How to be Taken Seriously as a Woman (Part 1)

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I recently returned from teaching a college course on persuasive speaking. I taught it with a dear friend of mine who works as a lawyer. I taught the class tools actors use to persuade an audience into feeling how he or she wants them to feel and my friend taught persuasion from the legal perspective.

We stumbled on a surprising theme: Even though we are female professors and the class was fifty percent female, generally the women in the class shied away from speaking up and speaking out. The women students also continually undercut themselves in their presentations, despite our efforts to provide them with tools that would empower them to speak assertively.

By talking to the women individually, I found that, for some, there was a battle happening in their mind.

One of my students did a good job of articulated this inner turmoil when she asked me, “How do I embrace my power without coming across as bossy or a bitch?”

Her question, as crass as it may sound, stuck with me, for many reasons. I don’t think that she is alone in suffering from this insecurity. This is not endemic to the classroom.

How many women have had this thought?

Recently, I was at a friend’s dinner party and I sat down with a woman who runs her own business. She asked me what I do and I told her that I am a performance coach who specializes in helping women find inner confidence and exude more authority. Immediately her ears perked up.

She replied: “I could use your help?? I often feel like my clients don’t take me seriously…??? And I don’t know why??”

These question marks are not typos, rather they are my attempt to communicate her precise intonation.

You may have noticed that many women around you present statements with questioning intonations, and if you haven’t, listen for this lilt-up at the end of sentences. (Think classic California, valley-girl speak.) And yes, though women form the majority of offenders, men also upspeak.

Both of the women above lilted-up at the end of their sentences. After further discussion, I also discovered that both held the same inner belief: The belief that if they state exactly what they want, others will be offended.

Why do we, women, think this way?

In The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why, published in The Harvard Business Review, Deborah Tannen articulated that women, like people from a different culture, have often learned a different speaking style than men. As girls, women tend to play with a single best friend or in small groups. They use language to negotiate how close they are. Girls learn to downplay ways in which one is better than the others and to emphasize ways in which they are all the same.

From childhood, most girls learn that sounding too sure of themselves will make them unpopular with their peers. A group of girls will ostracize a girl who calls attention to her own superiority. Thus girls learn to talk in ways that balance their own needs with the needs of others.

Does this sound familiar?

Women have a natural instinct to use their voice to balance the needs of others with their own, which includes inviting a dialogue as opposed to making statements, and to downplay their own knowledge for the sake of not being ostracized by the group.

The problem is that this habitual “upspeak,” as we call it, and other vocal patterns, can make women come across as less competent and self-assured than they are.

Upspeak can be appropriate for some groups and situations, but not for all. For most people it is a habit from childhood that might no longer be serving us.

So, how can we stop the undercutting, unflattering, upspeak habit?

We can learn from the challenges articulated by the two women above: Embrace your inner power and end your sentences. That’s right, try it out right now. End. That. Sentence. With. A. Period. Not. A question mark. Even if you don’t feel one hundred percent confident in what you’re saying, fake it until you make it. End your sentences and you, and other people, will start to take yourself seriously.

Once you’ve made a few statements, they’ll start to feel less awkward and less aggressive. You’ll start to get used to the way your assertive voice sounds and feels in your body. You’ll also start getting used to the reaction you get from others. They’re not offended, that face their making just means that they heard you. 

Click here to find out more about how I can get you off the upspeak train.

 

Confidence is Sexy–3 Things you can do to get more of it.

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I was hunting and gathering online last night, (I find late-night browsing therapeutic) and in my click-bating, I stumbled on the above picture.

There is an experiment that Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld talks about in her lecture, Acting with Power. She invites audience members to sit in this retracted, power-less body position and say, “I am totally in charge. I’m invincible. I’m on top of the world.” She does the same with an expansive body position. Everyone laughs because it’s ludicrous and impossible. The audience feels the opposite of what they’re being asked to say.

If the woman in this picture were to speak, what would she say? Would she say, “I am totally in charge?” I don’t think so.

Imagine, if you will, a puppy dog in this same position: head down and to the side, tail tucked, knees knocked, toes in. You would feel sorry for this dog. Now imagine a man in a nice suit assuming this same position. That just feels wrong.

I write this, not to put the blame on fashion or size 4 models, but to bring an awareness to the responsibility we have to ourselves. As we are surrounded by these images, we naturally mirror and mimic the shapes we see.

The physical postures we are assuming are sending messages on a moment-by-moment basis: determining our status at work, in our relationships and how we feel about ourselves.

Not surprisingly, the number one question I receive from my clients is, “How can I have more confidence?”

This chasm of confidence has opened up a deeper exploration for me. What is confidence? Is it a feeling, a residue from of our our past experiences, from how we were raised? Is it part of our DNA and either we have it or we don’t? Is it a state of mind? Is it a physical posture that can be assumed even if the feeling isn’t present? 

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman says that confidence isn’t an attitude but is determined by actions you take. I tend to agree with this definition. We all want do certain things but are fearful of failure. These nerves are normal. (See my post on Fear.) A confident person acts, regardless of experiencing this fear.

 I also appreciate the Urban dictionary’s definition: Confidence is sexy.

There are ways that we undercut our ability to feel and exude confidence everyday. Let’s take this woman’s picture as an extreme example of what we do in our interactions and daily lives. If the woman in this picture was feeling under-confident, her body position isn’t helping. Here’s why:

1. She is tense: Her shoulders are pulled up and hugged closed to her body. Her knees and feet are turned unnaturally inward.

2. She is disengaged from the situation: Her feet are pointed in two different directions, and her torso is facing away from the camera. By her body posture, we can assume that her head is also tilted and eyes looking sheepishly at the ground. (We wouldn’t know because her head is cut off.)

3. She is guarded: With arms and hands close to the body, knees turned in and toes turned in, she is effectively cut off from the viewer. 

Here are 3 shifts YOU can make in your body posture everyday that will change how confident you feel and how much confidence you exude:

1. Take up more space.

We show ownership and dominance by taking up space with our bodies in any given situation. Taking the Wonder Woman stance is one option, but you can try a subtler tactic. Relax your shoulders and widen the expanse across your chest. Drop your hands, loosely at your sides. Allow your arms to hang slightly away from your body as opposed to being pulled up or held close. Notice that a relaxed body makes all of the above possible.

2. Use engaging body language.

Often when we feel under confident, we’ll use body language to try to escape from our current situation. Even if it feels uncomfortable, engage with the person in front of you. Put your head on straight and point your toes directly at the person you’re talking to. Make eye contact and don’t look away or look down; allow yourself to stay with them and breathe. Carry your hands like they’re useful.

3. Vulnerability is the key to exuding confidence.

I know this is absolutely counter intuitive. Think about the opposite. When you feel insecure you want to hide. Undo this body language, present yourself and you’ll start to feel confident. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, revealing you torso. Stand with weight distributed evenly on both of your feet. Lift your chest and drop your chin slightly. Allow yourself to be seen. 

As I write this I’m sitting at a cafe, next to my dog, who’s just been put in her place by a much smaller dog. The smaller dog asserted her alpha status immediately by jumping into my lap (taking up space), making eye contact (engaging) with the other dog and barking. She doesn’t quite have the vulnerability piece but for a small animal, she sure exudes confidence. Animals know how to use their body language. Why don’t we?

If you like what you’re reading check out my other posts for more tips on body communication and body language. As always, you can contact me directly with questions or for individual coaching.

Next up, 3 ways your voice gives you away.

So you have to give a speech? What to do before you panic…

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In last week’s post, How do you let go of fear? Give it what it wants, you learned about the mechanism responsible for the fear reaction. You learned that, once your body goes into reaction-mode, it’s a downward spiral.

So, how can you prepare to speak so that your first response isn’t panic?

In groups like toastmasters, speakers can tackle their stage fright, head-on, with repeated practice. As one toastmaster enthusiast wrote: “Smack your fear in the face!” This direct approach can and does work. 

But each person’s experience of fear around public speaking is different. This approach might not work for you. Sometimes repetition, and telling yourself that you can do it, even when you feel like you’re debilitated by it, increases the power fear holds over you even more. Sometimes by trying to pretend, repress or numb yourself to fear, it’s power actually increases. And it comes out in surprising way, at times that is least desirable. Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.

“The defenses we erect to protect us create the very condition we are trying to avoid.” Alexander Lowen

Plus, once you numb yourself to fear, you also numb yourself to inspiration, joy and sadness (see what Brene Brown has to say about selectively numbing emotion). You cut yourself off from your own vulnerability; and vulnerability is the secret to make an authentic and lasting connection with your audience. 

So, how do you let fear be a valuable source of energy, but don’t let it run the show? 

Give your body what it wants …

Fear will override your body’s natural intelligence and make you go into Fight Flight or Freeze reaction (FFF), especially when you are taken off guard and/or entering into unknown territory. Imagine, for a moment, the difference between a surprise ambush in unknown territory and a carefully plotted offense on your home turf. So, to prepare your body for battle, give it as much information, beforehand, as you can.

If there is one thing I learned in actor training, it is this: if there is a void, your body will fill it with fear.

There are a few things that your body needs in order to feel safe, secure, at home and in control. If you give it these things, you are letting it know that it doesn’t have to go into panic or freeze, that you are OK in this moment and you don’t need to leave.

What does your body want? 

1. A familiar environment. Walk into the space where you will be presenting when it’s empty, let your body feel familiar with how you will get up out of your chair and walk to the podium. Practice looking out at the empty chairs, breathing, and allowing the fear (you will already feel) flow through you.

2. Friends to talk to: Practice your presentation out loud and in front family or friends. Practice, again, by yourself, imagining you’re speaking to that friend. Do it again, but this time, imagine you’re delivering it to someone who might intimidate you. Notice that, even with this extra sensory input, you can do it.

3. Relaxation: Sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water for the days leading up to the presentation. Rehearse for a few minutes everyday, to form a muscle memory of your talk. Take a moment of silence or meditation on the morning of your big day, reminding yourself of your purpose in speaking. Give yourself a neck massage. This stimulates glands in you neck that actually calm your body’s alarm system. 

4. And finally, a good warm up: A soccer player wouldn’t enter the field without first elevating his heart rate and warming up his body. That would be too much of a shock to his system. Similarly, an actor would never walk on stage without first doing a warmup. So, stretch your body, the parts that feels stiff. Stretch your face, your lips and your tongue. Take a few deep breaths with your arms lifted above your head and then curl over slowly, allowing yourself to hang from your waist. On your next exhale, let out a big sigh.

Next up, How stop panic before it starts? Give your mind the information it wants.What do you tell yourself before you stand up in front of an audience to present? How can you change the story that you walk in with? Maybe it’s time to have some answers for your inner critic BEFORE you step up to the mic. 

Need more information on how to fight fear before it starts? Here’s a link to useful body language to use before and during your presentation. More of me atRebeccacmartin.com!

How do you let go of fear? Give it what it wants.

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In my work as a public speaking coach, fear comes across my desk in many different forms: fear of speaking in front of an audience, of voicing your opinion in a meeting, of making small talk in groups or social situations, of stating your needs in a relationship, of being your own advocate and standing up to a boss or co-worker.

It seems that if we could just erase fear from our realm of possible reactions, we would get so much more done. We could do what we’re passionate about, live the life we dream of, find the partner that we want, request what we need to succeed in our career. Everything we want is on the other side of fear.

We know that it’s purpose is to protect us, to keep us alive. So, how can we allow fear to do it’s positive thing without blocking us from doing our positive thing? 

Face it: Start by getting to know Fear.

Fear is a chemical reaction. Dan Goleman (youtube link here) walks us through the structure in the brain responsible for our fear reaction: the amygdala. The amygdala is the brain’s sentinel. A small part of everything we see in every moment goes directly to our amygdala. It scans the information to see if it is a threat: “Do I eat it or does it eat me?”

The biological reactions are as follows: cortisol is poured into the bloodstream as a result of the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) Axis activation. This is Fight, Freeze or Flight (FFF), the classic stress response. We’ve all experienced this one: shallow breathing, racing heartbeat, dialated pupils… sweat. This activation also suppresses the immune system, digestive system and reproductive system. If this activation is sustained, over time we develop chronic fatigue, adrenal burnout…. blah blah blah….hormones.

But, this is the part I found fascinating: Look at what happens in your mind…

The triggered HPA axis changes the way that your brain prioritizes information. For example, if the snake on the trail in front of you is causing an overwhelming reaction of fear, then everything that is relevant to that snake is what preoccupies all of your attention.

Therefore, if you are giving a speech and you walk on stage, fearful that your audience will not like you,  then you have already manifested your worst nightmare! 

Biologically, you are programmed to notice and fixate on every detail in the room that substantiates your reason for being scared stiff and lifeless:

Your boss checking her watch, your colleague smirking, the man in the back on his cell phone, the angry face in the front row. You’re not just imagining that people are sending you these signals, they are, but from your perspective, in the grip of an amygdala heist, they are heightened and these small, negative details are the only ones you see. 

It’s a downward spiral…

This “amygdala hijack,” this hormonal activation, creates hypersensitivity to all the scary stuff and also changes the hierarchy of your memories. The memories that your brain chooses to bring to the surface, at this moment, are those that substantiate your fear.  

Your brain is very kindly reminding you, again, why putting yourself in this situation has been (in the past), is currently, and will forever be hazardous to the survival of your species.

Thank you, brain.

As Golemen says, “fear response is suboptimal to life,” to put it mildly. So, really, facing your fear is about knowing yourself well enough to know when you’ll be stepping into a situation where your system will be activated. Once you have the knowledge, you can prepare in advance, to send signals to your body that there is no threat and you are calm and at ease. 

“So, what do I do about this?” 

Answer: Manage your fear before it has the chance to start its vicious cycle by preparing your body and mind to be relaxed and present before you do that thing which scares you most.

How do you do that? Stay tuned for next week’s blog or click here to get immediate, fear preparation strategy. 

What is your Work?

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There are moments in life where we experience realization. Byron Katy calls it waking up to reality. It is the moment you realize that you play a vital and unique role in the universe. I had my realization this summer when an eight foot, water-logged pole hit me on the back of the head when I least expected it.

That pole may as well have been dropped by God. It stopped me in my tracks and took me down to earth: pole to head, forehead to dirt, palms and heart to earth. In that moment, I was helpless. I could not lift my own weight. I dared not move my neck. All I had was my inner awareness and stillness. In that stillness, these were my thoughts:

  • I am not in control.
  • Life is precious and can be short.
  • Do your work now, not later.

As I gave the full weight of my body to the earth, and allowed my family to come and care for me, I also had a realization that these moments of complete and utter giving up, are not such a bad thing. Let others lift your weight into safety, let them hold the burden for a moment. My family brought me into our living room, one member at my head, the other at my feet, the last holding my hands. I was held completely. 

Waking up to reality.

Have you ever had a moment when you were no longer able to move forward in your current way of doing things? You may have become inexplicably sick, or physically hurt. A combination of your conscious and subconscious body would not let you continue on your current trajectory, probably for good reason. Your body was simply asking you to be still, become aware and realign your action. 

 

That pole made me commit.

The coaching work I’ve done this year comes from the tools of acting I learned while training at The National Theater Conservatory, the commitment work that shifted my life forever through The Max with Paula Shaw at Esalen Institute, and from the coaching training that I completed this year where I was able to synthesize my knowledge into simple and applicable tools that I can teach to anyone. 

But truthfully, it all came from from the moment when a pole hit my head. Because, in that moment, I committed to not thinking about it anymore, but actually doing it, now. 

What work are you still waiting to do?

In one-on-one sessions we break down your relationship to performance or, what happens to you when you stand up in front of other people and talk. We also break down the commitments you have made in your life by looking at your actions. The work takes you from how you show up now, to how you want to show up in a larger, more empowered, visionary way. 

As we come into a brand new year, I have a few wishes for you:

  • Stop.
  • Listening to your inner voice.
  • Clear clutter so your vision can arise.
  • Act on what you know to be true.

Most importantly: Start now.

 

 

10 wholistic practices to increase your odds of landing the job

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You have the expertise, job history and experience to qualify for your dream job, but you are still not landing the position.  You have prepared your content to perfection, so what else could it possibly be?

Your body language, presence and the silent conversation your body is having with others in the room might be having a huge effect on your success rate.

Neuroscience research shows that the subconscious rules our behavior 95-99% of the time. Without knowing it, most of us are undermining our interpersonal and professional credibility, simply because we’re not aware of what we’re communicating on a physical, vocal and energetic level.

So you google  “body language interview tips” and you get stock answers that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. In the best case, the stars align and you eek by, just barely. In the worst case, they make you seem less human, too slick, and fake. 

Why body language interview tips DON’T work:

When I first started practicing yoga, I was just following the form— the shape that my instructor’s body was making at the front of the class. I didn’t learn how to embody the asanas until I started to understand what the pose was supposed to accomplish.

Learning the form was good training, but at a certain point, in order to rise to the next level, I needed to understand why. I believe the same to be true for interview preparation and coaching. It’s not enough to learn the forms, you have to learn the why.

For example, standing tall or sitting up straight with good posture can quickly look arrogant or hollow. This exudes in-authenticity if all you’re doing is practicing the form or posturing.

In contrast, if you are able to stand powerfully, knowing that your feet need to be planted squarely beneath your hips and your weight, balanced equally between the balls of your feet and heels, then that gives you a presence of weight, authority and gravitas.

Or, if you allow yourself to sit with a straight spine in your seat, knowing that this is enabling your body to take a deep, diaphragmatic breath,  then you are sending an authentic signal of confidence to your self, your nervous system and your audience.

The crucial tip that WILL make you stand out from the crowd:

Often we over prepare the content for these high-stakes situations but we don’t prepare physically or emotionally. We only take care of one part of ourselves. Any small thing can then knock us off our game and send us into a state of defensiveness and mental muddiness. This is not only communicated to your interviewer but it has a spiral effect on your own nervous system. So, here’s how you prepare efficiently and effectively for the success of your whole being:

Before the interview:

Practice diaphragmatic breathing. 4 counts on the inhale, 4 counts on the exhale. Put a hand on your belly to make sure that you are releasing as low down as possible. You can place a hand on your back to make sure that you are breathing three dimensionally. Try filling up your lungs from the bottom to top, imagining that your lungs are balloons filling with air.

Practice a powerful neutral stance, first while standing, then sitting down. Then, try transitioning from walking in, to sitting down, like you’ll be doing in your interview. At all times, your feet are planted firmly beneath you and are in parallel. Your hips are over your heels, your shoulders are over your hips. You can imagine that your head has a string pulling out the top and your chest is slightly raised. 

Warm up your voice. Find a closed space and practice rumbling as low as you can go. Often we want this deep resonance in our voice. It adds authority and weight to our ideas. It also sends a message to our bodies and our interviewer that we are relaxed. When we’re nervous our voices tend to jump a pitch, often because tension has risen to our throat. The more you can practice a lower pitch, the more you will feel relaxed and send a message of authority.

Move your face and body, tensing and releasing, before you walk into the interview. Often, we’ll prepare by staring at a computer screen or reading or notes over and again with our face down and brow furrowed. Our face will then remain frozen in ways that don’t communicate our excitement or enthusiasm for the position. 

During the interview:

Focus on this the other person. Often we’re so worried about how we’re coming across, we forget that others might be having the exact same experience. Try this, focus on the other person. What can you do to make them feel comfortable? In an awkward pause, be curious about them. Have a list of questions that you know you can pull out if needs be. Ask a question and then focus on listening and really hearing the answer.

Re-set the playing field. How often have you walked into an interview and you’ve been taken off guard? Something they said has thrown you for a loop, or something happened in your personal life, just before you walked through the door, or something in the room has made you uncomfortable. This type of experience can make or break an interview. If you do not take the time to make yourself comfortable, you not only fail to set yourself up for the possibility of success but your looking uncomfortable makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable. This also a great way to reset the playing field so that your interviewer knows that your’e in control.

Find your center and stay there. Often, we’ll lean forward to try to look engaged or lean back to try to look confident. Don’t do either, stay in your center. This is not only sending a signal of strength and ease to your interviewer but it is sending a signal of safety to yourself. When answering a question try to keep your head level, your eyes level and stay in your center. If you start to lean or swerve, notice what made you feel that this was necessary. You’ll probably begin to notice that you’ll only do this if you’re not sure about what you’re saying or in some ways trying to “dodge” a reaction from the other person. Try to ask and answer questions “head on.”

Plant your feet and point your toes where you want to direct your focus. Try noticing which way your toes naturally point. Your feet will naturally fall pointing towards where you instinctively want to go. Often, this is right out the door. Instead, try pointing them towards the interviewer to send the signal that you want to be exactly where you are right now.

Put your hands where people can see them and allow gestures to come into play. We want to see where your hands are. It makes us more comfortable. Maybe so we know you don’t have a hidden agenda. Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or on the arms of the chair, but when there’s an opportunity, gesture with an open palm and from the heart. 

Bonus tip for powerful communication:

Breath is connected to thought. So, inhale to find “inspiration” and exhale while giving your answer. Try looking at the interviewer while inhaling to “find” your answer, it will keep your answer connected to the person in front of you, enhancing your relationship and keeping you authentic and honest in your message.

There are many other tools and techniques I could teach you, these are just a few. But you can start to see the difference in technique thats specific to your needs. Imagine the difference between wearing an off the rack, one-size-fits-most, clothing item, and a tailored suit. The quality of interview experience you can have, after working with a coach who tailors to your unique communication style, is well worth the effort and the price.

The importance of an interior life

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It’s like a movie.

This summer I had the opportunity to be with my family on a remote island off of Vancouver island. Quiet, free from technology’s reach, distractions, social obligations and rat-race requirements. I was able to follow the threads of my curiosity and notice, without too much eye-raising or judgment from loved ones, what was “up” for me.  What began to fascinate me was the process of watching my inner life, like a movie.

Our inner life is always “on”, whether we are aware of it or not. We are running stories, memories. All the other parts of ourselves (the inner critic, the fearful child, the rebellious teenager, the dominating bitc–etc…) are reacting and responding to what’s going on outside (see the Pixar movie, Inside Out). It can color, warm or darken, our external experience. It can run wild like a film. One could even imagine our internal life set to a thrilling musical score, mirroring the rise and fall of our curiosity, inspiration, joy and the extremes of vulnerability, loneliness and even rage. All of these colors are present throughout our day  and often we don’t know why. There is an internal experience to everything. What is yours?

Is an interior life a good thing?

I get myself into trouble because I often find my interior experience to be far more exciting than what’s happening in front of me. This poses a problem in social situations. Great big grins to the left and right, silly pranks and antics, conversation for filler and shock value, provocative jokes and tirades against this or that group, extreme familiarity– arms strung between bodies, intertwined and suspended, clutching half-committed, are fun for a while but feel like we all have a great need to perform our internal experience rather than relishing savory moments and simply being with what is happening.  

Drawing yourself inward in the morning, for a moment of meditation, prayer, deep breathing can familiarize you to this place inside of yourself, inside of your experience, and alert you to some very significant signals throughout your day. How do I feel? What’s “up” for me? How do all the different parts of my body feel? What muscles am I needlessly holding?  Is my mind repeating a word, a song, a thought, a memory, over and over that I have tuned out? What is it saying? Where am I now and where do I desire to go? What can I do with all of this new information? This type of check-in can bring surprising clarity and direction.  

What’s the first step in getting to know our inner world?

Try this for a day: total external rebellion. Don’t read the news. Don’t read what other people think about what’s on the news. Don’t take pictures of your experiences. Don’t look at pictures of other people’s experiences, deciding whether you like them or judge them. Instead, appreciate the wealth of your own current existence, be in the soup of your own experience, and let everything else fall away. How fortunate we are to be so complicated! It makes for great entertainment.

The uniqueness of this moment will never come again– these people, this place, this fresh wind, this bite, this thought, this internal age of every cell, this coalescence of the right elements, at the right time, intersecting for a perfectly imperfect you, right, now.

Becoming Present

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Sayulita, Mexico

I am perched on an uncomfortably tall chair. My fanny pack is on my lap, a little too cumbersome for comfort and I ask for my first cerveza of the evening. (Actually my first was beneath a blue awning while waiting for the green and white bus going to Sayulita. I drank and also watched a young mother gather the gaze of her babe in arms, hip hugging jean shorts, while waiting for the bus. )

I stay on that chair while two drunk girls stagger and glare when they hear my insufficient Spanish. The bar is too close for comfort to the musicians and I avoid eye contact as I have never been this alone in a new country. Finally I relinquish to the intelligence of my own body, I find another chair with a bit wider seat, farther away from the crowd and I give all of my nervous, loving energy of the moment to the musicians in front of me. If I can’t be comfortable, then at least I can make them feel adored.

Grounding myself in a new place is a process of becoming present to my sensations. I feel my feet, I feel the hot sand, I smell the smell of waves pulsing towards me. I pull my knees closer towards me and release that spot in my in the low of my back with breath. The sun on my shoulders, a book between my hands, I watch the surf, the strong but soft waves, the beginning surfers, the kids fluidly playing between the waves and the playa.

Back to the woman at the bus stop. Her eyes gaze into her child’s eyes. She is so young, maybe eighteen. But with hair and skin so healthy and fair, maybe she ages slower than we do. Her gaze is pure and without self-judgement. She is not comparing herself to others around her. She has no stroller or diaper bag. She is not living a life she doesn’t have time for. She is not aware of anything besides connection with her baby.

I feel my neck unwind and the image of a snake comes from my dreams last night to my consciousness. “To unwind.” What a perfect metaphor for what literally happens in your body, down to your cells when you come to a place of peace and safety, you unwind. My neck releases in both directions and I think I just grew taller, my eyes brighter, my senses cleaner. I am unwinding. No matter what from or why, but the serpent is uncurling and wants to be long and free. I feel my head and my tail.

The sand is warm, not hot and my face finds comfort underneath a small hat. I acrobat into the water and I wonder why no else seems to like to walk on their hands in the surf. I remember what my yoga teacher this morning said about finding our “feet” wherever the ground may be. And I like thinking of myself as an animal, diving into the water, my feet are now my hands. I feel the water, I free my mind of clutter, I feel the water, the buoyancy of the salt. I look for smiles and smiles from within. I am finding my ground.

I watch a young man moving into the water. He is a fisherman. With playfulness he dances. With keen observation he moves to an inner rhythm in his steps. He finds purpose in goodness and allows joy to bubble up without a lid.

What are you committed to?

habit-3

I am a voice and body coach. I help people enjoy the act of speaking in public (imagine that!) as well as teach people how to grow their authentic leadership presence. This work starts by looking at the conscious and unconscious choices you are making in how you use your voice and body language. But with this work, something inevitably happens–life begins to percolate through.

With clients, we’ll start by talking about physical choices, but end up talking about the life choices that led to the physical. Our life choices actually manifest in such things as our posture, the volume of our voice, the gestures that guard vulnerable parts of our body. We could even go so far as to say, our life choices  (what we’ll call commitments) are the seeds of many of our physical habits. 

So, how do we identify our commitments? And, once we do, how do we create permanent, positive change? What follows is a process that I use with clients that comes directly from Paula Shaw, the author and leader of my favorite workshop at Esalen Institute, The Max (themaxwithpaulashaw.com). I found this process to be simple and straight forward but revelatory and powerful in it’s ability to catalyze dramatic change. 

Let’s take a recent example from my own life. I have wanted to launch a website for years.  (Spoiler alert, it’s now done, shameless self promotion: rebeccacmartin.com) Why has a website taken me so long? Unbeknownst to even myself, until I took some time to do this process, I had been very busy committing to saying that I wanted to create a website and not doing it. In other words, if you were to simply judge from the results of my actions, you could honestly say that I had been committed to talking about a website but not creating a website. That would be a fair statement. Once I was able to see this about myself, I was motivated to create change.

In going through this process, I also realized that I had been committed to quite a few beliefs that “helped” me with my larger commitment: I’m not tech-savvy. I don’t look good in pictures. I’m better in person. I’m not ready. I don’t have anything new to say. I don’t deserve to have my own website. Etc. In essence, I had been working very hard to convince myself not to launch a website.

So, your turn. What are you committed to? You might be reading this post because……

You are committed to reading personal growth blogs. You are committed to your psychological health. You are committed to a vision for your life that is bigger and better than what you’re experiencing now. You are committed to seeking an answer.

You are probably also committed to….

Eating healthy food, sleeping 8 hrs a night, loving your partner, being good to those around you and to yourself, yoga, meditation etc. Or, are you really?

Let’s look a little deeper. What could an outside observer say that you are in fact committed to?

Being on your computer 6+ hours a day. (It’s what you do, right? So it’s a commitment!) Searching the web and not doing the items on your to do list. Spending more than you have. Credit cards. Saying you are going to drink more water, and not drinking more water. (In fact, you are committed to 3 cups of coffee a day.) Saying you’ll wake up and exercise and not doing it. Having clothes in your drawer that you don’t wear. Buying what you don’t need. Being late to work in the morning. Being late, period. Etc etc…

Yup! Once you get the ball rolling, it’s easier to come up with more negatives than positives. So, all sorts of commitments are involved in getting us places and doing things, and being somebody and ultimately, accomplishing amazing things in this world! Commitments are important. Commitments are powerful. They have the power to build the life that we dream of, or to keep us locked into patterns that don’t serve us.

Now, pick up a pen and paper and write down the answer(s) to the following question: What are you committed to? Flesh it out. Give yourself the big picture of all of your commitments, positive and negative, and especially try to see your commitments from an outside perspective. Go.

So, what did you learn?

Now, what do you do when you realize that you have made commitments that are not serving you? Here’s what I do:

  1. Bring awareness to my commitments and acknowledge them for being what they are (no judgement). A thing is what it is.

  2. Look at your overall vision for yourself and ask: Which of these commitments are not serving my vision for myself and my life?

  3. Use choice and self-discipline to pick ONE commitment to turn around per week. Each time that commitment comes up, give yourself the assignment to make the new choice that serves you and your goals.

  4. Repeat steps 1-3.

We are all a big ball of commitments and no one can define exactly where they’ve come from. Many of them are from our environment–the way we were raised, our communities, our education, our work environments, our home lives. It’s not entirely our fault that we’re built this way!  AND it’s important and empowering to recognize that we have the ability to change.

Working with your commitments in this way can be done on your own or with a coach. Something as simple as a weekly check-in can ensure that progress starts happening now. Bring awareness to your personal commitments, begin to dream and develop a vision for where you’d like to get to and let’s create a game plan to help you get there.

This is one path I don’t think you’ll mind committing to.