As I waited for my appointment at the fracture clinic, a number of worries consumed me. I can't drive for six weeks. How will I see the Great Wall of China with an air boot and a cane? I decided to take hold of my emotional state by asking myself an important question, "What is the possible gift of this situation?" The answer came straight back - "Learn to ask for what you need". That struck me as being a very valuable lesson for everyone.
We all have things we may need assistance with, ranging from help with chores around the house to investment advice. My first opportunity to ask for help came when I crawled over to the phone with my swollen foot to ask my neighbor, Marc, to take me to the doctor. Let's face it - there are no brownie points awarded for struggling and trying to meet all of our needs on our own. We can learn to make a request - accepting that the answer can be a "yes" or a "no". Asking for help means we're simply being honest - with ourselves and with those around us. When we take on a task that we really think we either shouldn't be doing or should be getting some help with, we just build up a reservoir of resentment that's ready to boil over on the hapless individual who's unlucky enough to be in front of you when you can't contain it any more.
What I've learned from the past two weeks of asking for what I need is that I feel incredibly nourished and appreciated - by my children, my family, my friends, even the many taxi drivers I've encountered while unable to drive. The generosity of people and willingness to help, if we open that door and ask, is incredible. But most importantly, I'm feeling more in the flow again, filled with a new sense of peace and pride that by asking for what I need, I'm able to take better care of myself.
So why is that so important? When our needs are addressed, we can step back into that zone and take care of those around us in a way that's not possible otherwise. Plus it invites those around us to do the same for themselves! I encourage all of you to see what unmet needs you can take care of and ask for help with this month - let me know how you do!
How to Ask for What You Need
If you're ready and willing to ask for what you need, here are some important things to know!
1. Check in with yourself - what do you need?
When you're starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed out by life's unexpected turn of events, take a moment to step back from the immediate situation. Take a few deep breaths and then ask yourself, "What do I need to do to take care of myself in this situation?" "Is there something I need in this moment?" Listen for what your inner wisdom tells you.
2. You Are the World's Best Expert on You
So often we defer to other people's opinion and advice. (Yup, that's definitely me!) But everyone has their own unique "zone". What works for someone else may not work for you. You are the world's best expert on YOU - so consult yourself. If you do feel the need to poll others for their views, go ahead and get some input but don't use that as an excuse for not taking your own advice. If you're still not sure, Debbie Ford recommends imagining what you'd tell your best friend if she was in your shoes - and then take that advice!
3. Start Where you Are
Some days you'll wake up feeling energized, other days you may feel like it's all you can do to brush your teeth! Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's book, "Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living", makes the case that following this principle will cultivate fearlessness and awaken a compassionate heart. Resolve to be patient with yourself as you navigate back to your "zone" and start from where you are.
4. Be Playful and Lighten Up!
When we feel ourselves going off track, it's easy to get glum, serious and to berate ourselves. Why not lighten things up, even make a game of it? Debbie Ford's new "Best Year of Your Life" kit offers a structure where you award yourself points for various acts of self-care and earn rewards once you get to a certain level. Or if some days you feel like you're operating at only 20% of your capacity, ask yourself what you'd need to do to notch it up to just 30% that day. That would be a 50% increase over where you started your day! How about daring yourself to ask for what you need? By bringing some of that playfulness back, we set ourselves up for sustainable and successful results.
(c) 2007 Carolyn B. Ellis, Author and Coach. Carolyn is the founder of Thrive After Divorce, Inc. A Harvard graduate, Carolyn is also a Certified Master Integrative Coach™, Teleclass Leader and the first Canadian to be certified as a Spiritual Divorce Coach. She is also a part-time staff member of the Institute for Integrative Coaching at John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco, CA, and has been trained personally by its founder, NY Times best-selling author Debbie Ford. Carolyn’s book, "The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive After Divorce" will be published in early 2007. Her three amazing school age children and bouncy labradoodle dog are her daily sources of inspiration and joy.
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