Taking Perspective: Feeling Fulfilled During the Holidays

What is important? What do I want? How much is enough?

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As celebrate the winter holidays, it can be a paradoxical time. On one hand, it’s a time for realigning and reconnecting with our priorities. We tend to our spiritual roots. We make time for what (or whom) we value. We spend time with those we love. We welcome them into our homes. We have meals together. We (try to) overlook imperfections and daily irritations in the spirit of love, gratitude, generosity and togetherness. We also focus on the needs of those who are less fortunate. We donate. We volunteer. Or perhaps we are in a time of need and benefit from the kindness of others. With these, there is a warmth, an alignment with our values, and a connection with our humanity.

Paradoxically, the other side of the holidays is often about getting more. More gifts, more deals, more things. More can feel insatiable, without satisfaction. There’s an excitement, but also a tinge of rabid hunger. MORE! It can feel like the cats in the video below. (I love this video, by the way.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I feel this hunger in myself, it provokes questioning. I find it helpful to take perspective on what I really need/want. The two queries below can help point the way.

1.  What do I really need?

Our fundamental needs, the things we will fight for if threatened, are a sense of security and sense of identity. Other fundamental needs include feelings of belongingness and love, self-esteem, personal fulfillment, cultural security, freedom, and the ability to actively participate in civil society.

When I reflect of my life and what has made me feel most fulfilled, meaningful, and joyful, I can see these needs embedded in my experiences. I can also compare them to my Amazon Holiday Wish List. What items will fulfill and strengthen me? What items will I not just enjoy, but find sustaining? Or what might add clutter and take away from investing in a more fulfilling experience?

One exercise I do with almost every coaching client is to explore their unique peak moments and experiences. These can be common or uncommon times in your life when you felt like you were thriving, like you were the most yourself, where you felt like you were in flow, enjoyment, engagement, connection or whatever positive emotions you most value. What were you doing? What was great about it? And how can you add more of it into your life? These defining experiences can help us plan and sort how we invest our resources.

2. Do I have enough?

Knowing where we stand economically within the collective can give us perspective on what we feel we need. Pew gives us handy calculators to figure this out, both globally and in the US.

As this study defines it, people who are middle income, globally speaking, live on $10.01-20 a day, which translates to an annual income of $14,600 to $29,200 for a family of four. The other four income groups are defined as follows: The poor live on $2 or less daily, low income on $2.01-10, upper-middle income on $20.01-50, and high income on more than $50. Here is the Global Calculator. You can also find the US Calculator here.

With this knowledge we can begin to re-calibrate our hunger. We might feel gratitude: perhaps we have enough. It is also possible that we need to access more resources, or perhaps we could be advocating for resources on behalf of others.

No matter where you are, I wish you a holiday season filled with that which fulfills and sustains you.

Five Discerning Questions for Listening to the Fire

Listening to our inner fires keeps us connected with our senses of purpose, direction and values. Sometimes the message on what to do next is clear. Other times, it's confusing. The questions below can helpful in discerning if and how to move forward:

What do you yearn for? Ask yourself what it really is that is being called for. What do you really want? Often our motivation comes from a feeling that needs to become thoughts and words. (Writing it down helps!) Then we can reflect on it, define it and choose consciously.

Whose voice is this? Our thoughts and beliefs are a mix of what we've learned and what has seeped in over our lifetimes-- most if it is below the level of our conscious awareness. Is the voice looking for approval? Is it staying small to be safe? Is it brash and defensive? Or is it consistently and clearly calling you towards something?

Does it feel like liberation or imprisonment? Does it feel exciting and alive or like a heavy, energy-sucking weight? While there is often much work to be done, following the fire leads us towards things that make us feel alive and motivated to do the work.

Is it scary-exciting or scary-dangerous? All growth requires risk, but there are different kinds of risk. The inner fire points us in the direction of facing fears that will ultimately grow us, but not gravely endanger us.

Is it kind? We want to choose actions that align with our values. Make no mistake, though. Kindness can be both gentle and strong. It is different from being a neutral nice. Kindness makes appropriate use of voice and action.

What is the inner fire?

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Have you ever done something even though it was hard and scary? Did you take a leap for a new job? Broach that difficult conversation? Try something new? Speak your truth? Listen to someone else’s truth? Start a challenging project? Own your part? Follow your joy and purpose? Take care of yourself? Take care of someone else? Get organized? Let go of control?

Firekeeper Coaching is named after the transformative inner force that calls you to do the thing you feel you must do, even when it’s hard and scary.

The fire is the energy in each of us that says, “This is who I am. This is how I want to feel. This is how I want to live. This is how I want to leave my mark on the world. And this is how things need to change for it to happen.” Listening to the fire is a lifelong practice that transforms us from the inside out.

What does the fire sound like?

The fire usually speaks loudest to us through our pain and discomfort (a push). Thankfully, it is often paired with hope for a better way (a pull). The discomfort says to us, I’m sick of feeling and doing things this way. My work. My insecurities. Stress. Feeling small. Feeling disorganized. Feeling directionless. The old habits of relationships. Feeling depleted. Micro-managing. Being lonely. Feeling scared. Being angry. Fearing regret. On the other side is the call of hope. Things could be better. I want to be and do what I love. It is possible. But this requires a leap, and a leap means risk.

Even when a change is positive, it still requires a risk. Any change, any upsetting of the status quo, means leaving something behind to inhabit a new form of self. In psychology, the theory of positive disintegration that holds that for any kind of change, things have to break apart first, and this is a hard but good. What we leave behind are often old ways of relating, doing and thinking about the world and ourselves. Old habits and rules that no longer serve us are replaced with those that do. With this, however, come the risks of growth: What will people think? What if I fail? How will this change my relationships? Will I be criticized? Alone? Embarrassed?

It might seem safer to push back on change, and we often do. There comes a time however, when the fire forces us to take a leap...

The mindset of the fire:

When we make any kind of change, when we break apart, we’re vulnerable. Being in a Fire Mindset requires rooted determination, radical openness and gentle self-compassion. Do not set out on an adventure without all three of these. The determination grounds us in our inner direction and motivation. The openness allows for new ways of being, unexpected possibilities and outcomes we never could have planned or imagined. The self-compassion acknowledges that life is not easy and we must be gentle with ourselves in order to learn as we go. Paradoxically, self-compassion gives us the critical strength to persevere. 

What is your fire telling you today?

As we go about our days, the fire is always speaking to us. What do you yearn for? What are you tired of? What do you love? How do you want to feel? When we listen, the fire will light the way.

Cheers to your fire.