The Life You Want to Live

Here is a quote I read recently that really struck me: “It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.  Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.”   Mae Jamison

In case you aren’t familiar with her, Mae Jamison is a physician and a NASA astronaut, and the first African-American woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992, among many other notable accomplishments.    After graduating from medical school, she established her own practice and for a time was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia, where she also taught and did research.   Having loved science and astronomy since she was a young girl, in 1985 she decided to apply to NASA’s astronaut training program.  In 1992, she flew into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor.  Since leaving Nasa, she founded her company, the Jemison Group, dedicated to the research and development of advanced technologies. She is also a professor at Dartmouth College, where she started the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries, and is an admired public speaker.

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So why I am I telling you this?  It got me to thinking about how often as children and young adults, we don’t have a lot of guidance in crafting our own path – the life we want to live.  Yes, we’re encouraged in the traditional ways society emphasizes – get a good education, have good values, have an occupation or profession – but in how to truly plan for and create a life we want to live, I’m not so sure.  There’s also the numerous and inevitable phases we go through in life – what may have felt right to us in our 20’s and 30’s is no longer working for us as we enter a new stage of life.

This is often where a coach or mentor comes – what do we want to create for the next phase of our life.  I know this happened to me in my early 50’s.  I had gone through building a career, starting a family, and accomplishing many of the goals I had set for myself in my earlier years.  And I felt an internal restlessness, an urge for something more.   And it was right around this time that I started working with a coach and creating new plans and goals for myself that moved me in a new and different direction.

If you’re not necessarily thinking of making a life change, but are feeling that you would like to be more intentional about how you want your life to look, you might start by asking yourself some simple, yet powerful, questions:

  1. What do you want your life to look like 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
  2. Why do you want this? Why is your vision important to you?
  3. When you are ninety-five years old, what will you want to say about your life?
  4. What brings you joy?
  5. If circumstances and/or finances were not an object, what would you most want to do with your life?
  6. When are you at your best? What does that look like?
  7. When have you been happiest? Look back at the different times of your life – childhood, high school and college, different jobs, different places.  Think about the happiest times of your life – what were you doing, who were you with, where were you, what was going on?  Is there a pattern, a common thread?
  8. What do you value most? What we value in our lives may shift over time.  Thinking about and listing your values can provide useful clues to what you may want to focus on in the future.

These are just a few questions to ask yourself if you want to be more intentional about how you craft your future.   As you explore these ideas and come up with some answers, you may find that you come up with more questions. For example, is there some small step you can take now, today, to start moving  towards your vision.   This might be investigating your options, or talking to someone who has made the same type of shift in their own life.  What kind of support might you need – a mentor, a coach, a spouse?

However you go about it, creating a vision of the life you want to live, and taking steps to move toward it, can be one of the most rewarding and exciting adventures you ever take, wherever it takes you.

No Matter What

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about grit, and its importance to achievement – it’s one of those popular buzzwords in positive psychology.   The more I’ve heard about it, the more curious I became – what is it, and why is it so critical to achievement?

Grit is often described as the combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals.  In fact, psychologist Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a trailblazer in the study of all things gritty, has a new book coming out entitled:  Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, (May 3, 2016).  In it, she cites her extensive research in her Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as insights from studies and interviews with high achievers and peak performers in their field.  Her lab focuses on the two character traits that, she believes, can predict achievement, even more than talent and natural ability:  grit and self-control.

What is it about grit that makes the difference between those who succeed in accomplishing difficult, long-term goals, and those who fall by the wayside?  It’s not just about talent, or hard work, or self-control, although these are components.  Perseverance is part of it, as is tenacity, but not the whole picture either.  It encompasses discipline, courage and resilience – there is no hard-won achievement without these – but none of these characteristics on their own determine grit.

One of the hallmarks of grit is the ability to stick with and pursue a goal over a long period of time, in spite of obstacles, challenges and setbacks along the way.   In a research statement published by the Duckworth Lab updated in May of 2015, grit…..”entails having and working assiduously toward a single challenging superordinate goal through thick and thin, on a timescale of years or even decades.”  (Yes, decades.)  Clearly, sustaining interest and motivation over long periods of time is key.

What about self-control?  According to Duckworth and her colleagues, the two are related, but not the same.  Self-control is defined as “the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Duckworth & Steinberg, in press.)   Basically, people who have grit tend to be more self-controlled and people who are high in self-regulation can be gritty as well, but not always.  The time factor seems to be the distinguisher: self-control is more typically employed when resisting tempting alternatives in the moment.  (Sitting down to study when you would rather go for a bike ride.)

Clearly, any long-term goal worth achieving is going to involve challenges, setbacks and detours.  Discouragement, weariness and even boredom may set in.  Unexpected roadblocks can occur. That’s where grit comes in.

© Błażej Łyjak | Dreamstime.com

© Błażej Łyjak | Dreamstime.com

How do you know if you have what it takes?  If you don’t naturally come by it, can grit be developed?

  • Passion is integral to grit. Without it, it’s going to be difficult to maintain the sense of purpose and drive necessary to keep going when the road gets rocky.  No matter how passionate you are about becoming a concert pianist, there are going to be times of disappointment, discouragement, and days when practice feels like drudgery.  Passion for your goal is what will fuel the resolve you need at those times.
  • Speaking of practice, it’s critical to achievement and mastery of a subject or skill. Studies of those who rise to the top of their field show that thousands of hours are spent in devotion to their pursuit.  Focused practice for hours, days, weeks and months are what it takes to attain mastery, and grit is what it takes to get you there.
  • Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, in her book, 9 Things Successful People Do Differently, reminds us that “effort, planning, persistence and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed.” Incorporating this knowledge into your goal planning will more readily lend itself to building your grit muscle.  Grit doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
  • Without tenacity – stubbornness, drive, sticking-to- it–no- matter-what – it’s going to be near impossible to achieve something over the course of months or years. Long term goals can get sidetracked by any number of issues – financial, health, serious family difficulties.  A no-matter-what mindset is what will get you back on course and moving forward again. 
  • Resilience is closely correlated with tenacity. It’s the ability to be flexible, to get back up after getting knocked down, no matter how many times – strength of the spirit.  Resilient people have an internal compass that acts as a powerful guide through the inevitable hard times they may experience, and keeps them connected to their core purpose through times of distress or disorder.

Staying physically fit is important to grit – it takes determination and self-discipline to hit the gym or exercise class week in and week out, and physical wellbeing dramatically increases our chances of success in other areas.  Having a strong sense of purpose and meaning attached to your aim is another.  Having a mentor or support network to help you keep going during rough times can play a critical role in  success.  Finally, look back through your life and draw on your previous accomplishments and hard-won achievements. You may be surprised at what you come up with.  Recognizing those successes and building on them can help build the confidence you need to be gritty when you need to be.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.  How has grit served you when you had a difficult objective to achieve?  If you currently have an important goal you’re striving towards, what helps you keep going during times of adversity?

Essential Oils for Your Life – Part 2

In my last article, I talked about essential oils and included some basics for those unfamiliar with them.  I thought it might be fun today to explore some that may not be as well known, but are also worth exploring.  Before I do that, it’s important to remember that the use of essential oils such as these goes hand-in-hand with how you live the rest of your life.  If the sum if greater than each of its parts, then living a wellness lifestyle is the ultimate goal, and using natural remedies is just one component of that lifestyle.   Eating healthy, fresh food, hydrating, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and rest, managing stress, and enjoying life with family and friends – all are necessary to feel, look and be at our best.  That all being said, essential oils can be a wonderful addition to your wellness toolbox!

  • Frankincense – this is a somewhat spicy, woody scent, derived from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It’s used for both immune system support and emotional wellbeing. Its properties are antiseptic, disinfectant and mildly sedative. It’s said to enhance feelings of calmness and also aid in concentration when diffused.  (I use a blend of frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli and a few other oils called InTune for this purpose, and find it works well for me.)  Frankincense can also be applied to the bottoms of both feet to promote a healthy immune system.
  • Grapefruit – I really like citrus-y scents and this is another favorite of mine. It’s clean and fresh when diffused, and is used to enhance and uplift mood and energy.  It’s another one I like to use in the kitchen area for the refreshing aroma.  Other uses include relieving symptoms of jet lag, PMS and tension when diffused or inhaled.
  • Vetiver – is derived from a grass that is familiar to the Indian subcontinent. It has a musky and woody fragrance, with a grounding quality to it.  It has many uses, including as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, but is also very commonly used for its calming and sedative effects when diffused, or applied externally to the soles of the feet.
  • Wild orange – another lovely, bright citrus with multiple uses. Mix it with water to cleanse and purify surfaces, or diffuse to stimulate and purify the environment. It has a wonderfully sweet and rich scent when used aromatically, and imparts an uplifting and cheerful fragrance.  Its anti-inflammatory properties work to heal mouth sores; dab a drop on the affected area.
  • Ylang-ylang – this floral oil derived from the flowers of the ylang ylang tree (common to Asia and the South Pacific) is widely used in perfumes and aromatherapy due to its lovely, delicate fragrance. It is used aromatically or topically for emotional support, hormonal balance, and to promote sleep.  You can also derive benefits from adding a few drops to your bath water.
  • Peppermint – this cool and minty oil has a variety of uses. Diffused, it imparts a cheerful, energized atmosphere.  It’s also said to promote good circulation, respiratory health, and a healthy mouth and gums when used with water as a mouthwash.  It has a somewhat cooling feeling when used aromatically, one of my favorite things about it.

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There you have it – some of my personal favorites for you!  Remember, that there’s an entirely world of essential oils to explore out there and just as much information.  As I mentioned last time, these oils have powerful properties and should be used with care and, in some cases (such as pregnancy or with small children) not at all.   Purchasing the highest quality oils you can afford is important, as is consulting with a qualified and knowledgeable aromatherapy or other educated professional for effective use and safety.  Have fun experimenting; try out one or two to start and go from there.  Using essential oils has opened up another avenue to wellbeing for me, and it can for you, too.

As always, if you have any questions, or want to know more about the use of essential oils for yourself or your family, just send me an email at Suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com and I’m happy to set up a time to chat.

Cheers!

Suzanne xo

For more information on essential oils and easy browsing, please visit my site here:    http://www.mydoterra.com/suzannelevy/#/

Essential Oils for Your Life – Part I

Over the years I’ve had a passing interest in essential oils but had never really studied the subject.  The ones I have used have typically been those that are familiar to most of us – tea tree oil (melaleuca), eucalyptus, lavender, lemon.  I didn’t really know about the vast number of oils available, the number of ways they could be used, and whether there was any evidence to support their effectiveness.  It’s only been recently that I have delved more deeply into learning about them, how best to use them, and for what purposes. Today I’m sharing a simple overview of what essential oils are and how they might be used to support health and wellbeing.

Essential oils have been used therapeutically for thousands of years, as early as ancient Egypt. Essential oils are extracted in a concentrated from natural sources of plant life – flowers, leaves, bark, roots – depending on the type of plant.  These oils have been developed by the plant itself as a protection against pathogens in the environment.  The most common method of extraction is through steam distillation and, once extracted, each batch of oil is tested to assure quality and purity.

In the last century, researchers began a more formal and extensive exploration of essential oils’  applications and benefits, which continues today in universities and research laboratories.  As a result, there is more information documenting their usage and value.  Many essential oils have been shown to contain strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. As interest in natural and alternative health care grows, so has interest in the therapeutic use of oils.

Here are a few of some of the more well-known oils that I use and like:

Lemon – is fresh and citrusy, which I love. It’s said to ease mental fatigue, and provide immune support when diffused, and also to fight airborne germs.  I love using it in a diffuser in the kitchen – it makes everything smell clean and fresh.  It can also be used (diluted in water) to clean up sticky surfaces, polish wood and disinfect, again leaving that lovely scent behind.

Eucalyptus – has an energetic, somewhat green fragrance.  I didn’t always care for it but have grown over time to like it a lot and appreciate its benefits. It’s perfect to diffuse in the winter months during cold and flu season.  Its properties provide excellent respiratory support, assist with clear breathing, and purify and cleanse the air.  It’s also used to soothe body aches and sore muscles. Now it’s one of my favorites – who knew?

Lavender – most everyone loves this one, I think. It’s both floral and herbal, and is often used to promote a soothing and tranquil environment, which is my favorite use.  I love the fragrance of a lavender-infused home or office. The fact that it’s also effective in supporting a feeling of calm well-being makes it one of my go-to’s.

Wintergreen – is minty and sweet, and is diffusing in my kitchen as I write this. I happen to love the fragrance – energetic and happy without being overpowering.  It’s used to support healthy respiratory function, and also to freshen the air in the environment.  It can also be used as an analgesic when diluted and applied to the affected area for joint and muscle aches.

Melaleuca (also known as tea tree oil): is most commonly known for its purifying properties. It has a distinctively “green,” rather pungent fragrance and might take some getting used to for some.  It delivers, however, and is often recommended to treat and heal skin conditions, such as acne and other irritations.  Diluted with water and used in a spray bottle, it’s effectively used on surfaces to deodorize and protect against environmental threats.

Patchouli:  This sweet and spicy oil is often used in the perfume industry, and in other scented products. To some, it’s reminiscent of the l960’s hippie generation. It’s said to provide emotional support, and is frequently used for this in aromatherapy. It is also frequently used as an antiseptic and to soothe inflammation.  I like to diffuse it for the sweet and calming fragrance.

A word about safety – Not all oils are created equal, and it’s important to look for the highest quality oil you can afford.  Be sure to purchase from a company that guarantees high quality oils, which results from optimum means of growing, harvesting and extraction.

How an oil is used is also extremely important.  Some oils must always be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut, when applying topically.  Others are most effective diluted with water. Care should also be taken with babies, children, pregnancy, and individuals with sensitive skin or other conditions.  When in doubt, it’s important to consult with a qualified aromatherapy professional or practitioner as to the safest and most effective means of use.

I’m going to talk more about these natural wonders next time, and include some lesser known but equally valuable oils.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to know more about the use of essential oils for yourself or your family, just send me an email at Suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com.

Elevation

Work. Family. Balance. Really?

If ever there’s a hot topic among women these days, it’s this one.   How do you manage a family, a career or business, and make it all work so that both run smoothly and neither suffers.  Most women I know have either done it or are doing it.  Almost all have at one time or another felt the pull of trying to juggle their various hats along with feelings of just not quite getting it done.   It’s strategic life planning for the modern woman.

There’s no shortage of articles and advice on how to best manage your day with a career and family (trust me, I just Googled them) so I’m not going to add to the list.  What I will do, though, is offer some of the ideas that have worked for me over the years, and that I have culled from others who seem to have achieved a semblance of sanity in the midst of it all.

I didn’t work at all the first few years of my son’s life and then part-time after that.  During those especially important younger years, I made it my business to arrange my schedule around him.  I was fortunate to have work that enabled me to work both virtually and in-office, and still be there to attend school events, and pick him up after school.   Of course, once he hit middle school, I also had to be prepared to drive him around to whatever else was going on!  As children grow, how and when we need to be there changes.  And how much help and support we have at home makes a difference, too.

The bottom line for me has been family as my priority, and I think that knowledge helped me craft the rest of my life.  Even with Matthew off to college now, he’s still my priority, just in a different way.

So, from my own experience and the wisdom of others, here are my best ideas on how to do that (imperfect!) balancing act:

  • Decide for yourself what your priorities need to be based on where you are in your life, and your family’s needs. Priorities will change as your family grows, so what is reasonable for you to take on will also change.
  • Know that wherever you currently are in parenting is a stage that will pass. There will be a time when you can actually take your eyes off of her for more than 30 seconds.  And just when you think you cannot possibly watch one more episode of “Dora, the Explorer,” your child will announce she’s over it.  Most likely, you will never, ever watch it again.
  • If you want to resume your current profession or business sooner than later, you’ll need to ask yourself the hard questions. What is most important at this time in your family’s life?  What is realistic to expect based on your family vs. work needs?   What can you reasonably manage?   What kind of support will you need?   What is the cost vs. benefit?  The answers to these questions will provide your direction.
  • Don’t under-estimate the importance of role models – those women who have come before you, as well as your peers.  Raising a family and maintaining a career or business can be extremely challenging. Who are the women you admire for creating a healthy familyI and work life?  This could be someone in the public eye, or someone in your community.  What is it about them that inspires you? What characteristics do they share?  How do they structure their time?    Most importantly, what can you learn from them to integrate into your own life to create something that works for you and your household?
  • Self-care. I’m a firm believer in taking care of yourself.  It’s hard to be at your best if you’re not getting enough sleep, exercise, or your nutrition is poor.  Your mood and performance will suffer and your effectiveness will decrease.  Taking care of yourself is basic, it’s part of having a strong personal foundation.  If you find yourself constantly tired, low on energy or irritable, pay attention.  Your body and mind may be trying to tell you something.  Something as simple as a half-hour with a good book can be just what you need to recharge when you find yourself running on empty.  Taking care of yourself pays off for you, your family and your business.
  • Organization is key.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.  Having a written plan for each day, knowing what must be done and what can wait, keeping deadlines and events up-to-date on your calendar, keeping your work area organized, having – and using! – systems.  All of these are indispensable if you want to carry on your business and home life with a sense of order.  Being organized is a preventative strategy that will serve you to no end.
  • Learn to say no. I know of few working moms, myself included, who haven’t struggled with this

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If you are continually withdrawing funds from your bank account, you will eventually have nothing left.  You have to make deposits.  Taking care of yourself is the same.  If you are continually depleting your resources  they will eventually be exhausted.  Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessary fact of life that will enable you to be your best self for the people and life you love.

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day!

Suzanne xo

SPECIAL OFFER – TWO BONUS HEALTHY CHEF COOKING CLASSES!

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I am excited to announce that my friend and colleague, Darlene Trandel, PhD, RN/NP, CCP, PCC, is offering two Special Bonus Classes to the Evergreen Life workshop beginning February 15th! Darlene is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health-Wellness Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Educator in Healthy Lifestyle Management. She will be teaching two virtual cooking classes to inspire us to make healthier food choices through innovative culinary education. Darlene was one of 6 practitioners to have been chosen to participate in the first Chef Coaching Certification through the Institute of Lifestyle Medline (ILM) at Harvard Medical School. In the bonus classes, you’ll be inspired and empowered to make delicious and healthy homemade food in less time with an introduction to these Healthy Chef Coaching Classes. These skills are designed to help you manage your weight — be that weight loss or sustaining your current weight. She is very excited to offer an introductory 2 week bonus class program to be used in the study. You’ll be inspired and empowered to make delicious and healthy homemade food in less time with these Healthy Chef Coaching Classes.

The completely online Evergreen Life Workshop starts Monday February 15th, with 3 live coaching calls! This class presents a completely new and dynamic plan for healthy living focused on sleep, food, mood and exercise. If you’re ready to commit to a wellness lifestyle but don’t know where to begin, I am confident this program is the answer. For all information and to register for the entire Workshop: http://evergreenlifeandwellness.com/wellness-workshop/

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