I must become more relaxed

Photo: Pixabay

“Must” and “relax” in one sentence – a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?
But it happens more often than you might think.
We are aware that we should create a balance to the stressful everyday life, that we should pay attention to our health, get enough sleep, drink a lot, eat healthy food and, oh yes, do sports. And not just cardio training so that the heart remains strong, but also something for strength so that we keep posture.
And kaching – at least three points more on the daily To Do List.
Sometimes there mediation is added.
And there we sit, restless, with our monkey mind …
“Meditation is not for me. I tried so hard not to think, but it just doesn’t work. And then I get angry at myself for not being able to do it,” someone said to me the other day.
I couldn’t help laughing. Especially since I know the effect myself.
We plan for something to make us feel better, to calm us down – and exactly the opposite happens. Mostly because we transfer the performance principles of our everyday work-life to our leisure time and relaxation activities. And suddenly our anti-stress programme stresses us out.
And we are not totally with ourselves in the yoga class, for example, and pay attention to our well-being and our limits, but instead look at our trainings mate next to us to see if we are the one that performs better.

I still remember when I was doing training for a half marathon. That was at a time when I had to travel a lot in my job. But the training schedule had to be adhered to if I wanted to achieve my time target. What happened was that suddenly running was no longer fun for me, it had become a duty, a compulsion, a compulsion I had imposed on myself. In the end I was not fitter but even more exhausted after the running sessions.
I ran the half-marathon anyway – but I decided: running should not have this taste in the future. Meanwhile I’m running again – out of joy. Regularly, yes, but as often and as much as I like. And I have made room for other sports and leisure activities that I enjoy. Feels smoother. More relaxed.
And sometimes I take a nap instead of meditating. Or a walk instead of running.
My inner voice has become my compass for relaxation.
It is very reliable in knowing what would be good for me in that moment, what I need to feel better. It only needs stillness to perceive it – and the will to listen to it.

How do you “plan” your relaxation?
Why don’t you try to create “neutral” islands of relaxation in the coming week. These can be a few minutes in between, but also longer periods. Then pause, breathe consciously, come to rest and listen inside yourself what you feel like.
Follow the first impulse and be curious, what happens!

To a relaxed week.

Yours, Birgit

Start with the End in Mind

Photo: Pixabay

For someone who writes about happiness and well-being, this article may be a bit unusual.
Maybe also not everyone’s cup of tea. But quite effective if you immerse yourself.

The title of my article today is a quote from Stephen R. Covey. It came back to my mind in the last few days when I was thinking about who and what we give how much space and time in our lives.

During my little break the other day I also passed a cemetery and just sat down on a bench for a while. There were many graves of people who had been given 80 years and more by life. But there was also one of two brothers who had died at the age of 17 and 18.
Spontaneously I had the thought that we often live as if we live forever.
And that we do not like to deal with our finiteness. But how can I have a “good finish” if I suppress the fact that at some point the chequered flag will fly?

That immediately brought up the next questions:
What would be a “good finish” for me?
What if the flag were to fly tomorrow?
Or in a year’s time?
What would have to have happened or still be happening for me to be able to say that I can go in peace, I had a good life?

And – how much of it is happening in my life right now or have I already taken it into my own hands?
Too quickly our days, weeks and years are “full”. Professional and private commitments, all kinds of activities … Some of these we choose consciously, some we have no choice and then there are the many little things that sneak in so secretly.

After some thought, it was clear to me that I would like to have as little “if I only had” as possible left at the end.
The question is: at the end of the day, week, year, have we given enough attention and time to the people and activities that are really important to us?

Do you know what is important to you?

To set the right focus for the “good life”, clarity can help in the following four aspects:

1. What is important to me? – Do you know your values?
Your values are the best way to find out what is important to you. Values are closely linked to your convictions, ideals, needs and inner attitude. They are important for making the right decisions according to your definition and provide you with motivation and orientation. Imagine them as guiding stars in the sky. Always there – even if there is a cloud in front of them from time to time. When we succeed in living in harmony with our values, it feels right, flawless and good. Values can also change in the course of life due to experiences or new priorities (such as parenthood). That is why it is good to review them from time to time.
It is best to take a blank piece of paper and write down a maximum of 10 values that come to your mind. Then delete 5 of them in the next step and 2 again in another step.

Alternatively, here is another way to discover your most important values:

2. How do I live what is important to me? – How can you recognise that you live your values?
Once you have determined your most important values, you are already there half way. Now, values on paper are not more than big words. But the question is, what do they mean in everyday life? How are they lived?
If you ask 5 people how they define honesty, for example, you will probably get 5 different answers. Does honesty mean always saying everything – no matter what the consequences? On the other hand, does not saying something mean to be dishonest?
Here it is important that you find your definition.
How do you recognise that you live your values? Which behaviours and actions mirror your values? With whom or what and how would you have to spend time if you put the focus on them? Write down a definition and at least three behaviours / actions for each of your values.

3. Where do I stand at the moment? – Hand on your heart!
Now taking your definitions of point 2 – to what extend do the match what’s already happening in your life? Now this step it is especially important that you are honest with yourself – even if there are some sobering insights at one point or another … These insights are important to initiate changes with step four.

4. What is to be done? – Set sails!
With a view to steps 2 and 3, it should now be easy to change your course – if necessary – so that you come a little closer to your “good life” in the coming days, weeks, months. What do you want to change? Who or what do you want to devote more time to? What do you want to do differently?

Starting with the end in mind may be a pretty strong approach – but the forces that pull at us every day are not to be underestimated either. And only when we are really clear about what is important to us and are aware that we do not have eternal time, do we get into action – and into action in the sense of what each of us defines as a good life.

Have a VALUEd week!

Yours, Birgit

Honour your scars and wrinkles

Last week I took some time off. Completely offline, mobile phone off, immersed myself into nature. Hiking with a map – yes, a real paper one – and attentive perception of the impressions around me. Amazing how many waypoints and features nature has in store to find some orientation.
A beautiful and intensive experience.

On one of my tours I was particularly impressed by a stately, very tall, old tree. I think it was a beech. It had a trunk that was so high that I had to put my head far down into the neck to see its crown of leaves, which was swaying in the sun above most of the trees around it.

But what impressed me even more than the size of this tree was its bark. It was dark and firm, with furrows, elevations and niches. The traces of the years and the weather had left an uneven and yet harmonious structure on it. I let my fingers slide over it and discovered that spiders and other insects had made their home in the furrows and niches.
This made me smile and think about how the traces left by life can have their uses.

Aren’t the scars and wrinkles that we get over time a sign that we have been exposed to life?
And isn’t every scar also connected to an experience from which we were able to learn and which we can pass on to others – a scar that makes us a little bit wiser, despite the pain we might have felt when we got it?

Of course nobody wants to consciously scar themselves or have experiences that cause pain, grey hair and worry lines.
But if we dare to expose ourselves to life, to the storm and fire as well as the sunshine, consequences will show up. But whether they make us older or more alive is up to us.

If we manage to look conciliatory and with a smile at the traces that our experiences have left behind, if we see them as a sign of what we have achieved and mastered and if we begin to be grateful for what they have taught us, then they suddenly become beautiful, the “traces of life” (on us and on others!). Because

“Everything you look at with love is beautiful.”
Christian Morgenstern

And often we are much better able to make peace with the events that have scarred us, to accept them as part of us without grieving about them for long or to revive them as justification for further events that are causing pain.

Let’s look with love and respect at the furrows and niches in our physical and mental bark and use the wealth of experience they have given us for ourselves and others.

The meaning of life lies not in our expectations of it, but in the tasks it sends us”.
Victor Frankl

To a meaningful week full of life!

Yours, Birgit

Emotional Nudity

Photo: Pixabay

Do you sometimes feel misunderstood by your partner?
Do you want to be seen and loved as you are?
So let me ask you a provocative question: do you really show yourselve as you are?

If we want real connection, we must allow ourselves to be really seen.
– Brené Brown

And have the courage to show ourselves fully and go all in.

To do this, we must first be aware of what is going on inside us – and then dare to express it. This is easy with good feelings, difficulties start, when we do not feell well. The feeling itself is uncomfortable – and now, weakened as we feel, we are supposed to show ourselves vulnerable? No way!

So we tend to lean into strategies which may look as if we tell about ourselves. But in fact, if we take a closer look, they help us distracting from our own discomfort. They are attractive, because they make us feel better in the short term. However, in the long term they emotionally separate us more and more.

One of these strategies is to objectify our feelings and communication. Instead of “I am unsure what this means” we say something like “the situation leaves many questions open”. I had halo moment the other day when I wanted to tell someone in a message how I am feeling. A friend read what I had written and said: “That sounds like a business letter. Why don’t you really write about what’s going on inside you – the way you feel, not so formal. Get naked!” First I didn’t get it at all. But when I read the message again, I suddenly realised what she was trying to tell me. The sentences were well thought out. Controlled language to the last word.
And when I started to rephrase, I felt the increasing discomfort. Interesting moment – and very valuable, because I became aware not only of what I was feeling – but also of what I was afraid of.

Another strategy is to wrap up our bad feeling in an accusation against the other. It is easier to blame the other person than to appear vulnerable. Not saying anything and expecting that the other person has to feel how you feel is also belongs to this strategy. Instead of “I miss that you ask questions” we say something like “I wish you would show more interest in me”. Without asking the other person, we have interpreted the lack of questions as disinterest. So it’s not surprising if our partner reacts defensively rather than empathically.

That it is not easy for us to open up is normal and can have different reasons:

  • The level of trust we have built up with our childhood caregivers
  • Our general level of trust and confidence in life
  • Our mindset towards other people
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being hurt
  • Past experiences
  • ..

But it’s our choice whether we use these reasons as justifications to leave everything as it is or whether we dare to take the step into the unknown and learn.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. -Henry Ford

If you are looking for more clarity, bonding and empathy in your relationships, then it is worth taking a closer look at these three aspects:

  1. Emotional self-consciousness (clarity): Are you aware of what you feel? What you miss? Can you name it? Can you accept it?
  2. Courage to take risks: Do you have the courage to talk about it? And if so …
  3. Speak about yourself: How do you express it? Are you talking about yourself or are you falling into one of the strategies?

It’s true, opening up, “getting emotionally naked”, makes you afraid, makes you vulnerable, is a risk. But having the courage to do so also sends a singal of trust to your partner.
And it is this trust that creates real closeness and a real, deep connection.

I think it’s worth it.

Have a courageous week.

Yours, Birgit

Switching off

Photo: Pixabay

Once upon a time we used to use it to make phone calls – now the mobile phone has become a smartphone. It is an alarm clock, book, notebook, calendar, torch, navigation system, daily newspaper … the list goes on and on.

It’s amazing what these little devices can do – and I admit I’m a big fan of our digital toys myself. Used properly, they can certainly save us time and increase our effectiveness. However, we also run the risk of them eating up our time. How many times have I caught myself picking up my mobile phone because I wanted to write something down – and four emails and six WhatsApp messages later I found myself on Facebook and thought: what did I want to do?

Especially in today’s world, where information from everywhere is coming at us, it is very important to oben the digi-umbrella from time to time to have self-determination over our time and to be able to decide more consciously what information we consume and when.

When, why and how often do you reach for your mobile phone?

Sometimes it is also very interesting to reflect in which situations we reach for our mobile phone and why.

Out of boredom?
Because we are looking for self-confirmation or fun? (e.g. when we wait and hope for answers to our messages)
Or is it distraction because we don’t like the situation we find ourselves in or would rather be somewhere else?

Experience more and more consciously without digital filters

Consciously going offline can therefore also strengthen our ability to accept unpleasant situations (no more distraction possible – at least not with a mobile phone …) Above all, it sharpens our perception because it is easier to focus on the here and now in the analogue world if we are not distracted by digital toys.

The way can be perceived (and remembered!) more consciously if we look for road signs and waypoints – and do not let ourselves be guided by the navigation system alone.
A conversation with my counterpart is so much more focused when I don’t have my mobile phone on the table.
The beauty and details of nature can be enjoyed and remembered much better with the naked eye and all the senses if there is no camera lens in between.
It is much easier to get in touch with people if you ask real people for directions – and not Google.

Planning to switch off consciously

Just give it a try.
You don’t have to give up the wonderful functionalities of your mobile phone completely. But how about planned and conscious offline times?

Place your mobile phone in a fixed location at home, for example. That way you can resist the temptation to look at it all the time. Put it there from a specific time in the evening to a specific time in the morning. (And this place should not be your bedroom.)
Or leave the mobile phone at home, e.g. when walking the dog.
If you don’t have a dog, make the decision to switch it off or put it aside for another occasion – e.g. when eating (also and especially when you are alone!)
And if you’re bold and curious, try not to use your mobile phone for a day or two on your next holiday – and be surprised how you feel and what happens.

If you’re switching off for a longer time, it’s a good idea to let people close to you know so that they don’t worry.
After all, we nowadays often expect an answer from the other person within at least 24 hours.

And now – switch off, relax and enjoy the freedom.
Because: switching off begins with switching off.


The Fly at the Window

Photo: Pixabay

I love to leave the windows and doors open in summer. Fresh air floats the apartment, brings a little bit of nature into the rooms.

Unfortunately this also applies to all kinds of small animals that fly through my rooms during the day. The other day, when I watched a fly in my kitchen bounce off the slanted window again and again when trying to get out, even though the terrace door next to it was wide open, I felt caught out.

Don’t we sometimes do the same?
Completely convinced of something we get ourselves a bloody nose. This has got to work. He must understand me. It worked out this way the last time. And instead of pausing, thinking, learning, questioning, we make another attempt. Maybe it’ll work if we just hit harder. Or more often? Or more convinced?

Some flies don’t make it.
The morning after, they lie on my windowsill, died of exhaustion.
Not all flies suffer the same fate.
There are also successful ones.
They are usually the ones that manage to get away from the window and fly around the room. Often they fly right after that through the open door back outside.

Maybe it is coincidence.
But I like the thought that they succeed because they have managed to widen their view, to see the situation from a different perspective and to free themselves from their convictions.

Where do you still regularly get a bloody nose because of stuck beliefs?
Do you keep running into the same wall with a narrow gaze and overlook the fact that the open door is close by?

Let’s be fly 😉 and smarter than the flies on our window.
Here’s to a week of new perspectives!


Threshold Fear

Photo: Pixabay

And suddenly you feel it – this tightness, this stiffess. You don’t know where it’s coming from. In the middle of a wonderful experience, of complete enthusiasm, positive energy, storming to new shores with ease, confidence and full of strength – you suddenly notice that something is slowing you down, you notice how tense you are.
Doubts arise.
Fear is knocking on the door.

At this point we often and gladly snap back and think “Ok, if it feels so bad now, I must have been mistaken, I am wrong.”
We let our fear take over and return to familiar territory like a small child who has been “brought to his senses”. “Oh, yeah, it was a stupid idea, actually.”

There are many examples:

You don’t get it!…
You wanted this job, the perfect opportunity to develop yourself – and a great fit for your talents and experience. The best version of you mastered the application process, convinced that you have all it takes. You succeeded, you got the job – and now you are facing your first big project and you are getting weak in the knees, feeling overwhelmed. You start to ask yourself if you have overestimated yourself, if this is the right thing to do…

For years you have hoped that one day you would meet him or her – THE ONE person with whom you feel connected, with whom you want to go through life. And now he/she is standing in front of you and you can hardly believe it – it feels exactly like you always imagined it! It is indescribable, it is wonderful — and suddenly there is this panic. You don’t get it…

Fear is exciting, complex and important. In my opinion, we still do not make enough use of it.
It is one of the emotions we often try to avoid at all costs. And if don’t succeed avoiding it despite all the control, precautions and weighing up, we stare at like deer into the headlight. Completely paralyzed. We can hardly stand it (we don’t have that much practice in it either). We want this feeling to disappear. Fast.
But it will neither disappear quickly nor stay away.
It will keep coming back, until we learn to enter into dialogue with it.

Because like all emotions, fear is an important indicator with various functions.
Its main function is probably to protect us, to prevent us from doing something that could harm us. Listening to it can sometimes be life-saving.
In principle, its words of welcome are usually: “We’ve already been through this, leave it, hurt last time it hurt.” or: “Attention! We are entering unknown territory. No experience. This is new, I can’t help you! Risk!”
I would like to invite you to listen beyond this greeting. To welcome your fear, to ask questions. It has so much to say!
Let it in – if you ignore it, its outrage will make it stronger and louder.
Embrace is, stand it, listen – but do not put it in the driver’s seat. And consider the possibility that it might be exaggerating a little here and there in its descriptions. At the end it’s a little drama queen who just wants to protect you.

And then be happy – because if it is there it also means: You have reached a threshold!
End of the comfort zone.
There is a possibility to develop yourself further. There is a way to overcome old prejudices or to add new experiences to your pool of knowledge – if you succeed in gaining clarity about why your fear is there and where your stiffness comes from.

Maybe a picture to close:
I ride a motorcycle. The coolest thing about riding a motorcycle are the curves. And if you don’t know the track, every turn is a new experience – but of course it also involves a certain amount of risk.
If you’re lucky, there are signs or curve markings in front of the it that give you hints on how the curve might develop. But they are only hints. The signs are always the same – and cannot at all reflect the diversity of the curves out there!
Sometimes a got on the breaks before curves because of the signs – only to think in the middle of the curve “Why did they put up this sign?” While the other time I drove into others, the cold sweat on my forehead, thinking: “A sign before this one would have been a good idea!”
Your fear is like that traffic sign: it says nothing about the upcoming situation – only about your past!
Recognize is – but don’t stop in front of it. Take it seriously, take a breath, stay relaxed, keep driving and turn your attention to the road, to reality as it lies at your feet – and be open to come to a different conclution than your warning sign.
Only in this way will you be able to enjoy the variety of curves – and experiences in life – in the future.

Have a good trip!

Your Birgit

Let’s be (un-)reasonable

Photo: Pixabay

It’s weird.
When designing trainings or seminars on being creative, the biggest task is first of all to get our brain into a “crazy” state — so that unconventional thoughts and ideas have space to emerge.
And I regularly discover how much we have packed our free spirit into a corset of reasonability and convention. Sometimes we can’t even find the button to open it!
Parents know about the magic of seeing the world through children’s eyes. Naive, curious, playful, crazy – fascinated by things that we later can’t perceive any more because we have analysed, dissected and explained them. End of fascination.
Because we are told how the world works and what “you do and what you don’t do.”
If we don’t manage to break out of this framework from time to time, we will always try to solve the same problems with the same solutions — unsuccessfully. no matter how hard we try.
Because effort or “more of the same” is often not the solution.
Especially in crazy times like these we will not get anywhere with “stencil thinking”.
Why not preserving a little childish craziness?
Cultivating it?
Enjoying it?
Not only does this deliver new ideas, but also makes you happy and feeling alive.

When was the last time you felt life running through your venes? Flooded by it – with all the consequences?
When was the last time you truly relaxed?
Did something you felt like you have to do it – no matter if it is reasonable?
When did you let your feelings run free (are you still in contact with them?) – and let go?

It’s not about doing your thing ruthlessly, going crazy all the time or wanting to do things differently on principle (as well a “stencil” …).
It is about a pinch of high spirits and exuberance in the soup of life.

Yes, eat with your fingers.
Or do the gardening without gloves, feel the earth, smell it.
Let out a loud cry of joy, jump, dance, sing! (In public of course :-))
Simply do something good for strangers spontaneously – leave two more euros at the bakery, for example – for the next customer.
Or put music on your ears and sing along loudly.
Put on two different pairs of shoes or socks – simply because you couldn’t decide – or walk barefoot.
Occupy the swings in the children’s playground, leave the umbrella at home when it rains …
I’m sure you can think of many more things.
Listen to yourself.
Be spontaneous.
And then watch out what’s happeing to you.

Yeah, most probably people will stare at you, so what?
If you put your heart and soul into it, there’s a good chance that you’ll inspire others to revive as well 🙂

And if you notice that you have lost contact to your emotions because of being too controlled, sensible and socially conformist, try this:
Pause briefly several times a day and feel inside yourself. Try to describe how you feel, what you feel. Label it.
And if it is an unpleasant feeling, accept it, name what you would like to feel instead.
That is a beginning.

Don’t wait to feel life, to enjoy living. It has been proven that most people say on their deathbed that they do not regret what they did – but what they did not do.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if we stopped living before we were dead?e crazy week for you – enjoy it !

Wishing you a lively crazy week!

Two Sisters

Photo: Pixabay

Dear Reader,
this week’s article is of a different nature. It’s been a while since I wrote my last story – I felt, it’s time again.
Enjoy reading and being inspired.

One morning, two sisters woke, looked out of the window and rejoiced in the bright sunshine, the blue sky and the mild, early summer wind blowing into the room.
They looked at each other and knew: a perfect day to go outside!
While one of them disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, then threw on her summer dress and closed the front door behind her, the other was still standing in front of the wardrobe.
What to wear?
What temperatures were to expect?
She took her mobile phone and checked the weather app. Looked good.
But what if they were wrong again? What if it started raining?
Rather closed shoes then.
If she was walking on forest paths, better anyway.
But if she was going eat at a restaurant, some more elegant shoes would be better.
And maybe a sweater in case temperatures would go down after the rain?
Umbrella or raincoat?
And sunscreen in case it doesn’t rain.

She began to collect everything and arranged it on the bed.
Maybe adding a bottle of water and a little snack?
You never know!
She went down into the basement to look for a matching bag.
Some time had already passed.
When she came back up to the apartment and looked out of the window, the rain had started.
Great, she thought, all for nothing! – and started to put the whole equipment away again.

On the way back from the basement, she ran into her sister in the staircase, completely soaked, and she said: “You poor thing! Did you get caught in the rain? How was it?”

And her sister answered:

“It was wonderful! I laid in the sun on the meadow, enjoyed the wind on my skin, walked barefoot over forest soil, picked berries and discovered a spring, stretched my feet in the lake and danced in the warm summer rain on the way back!
What are we doing tonight?”

How much do you really need?

Photo: Pixabay

We are so blessed.
We have pretty much everything and at our fingertips.
Not just things that are essential to life, like water and food. Also everything else. And if the store around the corner doesn’t have it, just order it on the Internet.
And mostly there is more than one version of what I need.
Just the other day I was standing in front of the refrigerator of a big supermarket and only wanted to buy one liter of milk – and had to choose between 8 different versions.
If you don’t know what you want from the beginning, you spend more time buying one liter of milk than it took to milk it . 😉

So is more always better?

More choices ask for more decisions.
Good decisions ask for more information.
Getting more information asks for investing more time.
(Of course I can also just grab one or follow the consumer advice – marketing would love me ;-))

Having more things often has similar consequences.
Having more means taking care for more.
More cleaning, more maintenance, more care.
Having a beautiful garden is wonderful. But it also means regular gardening.
Or to need even more – namely a gardener.
Then I don’t have to look after the garden, but I have to make sure I am able to pay the gardener – and maybe I will have less time to sit in the garden?
The more I want to afford, the more I have to perform.

Does having a lot really mean more freedom?
I have recently moved.
When you move, everything you have usually passes through your hands again.
I thought I didn’t have a lot of “stuff” – but I was surprised how often I asked myself the questions “do I still need this?” and “should this move with me?” And I was proud of myself, how often I answered those questions with a No.
True, the moment of letting go is strange – but afterwards I felt so much lighter.
Same applies to the furniture in my new apartment. Not everything is furnished yet and I now ask myself the question: how much furniture do I really need?
What if I just leave more space?

To my opinion, space and time is today’s luxury.
So, let’s make sure that we give our lives more space and time.
Simplicity on the outside also clears the mind.
No masterpiece has yet been created on a canvas that has been scribbled all over.

Where in your apartment (or your life) could you clean out or part with something to feel lighter? To create space?
Isn’t there that shelf in the basement…?
Or books from your studies …?
Or the “maybe-I-need-this-again”- closet”?
By the way, you can also let go of habits, thoughts or people that are not good for you.

Less is more.
Go for it.
And afterwards enjoy the ease and the room you’ve created for new things.

Just like a dear friend of mine said to me the other day:
“If there is no room to grow, nothing can flourish.”

Have a light Sunday,