Goodbye to Feeling Overwhelmed!

Jumbled thoughts. Confusion. Inaction. Overwhelm.

This is often where I have found myself these past few months.

I’m trying to balance what feels like a million things in my life: working multiple jobs, applying for new ones, completing work for my life coach course, coaching my first clients (woo-hoo!), along with exercising, eating healthy meals and having a social life….and let’s not forget sleeping! It’s a lot. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed and get stuck in inaction because I don’t know where to place my focus with so many things calling for my attention. But over the last few weeks, I heard this advice from THREE different sources I trust, and I knew I had to listen:

MAKE  THREE GOALS FOR EACH DAY, AND MAKE THOSE GOALS YOUR PRIORITY FOR THAT DAY.

Sounds simple, right? Well I can tell you, it has made a HUGE difference in my life.

Here’s how I do it. Each morning I go within, think about the day ahead, and identify the top three things that I want to get done that day. I write these goals on post-it notes which I place in my planner and on my bulletin board above my desk. Then, anytime during the day when I feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to do with any extra time I have, I refer back to this list and immediately become clear on what I want to be doing. And I do it!

Taking action towards what we really want to create in our life feels SOOO good. And keeping it simple by having just 3 goals per day makes life seem easier; no one likes dealing with a to-do list that’s a mile long. And let’s face it, crossing an item off your to-do list is ridiculously satisfying!

If you would like extra support in reaching your dreams and goals, I’m now offering my services as a life coach! Check it out here and send me an email at syversam@gmail.com if you are interested in a free sample session.

No, I’m Not Looking for a Teaching Job

“So, are you looking for a teaching job?”

I get asked this question every single day that I work as a substitute teacher. And it makes me feel super uncomfortable.

Why? Well, it’s not because I feel like people are being too nosy. I get it, I am also endlessly fascinated with what other people are doing with their lives.

The reason this question makes me squirm is because I become insecure and self-conscious when I’m surrounded by people who are on the teaching path I used to think was perfect for me. What will they think of me? How could they understand that I worked so hard to become a teacher but that it’s not what I want to do?

When I was first asked this question, I avoided answering it directly, mumbling something about how I enjoyed working in different schools and grade levels every day. Now I’m at the point where I feel confident enough to tell people that teaching isn’t what I want to do. I’m still working on telling them what I DO want to do. Sometimes I’ll say something like, “I’m still figuring that out,” but that’s not true. I know exactly what I want to do.

The truth is, if I felt truly confident about the path I’m taking to be a self-employed life coach and writer, I would have no problem telling people about it. My hesitation shows me that I still have some inner work to do around fully accepting myself and my dreams. I also know that the more I tell people, the easier it gets. It takes courage for me to tell people who I fear will judge me, or won’t understand. But by not telling people, I might be missing valuable connections, unforeseen opportunities, or even potential clients! I’ve heard that if we have a dream, we need to start telling people about it. I’m working on it :).

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” –Marianne Williamson

The Power of Stories

I was amazed. In all my months of teaching my eighth grade Spanish class, they were ANYTHING but good listeners: they were rowdy, defiant, and loud. It was understandable, I had them the period before lunch and they had already sat through four hours of class. The students were 13 and 14 years old, hormones were raging and learning Spanish was not their top priority. A day didn’t go by without interruptions by the class clowns, and it was difficult for me to get through a lesson without many distractions.

And then there was a day where I decided to throw my lesson plan in the trash, and tell some stories instead.

It was the best day of class I had the entire year.

The students sat in rapt attention, soaking up every detail of how my ex-boyfriend and I got lost for a night in the Peruvian Andes and broke into an abandoned shack to sleep for the night while our  guide roamed the mountain searching for us, worried that we had fallen off a cliff to our deaths. I even shared with them the reason we got lost: our guide drank way too much chicha (a very potent Peruvian liquor)  and passed out on a bench in the middle of our trek. We decided not to waste the day and instead explored the gorgeous but isolated Incan ruins of Choquequirao on our own. When the sun suddenly set at 6:00 and the temperature dropped about 30 degrees, we found ourselves without food, warm clothes, or a guide.

As you can see it’s a pretty intriguing story! Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that my normally unruly students were so enraptured that day. It was just such an amazing feeling to have the entire class focused and ENGAGED. And I am guessing that this little story might be the only thing some of these students remember from their year of  Spanish.

I thought of this story because the other day I found myself subbing for a class of adorable little second graders. They were a talkative, fidgety bunch until I spontaneously decided to share with them my story of raising over 100 bunnies when I was a young girl. Just as had happened with my 8th graders, they became completely captivated by my story. Not a single student interrupted or even fidgeted. They had tons of questions and comments for me after I was done, and it was the most connected to them I felt the entire day.

We are naturally drawn to stories and have been since the beginning of time, whether gathered around a fire or huddled in a cabin. They connect us to one another in such a beautiful and ancient way, and we all long to hear them. Why? I think it’s because we see ourselves reflected in the triumphs, heartbreaks, adventures and challenges of others. Through stories we realize that we are not alone on this journey.

Each one of us has a unique story, and it can take courage to tell it. Do you feel called to tell your story in a bigger way? Maybe it’s through blogging, art, teaching, or speaking…there are countless ways to share your experiences, and only you know what’s right for you. What I do know is that your story is powerful, and it matters that you tell it!

Feeling Down? Try This!

This past few days I have felt like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster.

I declared last weekend to be my official job search weekend, but I got no further than putting up a new picture on LinkedIn. Seriously. I found myself mostly just going from website to website feeling overwhelmed and confused about what direction to take…do I find another nanny job? Do I market myself as an editor? Do I work as a Spanish tutor? Or do I wait until I feel more inspired to take a certain direction?

And then the money fears came up. I started thinking about how I don’t have as much money as I would like and how I have a looming tax bill coming up, and then on top of that I wasn’t able to sub as much as I planned this week due to yet another cold day. So the downward emotional spiral continued.

Then, after spending most of yesterday on my couch wallowing in self-pity, I made the decision that today would be different. True, I couldn’t work today and wouldn’t make the money I had planned on making. Yes, my financial and job situation aren’t exactly where I want them to be.

But this can only affect me if I allow it to. We have the power to feel the way we want to, no matter what our circumstances. And the great thing is, once we feel good, no matter what the situation, we are more likely to attract into our lives the things that we really want! Which is why it is so important that we figure out for ourselves what gets us back in a more positive place. What works one day might not work another day, so it takes some experimenting. Lately what has worked for me is taking walks in nature (when it isn’t below zero of course) and dancing around my apartment to Shakira music ( it’s pretty hard to feel down when dancing!) Watching Glee has also helped, probably because I love musicals.

And then today, because I set the powerful intention to feel good, I had an amazing, in-the-flow day. I felt more inspired to take action. I connected more with friends, and I appreciated that I had an entire day off to work towards my writing and coaching goals. It was such a relief to feel this way after a few days of being in a funk.

What about you, are you allowing your circumstances to dictate how you feel? What kinds of things can you do to uplift yourself when you are feeling down? I invite you to join me in doing whatever you can to feel better NOW. From that place of feeling good, more and more amazing things will come into your life. And what is more important than feeling good?

P.S. If you like what I have to say I would love if you followed me! All you need to do is enter your email address on the right and you will get my new posts sent right to your inbox.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

When I look over the past few years of my life, I notice a pattern of things not going as planned:

I became a Spanish teacher but decided I couldn’t see myself in the classroom day after day and year after year, so I quit.

I thought I had found “the one” but I decided to finally listen to what my intuition knew all along and ended the three-year relationship.

I decided to become a serious backpacker but realized that the nomadic lifestyle was draining me.

And recently I became really excited about a work opportunity that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, until it became apparent that the job wasn’t as great as I originally thought. I ended up quitting the project less than two months in.

Ok, so reading the list above could be a little depressing. But not with the perspective I now have! You see, I have come to view what some may see as “setbacks” as incredibly valuable learning opportunities. Through these experiences I’ve become really clear on what I DON’T want, and therefore crystal-clear on what I DO want:

I want a relationship in which I feel really seen. I want us both to be really clear on who we are and what we want. I want someone who is confident, open-minded and committed to living his best life.

I want to create a beautiful home for myself and have a place to come back to after I travel.

I want to work for myself and create a business in which I am coaching, writing, and teaching, sharing my experiences with the intention of uplifting others. I want a career that absolutely lights me up. One that is flexible, one in which I am doing something different every day and making a real difference in people’s lives.

Now, doesn’t that sound better?

It is so important that we look at our challenging experiences with gratitude because they have so much to teach us if we let them! Instead of constantly focusing on what’s wrong in our lives, let’s use setbacks and disappointments to get clear on what we DO want and then take inspired action to get there!

I’d love to hear from you, what have you learned from your tough times? Can see your struggles as gifts that illuminate what you truly desire?

If you like what I have to say I would love if you followed me! All you need to do is enter your email address on the right and you will get my new posts sent right to your inbox.

The Power of Clearing Space

Last summer when I was obsessed with feng shui (and drove my family crazy with all my new ideas), I learned that how we design and arrange our outer living spaces will directly affect our inner experience. For example, when we are in a cluttered, unorganized space we are likely to feel more anxious and overwhelmed than we are in a space that is organized and has peaceful artwork on the walls. It seems obvious, right? Yet sometimes we might not realize that our living spaces are negatively affecting us.

For awhile I had photographs displayed from a wedding I went to when I was 25 and in the middle of my quarter-life crisis, just days after I broke off my engagement…not exactly a high point in my life. Every time I looked at these pictures of me I was reminded of how much pain I was in and how I felt I was wearing a mask to hide how terrible I really felt. Once I realized this, I took them down and now only display pictures that evoke positive emotions within me. It is so important that we surround ourselves with what we want in our lives, and since I want to experience more happiness and abundance, I am working on surrounding myself with things that uplift me.

It also works the opposite way: our inner experience affects our outer experience. For example, when I am feeling overwhelmed, the state of my apartment usually mirrors that in the unorganized papers on my desk or the piles of dirty dishes in the sink. However, when I am feeling more clarity in my life my apartment tends to be more organized and easy to manage.

So it really works both ways! Our inner experience affects our outer environment, but we can also improve our inner experience by being mindful of how we arrange and maintain our homes. It is also important that we don’t fill every inch of space we have because then there is no room for the new to enter.

A few days before Christmas year, I felt this sudden, obsessive urge to clear my space. I organized a messy closet and combed through my entire apartment to see what I could get rid of. I didn’t really understand this compulsion, but I went with it! After filling a plastic bin and several shopping bags, I felt so much lighter, relieved somehow. I don’t think it is any coincidence that this urge to clear my space hit me right before the new year, a natural time for us to clear out the old and welcome in the new. When we create physical space we are also creating energetic space for new things to enter our lives, whether that means new relationships, jobs, opportunities or possessions. I once read a recommendation that we keep one shelf in our home completely empty, which sounds kind of strange, but I now have a bare shelf in my bedroom closet and it feels good! It is symbolic of all that I want to create in my life in 2014 that hasn’t yet arrived.

Does anyone else have this urge to get rid of things, to re-organize? If you feel inspired, go for it! I can promise you will feel lighter and renewed after doing so. I would also recommend looking around your home and noticing how the things you surround yourself with actually make you feel, and if they don’t make you feel good, do something about it! I’d love to hear how it goes.

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We All Go Through It!

I really like this time of year, these days at the end of December when we pause, take a look back on the year and honor all that has happened and changed in our lives in 2013. For me, 2013 often felt like a chaotic whirlwind, like I just couldn’t quite see where I was going. Yet it was also a year in which I focused on honoring my authentic self and speaking my truth, and a lot of really amazing things have come from that. It has been such a significant year for me.

I don’t think my year would have been quite the same if I hadn’t started it out by reading an amazing book called Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. I would highly recommend this book to anyone going through a confusing, chaotic or difficult period in their lives. I read it last winter while backpacking through Southeast Asia, and it helped me get really clear on how I had veered from my North Star (or my true path) and how to get back on track to a life I loved. Martha Beck explains that each of us go through predictable change cycles in our life. These change cycles have four stages, and when we can recognize which phase we are in we can gain so much relief and clarity.

A year ago I found myself in the first stage of the change cycle, “death and rebirth.” Death doesn’t necessarily mean physical death, it can mean the death of an identity, career, or relationship. Basically it’s any event that propels us into a major life transition. Within a year and a half I had ended a relationship and let go of my identity as a teacher, and I now found myself dealing with a new loss as I realized that the “serious backpacker” identity that I had hoped would fit me simply did not. This was not easy for me to face, because I had left a lot behind: my family, friends, apartment and most of my savings to travel across the world and do what I thought would bring me happiness…but it just wasn’t who I really was. I felt very lost, sad, and confused, wondering how had I veered so off course.

Yet what I was experiencing was so normal, because anytime we are faced with the loss of something we are going to have these emotions come up! It is better to welcome our feelings, mourn the disintegration of our old lives, and then release it all so that we can pave the way for a life that is so much better than the one we left behind.

After coming to terms that the backpacker life wasn’t for me, it became really clear to me that what I DID want was to have a career in personal growth because that is what I was SO incredibly passionate about. What I was really longing to do was read books and blogs about authenticity, purpose, relationships, emotions, meditation, and so on. I frequented internet cafes to read inspirational blogs and listen to online seminars about becoming a life coach rather than researching travel blogs and hostels.  That wasn’t what lit me up, and I knew it. But more importantly, I had discovered what DID light me up…which led me to the next stage of the change cycle.

Phase 2 is the dreaming and scheming phase, and I think 2013 was definitely my dreaming year. I have gotten pretty clear on what I want in my life and can easily envision having this amazing career as an entrepreneur/life coach/author/blogger/group facilitator/anything else I discover that I love to do. I really like this phase because it is all about allowing ourselves to dream big without holding anything back, knowing that anything is possible as long as we believe it is. The problem is, many people can get stuck in this phase, and I am definitely one of those people! I have no problem with the big vision but when it comes to actually taking action, I often feel overwhelmed and don’t do anything at all. Yet this is what phase 3, “The Hero’s Saga,” is all about, taking our grand visions and dreams and breaking them down into small action steps (and not giving up, even when we feel discouraged!). To give myself some credit, I did take some really important action steps towards my dreams in 2013. I started to share my thoughts on this blog, I enrolled in a life coach training program, and I facilitated a 20-something women’s group at my apartment. That’s a pretty big deal and I think it is so important for all of us to remember to celebrate these beautiful things we create in our lives. But I can see that 2014 is going to be my year for taking more inspired action towards my goals and not getting stuck in dreamland where I so often find myself!

Finally we have stage 4, “The Promised Land,” which I haven’t reached yet in my current change cycle, but I look forward to it!  This stage is all about arriving to our unique promised land where our dreams come true before our very eyes. It’s about making small adjustments here and there and enjoying the new lives we have created for ourselves.

Can you place yourself on the change cycle? When I first read about it I felt so relieved and  grateful that what I was going through was a completely normal part of life. Even when we go through a really difficult and chaotic change, we can now recognize the doorway that will soon open to a beautiful new beginning and a life more amazing than we ever dared to imagine.

Questions That Matter

I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.

Two years ago I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed working in a job that didn’t fill me with passion or purpose. I felt I lived for the weekends, but in reality the weekends were spent dreading the upcoming week and procrastinating on my seemingly endless grading and lesson planning. I was on the brink of an emotional breakdown due to suppressing all of my feelings about my recent breakup, and I just couldn’t seem to figure out what was “wrong” with me.

I asked myself if my steady, reliable job was truly worth it. I decided it wasn’t. I asked myself if teaching was really for me, and realized it might not be. This opened me up to new, limitless possibilities for myself. I asked myself why I went into teaching in the first place, and realized that it was because it felt safe and familiar, and that I had never really explored other possibilities for myself. I asked myself if the job matched up with my personality and preferences, and realized that being in front of a classroom of 30 students for five hours a day was really draining for my introverted, reflective personality. All of these questions and more led me to the decision to leave this career KNOWING that there was something else I was meant to do.

One year ago I was telling myself I should feel happy traveling around Southeast Asia. Although I had seen amazing sights and met some unforgettable people,  I was becoming increasingly homesick as the holidays approached. I was tired of being constantly sweaty and exhausted as I trekked relentlessly through country after country. I had this nagging, underlying feeling that I couldn’t quite articulate, and it took some time before I was really willing to explore what was wrong, why I didn’t feel happy. The truth was, I wasn’t living my purpose, and it had been too long since I felt truly passionate and excited.

I asked myself why I had really left everything and gone to travel in faraway countries, and realized that I was scared of the unknown, of what I was going to do now that I had quite teaching. I was essentially running away. I asked myself if backpacking really made me happy, and realized it didn’t. What I really wanted to do was read books about personal growth and write about my experiences, become a life coach, and feel I was making a difference in people’s lives. I asked myself if I was willing to go for my dreams and stop running away…and decided yes, it was time.

Today I am living back home in Minnesota and have had an incredible year. I had an internship with an author and life coach I deeply admire. I am training to be a life coach myself and love everything I am learning in the process. I just got a job as a writer and researcher for a documentary film that has the goal of inspiring people to be more authentic, collaborative, and imaginative in the workplace. My life feels aligned with what I value most, and it feels amazing.

I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been willing to ask myself some tough questions and get really honest with myself, even when it felt painful and uncomfortable. Yet the clarity I have around my life now versus how confused and lost I felt just a few short years ago continues to astound me. I am so grateful for everything I have been through because it led me to ask these life-changing questions.

Are you ready? These questions can get you started:

What really motivated your past decisions?

Where aren’t you being honest with yourself?

Is the life you are living one that feels good to you?

What are you willing to commit to changing in your life?

What do you truly want?

How do you want to contribute your gifts and talents?

What makes you absolutely come alive?

Remember, asking yourself these questions can feel uncomfortable at first, but if you are willing to dig deep you will gain such precious and important insights that you can use to completely transform your life.

Do What Scares You

What if you can do so much more than you ever believed you could? What if you have the ability to absolutely ASTOUND yourself with what you are capable of? What if there are no limits to your talents, resourcefulness, gifts and abilities? What if you took a huge step toward your dreams?

Well, last weekend I did just that. I led a women’s group which was something I had envisioned myself doing for months now, but for a long time it just seemed too scary. But then, because I have come to enjoy pushing my perceived limits and to see what I am truly capable of, I worked up the courage to just go for it, even though I didn’t know how it would go. Would anyone come? Would anyone be interested? Would anyone come back?

This fear of the unknown plagues us all from time to time, doesn’t it? It’s so tricky, we become paralyzed in fear because we don’t know what will happen…but then get stuck in this place and never do anything! The only thing to do is dive in and give it our best shot, even when we are really scared. After all, courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of fear.

It wasn’t perfect. I was so nervous when I started, I had 13 people looking at me to lead and I was all shaky and felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. But then I led everyone through a short, simple meditation and sank down into myself where my deeper, wiser self could take over. And then I felt confident and ready. I shared with the group some very personal experiences and then facilitated small and large group discussions. I have the most amazing, supportive friends who showed up because they  were willing to try something new, something that may have been way out of their comfort zones, too.

Wow. If you would have told me even two years ago that I would be starting and leading a group like this, I might have laughed in your face. I would have told you all of the reasons why I could never do something like that: I’m too shy, I don’t open up to people, and I’m not a good speaker. But all of these beliefs were the voice of my ego speaking, the voice of fear that lives in our minds. Our ego is really just trying to protect us because it believes that stepping out of our comfort zones equals getting hurt. Ego limits us, tells us why we shouldn’t do the things our heart is leading us to do. But the truth is, if  we let ourselves be led by the ego, we cannot live fulfilling, exciting lives because we will never leave our comfort zones…and only outside of our comfort zones do we truly grow and expand.

Are you letting your fears and ego hold you back? What would happen if you went ahead and tried something you really want to do, despite being scared? I can promise you that you will enjoy the feeling of surprising even yourself.

What’s Your Dream?

We all came into this life with amazing gifts and talents, fully intending to use them. Each of us is here to help others or the planet in our own unique way, with our own brand of medicine, like no one else can. But then we grow up and forget this. Our society tells us to find a practical career, people tell us that our dreams are crazy, and we talk ourselves out of doing what we most want to do.

I had forgotten all about one of my dreams until about a year ago when I was just coming to the realization that teaching Spanish or elementary school didn’t feel right for me. I just KNEW I was meant to do something else, something that would be fulfilling and amazing, but I had no clue what it would be. It was like it was on the tip of my tongue and I couldn’t quite make it out yet.

Then it happened: I was lying on my bed on a warm June afternoon, just about to drift off into a nap as I lazily wondered about my future when I heard a whisper vibrate up from inside of me, “Write.” I was so shocked by this unexpected message that I sat straight up in my bed, and then ran over to my journal to write down what had happened. It was the clearest message I had ever received from my intuition. I couldn’t believe it, I was supposed to write?! But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Although I didn’t love writing papers in college, I was really good at it. I had one literature professor who said my paper was one of the best he had ever read and asked to use it as an example for his future students. My friends often asked me to proofread their papers, and I tutored ESL students in writing. But writing as a career? In college I had never considered it; writing papers was something I generally dreaded. But then I remembered the journals I had filled over the years, writing for my own pleasure. I loved typing out my thoughts, reflecting on my days, investigating my life in these journals. Yes, this type of writing I loved. One time I even printed out one of my beloved journals that I had typed into a Word document, unsure of why I was doing so but feeling giddy about it nonetheless. Now I realize that the part of me that KNEW about my dream to be a writer came out and was “publishing” my work!

Although I was excited about this huge ah-ha moment, it didn’t take long for my ego (the voice of reason that is always rambling in our minds) to come in and tell me all of the reasons why I couldn’t be a writer. I was afraid to even tell anyone about this insight, that’s how crazy and far-fetched I thought it was. Who was I to think I could be a writer? Yes, other people could do it, but not me.

Then I attended a women’s retreat and felt safe and courageous enough to actually tell people about this dream, and they looked at me and calmly told me that they saw no reason why I couldn’t be a writer. If other people believed in me and my dream, why couldn’t I? I am still chipping away at this limiting belief, trusting in my deep knowing that this is something I was meant to do.

When we choose to take a stand for ourselves and our dreams and are courageous enough to tell people about them, we embark on an adventure into the unknown. This doesn’t mean that the path is going to be easy, or crystal-clear, or fun all the time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. We will only feel truly fulfilled when we take a stand for ourselves and our dreams, despite the long list of reasons our ego gives us not to. We know what is best for ourselves, and no one else can tell us our truth.

Do you have any deep-rooted or long-forgotten dreams? Maybe you want to start a group home for disabled adults, teach preschoolers,  build beautiful homes, serve the homeless or educate people on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Whatever your dream is, it matters, and you matter. You are here for a reason and we need you!