Tag Archives: simplify

In the past two days I’ve had the incredible pleasure to conduct “get-to-know-you” sessions with the participants in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments program. This 12-week mindfulness skills program will support clients in learning the practical, accessible mindfulness skills offered through the Personal Leadership framework and provide coaching support as the participants implement these skills into their daily lives.

It has been so fun to engage in these conversations! Each of the participants is coming to the program from their own unique desire to live more engaged and more connected with the world around them. I have loved sharing with them the details of how we’re going to be talking about real world skills, actual day-to-day practices and ideas that they’ll be able to implement not just in times of balance, but in times of upheaval.

Please stay-tuned for updates (by liking the World Tree Coaching Facebook page or by joining my email mailing list if you haven't already). I’m hoping to have completed the beta phase and to begin accepting clients for the program in late-April 2018.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m now booking individual coaching clients for 2018. After some time off for the holidays (and to get my beta-testers moving through their program), I’ll begin seeing new individual coaching clients in mid-January.

If you’ve thought about coaching before, but aren’t sure it’s the right fit for you, please click here and schedule a time for us to talk more. This no-obligation session is a great way to see how coaching could support you in reaching your goals, managing transition, gaining clarity and maintaining (or regaining) balance as you enter a new year. Coaching is a true gift to yourself. There’s nothing quite like it!

As a special offer, all new clients who register between now and December 18, 2017, will receive a free copy of my book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are (a $20 value) along with a voucher for $25 off the coaching program of her or his choice.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 the year you get moving where you want to go!

Thinking about joining my upcoming Mindfulness Skills for Parenting Workshop in Tokyo? Wondering how you might put the skills you gain to use?

Here are a few highlights of how becoming more mindful has made a difference in my life with kids.

Top 10 Mindfulness-Saved-Me Moments in Parenting

  1. When shopping for 2 hours in the same store while trying to breast feed, change diapers and keep my 3 month old from crying.
  2. While straddling my kicking and screaming toddler so that I could brush his teeth.
  3. When sitting in a chair rocking and rocking and rocking for hours hoping the baby would fall asleep.
  4. When they have a really bad day. When I have a really bad day.
  5. When my child says, “Let’s run!” “Let’s race!” “Let’s play cars!” for the one hundredth time that day.
  6. When my child says, “You’re my favorite person in the world mommy. Will you be with me forever?”
  7. When my son almost died in a foreign country.
  8. When my husband doesn’t do it the “right” way…or when I don’t.
  9. When they say, “I wish we just stayed in one place,” and when they say, “I hope we do this forever.”
  10. When the Internet tells me something I do (or do not) need to know about raising children…always.

Click on the link at top to register today! Also be sure to check out this free download of my chapter on mindfulness and parenting from Raising Kids in the Foreign Service.

christmas-gift

My husband and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts anymore. Actually, we haven’t for years. It was a gradual process that has turned out to be one of my favorite details of our holiday celebrations. The process was accidental at first, but the reasons for our decision are rooted in our desire to live more from our personal values and not from outside expectations.

Of course, like anyone, we have moments where we struggle to find the balance between our values and the demands of a hectic international lifestyle, but this no-gifts philosophy has been a real success story for us. Here’s why.

I come from a gift-giving family. My husband does not. I enjoyed the process of finding the perfect opportunity to share something special. My husband approached it with dread and shame. He never felt like he’d live up to what I’d chosen for him. It was stressful. Something about that seemed really wrong. A gift shouldn’t make you feel bad. So we started to make gifts more simple. Nothing fancy. Maybe a just a book. Socks are fine.

Then, when our children were born their excitement at opening a special gift seemed like a gift to us. Nothing either of us could receive would measure up to the delight of seeing what Santa had placed beneath the tree. We started to get forgetful about our own and we realized it didn’t necessarily matter.

And so the gifts started to fade. They seemed less like a priority. We moved to just filling our stockings. That’s funny too because we realized – we take good care of our needs. We don’t need each other to buy our socks, or underwear, or Chapstick or purse-sized packets of tissue. That’s a lot of effort to fill your sock with stuff you can throw in the Amazon cart when you have a few minutes at work. Why are we doing this again?

About six years ago we started hosting Christmas Eve for our friends and their children. That was always fun. It enhanced the feeling that the real party wasn’t in the presents, but in the company.

Then one Christmas season, 4 years ago, it all seemed to click – we decided to throw a huge Christmas Eve potluck for our friends and neighbors. There were around 80 people and we immersed ourselves joyfully in the planning. The love we felt in setting the stage for a memorable evening for a group of diverse people from all over the world spending Christmas at a remote corner of the globe superseded any gift we could have cobbled together.

That gift – the gift of sharing together in welcoming friends – is now the most special gift that we offer each other.

Habit and tradition are hard to overcome. This is where people often have their values challenged – at the intersection between doing what feels right for us and what we’re told we should do. However, if we pay attention and tune in mindfully to our intentions during the holiday season, we may see a whole new way to celebrate.

The holiday season – whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year – is a natural time for self-reflection. This year, how will you turn away from the shoulds and must-dos (even if they’re part of tradition) and live more from your values? What do you think you might be willing to give up, if it meant you’d find just a little more happiness or peace under the tree?

I am really loving my conversations with expat financial planner Hui-chin Chen! Last week we recorded Episode 3 of Life, Money and Globetrotting. Despite a few technical glitches we had a great time.

This time around we were talking about everyone's favorite expat recommendation - Flexibility! How do you rank on the flexibility scale? What helps you be flexible? When are the time that you find yourself accessing your deepest level of flexibility and when do you feel like you just need to keep things consistent and well under control? How does this effect the way you think, feel and plan (personally and financially) for the future?

These conversations are part of a monthly series. You can follow me on Facebook or Twitter to get updates about upcoming episodes. And be sure to check out Hui-chin's blog Moneymatters for Globetrotters or follow her on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Hui-chin's YouTube Channel to get regular updates about upcoming episodes.

Thanks for joining us! We look forward to having you join us on July 7 for Episode 4 where we will talk about Creating a Sense of Home in the mobile life.

Here's Episode 3 - Flexibility:

As many of you know, my youngest son is a Type I Diabetic. I have found the learning curve, while steep, to be incredibly fascinating. If there’s some sort of degree that combines nutrition, chemistry, math and nursing in a six month crash course – I’ve earned it, hands down.

One of the most challenging aspects that any parent of a Type I Diabetic will tell you is that there is just simply so much guesswork going on. Every step of the way you’re calculating carbs and insulin and exercise and stress to come up with a magic number that keeps blood glucose from going too high or too low. Right there in front of me is this 6 year old person whose body actually has the correct answers – the right dosing, the right exercise, the right amount of carbs – for any given situation and yet there is just no way, no tool, that can tell us EXACTLY what we need to know.

But, we’re lucky that now we can get closer to finding the best answers. Last week, my son started using a Continuous Glucose Monitor. If you’re curious you can read more about it here. The gist is that he wears a small device on his stomach that automatically calculates his blood glucose every five minutes and then sends the information to a receiver that looks a bit like a cell phone circa 2004. One week in and we’re loving this thing! Suddenly we have all of this important information that helps us make better decisions, faster.

However, here’s the catch…having this much information is addicting. When Sam’s sensor fell off yesterday in the pool and then we had trouble putting on a new one, I just let him keep it off for the night. I found myself really feeling the absence of the constant feed of information that, in just one week, I have come to see as so important…more than important – essential for addressing Sam’s diabetes.

This got me thinking about how we deal with this sort of thing all of the time as expats. We think we know something (or need to know something), we think we can get all the answers we need, whenever we want and then BAM! - no internet, no television, no language skills, no IDEA what’s going on…anywhere! So, I reminded myself that this is not the first time I’ve found myself without information that I’d really like to have. I’ve survived the information void during international transitions, so surely I can use those skills to get over this 15-hour hump of non-continual glucose monitoring. After facing down the hellish void of reduced information (Seriously, how did I grow up in the pre-Google world?) I came up with this personal Q&A for dealing with the space between knowing and not knowing:

1) Is it really necessary to have this info? (Facebook – I’m talking to you!)

2) Have I been able to get by without this information in the past?

3) When I’ve been without this info, what did I do? How did I get things done anyway?

4) What’s the worst thing that could happen?

5) (My favorite) What might be the benefit of not having this information at my fingertips…or breathing down my neck?

To be fair, we’re back to the CGM today – safe and sound. We survived last night. Of course we did, because before 6 days ago that’s what we’d been doing for almost 6 months. I’m happy to have it back though and oddly pleased with having had to handle a forced hiatus. Nothing like going without all that info to make you appreciate what it’s like to have it back.

Lately I’ve had a lot on my plate. We’re packing out from our current posting in Madagascar…only I’m not in Madagascar. For most of us in this lifestyle, the international transition can be a huge source of stress. I can now say for the record, that’s true even if you’re watching the move via Skype and email.

Each morning, while I can’t completely resist the urge to grab my phone and check my email for the latest in my husband’s adventures (especially on the topic of shipping our dog which has always been my territory…my very stressful territory), I am at least trying to do it mindfully. I’m trying to at least first take a deep breath and ask myself, “Do you need to do this now? Can you pack lunches first? Get coffee? Hit the snooze button?” Sometimes…well maybe once…I did wait until I’d at least packed the kids’ lunches.

During these times, in an effort to be more mindful, I allow myself the space to reflect on all the little parts of me that pop-up in times of stress. In my book, The Expat Activity Book, I call these the “mini-professionals.” They’re the parts of me that micromanage my daily ability to be my typically diverse and dynamic self. When we’re moving, The Calculator is mentally negotiating costs and distances and timetables (all the time!). I can also be taken over by The Resolver – this one can be the most difficult because she believes that there is a right answer to every problem (and she tends to write emails that say as much). She can be especially annoying when dealing with airlines and government officials in developing countries.

One of the interesting things I’ve found is that by simply naming and greeting these parts of myself, I open up space for these mini-professionals to be less demanding. It’s a bit like acknowledging the elephant in the room. Once I admit they’re there, then it becomes easier to manage them – giving them space to help in any way they can and to shut up when I need to get something else done.

What about you? Who are your mini-professionals? Are any of them taking over? What are they good for? What strategies do you use to keep them in check? When are they at their worst? Their best?

These can be really helpful questions to ask yourself during transition – or any time. And remember, simply acknowledging is a huge first step to better understanding all of the many, many sides of your dynamic self!

Recently, I found a box of old photos and letters from the early days of my international adventures. Those were such crazy times. No village was too remote, no sea too shark infested, no meal too meager. As backpackers, my husband and I really loved to rough it. One of our favorite tasks was to see how long we could go on as little money as possible. We were disdainful of tour groups, convenience and any mode of transportation that gave you your own private seat or didn’t include caged (or free roaming) chickens.

While we’ve long-since left behind the backpacker lifestyle, I’m often reminded of the competitive edge that this type of experience implies. It is, in a sense, the “Go Native!” philosophy of travel. It’s the idea that if you don’t strip yourself down and challenge yourself to some predetermined standard of awesomeness, you’re not really living at all and that the experience is without merit or value.

For the record, I’d like us to do away with that notion. Here are my top five reasons why:

  1. Life is not a competition! Yes, life is to be fully lived, but you can only know what full living is when you ask yourself how you want to live. Wanna’ go climb Mt. Everest? Go for it! Prefer to climb the small hill outside town to get a better view of the countryside? That’s fine too. No one person lives the expat life better simply by doing more, having “bigger” adventures or taking on more risk. It just doesn’t work that way. So stop comparing yourself to others and pack your suitcase just how you like it.
  2. You like what you like. I’m all for trying new things. In fact, I love to try new things. But, I wonder why we so often force ourselves to keep doing things we don’t really like. You might move to Japan one day and you might really, really hate sushi. That is fine. Be kind to yourself. Own up to it. Move on.
  3. Your priorities and interests change. We all know this is true, but so many of us feel like if we trade a sleeping bag on the floor of a random person we met on a train for a comfy bed in an actual hotel that somehow we’re selling out. This is not a sell out. This is you deciding that you want a good night’s sleep – nothing more. The same goes for transportation, food, and the amount you’re willing to spend for comfort, ease and safety. It doesn’t mean you’re old or boring or uncool, it means you have preferences. That’s all.
  4. You can’t actually Go Native. This is true. To the extent that any of us are native to any particular place on Earth, we are all unique. We can strive to understand others and help others better understand us. That’s the best we can do. We can always do better to be present in whatever place we seem to have landed, but the minute we think we have arrived is the minute we cease to continue to get to know the new things we see.
  5. You’re evolving and so is everything around you. Life is in a constant state of flux and this is even truer when you get out of your element. There is so much that is unpredictable in the great big world out there. And – look at you! You’re adapting to every twist and turn and always doing the best you can with the information you have available. What more can you hope for? I say cut yourself some slack and enjoy the twisty ride!

So - adventure on! Near or far, here or there. In all ways, exactly as you are now, with an eye on how you hope to be tomorrow.

Lately I’ve been seeing so much in the media on the topic of being busy. Here’s one from the New York Times – I wrote about it here. I posted this one on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page last week. And, I love what this woman has to say about how she’s going to get her life under control (I especially identify with her descriptions of what it feels like physically and emotionally when she’s on the busy wheel). As a culture, we’re driven by this running around, never feeling like it’s enough, wishing you could just take five minutes to ourselves.

Here’s a conversation I had with my mom one day last week at around 10:30AM:

Mom: Ugh! I’m so busy today. I have so much to do.

Me: Really? What’s on your plate?

Mom: Well, I have to go get a haircut, then I need to stop at the store and pick up some things and then I have to bake a pie for Bible study.

Me: Wow. That is a lot. Why don’t you just pick up something for the Bible study? Do you really need to make a whole pie from scratch?

Mom: I’m NOT going to just pick something up.

Me: Why not?

Mom: I just feel like that’s tacky. I should make something.

Me: How is it tacky? You can get really good pies at the bakery or even HEB (our local supermarket).

Mom: I don’t know….

Me: Tell me this – when you get to Bible study is a single one of your friends going to say, “Oh my God! Vickie just brought a store-bought cake. She must be so lazy. I can’t believe that.”

Mom: (laughing) No.

Me: Okay. Go to HEB and pick up a cake…or a pie…or some cookies.

Mom: (laughing still) Okay.

This is what I’m talking about here. Every single one of us knows that we must get off the busy wheel. We don’t like it. It’s not satisfying. If it’s not killing us literally, it is killing our souls. It’s forcing us to continue to live our life in the wrong direction – also known as someone else’s direction.

So remember, it’s never too late to make a change. Ask yourself the big questions – Why am I doing this? What happens when I say no to one more task, assignment or project? If I gave up half of what I’m doing now, how would I feel about what’s left over? Do I love myself enough to just take better care of me?

My guess is you can do this. More living. Less doing. Yes.

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For those of us that celebrate Christmas, doing so abroad – away from friends and family – can be especially difficult. Christmas is a time where we crave the familiar, we resort to tradition and we strive to make the day as special as possible. We build it up. Often the day is just perfect. But, sometimes it’s not.

As I write this, I realize this is true for any special day – birthdays, anniversaries, and cultural and religious holidays. You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to recognize that any tradition you hold dear can be difficult to manage when you’re outside your home culture. You want, you need, everything to be just so…and yet, you know very well you won’t be able to have each and every last thing fit perfectly into your pre-reasoned plan.

So as an expat, trying to fit a bit of your own tradition into a place that you only temporarily call home, what can you do?

The Internet is full of great ideas. Not to get too sidetracked here, but I think it’s one of the great blessings of the modern age. Wanna’ know how to beat holiday stress? Google it! The answers are endless. In fact, here’s one I posted on the World Tree Coaching Facebook page just yesterday.

But, it’s up to each of us to look at what might work and try things out. We all know it’s a never-ending battle to force a tradition to be “perfect.” Things change and so do we; yet it’s common (and natural) to try to hold on to making these moments really count. So don’t be shy about figuring out new (and healthier) ways to handle the holidays (whichever ones you celebrate). If you’re feeling stuck – here are a couple of my favorite holiday survival techniques. I'm writing from the Christmas perspective below, but seriously - feel free to sub any special day (from Valentine’s Day to wedding anniversaries).

1) Harness the power of definition. You, not your parents, your friends back home (with their cozy knit hats, Starbuck’s, snow flurries and twinkly lights) or the media, can tell you what your holiday should be like. Sit down and decide to redefine your traditions so that they fit your mobile lifestyle. Passionately keep the things that work, but get rid of the things that stress you out, cause you un-needed mental clutter or make you feel guilty.

2) If you don’t have family with you – consider redefining your definition of family. This might seem pretty bold, but as an expat, I bet you do it already. Find the people you most love, the ones you most enjoy and the individuals who share your values. Make them a part of your family away from family. Unburden yourself from the label of mother, daughter, and sister and accept “friend” as being just as wonderful.

3) Give up on gifts for your spouse or partner. Gasp! I know – this sounds crazy, but I swear this is a good one. If you treat everyday as a potential day for a gift – “I saw this and thought of you,” “I knew you’d love this, I couldn’t resist,” “I hope you don’t mind, but I picked this up for you.” – you take off a lot of holiday pressure. You might even find that you enjoy moments with your spouse or partner more when you’re not stressed over finding the perfect thing or anxious over what’s hiding behind box number three. What you will surely realize is that when (or if) you do splurge on something special, it means so much more. Don’t go rogue on this one though – it requires careful planning and consideration with your significant other.

After years of trial and error, these are just a few that have worked for me. I’d love to hear your tricks for making the holidays fit your lifestyle (whether you're an expat or firmly planted in your hometown). How do you make your special days special without leaving yourself drained, lonely, homesick or worse? Add your thoughts to the comments section – I’d love to build a nice long list!

And, for those of you celebrating – Happy Holidays!

I used to say yes a lot. Flat-out, no-questions-asked, I-can-do-it, YES! Big surprise, this type of yes often left me resentful and annoyed at feeling compelled to do things I didn’t really enjoy. It also took away all the opportunities I may have had to do the really nice things that I do like to do. And, not just the things that I wanted to do for myself or my immediate family, but the things I wanted to do for other people in my life…even strangers. Saying yes in this way left me in the position of racing from one over-scheduled moment to another so there was no chance I’d stop and notice the things in life that really needed noticing. It also took away the fun of saying yes to the things I really, really wanted to say yes to – like coffee with a friend, a last-minute play-date for the kids or an early bedtime with a good book.

We hear a lot about the importance of learning to say no. Saying no is important, but the other side of saying no for most of us is looking at when, where and how we want to say yes. What I realized about myself is that I’m kind of a yes person…I just needed to get better at my yesses.

During university, I was part of a life-changing theater program. We often warmed-up with a game called “The Yes Game.” The game is about living in the moment. When one of your fellow performers makes a suggestion everyone chimes in “yes!” no matter how silly, exhilarating or strange. In that moment, you give in to fun, to experimentation, to something new. I like that game. It inspired me in my process of figuring out how to better say yes.

For me, the journey from unproductive, unhappy-yes to all-the-right-yesses has not been about flat-out-nos so much as better yesses. I like to get excited about things. I enjoy saying yes to something that inspires me, motivates me or brings me joy. So better understanding my yesses has been about examining my values and making my yesses really count. And, it’s been an experience of trial and error. Today’s energetic yes could become next week's never-ever-again and, trust me, I’ll let you know. As much as possible, I give in to the outcomes of this trial and error. Sometimes I might feel over-scheduled, but with each yes failure I know a bit more about improving my yesses.

How do you sort your yesses from your nos? How do you know when you’re off track? What helps you get back where you want to be? Which yesses excite you and which ones make you groan?

Perhaps Shel Silverstein said it best:

The Yesees said yes to anything
That anyone suggested.
The Noees said no to everything
Unless it was proven and tested.
So the Yesees all died of much too much
And the Noees all died of fright,
But somehow I think the Thinkforyourselfees
All came out all right.