Dare to shine

Today I got my present from the family Kris Kindle (thanks Mercedes!), and I´m really excited about it, here it is:

It´s the kind of thing I would never have bought for myself, but that I loved receiving as a present… It´s my letter! With shining lights! And I think it looks super cool on my bedroom shelf 🙂

But why do I know that I would never have bought it? Because I don’t normally like being in the spotlight, I prefer to avoid standing out… That’s been my style in most situations for as long as I can remember: going unnoticed insofar as possible. But also doing my job really well, hoping that others would notice (which of course, sometimes happened and sometimes didn’t).

Reflecting on all of this now, I realize that I’ve spent many of my years tiptoeing through life, so as to not be an inconvenience. And now that I am conscious of my way of being in this world, I have the option to keep it as it is or change it, as I see fit.

That’s why I like this metaphor of switching “my light” on, to start shining. And I remembered this quote, attributed by many to Nelson Mandela, though in reality it is from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

What about you? Do you dare switching on your light? 😉

Choose your stones with love

The year 2021 is about to finish, and very soon we´ll be welcoming 2022.

But that´s still a few days away, so before we start celebrating the New Year, we have some time to reflect a bit on the past twelve months. I propose we use an acronym for this, a few words in Spanish whose initials spell the word AMOR (LOVE):

  • A for Agradecimiento – THANKFULNESS: What do I feel thankful for this year? What events do I want to give thanks for?
  • M for Mejorable – IMPROVABLE: What did I set out to achieve and was not able to? What would I do differently now, and how would I do it?
  • O for Orgulloso – PROUD: What did I achieve this year, that I´m proud of? What obstacles did I overcome?
  • R for Reflexión – REFLECTION: Which things turned out as I expected, and which ones didn´t? What surprises did I find along the way? And what did I learn?

Now, having looked back for this little review, and knowing where we come from and the path we’ve followed to get where we are, we will find it easier to look ahead and decide where we want to go now, what goals we want to set for ourselves in 2022.

But be warned, I’m not talking about making new year’s resolutions, changes that last only a few days and then fade away, leaving us the same as we were, or even worse… I’m talking about being honest with ourselves and consciously deciding our priorities, the things we consider valuable and important in our life, because once we connect with those things and they´re clear in our mind, motivation and success will come naturally, or at least with a lot less effort than if we tried to change just using our willpower 😊

And speaking of priorities in life, I´d like to share with you a story that you’ve probably watched or read already, but I think there’s no harm in remembering it. Now is the perfect moment for choosing, from a place of love (AMOR), our big stones (or according to this version of the story, our golf balls, although I have to say it doesn’t sound nearly as poetic as the stones…)

Thankful and proud

Today I´d like to propose a habit that´s as simple as it is powerful, and that you´ll probably have seen recommended in multiple places: spending a few moments each day being thankful.

purple petaled flower and thank you card

This can be done in many ways: in the morning or at night, in writing, out loud or simply thinking about it… but the idea is always the same: stopping for a moment to appreciate what we already have, the daily gifts that life sends to us, and to feel fortunate and abundant because of it.

I started putting this into practice with my daughters a few years ago, when I heard that it was truly beneficial for kids to think of three things for which to be grateful for each night, as it helped them to finish the day on a happy note, remembering pleasant things. We made “giving thanks” part of our bedtime routine back then, and nowadays we still keep it up.

In some ways it reminds me of what I used to do as a child, praying before going to sleep. Every now and then I would repeat a prayer by heart, but usually it was more like a few minutes of “talking to God”: I would tell Him about my day, thank Him for some things, ask Him for others… And now remembering it all, I realize that this little exercise of reflection at the end of the day used to help me a lot and make me feel good, regardless of who could be “on the other side” in that silent conversation going on inside my head.

So now I’m a big fan of having routines at the start and end of the day, of course including thankfulness. And in the last few months, also including a few minutes of handwriting, which is a really interesting process, and very different from just thinking the words, but I’ll tell you about that some other day 😊

What I did want to tell you today is that this week the girls and I have done an experiment, and added one more thing to our bedtime routine: in addition to the three things for which each of us is thankful, we’ve started to mention one thing for which we each feel proud that day. It may be for something big or small, it doesn’t matter; the important thing is to feel that joy for a moment again, that boost of self-esteem, and to let it encourage us to continue to face new challenges.

It is true that some days we’ve found it harder than others to find something to say there, and that it still doesn’t come out naturally, but I hope that little by little this new habit will get settled. For what better way to finish the day than appreciating what is around us, and also ourselves.

Version 5

Well, the time has come to add one more number to my version historyversion 5.

Here it goes:

  • V5.0 I develop an interest in coaching
    • 5.1 - I take a three-month-long online course in coaching fundamentals, to see if I like it. I love it.
    • 5.2 - I sign up for a master’s degree in coaching with emotional intelligence and neuro-linguistic programming.

Those of you who know me in person are probably aware that I´ve been interested in the topic of personal growth and development for years… Interestingly, I hadn´t bumped into coaching until last May. When I finally did, it resonated a lot with me, and this weekend I have started my master’s degree :-)

wooden coach lettering

But what is this coaching thing? It’s true that “coach” is a word that is used nowadays for a bunch of different things, which creates confusion, and there are also several definitions of “coaching”, each focusing on a different aspect of it. To simplify, we can say that coaching is a process of accompaniment, in which, through active listening, questions, and other resources, the coach makes it easier for the coachee (or client) to define their own goals, as well as to identify and manage the changes that are needed in order to achieve them.

Going forward, I´ll be sharing in this blog a few things related to the world of coaching, and also about the many tools and resources that it draws from. Regarding definitions, for the moment I´ll leave you with this one, food for thought:

A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.

Tom Landry

Optional

A conversation that plays out quite often in our house, and one that you can probably relate to, is negotiating in a given moment what´s mandatory and what´s optional.

My daughter Alicia is the expert in all this, though her sisters are not far behind. When I ask her to do something she´s not convinced about, Alicia asks: “do I have to?”. And my answer, most of the time, is “yes”.

But not always. So she´s right to ask :-)

In fact, this is something that most of us should ask (ourselves) more often: this thing I have in front of me, this thing “I have to do”, do I really have to do it? ¿According to whom? What happens if I don´t do it, or if I do it differently?

Clearly, the answer can be a yes, it needs to be done, and it may still be yes most times, but it may also surprise us and end up being a no more often than we thought. Or we could come up with another alternative, an intermediate solution that´s even better than the previous one… By asking the question we allow ourselves to see the options, and we have more ability to choose.

Of course, whatever we decide, we have to be responsible and fully accept the consequences. But the key point is that we have options, even if we don´t always see them, even if we don´t always like them. But we do have options. And once we realize this, we can choose whatever we see fit, and “I have to…” becomes “I choose…”, and the burden becomes a little lighter.

Here are a couple of quotes that I love on this topic, as they go a step further, inviting us to choose how to relate to what is happening in our life:

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Buddha

This one I heard for the first time in a yoga class (thanks Carsun!), and felt it especially close when giving birth to my girls, before realizing that it can really be applied to everything in life, not only physical pain.

And this other one I only heard recently; it seems to me that it´s very fitting to the times we´re now living:

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

John C. Maxwell

Now you choose!

Binary words

Today I felt like reflecting on the title for this website and blog: binary words... but what do words and binary have in common?

Computers and language? They do have a lot in common.

Did you know that we as people are not so different from computers? We have hardware, our body, which needs energy in order to work. Of course, we don't work on electricity; our energy comes from feeding and hydrating ourselves properly, and from recharging batteries by sleeping and resting :-)

We also have software, a set of "programs" that are running inside our mind. Some of the programs we kick off ourselves, as in the case of computers, and we see them and use them consciously; but in addition to those, the operating system runs many other programs that remain unseen, in the background, making everything work... 

That's our unconscious programming, our autopilot, based on beliefs and values that are well established within us and that we rarely question, even though they may not even be ours, and we may have inherited them or acquired them without realizing. And that unconscious programming pulls the strings in our day-to-day a lot more than we can imagine.

Perhaps that autopilot is producing some results that we don´t want in our life. The good news is that we can re-program it, once we find that program or programs that are causing us trouble, or are preventing us from moving in the direction we wish to go.

But how? How can we bring to the light those troublesome "lines of code", and replace them with better ones?

A programming language that we can use is words.

There is a lot of power in words, and this is something we often forget. The way we talk to others matters a lot. And the way we talk to ourselves matters even more, because we give it even less attention, not realizing that it's a crucial factor in how things turn out for us in life. 

So let's pay attention to the words around us, the ones that make up our world, the ones we use almost without realizing. How is our internal dialogue? How do we talk to ourselves, and in turn, to other people? What are our words conveying? Complaint, criticism, defeat, negativity?

Those words will give us clues about the programs that may be undermining our efforts to move towards where we want to be. And bit by bit, digging deeper, we will get to see clearly what's behind those words, and we will have the power to transform them into other that help us and encourage us, instead of holding us back. We will have the power to choose our destiny.

And following on with the computer metaphor: we, like computers, need connecting to be able to fully function. Nowadays very little can be done without an internet connection... With people, it may be less obvious, but at the end of the day we are social beings, we need to connect with others emotionally in order to live a full life. And even less obvious, but equally necessary, is to connect with ourselves, to have an interest in getting to know and learning to love ourselves. 

The confinement months have tested our ability to connect, and maybe thanks to that, we now appreciate connections more than ever. As the saying goes, it´s all fun and games until you lose your wifi signal! (todo son risas y juegos hasta que pierdes la señal de wifi)

Saint John´s Eve

On the night of June 23rd, many towns and villages across Spain celebrate Saint John´s Eve. It´s the Christian version of the summer solstice celebration in the northern hemisphere, and like many other ancestral festivals, involves fire as its crucial element.

outdoor fireplace during nighttime

I personally haven´t had the pleasure of enjoying a big bonfire celebration at the beach (my hometown doesn´t officially celebrate St. John, and also we´re not close to the seaside), although I do remember getting together with friends to mark that night in our own way… One year we even had a queimada with its incantation spell and everything, thanks to Víctor, our Galician mate :-)

Of course, we had our own mini version of the bonfire, improvised in a bowl or an ashtray, over which we jumped three times in order to attract good luck. And in that mini bonfire, we used to burn a piece of paper, which if I remember correctly, had three things written on it: something we were grateful for, something we no longer wanted in our life, and something we did want to happen to us or receive.

It was a magic night, full of possibilities.

I always liked the idea of taking this opportunity to reflect a little on our life: evaluate where we are, decide what we want, and perform a ritual so that we can feel the magic of change. The thing is that sometimes we forget that this magic is not only in the “universe”, in that abstract concept at which we throw all our wishes… this magic is also inside of us, because we are the centre of our own universe. So writing down our wishes as one writes a letter to Santa is not enough, we also need to do our part for the whole thing to work :-) 

This year I suggest that you do a little extra reflecting in front of the bonfire, and write down four things instead of three: something you are grateful for, something you no longer want in your life, something you do want to happen to you or receive, and something you´re going to start doing now to contribute to your desired change.

Finding your voice

I have always thought I was not a very creative person, mostly because when I heard the word "creativity", what usually came to my mind were artistic skills like painting, design, arts & crafts... Precisely those things I was quite bad at.

Then over the years I´ve changed that perception, not because I started getting good at painting, design or arts & crafts, I´m still awful at all of them. It´s because I have realized two things:

First, that trying something once or twice and finding you´re not good at it doesn´t mean you´re never going to be good at it, it just means you don´t have enough practice (this seems really obvious when you see it written here, but it´s not always easy to see in the moment, especially when you´re used to getting other things done right the first time round without much effort)

Second, that you can be creative in so many different ways! You just need to find the creative outlet that better suits you personally. Your own way to express what´s inside you.

Your voice.

A couple of years ago I "found my voice" in the most literal sense, upon signing up for my company´s workplace choir and starting weekly practices with Nicola, our choir director. I had always liked music, but never realized before how much I really enjoy singing, it truly lifts my spirit.

Whether I´m good at it or not is another matter entirely; that will only be seen once we can reunite again and put together a performance, although I would say that that´s the least of my worries... The most important thing is how much we enjoy singing (and laughing) together as a group, and if other people also enjoy listening to us, then that´s brilliant, double reward.

Also in my life there are and have been other ways to express my creative side: during my childhood and adolescence it was dancing, when I moved to Ireland it was blogging, and when the gils were younger (and even now that they´re a bit older), you can imagine, being a parent also demands a fair amount of creativity :-)

How do you express your own creative side? Have you found your voice yet?

Create, consume, connect

This week, with all the excitement of starting with the blog again, I have felt full of energy. More than once the hours went by in front of my screen without realizing... And all this after having already spent my usual working hours also in front of a screen.

Sum them up and they are many, many hours of screen time.

semi opened laptop computer turned on on table

The fact that the hours go by without realizing is a good sign, I know, I´m enjoying it a lot, and also learning at the same time. On top of writing the posts, I´m also configuring the website myself (now with WordPress, much better than with what I had previously), and I want to do it properly, fully accessible and bilingual Spanish-English. So my time is split between configuring the various plugins and settings (thanks a million Maria for all your advice), thinking of ideas to write about, writing about them, and translating everything that´s already written, not only the posts but also all of the text strings scattered around the site. Let me take this opportunity to ask you: if you see any errors or typos, please let me know so I can fix them, some of you have already done that and I´m grateful for it :-)

Another thing I´m doing this week is taking a crash course in social media, as things have progressed a lot in the last few years. In the old times, writing a blog post was enough; people woud see it in their RSS feed reader, or would subscribe via email, or would visit the website every now and then checking for new content... Now you have to be on social media, the more the better, so I took the plunge and created a Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram account, so that whoever wants to follow me can do it easily.

But of course, all that brings a new challenge: more social network connections, more interesting content available, more notifications and more screen time, as soon as you drop your guard for a moment. That´s why it´s so important to use the internet consciously, and take advantage of the infinite possibilities it gives us without letting it interfere with our life more than it´s necessary.

Not long ago, in a very interesting video I watched on Youtube (more screens), they mentioned that the activities we do on the internet can be divided into creating, consuming and connecting. After months and months of basically consuming content and learning passively, I am really excited about creating (in this case writing, translating and bringing the blog to life), and I even enjoy connecting and reconnecting in new ways through social networks. But I´m also looking forward to being able to go out into the real world again, and connect, create and learn there as well, in a more tangible way and in three dimensions. I´m finding it a bit hard to get started due to lack of habit, but I know the effort will be worth it.

So in summary; walk away from your screen for a while and find something else to do! :-)