Freedom in Between

So often, people feel that they are not in charge of their own lives, that their lives are determined by circumstance, duties and habits.

Victor Frankl is said to have shared a thought-provoking perspective:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

What are your thoughts on that? Please drop me a note.

________________

New and super relevant: I have expanded into Mental Fitness coaching to support lasting change in my clients’ lives.

#mentalfitness #personalfreedom #mindfulness #coachmanuelazeitlhofer

Neuroplasticity confirms: We can create the life we want!

Are your familiar with the term Neuroplasticity? – It refers to the brain’s ability to adapt, form new neural pathways, and change the wiring of brain circuits. Metaphorically speaking, this means that certain pathways become highways, and other just gravel paths. It also means that we can develop the gravel paths into highways. Practically speaking, this means that we can train our brains. It means we can change our thinking. It means we can change our habits, how we think, speak and act in the world.

As a life coach, I would like to point out the great possibilities this approach holds for the world of coaching: We can train our brains. A good life coach can help establish new habits.

I am accepting new clients. Contact me today for a free introductory meeting.

Our brains are amazing!

Multiple Perspectives

Essentially, things just are. We attribute meaning to things and events. Sometimes we dwell in the negative aspects or implications of something, when there really are other sides to everything.

In coaching we use this principle, and we call it reframing: We encourage a different perspective or seeing something in a different light.

Today, I did this with my sandpit: Part of our property consists of a former sandpit that was left in its soil-deprived state. For the past 25 years, nothing more than a few tough grasses, willows and even fewer very tough pines and cedars (all looking like bonsais) have been growing here. In the summer, this bothers my agriculturalist’s heart. Now, with a little bit of snow, the steep banks make marvelous sliding hills. And I wonder what other things in my life need reframing.

How about you? What could you reframe right now? – Please share your thoughts!

How to Live in a Seemingly Small World

I find that with the restrictions imposed on us during COVID, my world is shrinking to the size it was when my daughter was born. Back then, we were living in the wilderness, and I was the only person taking care of the baby. I could not leave the house or have any time to myself for a seemingly long time.

I learned how to carve out a space in my life that would hold who I was, so I would not loose myself. And it worked. For example, instead of going for long walks or do the outdoor chores (like getting water from the creek), started Yoga, which I could do inside with the baby around. I also reframed – that is, give different meaning – to seemingly tedious chores like doing the dished or doing laundry (I washed my daughter’s cloth diapers by hand): The repetitive action of those chores made it possible for me to reflect on life and get into a creative mental space that was relaxing.

I have always enjoyed working from home, and seeing nature change through the seasons right in front of my window. Being homebound during another lockdown is no problem for me. At times though, I miss that I cannot go and see my family when I want, or take my daughter to an indoor pool on a cold winter day. Instead, I find myself in the little and bigger chores that every day life as a mother, wife, duck owner, life coach and teacher brings, like collecting two beautiful duck eggs every morning, engaging in some small talk with the producers and negotiating the details of food – especially peas – exchange with them.

I hope you are in a position where you enjoy life, and you can be who you are without feeling restricted. If that is not the case let me tell you that you have it in you to create those conditions!

Please feel free to share your ideas or questions.

Love the duck (October 22, 2021)

Emotional Contagion

You might have noticed that you are affected by the emotions of people around you. If someone expresses worry, frustration or anger, it will be picked up by you and others around. The same principle applies to positive emotions.

Social Psychologist Elaine Hatfield calls this phenomenon emotional contagion. If you read about it you will find out that humans need the pack and from an evolutionary perspective, it has been safer to play along with the group rather than being left alone in the wild.

I want to focus on an empowering aspect: Every person can be that catalyst! If other people’s emotions affect ME, then my emotions affect OTHERS. Isn’t that wonderful?

Here is a current example from my life: This morning, I was walking to the school bus with my daughter. The snow has been melting and we had to walk through some muddy puddles. Our neighbor was working with heavy equipment. He stopped to let us pass safely. I pulled my daughter along. In the process, she got splashed with muddy water. That resulted in a series of aggressive (disappointed) screams. I calmly reminded her that it would just be dust that she could brush off as soon as her pants were dry again. Luckily she recalibrated herself quickly.

Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to avoid getting affected by other people’s emotions. And sometimes, I have to step away when my defenses wear thin.

What generally works for me is…

  • to become aware of the emotion (in this case: anger and disappointments) and the reason behind it (feeling of powerlessness, as she could not just change, but had to go to school as she was).
  • to be aware of my position and not let the situations break into my bubble of self (I do that by smiling inwardly and talking to myself – also inwardly).
  • to separate physically from the person displaying the unwanted emotion. Going outside – even for a few minutes – works wonderings for me.

Tell me please: What works for you?

Everything Has Two Sides

I repainted my mailbox. It looks like new, but the flag is not installed properly yet (long story). When I inspected it today, contemplating how to solve the issue, I noticed beautiful ice crystals on the north-facing side of the mailbox. The south-facing side was steaming in the sunlight.

I was thinking how everything has two sides: literally and metaphorically speaking.

If we accept that our perspective can only be subjective, and that every situation has different aspects to it, then we have to accept that we might not always sit on the sunny side of a reality. And if that is the case, we could infer that there IS indeed a sunn(ier) side to things.

How does that strike you?

By the way, as a life coach I can assist you in finding those other perspectives. And I accept new clients!

Freedom Choices

I keep thinking about my fellow Austrians. My country of birth seems divided and propaganda is driving the wedge even deeper.

Thinking about our collective history, I am concerned where this might lead (again). What comes after the division? Segregation? Finding a scapegoat? Then what?

I keep thinking about this dilemma. And I want to understand. So please come along and let’s ask some questions.

The situation as it presents itself to me in the stories I hear and read from people I know:

The government is taking away some of our freedoms, and we feel restricted. Some of us fight by being obstinate or by complaining. Others, in a more inward-directed way, are being unhappy. A few might be involved in constructive political activism; others trust that our countries’ leaders are doing the best they can.

Right now, we find ourselves deprived of some of the freedoms we have gotten used to, like the freedom to travel, the freedom to meet friends, the freedom to go window shopping, or the freedom to have a nice meal in a restaurant.

I am putting the following thought out there:

Our freedom is never absolute. There are always some limitations to our actual choices.

Freedom then becomes a choice. We can choose to be happy, quite independently of the circumstance. We can be happy that we are alive, content to be able to go for walks, loving the sun, the wind and the stars. We can choose our emotional response when we hear people spreading negativity, we can even choose to turn off the TV or turn away from those people.

We can choose which feelings we act upon: Love or hatred, contentment or restlessness….

I am challenging you to try this:

Do the best you can, always, from a place of love and consideration. The let it go and be happy, this very moment.

Drop me a note with your thoughts. Thank you!

My Freedom in a Tree (August 8, 2021)

The World of Little Things: Seeds

Again, I was walking home from the school bus, when my gaze fell upon a little milkweed seed on the ground. It was glistering with dew drops. While the general scene, albeit sunny and not too cold, was rather brown – mind you, it is November and nature supposed to be brown – that little seed was a sparkling messenger of life and hope.

Have you ever thought of all the beauty we might miss, by focusing on the big picture only?

Happiness is Here, Now

Happiness is a Value, not a Goal!

That means, happiness is not something to look for, to try to reach, a goal, but a value, something to believe in, a moment-to-moment way of being!

Does this sound familiar? – “I will be happy when _______” (fill the blank).

What did you wish for as a child? – Your next birthday gift? As a teenager? – Your driver’s licence? As a young adult? – A good job? / A wonderful partner? – And once you got what you were wishing for, how long did your happiness last before you filled in the blank with something new, a new condition for your happiness? What are you longing for or chasing today? – Do you think this ____ (fill the blank) will make you sustainably happy? It is an endless cycle in the pursuit of happiness.

How can we break the cycle? Can we be happy here and now? Independent of circumstance?

Here are a few mental exercises that can help you create new thinking habits that make it possible to be happy, independent of pursuit:

Talk to and about yourself in compassionate ways

Instead of being hard on yourself for all your flaws, your failures and mistakes, assure yourself:

_______ (Your name), you are perfectly human, with all your imperfections, just like everyone else. Let’s acknowledge what is wonderful about you, like _______ (fill the blank), and have fun improving you a little bit every day.”

Talk to and about others in constructive ways

Instead of dwelling on a situation that feels hard or impossible to change, assure yourself:

Like you, dear ________ (your name), everybody around you is perfectly imperfect. Their essence is a beautiful as yours. To draw out their best, concentrate on interacting with that part of them!”

Talk about your circumstances in solution-oriented ways

Instead of focussing on mishaps failures, assure yourself:

Every event or circumstance can be a gift. It can be turned into an opportunity. What is a mistake or failure you could look at and see potential in?

Global Cultural Mindset (Part 1: Values)

For a seemingly long time, the work was becoming smaller as global travel became easier and more and more affordable. Then, a pandemic hit, and the world seemed to expand. Sometimes, the other side of the earth seems to be as far away as another planet. Then again, we are interacting and working with people from all over the world, often in a virtual setting.

In my work as a teacher and a life coach I have come to learn about the cultural challenges a global setting can provide for individuals. In a synthesis of my training as a sociologist, my experience as a teacher, and the many wonderful things I learned from people I have worked with, I have created a program.

The series is called “Developing a Global Cultural Mindset”. Part 1 is all about VALUES: Values answer the question:

In a world where you could choose to have your life be about something,
what would you choose?
(Wilson & Murrell, 2004, 135)

Why is it important to be aware of our values? – Values are our inner compass. Being aware of our values helps us navigate our life in the direction that we choose.

For a short time, the first self-exploratory exercise “Reflection on Values” is available for free.

The Benefits of Laughing

What makes you laugh? –  For me, it is quite frequently my husband, who has a gift of seeing and pointing out the humor in things that I sometimes take (too) seriously.

Laughter is beneficial for our physical and mental health. It can lower our blood pressure and improve concentration. In an emotional way, laughing can it can alleviate stress and anxiety. Even spiritually, laughter can help us feel more connected and whole.

You don’t feel like laughing? – Even so, try doing it anyway, because our body does not know the difference between fake and real laughter.

Please share what make you laugh happily!

Grounding Myself In Nature

Much has been said about how our modern life tends to create a disconnect with nature.

In my coaching (and in my life) I seek to keep things simple:

I need nature to survive: It gives me food, it gives me air, it gives me space to move and space to experience my connection with all other living things. When I get really calm I experienced that I AM PART of this wonderful world.

What does it look like for you when you feel grounded? – Please drop me a note!

Mindfulness in Motion

Mindfulness is commonly understood as paying attention to what is happening in one’s mind, body and surroundings, with a focus on the present moment, and in a curious, compassionate and non-judgmental state.

What does mindfulness do to us?

Mindfulness improves our well-being. Focusing on the here and now makes it less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or nostalgia over the past. It also improves our mental and our physical health.

One technique is Mindful Walking:

The ability to walk sets us apart from most animals on earth. It is a defining factor of being human. Most of the time, we might fail to see walking as something special.

When you walk mindfully, pay attention to the sensations of your body:

  • How do your feet feel, in your shoes, when you step down and when you lift them up?
  • How do your other muscles keep you balanced?
  • Pay attention to how your arms swing as you walk.
  • How about your breathing? Is there a rhythm between your breathing and your steps?

Pay attention to and become more aware of your surroundings, beyond the practical (like avoiding a puddle or drop off a letter on the way). Enjoy the immediacy of sights, sounds, and smells.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?

You can also pay attention to intuitive messages: Ask yourself a question and see what your intuition tells you.

Do you have a question for me? – I would love to hear it!

Less Knowing More Being

Sometimes I wonder about the scope of our awareness. My ego does not agree, but my intuition tells me that there is more than I can perceive. Nature taught me a valuable lesson about that:

I have been baffled many times by the perseverance of ants, walking back and forth on their established routes, carrying up to twenty (!) times their body weight. I kept thinking about their world view: What do they see? What do they perceive the world to be? And where does the world as they know it end? While I am aware that the average ant might not be thinking those thoughts, I inferred that their world view is probably more limited than ours. Yet, they might confidently state: “This is how the world is!”

We do the same. We postulate that there is an objective reality and that we know what it is (or strive to find it). I postulate that – even if an objective reality exists – we might not be able to perceive it. So what are we left to do?

How about living in the moment?

I would love to read your thoughts!

Gratefully Changing Perspective

Humans have a hard time focusing on two emotions at the same time, especially when they are conflicting ones.

When we have a problem, and we focus on the problem, we tend to see the obstacles rather than the smoother path ahead.

I challenge you (that is what I do as a coach, with your permission) to find 5 things you are grateful for, right now. And then think about each one for a minute and appreciate it.

Feel free to share any of your revelations!

What Snapping Turtles Can Do to You

Life has been a bit challenging recently, due to ____ (please feel in the blank).

Today is a sunny late summer day. As I took a break from work and went outside to sit in the grass for a few minutes, my gaze fell upon a little snapping turtle, no bigger than two inches. He (?) was sitting 1 foot away from me, staring me “down”. I had to smile, and I thanked that little creature for making me smile.

Then I realized that the world had not changed, but my attitude had shifted: from my problems to the possibilities life holds.

My name is Manuela. I am a Professional Life Coach.

Contact me when you are ready to shift your focus from the backwards look at your problem to the forward look towards your possibilities! It’s magical!

Common Ground: Connecting by Taking a Step Back

We live behind an industrial woodlot. This time of the year, the guys (male-dominated workplace) are cutting and shredding wood. We see them twice a day on the way to and from the school bus, and we wave at them. They wave back. That is usually the extent of our interactions. Friendly neighbors.

When my daughter’s friend came over, I asked the girls to stay well away from any big equipment. I also mentioned that we wave at the guys to say hi. My daughter’s friend’s mother (I am calling her Clara) said that no, they don’t to that, because you never know the intentions of strangers.

That comment stirred up a set of emotions in me.

Then I took a step back from the situation. I could sense the motivation behind Clara’s comment: concern for her daughter’s well-being. And there was our common ground, because of course I could relate to that.

What do you think about abstracting from the problem at hand to the theme behind it, and dealing with it at that level? Have you been in a similar situation? Did this method help you in any way?

Please feel free to leave a comment!