Your Yes Means Nothing Unless You Can Say No

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Life calls us to say Yes to our responsibilities and to what’s most important to us, from self-care to caring for others, from honoring our commitments to fulfilling our life purpose.

In order to be able to say a resounding “Yes!” to all these things that take time and energy, we also must be able to say “No” to plenty of other things that might be appealing or also important but that are likely to distract us from what we have prioritized and committed to. Our Yes’s to others are also more believable and trustworthy when they know that we can say No when we mean to.

So, can you say No?

  • Can you say No to stuff?

  • Can you say No to another person?

  • Can you say No to yourself?

The most effective way to get our priorities done is to first say No to everything that is less necessary and less important. For example, if we want to sleep enough and at the proper time in the night (most basic self-care need), can we say No to screen time and other stimulation 1-2 hours before our intended bed time even if we just want to watch “one more” episode?

The most effective way to have healthy and happy relationships with others is to define and enforce good boundaries. There is no boundary unless we can assertively and respectfully draw the line when it’s been crossed. Every real relationship will eventually get to that place of friction where conflicting values and needs are revealed. When this happens, can we say No to stay true to our own self while still honoring the relationship?

The most effective way to be successful at fulfilling our life purpose is to say No to plenty of stuff that is not part of that greater goal, even if it sounds good in the moment. It’s about choosing long-term satisfaction over short-term gratification most of the time. In order to stay the course that we have mapped for our self, can we say No to extra requests, events and fun ideas even if they might also be interesting?

As we learn to find our No’s, can we make a distinction between “Definitely No”, “Not Now/Not Yet”, and “Let’s Discuss And See If We Can Get To Yes”?

And with that being said, can we say No in a direct and assertive way, but also with respect and grace? Even when the No we say is to our own self?

Being able to say No allows us to say Yes to what truly matters!

Are you #Adulting?

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It looks like we have to remind ourselves to be adult these days!

We make jokes on social media, feeling proud for organizing our finances or even cleaning our bathroom counter…

If they were still alive, my grandparents would be rolling their eyes : )

Adulting is actually plain old self-management. It means taking care of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs and responsibilities, so that we can function optimally individually and in our relationships with others.

What’s weird is that although previous generations had less technological assistance, they did not seem to need to remind themselves to be… adults.

What got in the way of our self-management?

Could it be our addiction to being busy?

Could it be our addiction to distracting our self?

Could it be our addiction to immediate gratification?

If we struggle with self-management, the first step is identifying what’s in the way of being responsible. What pain are we trying to avoid? What kind of support are we lacking? What skills do we need to develop?

In order to assess where we’re at with #Adulting, let’s take a look at the big categories of self-management:

1. Self-care: this is the most essential, and it’s made of four sub-categories – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care. How well are you taking care of yourself in each of these categories? Let’s start with the most basic: are you sleeping enough every night?

2. Supportive relationships: a lot of people have replaced regular face-to-face meetings with close friends and family with instant messaging and video calls. We need face-to-face conversations and in-person activities to nurture real relationships. How close do you feel to your friends and family? Whom can you confide to?

3. Household management: is your household running smoothly? Is your home clean and can you find your stuff easily? Do you have food in the fridge and a clear plan to cook before it goes bad? Do you have stocks of basic necessities or do you regularly run out of toothpaste or toilet paper?

4. Finances: are your finances stable? Do you have a positive net worth or a clear plan to get there? Do you track your expenses to have clarity on where your money goes? Can you commit to a budget and save for future goals?

5. Commitments: do you have systems to organize your commitments? Do you show up on time to your appointments? How do you balance self-care with commitments to others? Can you say yes and really mean it? Can you say no?

Self-management is a journey, not a destination. We’re always going to have to work on something and that something will change over time. But if we have multiple challenges in our self-management, it’s time to improve! And if we have children, it’s never too early to get them started on their own self-management journey. Sooner or later, they will have to take care of themselves and their household as well.

Happy #Adulting!

When Did You Have Your Last “State Of The Union” With Your Partner?

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Years ago, a colleague shared this news with me:

“Former Colleague J is getting a divorce. His wife was having an affair. Apparently she was not happy and he had no idea there was any problem.”

And she added: “It’s sad that he did not even know. He did not have a chance to do anything.”

Unfortunately this kind of scenario is pretty common.

Fortunately there is a way to prevent your relationship to end that way.

And it’s by nurturing a close emotional connection with your partner.

When you and your partner are genuinely close emotionally, it’s harder to “grow apart”, it’s harder for life to drain the relationship out of its energy, and it’s pretty much impossible for people to even wish to have an affair. It’s just too good at home for wanting or being available for anything else.

Emotional closeness gives room for the ability to check in about the state of the relationship and about our and our partner’s happiness.

A sort of “State of the Union” for the two of you.

It could be as serious and organized as it sounds, or as casual and organic as you’d prefer it to be. The last one my hubby and I had took place on the couch after work, an organic follow-up after a conversation about work and happiness.

As we finished on the topic of work, I asked him: “And how is the marriage thing going for you these days?” and I listened to what he had to say. Then I asked: “What can I do to make it easier and happier for you?” and I listened some more, and shared my own thoughts and feelings. Now cuddled side by side on the couch, we brainstormed a few ideas, before reminding each other how happy we have been together and we moved on with our evening activities.

Marriage is not just a status. It’s a practice of perfecting the art of togetherness, as we constantly grow, change and are impacted by life. Like any living organism, it takes attention and care to keep it alive.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of our daily routines, especially for those of you with children – these little creatures have a knack for capturing all the attention (and they should get a lot of it for sure). If we want to keep our marriage alive - not just our children - we must actively nurture our relationship with our partner. We must give it priority, not necessarily in the number of hours spent, but by having an ongoing understanding of how our partner is experiencing our one-to-one relationship and most importantly, how they are feeling about it.

Yes, we can certainly deduct a lot from the way they behave and talk to us, but nothing beats asking direct questions from time to time. When we ask open-ended questions with complete openness towards whatever answers we might get, we have a chance to learn how things are really going from their perspective. This gives us a chance to correct course when needed, as people and circumstances change.

Disengage the autopilot. Pilot your relationship manually!

Cultivating A Deeper Connection In Relationships

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Nowadays there is a lot of chatter about the impact of social media on our sense of connection. On one hand, we have plenty of effective tools to stay connected and even reconnect with old acquaintances, and one the other hand, people feel increasingly more isolated and lonely.

Social media tools can smartly be used as bridges between real-life moments of deeper connections but they can also easily become our autopilot default when we allow our busy lifestyles to erode our capacity for meaningful in-person interactions.

And sadly, while we’re busy trying to “stay connected” superficially with the help of our electronic devices, we’re at risk of losing our ability to deeply and authentically connect with our intimate partner and dearest friends.

Cultivating a real, authentic, deeper connection with our intimate partner and with our closest friends is essential to feel fulfilled as human beings. Yes, even for those of us who are more solitary. Everyone needs at least a couple of close relationships to feel a sense of security, meaning and belonging in in one’s life and in the world.

Such deeper relationship is not about the amount of time spent together, or even what is being done together. It’s about the authenticity and depth of what can be shared within and in between these moments of togetherness.

Concretely it means that both people in the relationship are able and willing to:

  • Share the feelings that they are experiencing when it’s relevant and/or desired to do so, from the most pleasant ones (joy, hope, wonder) to the most painful ones (grief, shame, rage).

  • Be present when the other person is sharing such feelings, without needing to escape physically, withdraw emotionally, or fix the other person.

  • Notice when they can’t be present at that time, and express it honestly so that they can take a break without feeling guilty or creating misunderstandings.

  • Refrain from judging, not only the feelings that are shared but also the underlying narrative or event that triggered them.

  • Express and listen to opinions that are different than theirs, by tolerating the discomfort and remaining in a state of openness and curiosity.

Now, it does not mean that conversations at that level happen all the time. Basically it does not necessarily mean that the relationship is about talking for hours about every single feeling and experience. What it does means is that there is space for such sharing when it’s desired or relevant, and definitely when it’s necessary, such as when one person is going through a meaningful event (good or bad) or when there is a need to make a sensitive decision together or resolve a conflict.

Relationships where such level of depth is accessible are not only happy and healthy but they are absolutely delicious. There is no way to feel isolated, lonely or disconnected when we have part of at least one or two such relationships. We feel seen, heard, care for. We feel like we are in this together.

What does it take to relate at that level?

Of course, it takes two to tango! But connecting deeply with someone requires to be deeply connected with one self first. It’s impossible to relate emotionally with someone when we are not even aware of what we are feeling because we constantly repress, deny or project our emotions. It’s impossible to be present to someone’s feelings when we can’t be present to our own.

So start by feeling it all and fine-tune your ability to be present to more and more aspects of your self. Form there, see if you can start sharing a bit more deeply with your intimate partner and close friends while also creating a safe space for them to deepen the range of what they feel comfortable talking about with you.

Useful resources:

The book “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg offers a simple model for beginners to start the process of sharing feelings and needs while taking full personal responsibility.

Click here for a fantastic list of feelings offered by the Center for Nonviolent Communication. All the feelings are sorted by families of emotions, which makes the list an effective tool to expand our emotional awareness and vocabulary.

Wishing you all happy, healthy and delicious relationships!

Unconditional Love. Conditional Relationships.

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Are you sometimes conflicted between your desire to love someone and your ability to be in a relationship with that person?

I think that we human beings are called to learn to love unconditionally, first our own self and then everyone else, starting with our children and people we naturally feel close to and appreciate all the way to people we don’t like that much or even who have wronged us.

That’s quite a challenge and it’s an adventure of a lifetime to learn to give that kind of love to our own self and hopefully other human beings. Being a parent experientially teaches us unconditional love and a lot of people first experience that kind love through parenting their children.

But loving unconditionally does not mean staying in relationships unconditionally.

Unconditional love has no boundary - that’s what is unconditional about it. By opposition, healthy relationships require boundaries.

Boundaries don’t need to be thought about much or at all when both parties are on the same page regarding values, physical and emotional space and mutual respect. Boundaries are naturally sensed and respected between compatible people, like between friends who gravitated towards one another because of their similarities.

On the other hand, in relationships between people who are more different and less compatible (like in families and work places), boundaries will have to be thought about more consciously - and perhaps discussed and negotiated in case of conflicts - if both parties want the relationship to continue in the long-term in a way that is mutually satisfying.

And that’s where conditions come into play. Because boundaries are essential to healthy relationships, they become requirements to engage and stay connected in the relationship over time. That’s true for both personal and professional relationships, although the type of boundaries required will differ.

Even the most personal or intimate relationship - like a friendship or a romantic relationship - is a kind of unspoken contract of mutual respect entered by two willing people.

With some people, we can have mutual respect in a very close relationship, and with others we will only find a common ground of mutual respect by being a little further apart, emotionally and/or physically. With other people, we can not be in a relationship at all.

We can love unconditionally and we can end a relationship. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes it’s actually necessary to distance our self from someone - or even end a relationship – in order to be able to love that person unconditionally. Or our own self.

Forget New Year Resolutions. Choose Year-Round Development.

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Every January, we’re flooded by articles and advice about new year resolutions. Thankfully these days there is also a lot of conversations about why it’s pretty much impossible to stick to these resolutions!

It’s not you, it’s the resolution!

It’s hard to start or stop a habit because sheer will does not work long-term. Making a lasting change about a deep-seated habit can’t be done by will alone. Sooner or later, the pattern that was supporting the habit comes back in full force.

What’s needed is changing the pattern. And that’s what personal development is all about.

The bad news is that more effort is going to be required than reading advice, signing up for some membership or getting a new app. The good news is that once we have reached one level deeper into our personal development, much more is possible, not just one new year resolution. Just one level deeper and we understand life in a different way, we look at reality in a different way, and we of course approach challenges in a different way as well. We also feel more joy and we feel more in tune with the flow of life.

And that’s why although I write advice - just like everyone else with a keyboard and an opinion : ) - my commitment is to personal development and I will always encourage you to work at that level. It’s what works.

Because development is tied to deepening our level of presence, a good start for everyone is to work on becoming more present to our immediate experience.

Regardless of your new year resolution, see if you can start with taking a few deep breaths while you take your next shower, fully feeling into each stage and sensation of the breath, slowly and mindfully.

And go from there.

Got Forgiveness?

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Forgiving is hard because it looks like it’s a gift we make to the one who has wronged us. Why would we give something to someone who hurt us?

1. Forgiveness is a gift, but to our own self. It's a healing process we allow our self to go through, so that we can reset our emotions and nervous system, turn the page and move on.

2. Forgiveness is not equal to giving a second chance. We can forgive someone and never give them another chance. Or we can forgive and give a second, third, or even forth chance. We still get to decide what we do after forgiving.

3. If we have felt hurt, we believe that we are right and the other party is wrong. In every situation (at the exception of child neglect/abuse), each party involved in an incident has some level of contribution. Contribution does not mean responsibility or guilt, but it erases the right/wrong dichotomy.

4. Forgiving might look weak but it actually is incredibly empowering. No forgiveness = no healing = stuckness in resentment. Through healing our emotions and letting go of old thought patterns, we reclaim our personal power.

5. Forgiveness can involve the other person but does not have to. Forgiving can be done in the privacy of one's own heart. But sharing the process with the other party can be transformative for them as well.

And yes, the forgiveness process is as essential for serious crimes as it is for smaller issues, such as personal or professional relationship mishaps.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Ghandi)

Put Yourself in Their Heart, Not Their Shoes!

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Trying to put our self in someone’s shoes is a great start to empathy. It means that we’re trying to imagine what another person might be experiencing and feeling in the specific situation they’re in.

However, this process has its limitations. When “we put our self in someone else’s shoes”, that we indeed do is putting our own self in someone else’s situation.

Because no matter how close we are to that person, we’re most likely very different than them. Therefore it’s unlikely that we would experience their situation in the way that they are experiencing it. A same situation can activate very different emotions, thoughts and responses from people who have different personalities, values and lifestyles.

For example, someone showing up twenty minutes late to a meeting might not even be noticed by one person, whereas it might lead another person to feel all kinds of emotions because of their values and how their life is organized.

If we want to cultivate empathy, doing our best to put our self in the shoes of the person we’re trying to empathize with is a great start, especially when we do not know that person well. It makes sense to start by looking at things from our perspective since it’s the only one we have. A valuable next step when we start caring about that person is to get to know them well - values, feelings, personality, needs, lifestyle, etc. At that point, we become able to put our self into their heart, and see things from their perspective rather than from ours.

Let’s say that I could not care less about someone showing up late but my friend feels frustrated when that happens to them. If I put myself in their shoes, I might be wondering what’s the big deal since I don’t care much about lateness. However, if I know - and fully accept - that my dear friend lives with a really tight schedule and really needs that people respect their time, not only will I understand them better when they feel inconvenienced by the lateness of others, but I will also do my best to respect their need when we schedule something together.

Rather than putting our self into their shoes, we’re now trying to feel into them, trying to become them, and then we’re putting that new sense of self into their shoes, into their specific situation.

This leads to a very different kind of understanding, a very different depth of empathy and a very different kind of relationship.

Don’t Be Relationship Lazy!

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Have you ever heard of the regrets most frequently expressed by people who are in the process of dying?

  • Do you think they wish they had worked more?
  • Do you think they wished they had spent less time with the people they love?

One of the biggest regrets shared by people who are dying relates indeed to their relationships. They wish they had obsessed less about their career and spent more time with their partner and children. They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends over the years.

Why do some people let their relationships slip under their radar?

In addition to describing nine basic personality types, the Enneagram system also talks about three instinctual subtypes: the self-preserving instinct, the one-on-one instinct and the social instinct. These three instincts are the three strategies that we human beings use to survive and feel comfortable in the world. We use all of them but strongly favor one over the others:

  • Self-preserving people tend to focus on their own needs, especially the ones related to survival and comfort. They primarily rely on themselves to meet their needs.
  • One-on-one people are drawn to creating and nurturing one-on-one relationships; they like dealing with life’s ups and downs with special allies.
  • People whose social instinct is the strongest favor forming teams with groups of people sharing similar concerns or interests.

As you can imagine, people with a strong one-on-one instinct are the most likely to invest a lot of energy in their relationships throughout their life (that's me!). On the other hand, people favoring their self-preserving or social instinct might be more likely to focus on other aspects of life, that are by the way very important as well.

Usually this is in the area of the weakest instinct that we run into problems, usually because this blind spot leads us to ignoring a vital aspect of life. For example, someone whose least favored instinct is self-preservation might struggle with self-care and might need to learn to manage their own self with more discipline. Someone with a weak social instinct might feel awkward in groups or not even grasp the benefit of being part of a community, and they would benefit from learning to collaborate with groups of like-minded individuals.

And finally, people whose blind spot is their one-on-one instinct are more likely to forget or postpone investing in their intimate relationships, despite probably having plenty of loved ones in their life. For example, it’s the person who forgets or postpones to get back to that friend or family member who wrote an email or left a voicemail a while ago. It's the person who would really like to find a new partner but who feels exhausted at the idea of going on dates and connecting one-on-one with a new person. Basically it's the person who tends to schedule and make time for self-preserving and/or social aspects of life but lets one-on-one relationships fall to the bottom of the priority list.

All of these attitudes and feelings are human and valid - just like the ones of the person having difficulties with self-care or lacking interest or a sense of comfort and ease in social groups - but it’s worthwhile to challenge these automatic patterns of avoidance. The price to pay for living our life on the automatic pilot of our strongest instinctual subtype is not only the risk of a lot of regrets later in life but also more immediately the certainty of missing out on a lot of the juiciness of life in the present moment. And one of the most fulfilling aspects of life is being an active part of happy, healthy and satisfying relationships!

If you do not naturally favor the one-on-one instinct, what can you do to boost that aspect of yourself and of your life?

Here are a few ideas to get started:

1. Accept yourself and validate what you already do well! Chances are that you’re very good with taking care of your own needs or the needs of your family, special groups and communities!

2. Commit to grow your one-on-one instinct by intentionally putting more energy into your special relationships.

3. Make a list of people you cherish or with whom you’d like to feel more connected in general. Start with the most important people, then add other people you care about, both personally and professionally.

4. At the end of your morning practice (even if it’s just breakfast for you!), visualize one by one each person of your list and send them loving energy. If they are a lot of people on your list, split it in smaller groups and create a rotation. If you know what they most wish for in their life, visualize them being already in that situation, happy, healthy and radiant with joy. What a powerful prayer this is!

5. Every weekend, pick one person of your list and either call them on the phone for a spontaneous chat, or schedule an in-person meeting for later. This could be a conversation over a drink/meal or a shared activity based on common interests.

6. Try to figure out the love language of the people closest to you (partner, children, closest friends) and make sure to regularly express your appreciation of them in their preferred love language. Aim for once per day for the people living with you. Yes, you must find time for this.

7. Consider occasionally inviting a person of your list to join you in an activity you already do on your own, or in a group you are already part of, if that's appropriate. Maybe your loved one's self-preserving or social instinct could use a boost!

Don’t wait any longer. Start nurturing your precious relationships now!

Emotional Connection As Relationship Foundation

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There is one element that continues to be proven again and again as being the foundation of my marriage as it evolves and grows over the years: the emotional connection that my husband and I share.

And after years of closely observating all kinds of other relationships, I continue to come to the same conclusion: there really is no real, authentic relationship without a real, authentic emotional connection with one's partner.

Two relationship partners can certainly coexist, maintain a household, have fun, save for retirement and even raise children together without being emotionally connected. But such relationships devoid of a growing emotional connection do not endure each person's own way of changing over time, life’s curve balls, and... the test of time.

Additionally, past the checked boxes of buying a house and raising children, partners who are not emotionally connected are left longing for more without always being able to put the finger on that "more."

What does it mean to be emotionally connected?

People are emotionally connected when they can share and receive - both verbally and non-verbally - at the levels of feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and vulnerabilities. It's about the content of what’s happening in our inner world beyond the facts. It takes place in the heart, not in the mind.

An authentic emotional connection does not happen instantly. It grows like a garden. It first starts small by blossoming in the dating phase when sharing progressively more sensitive topics and feelings takes place. As the relationship grows and matures, both partners ideally become little by little more comfortable, emotionally safer with one another and better able at sharing and receiving at the deeper levels of their inner experience. This more mature emotional connection hopefully continues to grow over the lifetime of the relationship.

This way of relating to one another can take many different forms and flavors because each relationship is unique. Partners who primarily operate from their emotional center will relate emotionally in a different way than partners who tend to operate from the mind or gut center. Regardless of individual personality styles, being able and willing to relate at the level of emotions is essential to feel close, loved, fulfilled and to be able to make good decisions together, deal with conflicts and hardships, and support one another throughout life.

Emotional connection with a partner starts with emotional connection to self

There is no possibility of growing emotionally together if we’re not able to connect emotionally with our own self first. Are we in touch with our feelings? Can we feel emotions as they arise, first in the physical dimension then in the mind? Can we hold these feelings with acceptance and compassion?

Just so you know, it’s very normal to struggle with these questions. If we were not raised by emotionally aware people (which is the most likely scenario), it was not mirrored to us how to experience our feelings in a natural and healthy way. We might have been unconsciously encouraged to lash out from our reactive self, repress our feelings, and/or become numb to them.

Therefore on our path to a deeper emotional connection with a partner, we might have to first reconnect with a part of our self that we have not been in touch with for a long time. It’s a sensitive part of our inner work but it's beautiful and very freeing as we start to get to know a deeper part of our self.

The first step is to be willing to become quiet for a little bit. A good starting practice is to take a moment every day to sit peacefully, focus inwardly and feel into the body, the sensations, and little by little the feelings that are under the surface, ready to arise in our counsciousness.

Being in touch with one's sensitivity and soft parts in a non-judgmental and compassionate way is a prerequisite to being able to be in that state with another human being, and to becoming able to be present with their own tender parts as well.

How to tell that you and your partner are emotionally connected?

You're emotionally connected with your partner when you can go beyond facts, logistics and intellectual banter and into the world of feelings and everything that goes with them: hopes, dreams, fears, vulnerabilities and of course fulfillment, gratitude and joy.

It's when you can – when it’s relevant – bring to the surface and into the conversation your self-criticism, your shame, your anxieties, even (gasp!) the ones that are connected to the relationship.

It's when you can receive and be present to your partner's feelings by simply listening, reflecting, validating, without needing to defend, oppose, “fix”, or run away.

It's when you and your partner feel safe enough that you can have a deeper conversation about a conflict where you both can take responsibility for your own feelings, mistakes, regrets without collapsing and needing to defend, blame or go into hiding.

When we can do this for our own self and when our partner can do this for their own self, doing this together becomes natural and even essential to feeling well in the relationship.

Note: it does not mean that we are constantly relating at that level! It means that the emotional connection serves as a trusted foundation for safety and that it's available when it's relevant or desired to share at that level.

What if being emotionally connected is not enough to maintain the relationship?

Nurturing an emotional connection with our partner is necessary… but not sufficient.

It makes the relationship real, loving, full of life, and able to grow over time. It also greatly increases the chance of being able to address and resolve conflicts and it tends to keep people committed for the long-term.

However it does not make people compatible. Compatibility - one of the Four Pillars of Happy and Healthy Relationships - is another necessary ingredient to a long-term relationship, and no amount of emotional connection can create it.

Some people get into relationships - and become progressively more emotionally connected - before having carefully assessed their long-term compatibility. Others become less compatible over time as they allow themselves – consciously or not – to grow in a different direction than their partner.

And finally, mistakes happen and no matter how emotionally connected we are and how capable we are to understand and forgive, we might still decide that we can’t continue the relationship after certain events have taken place.

Building and nurturing an emotional connection is absolutely essential if we want to have a real relationship that is loving, authentic, happy and healthy, but we also have to be realistic that some relationships don't have what it takes to last forever.

Be in touch with me if you'd like to be introduced to practices customized specifically for you to grow in your emotional center and/or to encourage your relationship to grow emotionally. I'd be honored to support you in this beautiful and meaningful process!

Is Beauty The Key To Success In Dating?

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Let’s not beat around the bush, being pretty, beautiful, handsome opens a lot of doors… and in dating too.

But:

1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:

Beauty is more subjective than we think. What a specific culture and its corresponding mass media judge attractive will leave others indifferent and conversely. In a lot of ways, there is a lid for every pot; in beauty too.

2. Beauty’s advantage is limited:

Although being perceived as beautiful or handosme gets your foot in the door – and it’s a huge advantage for sure – it’s really just limited to that first step and nothing else. Beauty and attractiveness do not make anyone a great date or a great partner. It’s important to focus on the big picture when looking for a serious relationship.

3. Eveything else matters much more:

People go crazy for the pretty and handsome and sometimes just these attributes are enough to keep someone hooked for a little while. However if there is nothing else to build up an emotional connection, the relationship will not continue. People who are not considered the most beautiful or handome in their dating pool can dramatically increase their chances by focusing on emotional connection. This trumps beauty everytime, especially in situation where dating starts in “real life” rather than through online photos and profiles.

4. It’s always worthwhile to make an effort:

Although beauty is an advantage, anyone can make an effort with their appearance regardless of their genetics and what they start with. The first kind of effort is worth to do for yourself regardless of dating success: taking good care of yourself by having the healthiest diet possible, by exercising regularly and by maintaining an excellent hygiene is always a great investment for your own sake. The second kind of effort is about doing the best with what you have by making smart choices with outifts, grooming, etc. The right clothing, haircut, facial hair or make up can make a huge difference.

5. Inner joy is what makes people truly beautiful:

It’s impossible for someone burning with joy to not be beautiful and attractive, regardless of body type and specific physical features. The eyes of someone living in joy are bright and inviting. Cultivating inner joy and the desire to share this joy with others are a much more worhtwhile focus of attention than mere physical appearance. When you do this, it’s win win: you enjoy your life better and your dating life improves dramatically!

Marriage: Yay or Nay?

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  • Not wanting to get married: perfectly valid!
  • Wanting to get married: perfectly valid!

When you are in the process of dating, it’s essential to know what you are ready and not ready for at this specific time in your life, and to be able to articulate precisely and non-judgmentally your opinions, feelings and needs to a prospective partner.

To do so, a clear understanding of what marriage means is necessary because it helps clarifying - to yourself first then to another person - why you might feel drawn to making a legal life-long commitment to someone, or on the contrary, why you might feel resistant to the idea of getting married.

Marriage is:

  • A promise you make to another person to function as a team until death ends the relationship.
  • A social statement to your community and the rest of the world that you are officially part of a couple.
  • A legal contract stipulating that you have adopted your partner as a family member and that you assume responsibility of taking care of them until death ends the relationship.
  • A spiritual covenant. Depending on your belief system, it’s at the very least a commitment to growth through the trials and tribulations of living with another flawed human being. And if you are part of a religious community, marriage is an agreement to live as a couple according to the teachings of your religion.
  • A commitment to self. Because feelings towards another person come and go, it’s a commitment to yourself to stay committed to your commitment as feelings change. This commitment to the commitment serves as a source of inspiration and renewal in the marriage.

It’s a tall order!

Marriage is therefore not for everyone, with anyone, or to do at anytime. It takes a certain level of personal readiness to be able to consider marriage seriously and to have a chance of success, it requires a compatible partner who is also ready to make such a commitment, and it needs a good timing and flow between the first hello until it's time to make a decision between getting engaged or… ending the relationship.

If you are not into marriage at this point in time, it’s all good because our current modern dating culture gives you the option to have relationships with as little commitment as you want. It’s actually a good thing to have that choice; in the past people had to get married at a young age to fulfill social pressures and this led to many unhappy long-term unions.

On the other hand, it’s now more challenging for the marriage-ready person to navigate dating when the basic assumption is that dating is a fun activity to be enjoyed in the present moment rather than a process whose purpose is investigating the possibility of building a life-long partnership.

The bottom line is that if you would like to find a spouse and build a relationship that has the potential to lead to marriage, it’s up to you to ensure that your way of dating serves this purpose.

But first, it's important to understand what marriage truly is and what it requires of you.

We must first focus on becoming the type of partner we wish to marry.

How To Make Online Dating Less Frustrating And More Effective

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Have you been trying to meet your special someone online but finding yourself increasingly frustrated at the process?

Online dating can be ridiculously frustrating, yet it's still worthwhile to add this tool to your toolbox if you're looking for a serious partner.

Here are a few ideas to consider for making online dating work for you more effectively:

1. Treat online dating as online meeting

The power of online dating lies in the possibility of getting in touch with more people, in less time, and without having to rely on chance encounters. That’s awesome but that's it, really.

Therefore, once you got a promising match with whatever website or app you are using, you must move the process into real life to check in person whether you could indeed become potential partners.

We can meet online but we don't date online. We date in real life!

2. Stay focused on your intention

If you are serious about finding a special someone with whom to spend the rest of your life (or at least a good chunk of it!), you must use online dating to find that partner, and not allow the process to divert you from your goal.

Do not let yourself become a pen pal, a booty call, a shoulder to cry on, or… the other man/woman while they try to figure out if they’re going to leave their current spouse!

The best way to figure out if you truly are a potential match is meeting your prospective dates in person and see if you can get mutually invested in one another.

Newsflash: People genuinely interested in someone want to meet them! They make the time! They are excited to make plans! They can't wait to see them!

Do not become a texting buddy to some stranger you have never met. You already have friends. You are using dating apps to find your special someone, someone to share your hopes and dreams, to snuggle with, to cry and laugh with and hopefully to grow old with. That person is not a pen pal, a booty call, a texting buddy or someone already in a relationship.

3. Screen matches diligently and refrain from taking things personally

People don’t always remember that real people with real hopes, dreams and feelings are behind those hundreds of online dating profiles and photos. Sometimes this lack of humanity shows in how some people make contact, and other times it shows how others choose to respond to – or ignore new messages, even thoughtful ones.

Let's not judge them – people want what they want, and after months or years of frustrating experiences, it can become tempting to let our worst instincts take over.

Online dating is very effective to maximize your chances of meeting the right person sooner rather than later, and it allows your profile to work for you while you do other things. But it’s going to take you nerves of steel to deal with the creepy one-liners, the lack of responses, the dry spells, the dick pics, and all the other frustrating aspects of online dating!

Because of this, you will have to screen matches diligently and categorically avoid people looking for a quick and lazy hook-up, people who use impersonators and plain scam artists.

Your best chances are people who write thoughtful profiles, upload tasteful realistic photos taken in various surroundings and people who write you messages that show they have read your profile and invested a bit of time to think about something valuable to say.

Do the same and without taking things personally, and simply delete/ignore anything that comes from users with generic profiles, inappropriate photos or one-liners that could have been generated by robots or impersonators.

4. Strategically move from digital communication to in-person meetings

Because a happy, healthy and real relationship takes place in person (duh right?), once you are in touch with a potential match, you must move from online to real life in a reasonable amount of time.

What’s reasonable?

You want to spend enough time to do a basic screen of compatibility, chemistry, safety and interest before meeting up in person, but not so long that excitement has time to wane, that other options distract their attention or that you become the aforementioned pen pal/text buddy/shoulder to cry on, etc.

A good rule of thumb to get started (but with flexibility depending on circumstances) is to have a couple of exchanges through the dating app, then a couple of exchanges through personal email or messaging app, then a couple short-ish phone calls. After 5 to 7 back-and-forth exchanges, both people should know if they want to meet up in real life and organize an in-person date if that's the case.

Rushing to meet up too soon (trying to meet up as soon as the app matches you for example) can lead to two problems: 1. Intentions have not been screened yet and you might be considered for a quick and lazy booty call, 2. Although there might be genuine interest and online chemistry, you’re still going to meet a complete stranger, which is not the most effective way to shine on a first date!

It pays off to build a little rapport before meeting up in person, just enough to make a first date a bit more emotionally satisfying than meeting with a stranger. It also allows you to screen your match for intention, ability to focus, willingness to invest a bit of time, etc.

On the other hand, spending too much time online before meeting in person is a complete waste of your precious time and energy. Becoming someone’s pen pal/text buddy/shoulder to cry on is the surest way to kill off chemistry, become needlessly emotionally invested in someone you have never met and… potentially become involved with someone who is not as free as they should be.

5. Invest time and see it as a practice for the future

With social media and dating apps, people have become lazy. Again, let’s not judge – life is more complex than it's ever been so it’s normal to simplify things as much as we can!

But we must resist our tendency to laziness when it comes to relationships. Real relationships require some time and energy to build, nurture and enjoy! Even couples made of people who like doing their own things and who don't need to spend every free minute with one another will end up spending a few hours a week talking with one another, working on something together or doing something fun together. It's a relationship after all!

People tell me that they will make the time when they will have found the right person. Never mind that the right person is not going to magically show up at their front door, but even if it ended up working out that way, having a packed schedule and needing to be inspired to make time for something are not compatible with the needs of a long-term relationship. Real relationships need time and energy, even when there are competing commitments and even when when feelings of love come and go.

So you're better off starting to practice while single by making the effort to create time and energy for finding that great partner! Energetically you will be communicating to yourself, your future partner and the Universe that you are truly ready for the greatest love of your life.

Please be in touch if you'd like personalized support. I'd be honored and delighted to support you in this crazy adventure!

You Can’t Go Wrong With Integrity

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What is integrity?

The word integrity is often associated to honesty or just being “yourself.”

In the word “integrity”, there is the latin word “integer” which means whole or complete. Therefore a more complete definition of integrity needs to include elements of cohesion and consistency. Integrity indeed goes well beyond honesty.

When we have integrity, it means that:

  • We have consciously chosen our personal values, independently of culture or family of origin.
  • We have committed to our values for the long-term and have oriented our life based on these values.
  • We have remained steadfast with our values regardless of circumstances and temptations to change them depending on our feelings in the moment.
  • We have consistently aligned our words and our actions. We walk our talk. We walk our self-talk and we walk our talk with others.
  • We speak to others with sincerity and truthfulness, and we take responsibility and make amends when we make mistakes.

When we’re looking for a life-long partner, having integrity and choosing a partner who has integrity are essential. It's the foundation on which to build a solid relationship house.

Here is why:

  • Because relationships require compatible values, partners who want to live the rest of their life together need to know what values they are going to ground their purpose into, so that they can figure out if they are compatible. Different people's values don't have to be a perfect match but they must be able to coexist harmoniously.
  • Relationships require steadfastness as partners go through life's ups and downs. Life partners must have demonstrated the ability to commit to something for the long-term. Nothing beats having first committed to one’s values for a long time to demonstrate this ability to oneself and to someone else.
  • Life partners must deeply understand that feelings come and go; these are always true and valid in the moment, but must not affect their value system.
  • Relationship partners must be able to move beyond intention. Having good intentions is easy; turning them into concrete actions is more difficult, but crucial to fulfill one's life purpose and to have fulfilling relationships. Actions always speak louder than words, especially consistent actions.
  • In conversations, partners must speak with sincerity, honesty and authenticity. Practicing mindfulness helps evolve from reactivity to authenticity. When we have integrity, we don’t consciously or unconsciously test or manipulate others. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. With kindness.

Now what if we feel challenged with this topic?

First, please realize that your True Self - the whole, complete, relaxed part of you - has already perfect integrity because you are already complete and whole as a human being. Yes, even if at times it does not feel that way!

Therefore feeling challenged does not come from not having integrity, but from all the layers of difficult experiences, unprocessed feelings and defense mechanisms that have been built up throughout your life and that now stand in the way of your natural integrity.

You don't have to build integrity; you have to remove what is in the way of your innate perfect integrity.

If you want to think, speak and act from this natural state of integrity, make a commitment to look at what is in the way and go from there.

The most important though is to NOT delegate this task to your Inner Critic. You do not want this critical part of you to grab this intention and use it to berate or belittle you. Your reconnection with integrity must stem from your True Self - from your beautiful human conscience. It’s already there. Don't let any other part of you convince your True Self otherwise!

And if you are already thinking, speaking and acting with integrity, please consider developping relationships with people who are too. As you go on dates, ask questions and observe how your prospective partners live their life. When you make friends and build professional collaborations, look for integrity as well.

Relationships between people who have integrity lead to less confusion, less mixed signals and much, much less suffering.

When it comes to building happy, healthy and life-long relationships, you can't go wrong with integrity!

What Are You Doing With Your Feelings? (Part 2)

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Maybe too much?

A while back (please read Part 1 here), I wrote about the importance of becoming fully aware and accepting of all our feelings, the fun ones as well as the less pleasant ones.

Feelings are important information that must be felt, understood, accepted and processed. Not integrating our feelings into our global experience of a situation jeopardizes our well-being and relationships, whereas reclaiming them as valid and useful information leads to better health in self and in relationships.

And then…

There is such a thing as over-using our feelings!

Some of us (I’m one of those) have an over-active emotional center (other personality types have either an over-active mental center or an over-active instinctual center).

If having an over-active emotional center can facilitate a desire - or at least a willingness - to explore the emotional world, it unfortunately does not mean being naturally more aware of our feelings. However it does mean way too much acting and speaking in reaction to feelings, at least early on in the adult developmental journey.

It also means that on our journey to self-awareness, acceptance and validation, we might start to believe in our feelings too much.

What happens when we do too much with our feelings?

1. We believe that any feeling arising in reaction to an event, thing or person means something true about that event, thing or person.

Any feeling we feel arising is indeed important, true and valid. It deserves our full awareness, acceptance and inquiry because it’s indeed saying something very true about our present experience.

But this truth is partial and personal, not complete and universal.

If we unconsciously believe that positive feeling = positive event, thing or person and negative feeling = negative event, thing or person, we are misusing our emotional center and missing out on a lot of possibilities.

Most feelings say everything about ourselves and little to nothing about the event, thing or person involved in the activation of the feeling (with the exception of situations where someone intentionally speaks or acts with cruelty). Most emotional experiences in the present are old echoes from the past. They say more about our past experiences than about our current ones.

Therefore we want to extract the truth about our present experience but not equate its truth to the facts of the current situation we are just reacting to.

2. We make our decisions based on our emotional center’s experience alone, instead of integrating them with our mental and instinctual intelligence centers.

When we over-use our emotional center, we unconsciously over-rely on our feelings to make decisions.

Integrating our feelings mean allowing the blending of the information they bring up with the rest of the information gleaned from our mental and instinctual centers.

Making important decisions based on “feeling good” or “not feeling good” may mean to miss out on fantastic learning and collaborative opportunities.

Situations and people who act as activators of strong feelings (especially negative ones) are in reality our best teachers. Thanks to them, we can learn more about ourselves and we can be inspired to live our life more holistically.

Only doing what “feels good” or being around others with whom "we feel good" sure feels pleasant and easy, but it might lead to being surrounded by people who validate and enable us but who don’t challenge or inspire us, and therefore staying stuck in old patterns and missing out on learning new skills, ways of being and ways of being different together.

Not feeling good does not necessarily mean not good. Feeling good does not necessarily mean good.

3. We artificially amplify our feelings to feel “more alive”, or we hold on onto our feelings to maintain a specific mood, positive or negative.

People who are over-active in their emotional center unconsciously and unwillingly tend to amplify and/or hold on onto their feelings because it’s what they feel more strongly and what makes them feel more alive.

As much as it’s important to feel, accept, and inquire about our feelings, we also need to be able to process and then let go of each feeling experience after it has passed. A feeling is supposed to be a short experience. Its truth exists only in the present moment.

If we unconsciously amplify the feeling by replaying events in our minds, by using music or other forms of stimulation to hold on to the feeling for an extended period of time, we literally misuse our emotional center and this can jeopardize our well-being and relationships because feelings that stay in the body too long harm us and are more likely to negatively affect those around us.

So what’s the ideal way to experience our feelings?

The wisest way to experience our feelings is to develop such beautiful presence and calm awareness that we can feel our feelings arising in the moment, fully validate and accept them as pieces of truth about ourselves in response to a specific situation, then explore what is happening and what the feeling actually, truly refers to, integrate this deep exploration with our intellectual and somatic experiences, make a decision on how to speak/act, and finally let go of the emotional charge through release of the though pattern, breath work, physical movement, etc.

We ought to delve deep into our emotional center… and then come back up promptly to be present for the next experience of life. We don’t repress our feelings, and we also don’t get attached to them.

Feeling. Awareness. Acceptance. Inquiry. Choice. Processing. Letting Go.

Nurturing An Intimate Relationship Is Like Tending A Garden

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Your intimate relationship is just like a garden: you and your partner have decided to plant seeds and nurture young plants as they blossom into a bountiful harvest.

Two intimate partners are two gardeners on a shared gardening journey.

Growing a garden requires a balance of purposeful actions (Yang energy) and of trusting surrender (Yin energy).

Growing a garden with a partner involves the commitment of a shared vision, deep respect of the laws of nature, ongoing team effort, and lot of patience. It’s impossible to force growth because a living system follows its own unique organic process based on laws that are outside of human control.

However hoping for seeds to plant themselves, waiting for weeds to get magically pulled out and relying on random rain patterns to water your garden could mean waiting for a very, very, very long time to harvest yummy herbs, fruits and vegetables!

Growing a bountiful garden with a gardening partner requires both purposeful actions and trusting surrender:

On the Yang action side:

  • Teaming up with a gardener who shares the same vision of what to grow together and who has developed some basic gardening skills. That’s the foundation of the gardening project.
  • Committing to your garden and being willing to check on it on a daily basis. It takes ongoing effort that must be done regardless of feelings that tend to come and go like clouds in the sky.
  • Sharing responsibilities of planting, watering, harvesting and pulling out weeds regularly but being able to step up and do more if the co-gardener goes through in a difficult time. When a teammate is down, the other cheerfully picks up and keeps the project moving along.

On the Yin surrender side:

  • Respecting the cycle of the four seasons; planting in spring, growth in summer, harvest in fall and rest in winter. Gardens don’t continuously grow and soils need to rest between cycles. Surrendering to the pace of nature.
  • Accepting nature’s organic process. Some years yield more than others, regardless of gardening skills and efforts. Gardening is not a meritocracy.
  • Allowing the garden to give what is needed rather than what is wanted. What if nature had something else in store, something much wiser and more in tune to what the gardeners truly need?

As you read this, did you notice that your mind tends to prefer one side over the other? If you noticed that your mind likes to take control, may I suggest you to gently invite your action-oriented self to rest and trust the flow a little more?

On the other hand, if letting go is the usual preference of your mind, how about encouraging that flowing and resting part of yourself to plan more diligently and engage more dutifully in purposeful actions?

When you balance your Yin and Yang energies within yourself rather than subcontracting them from other people, you feel more integrated, you feel more at ease, you are compatible to more people and… life is more likely to give you what you truly need.

Wishing you a bountiful relationship!

Where Are You Going To Meet Your Future Life Partner?

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Did you make a crystal-clear intention to meet your life partner this year? If yes, I'm super excited for you!

To me, there is nothing better than sharing life with a loving and committed partner.

If you have struggled to meet new people in the past, your first step this time around is going to create fantastic opportunities to meet new people to date!

The most effective way to meet new people is using a two pronged approach: setting up an online profile working for you in the background while also actively opening yourself up to meeting your partner in your day-to-day life and weekly activities.

Here are a few specific ideas to make this happen for you sooner rather than later:

1. Using a niche-specific online website or app:

Do you know that about a third of new relationships start online nowadays? Regardless of how you feel about online dating (you don't have to enjoy it : ), you have to add this method to your toolkit because you don’t want to miss out on this very effective way of meeting new people. However, online dating is not for the faint of heart (it takes nerves of steel!) and it’s not as effortless as it looks like (you will need to invest some time every day to send and reply to messages).

To make it work well for you, I suggest you to use a website targeting people more likely to be compatible to your dating goals and to your must-have criteria. With online dating you get what you pay for, so please consider investing a little for the benefit of attracting people who are serious about creating a happy and healthy relationship and who are more likely to be compatible to you.

Ladies, using free websites and apps will lead to way more “What’s up, babe?” messages and photos of body parts you are not interested to see so early on! The more efforts an app requires of its users, the more serious its participants will be, and the more your energy investment will pay off.

Be in touch with me if you'd like expert support to write an irresistible profile, come up on top of the competition inherent to online dating and navigate website-to-real life transitions effectively, safely and gracefully. Online dating is more effective and more fun when you know how to use this method skillfully and artfully!

2. Choosing healthy activities allowing short conversation opportunities:

I have a soft spot for meeting new people while engaging in a “real life” activity. You get to enjoy an activity while making friends and having a chance to get to know people without any pressure before going on dates with them. Win, win, win!

The best activities for meeting new people allow participants to have short conversations with multiple people while engaging in the activity. It could be something you already like doing or that you’re curious to try out this year!

I can’t resist sharing my two favorites as they are good for everyone (yes, even if you don’t feel like trying them : ) and they work amazingly well to meet new people to date:

  • Social dancing: in the USA, social dancing is popular for both women and men (it's sadly not the case in my home country of Belgium) so it’s an ideal way to meet people while doing something fun and healthy. In beginner classes, dance partners rotate every few minutes so you meet plenty of people while gently challenging your body and mind. Do you think that you have two left feet and that your inner critic won’t stop ridiculing you? Take it as a developmental activity! Learn to turn your inner critic into an ally, create new connections in your brain and improve your balance and coordination! There are so many styles to choose from that you can for sure find one that is more appealing to you: ballroom dances going from waltz to cha cha, Argentine tango, salsa, blues, and of course all the swing styles such as East Coast swing and lindy hop… What music do you like most? Give it a try! I met my husband dancing Argentine tango and I still cherish our meeting story : )
  • Hiking: there are so many meetup groups and clubs organizing hikes of various difficulty levels that you can probably find a suitable one near you. Hiking is excellent for your health, it connects you to your body and the beauty around you, and you get some much needed fresh air! Because it attracts both men and women and allow casual conversations as you hike, you are guaranteed to meet new people and have a chance to set up dates!

3. Being open to meeting people in your day-to-day life:

The problem of our modern busy-ness and over-reliance to technology is that we unwillingly end up behaving like robots in our day-to-day life: we rush between appointments and activities, we glue ourselves to our smartphone while standing in line, and we get caught up in our circular thought patterns instated of paying attention to what’s going on around us and most importantly to whom is right next to us!

Your future life partner could be the gentleman standing right behind you at the grocery store checkout or the lady waiting for her favorite warm drink at your neighborhood coffee shop! Do not dismiss the possibilities of chance encounters and practice being present in your daily activities. A smile, a hello and a funny comment could lead to a great date and maybe more : )

I wish you the best of luck!

And be in touch if you'd like guidance in your journey. I'd be thrilled to support you!

A Self-Care Resolution For The New Year!

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If you need a New Year resolution, I have a really good one for you:

Giving priority to your self-care regimen!

Real self-care is actually self-parenting.

Parenting children requires both love and discipline, and it’s the same when it comes to parenting ourselves: we need to give ourselves a lot of love… and a lot of discipline.

But unfortunately for a lot of us, instead of self-love we engage in coping activities, and instead of self-discipline, we submit ourselves to our inner critic’s bidding.

Engaging into real self-care involves shifting from coping to genuine self-love and from bowing to our inner critic's beatings to wise self-discipline.

How does a balance of self-love and self-discipline look like?

There is enough sleep – at least 8 hours every night and naps in the weekend to catch up on missed hours… even when it means saying NO to a fun activity on a weeknight.

There are at least three balanced and nutritious meals, carefully planned over the week to bring a variety of sources of protein, grains, healthy fats, fibers, vitamins and minerals… even when grabbing a quick bite out seems more effective.

There is enough water intake, movement and fresh air… even when the idea of working a few more minutes seems more important.

There is enough time to process feelings… even when drinking alcohol, using drugs or taking medications seem easier to distract ourselves from painful feelings.

And there is enough time spent each day doing things and thinking about things that make us feel joyful!

Why is it so difficult to do these things regularly?

Because we allow everything else to fill up our calendars until there is barely enough time for the most essential - which is building and nurturing our energy - so that we can continue to show up in our life and fulfill our meaningful commitments and nurture our precious relationships.

Now, how do we reclaim our personal power, stop being unconsciously dragged from exhaustion to coping and from coping to inner critic attacks, and create a life grounded in real self-care?

  • The most effective way to turn an intention into action is to ground it into our value system. Do you truly value building and nurturing your energy? What is your energy dedicated to?
  • If we want to make something happen in our day, we must put it in our schedule before our time gets claimed by other people and all their needs (including of our children). At what time are you going to go to bed this week? When are you going to plan your meals, get your groceries and cook healthy dishes? When are you going to exercise and do something fun?
  • We must remember that we’re not alone and we’re not supposed to do it all alone. We can learn to create boundaries around our most essential needs and ask our loved ones to respect them. We can encourage them to respect their inner rhythm and self-care needs and accept their own limits, even when it inconveniences us. Who can support you in your self-care intention? Whom can you support in this way?

If you would like to have more support to turn an intention into action, look at this series I wrote a couple of years ago – I’m still using it with great success!

The “From Resolution to Action” series:

The Danger Of Texting While Driving… A New Relationship

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Early on in our dating, my husband told me: "I'm not into texting. I think it's hard to have a real conversation that way and it leads to misunderstandings. Are you fine with limiting texting to quick updates and having our conversations in person?"

I was surprised since texting was already super popular at that time, yet I was happy to oblige because as I did not own a smartphone back then, texting was pretty cumbersome for me. (Remember writing texts one letter at a time?)

Turns out that my husband's suggestion greatly contributed to the success of our relationship because we avoided the trap of using texts in lieu of real conversations. We got to know one another "live", even when our relationship became long-distance for a while. From the very beginning, there has been no texting misunderstanding and no texting regrets with my husband, and this is thanks to him.

Now that I'm a relationship coach, I hear all the time about dating problems that can be tracked back to the use of texting instead of having real conversations, either in person or by phone. Texting - or any instant messaging system - is pretty bad for relationships but it’s especially bad for new relationships!

Why?

Instant messaging is not real communication

When you can't see facial expressions and body language or hear the tone of voice, you miss the majority of what's really going on in the communication exchange, which leads to misunderstandings. Additionally, compared to emails that at least have a clear beginning and ending, instant messaging is a stream of pieces of communication that starts out of nowhere and can end quite abruptly, when one party forgets to respond, gets distracted or simply moves on to something else. These issues are especially problematic in a new relationship when you don’t know the other person well enough to read between the lines of what is said, not said and what it means to drop a conversation suddenly.

Instant messaging is lazy

It leads to the temptation of either using it to alleviate boredom or maintaining what I call “imaginary relationships” – relationships that don’t really exist but whose illusion is maintained by a quick message here and there to keep the impression of connection. It’s ideal for people seeking to maintain a regular supply of attention, sense of connection or sex for when an urgent need arises; if you are looking to build a serious relationship, you’ll need to spend the bulk of your getting-to-know-you-time in regular in-person meetings rather than in instant messaging apps. A happy, healthy and long-lasting relationship does not run on lazy. It does not take hard work but it does require consistent effort, starting with scheduling meetings and... showing up.

Instant messaging is impulsive

Because of the ease and pace of texting, messages are more likely to be the fruit of the most reactive part of yourself rather than the result of your most authentic expression. This means an increased risk of writing things you don't really mean, triggering hurt feelings or unnecessary conflicts. Established relationships have emotional capital reserves allowing acceptance of moods and mistakes but new relationships are more fragile. Don't take unnecessary risks!

So how to use texting wisely in your new and not-so-new relationships?

  • For quick logistics updates: “I'm late and will arrive in 10 min.” “I’m going to pass by the grocery store. Do you need anything?” “Avoid 880, there is a bad accident blocking all lanes!”
  • For short & sweet notes. “I’m thinking of you.” “Can't wait to tell you a funny story tonight.” “I’m so grateful for your…”

Basically, any message that is quick, that can’t be misinterpreted and that doesn't require a longer response than "ok", “yes”, “no”, “me too” or “thanks” is perfect for messaging. Anything else? Consider choosing another form of communication!

What if it's the other person who uses texting beyond quick updates and notes? When a text requires a more complex response, you can reply by email, call their phone number or even better, suggest a in-person meeting.

When we're busy, we try to simplify and automatize things, which is a good idea. But why are we trying to simplify and automatize the most precious aspect of our lives - our relationships? Relationships don't grow on crumbs of communication, they need real conversations and shared experiences lived in one another's presence. If we don't have much time, it's best to choose quality over quantity.

At the beginning of a new relationship there is not much emotional connection capital. At that point there is little to no room for misunderstandings. People move on for less than that, especially when they have other options. If you have something good going, preserve that precious seed and allow is to grow in the best possible environment: you and your new partner's whole selves, not through screens and instant messages devoid of the richness of your whole being.

The Difference Between Authenticity And Reactivity

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One reason why we might fear being authentic is that we confuse being reactive with being authentic.

And since we might fear the impact of our reactions on others… we fear authenticity itself.

The thing is, being reactive and being authentic are not the same thing.

Reactivity is letting whatever arising emotion to be expressed in our most instinctual pattern. For example, it might mean allowing a surge of anger to explode if we’re instinctually driven to do so, or on the contrary, stuffing it inside if that’s what our reactive pattern is conditioned to do.

Authenticity, on the other hand, is feeling the surge of anger just as it starts arising, skillfully coming back to our center as we evaluate with curiosity and acceptance what is triggering our emotional reaction and what the circumstances around us are, and making a careful assessment on how to express our anger.

In reactivity, we are unconsciously driven by our emotional center and we unconsciously react from our instinctual center. Basically, we only use two intelligence centers and in a non-integrated way.

No wonder we fear our own reactivity!

When we choose authenticity, we integrate our four intelligence centers - Heart (emotions), Mind (thoughts), Body (gut instincts) and Spirit (higher purpose) – by somatically coming back to our center and asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Is it the right time and place to express my emotions? Alternatively, would asking the person/people to step aside with me or postponing until later be wiser?

  • How is it most effective to express my feelings? Is letting it all out the most adequate expression in this specific situation? If not, would translating these feelings into self-aware and eloquent language less damaging to the relationship and more useful to move forward?

  • What is the context surrounding my emotional experience? How could everyone be best served, with both truth and compassion?

An authentic response integrates the intelligence and the truth of our Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit. And because it’s not just about ourselves, when we are truly authentic we also consider the unique context in which we are emoting, our relationships with others and the impact we would like to have in the world.

Reactivity is just emotional vomiting. It sure is real but it’s only real from a limited part of ourselves, a part that might actually be triggered in reaction to something that occurred a long, long time ago.

Authenticity is integrating our whole truth into our response to what is happening with a specific person, in the present moment. It is truth, compassion and purpose weaved together harmoniously.