slowly. I was not feeling hurried. 

What happened?

I noticed a picnic basket that had been unused. So I used it and went on picnics.

I found myself being spontaneous, more flexible with my time. I had time to spare! It is a feeling of spaciousness.

I felt my own creativity tingling on my skin. It was like creativity was bubbling on my surface. New doorways to my imagination opened.

I felt more patient. Waiting was easy and even pleasant. 

I noticed the absence of pressure. In fact, things that came in that could give me a feeling of pressure, were set aside in a box, to deal with when I chose.  

The volume of input moving towards me from news, social media, mail, phone, text, email, felt like it was now under my control. It didn't go away, I chose to quiet media interruptions, not respond immediately, and protect the feeling of slowing down.

Playing and slowing down go very well together.

I felt my inner child joyful and eager to make contact with me. Anything I did choose to do, had to align with my inner child. I returned to guitar lessons. I spent time with friends. Lots of time with friends. I had a week of making my own day camp with a friend of 40 years. 

I had unhurried time with a friend who is very sick. 

I signed up for fun workshops to learn how to dye yarn with natural indigo and I followed the trail to become a SoulCollage® facilitator.

I did something I always wanted to do, river rafting.

It was easier to catch mistakes, oversights, overcharges. I had time to read receipts. When I am too busy, it is easy to miss things.

The Big A-HA  

What started as something I was doing for a month, slowing down, has become something really significant. I imagined if I liked it, I might do it annually. But it turns out I am not willing to give this up eleven months of the year.

It is my new priority. I will continue to simply live slower. 

I am returning to my clients in our normal schedule. My work feels intentional, calm, deliberate, and it allows me to focus with each person. I love my client hours. Meaningful, unhurried, slow, deep conversations.

Outside of my client hours, I am doing some rethinking to ensure I am protecting this boundary to slow down. I am leaving open space, unscheduled hours around me and being much more careful about how I use my weekend time, my evening hours, my mornings, to be more spontaneous. 

Being present is how I show up in the moment. But having all my moments planned in advance, doesn't allow me to show up spontaneously. And I discovered that having spontaneous moments is what I needed most. 

Being Brave Enough To Try

I signed up to do something new, snorkel in the glacier water of Iceland. 

Why would I get in freezing water?   I wanted to see the earth's tectonic plates, the edge of the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. These two plates can be seen together in Iceland. 

I was eager for the adventure. I was all Yes.

The morning I was scheduled to snorkel, I drove out with my husband early to the meeting point, a parking lot at the edge of the water. The dive company had a truck loaded with wet suits, dry suites, masks, and fins. I met two guides who would help dress 6 of us adventurous souls, and lead us through the water for 30 minutes between the tectonic plates. 

While the guides helped us suit up, we were shown a map of the route we would swim. The water was crystal clear and we would see more than a hundred feet below.

No part of our bodies could be exposed to the icy water. 

I was wearing thermal pants and top, a dry suit and wet suit. The dive hood was placed on my head, my wrists taped to assure no water would get through, and finally a cord placed around my neck to seal the dry suit. Each layer that covered us made me feel more trapped.

The confinement in the suit was more terrifying than icy water. My mouth went dry and my vocal chords were sticking together, which makes it impossible to breathe.

I couldn't do this.

I wanted to do this.

I couldn't do this.

The head game went on.

The guides were completely ready for this. I wanted to give it a try. I entered the water, floating and marveling at the plates. And as the rest of my group entered the water, I lost the head game. I couldn't swim forward without a way out of the water for 30 minutes. I had to listen to my No. Yes was gone.

I climbed out of the water and waved goodbye to my husband and the rest of the group.

One of the guides linked his arm in mine and walked with me back to the parking lot. He would help me out of the dive suit. As we walked he said,

"At least you were brave enough to try."

I thought of all the things I had done in this lifetime. All the things I had been brave enough to try. And I did not feel any sense of failure as I left the parking lot.

I took a walk and climbed the hill to see the tectonic plates above ground. It was stunning. Just as stunning as seeing it under water.

I marveled at the stone walls created by the plates. If I had not signed up to snorkel, I might never have seen the plates. I did not realize they could be seen above ground. 

We all have those times when something doesn't turn out the way we expect. Sometimes, being brave enough to try is enough. 

What did 137 Communication Directors say about Boundaries?

I was introduced to Kivi Leroux Miller who runs Nonprofit Marketing Guide and invited to teach a class online for communication directors on boundaries.

Kivi had some interesting surveys she shares with her members.  I wanted to blend in with Team Kivi and survey some nonprofit communication directors to see if they were feeling some boundary challenges in their jobs.

 I received responses from 137 nonprofit communication and marketing directors. Here is a sample from the boundary survey.

I am able to spend time implementing my most valuable ideas. 18% often  59% sometimes 22% rarely

When there are decisions to be made, I find myself getting input after the deadline when it was needed.    43% often    44% sometimes  14% rarely

I wish I had been consulted before decisions affecting my department are made. 45% often  40% sometimes  13% rarely

I have input into the budget for my department.   37% often    29% sometimes  33%rarely

 I have solid experience and my expertise is sought when a board member gets excited about using a new channel or platform. 16% often  41% sometimes  43% rarely

I have a clear job description and scope of work with reasonable expectations. 22% often  49% sometimes  28% rarely

Our organization brand standards are respected and consistency is valued. 29% often 51% sometimes
20% rarely

Our org is often distracted putting out fires of whatever is most urgent and there is no real time for planning and strategic follow through. 60% often  27% sometimes 13% rarely

I am looking forward to sharing the rest of the survey and some boundary skills with communication directors. Kivi was excited to learn I had a long deep background in nonprofit work. This is one of the many ways boundaries can be used to strengthen the work inside of nonprofits.


4 Things to Say to Yourself When Stressed

There is tremendous power in the things we say to ourselves. Sometimes the voices we hear in our heads can beat us up, panic in the face of hard things, and tell us over and over that we are failing when in fact we are facing a challenge.

Those voices in your head need to be taught what to say and when. Create a boundary to dismiss the crazy harmful talk in your head and instead give yourself the supportive helpful messages you need when you are stressed.

This boundary is something you teach yourself. You correct  negative thoughts that make you feel terrible while you are going through something terrible.

When you are stressed, here are 4 helpful things to say to yourself:

 #1-I am doing the best I can in this circumstance.

Give your hardworking self some credit. Maybe the problem isn’t solved, but you are working at it. You need to acknowledge you. Your inner spirit/soul is listening to what you say to you.

#2-It’s okay to take a break and take care of myself.

When you are stressed, you may find it hard to sleep. Give yourself permission to rest and refuel. You can’t take care of anything or anyone when you are running on empty.

#3-I can make some healthy choices today.

Caring for you is so important to relieve distress. Making your healthy choice is a way to refuel, it is also a way to restore some confidence in yourself during a challenge. You may not be able to control the problem you are facing right now, but you can control your healthy choices and help yourself feel cared for and stronger.

#4-I will pay attention to my body aches and needs and care for those. 

It is easy to step out of our bodies and get tangled up in stress. But the stress always finds a landing place physically. Take a few moments to notice your body posture. Drop your shoulders. Do some gentle stretching to adjust your body to be less strained. Take a bathroom break, a walk,  and eat when you are hungry.

Save these 4 sentences somewhere so you can find them when you need them.

             Being stressed doesn’t help you through stress. 

Repeat these 4 sentences often. It will give you breathing space and the care you need during a challenge.

Join me for the next online class: Boundaries and Stress | June 8, 2018 Sign up here: 
It is one hour and if you miss the class, you will get the recording.

2 Steps to Help with Trauma and Boundary Recovery

What are boundaries? Your Yes and No. Inside of you, you have a compass for your yes and no.
During a traumatic event, or if you experienced trauma as a child, you may have lost your connection to your compass/your boundaries/ your yes and no. Think of the compass, boundaries, your yes and no as the same thing.

Your boundaries are trying to take care of you, and if you couldn’t protect yourself during the trauma, you may have lost trust in your boundaries.

Trust is the key to listen to your yes and no. You can't listen to your inner compass if you aren't sure and don't really trust yourself.

Restoring your connection to your yes and no (your boundaries), is an important part of the healing process.

One way to restore this connection is to start noticing the little voice of resistance you hear sometimes. This little voice of resistance may say, “I don’t want to go to work today.” “I can’t cook dinner tonight.” “I wish I could leave this relationship.”

It is the little voice you may be pushing away to just keep going. This little voice may be trying to help you.

If you were traumatized, you may experience your boundaries as extremely rigid. You may find comfort in sticking to the same thing every day. The routine helps you feel more in control of your life. And it may be stressful for you to have your routine interrupted.

You may also experience your boundaries as floppy or weak. You may be unable to say yes or no for yourself, letting others decide on everything.  When your boundaries are floppy or not there, you find yourself trying to please people and having no real sense of what you really want to do. You may feel like nothing is really exciting or interesting to you because you aren’t really discovering you, you are pleasing others and discovering “them”.

Healing your boundaries, if they are too rigid or too floppy, is an important part of recovery.

How do you do this? Please take all the time you need. This is not something you do all at once. Go slowly.

Step 1 Ask yourself  this one question again and again.
Is there something new I would like to try?
Allow yourself to try new things. Start with small even tiny new things, and keep challenging yourself to do something you haven’t done before. Take this in baby steps. Try one new thing at a time as you are able.

Step 2: Practice saying yes to you.

Listen to those wild ideas you hear inside and follow up. 
Maybe you want to have a sick day from work, go ahead, take a sick day. Maybe you want to take a flute class. Whatever little callings you hear, instead of dismissing these wild ideas, practice saying yes to you. Practice saying yes to you. 

It's not easy to say yes to you, you may feel like your callings are impractical. You may think you don’t have enough money or time. To heal, you need to be creative and find a way. I have seen people listen to their inner callings and make incredible discoveries about themselves. 

There is nothing crazy or broken inside of you. But there are parts of you that need your attention and support. 

If you found this blog helpful and would like to learn more on this topic, I have an online class that has much much more. Join me for the online class Trauma, Self-Care, and Boundaries.

How I Eliminated Death by Email

Eight years ago, a strong group of leaders who served as my board of directors taught me a powerful lesson that I continue to use every single day in all of my online email. Though I am now running my own private company, this lesson continues to be relevant. Today I work with organizations and teams on reducing their overwhelm and developing boundaries. One of places organizations can find immediate relief is streamlining and reducing email.
Eight years ago I was using email as a way to stay connected and in touch with my board.  I was
keeping them informed, but my emails were long, covered lots of details, and meandered down rabbit holes.
My board did an intervention. They sent one very experienced leader to represent them. She said I was killing them by email. She explained my emails were like Easter egg hunts. They felt compelled to read my emails and it was hard to find the nuggets they needed buried in all the stories and hard to figure out what they needed to do or put on their schedule.
She offered me simple tips that I continue to use today.
Keep it brief, bare minimum.
Try not have more than 2-3 points maximum.
Use a list format rather than a letter format.
Call out in subject line what kind of email it is: Thank You ,  Follow-Up,  Reminder, Invite, Introducing you.
Those subjects still cover nearly all of the emails I send. 
Take a few moments and think about who you send emails to; your team, your customers, your business partners. What are your main subjects?
After reading a leader's 8-page letter to her team, I thought I would share the intervention that changed me.

Photo by Kate Remmer/Unsplash