The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

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Archive for the ‘Yoga and Career Exploration’ Category

The Practice of Self-Trust – For Rida

Posted by Karen on March 10, 2011

First, I would like to thank you for your post, it’s really interesting. The questions at the end are very amazing. But I’m still wondering how can I practice such things in my life? Rida

Rida asked a great question, enough to stir me out of my blog abandonment to write another post on self trust (thanks Rida!).

What I think she’s asking, if I’m right, is while the idea of “self trust” is all well and good, how do I hold on to such an intangible, wispy idea in this busy, meaty, demanding LIFE that really doesn’t give a rat’s behind if you’re trusting yourself or not?

The practice of self-trust is the practice of learning how it FEELS when you are truly and actually trusting yourself from the top of your head to the tips of your soul. The goal is FEELING coherence – so that you mentally and logically trust your choice, you emotionally trust your choice and you spiritually trust your choice.

To do THAT you must get in tune with what you think about the situation, what emotions you feel about the situation and how connected you feel overall to the “highest and best” you.

Let’s tackle each part separately. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Emotional Life as connected to Career, Self Trust - I trust myself, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How Do I Trust Myself? Let Me Count the Ways

Posted by Karen on February 16, 2010

Last November I wrote a post on the importance of self trust (which begs the question: where does the time go?).

I had some interesting responses to that post, with some follow up questions along the lines of “How do I trust myself if I don’t trust myself”? Good question.

Trust is this really quirky little quality that requires you to do something before you get something back… i.e. to trust before knowing if the other person or the path is trustworthy – and if you can trust yourself to handle what happens if you choose to go forward. Moving forward safely takes courage and practice. It takes a high degree of relatedness with your “inner knowing signals” – that is with your body’s feelings when you are grounded in your decision at all levels.

It is something you can get related to by observing and practicing everyday. Start by learning to trust yourself on the smallest decisions, such as what to focus on in your day or what you eat for lunch. By feeling the small wins when you know you chose the right thing for you, you will become more familiar with your process to know when you’re ready to make a decision and if it’s the right one.

And I certainly didn’t learn to trust myself all by myself. I had some excellent coaches and friends who listened deeply to me when I was trying to decide something (big or small) and reflected what they heard both in the content of what I was trying to decide and also an “emotional” read of where I was: when I sounded scattered, anxious and frightened versus when I sounded grounded, coherent and calm (sometimes all in the same phone call!). Having a “mirror” to my inner state helped me to hear myself in new ways and to begin to recognize when my decisions became settled and certain.

So how do you know that you are “self-trusting”? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you “tune in” to where you are in the process:

1. Do I trust myself to handle what might come up in a new career path? Such as new information…unexpected detours…or fearful feelings about starting something new?

2. Do I trust myself to gently pull myself back if I go too far beyond my comfort zone? Do I know what it feels like to be “comfortably” outside my comfort zone?

3. Do I trust myself to recognize the signs when something is “off” or wrong for me at this time? Can I name the feeling in my body when this occurs?

4. Do I trust myself to get out of what is not right for me once I recognize it? Do I know my blind spots around letting go of something that isn’t working?

5. Do I trust my decision-making process? Do I give myself time to process emotions as well as thoughts? Do I recognize when “information” comes with an emotional undercurrent that needs to be understood and processed? Do I give myself the time and space to visualize myself fulfilling on the decision and experiencing the resulting feelings to see if I’m in tune with my decisions?

6. Do I recognize the feeling in my body when something is “right” for me? Can I identify other times I’ve known that in my life and regularly recreated that feeling for myself so it’s familiar?

7. Can I let things unfold organically or do I often try to force outcomes?

8. Can I trust myself to listen to another point of view with an open mind, knowing that I will make the final decision that is right for me?

9. Do I find smaller and less “high stakes” times to trust myself first before tackling bigger life choices like my career?

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Questions For Exploration, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Why Life Has Meaning (here’s a hint…death)

Posted by Karen on February 3, 2010

I thought this blog post by Todd May in the New York Times* was a really clear and compelling explanation of why life has meaning due to the limitations imposed to us by our human foreknowledge of death. Especially from a guy who wrote a book on Foucault.

I particularly like the idea that life has “urgency” because we know it won’t last forever. It’s actually kind of comforting to think that I would be totally bored of writing and all my other passions if I had to do them for 10,000 years. Maybe I wouldn’t mind an extra 100 years to fit it all in, but I agree 10,000 years is excessive.

What do you think? What gives you urgency in pursuing your passion?

* thanks to Lois Ward for the link

Posted in Emotional Life as connected to Career, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Importance of Self-Trust

Posted by Karen on November 26, 2009

Consider this a follow-up to the “Spaciousness or Just Drifting” post 

#8 of that post said this: Ask Yourself – You Know the Truth Without This List Anyway: We have a deep knowing as human beings if we are doing something for the “right” or the “wrong” reasons – we just keep ourselves from knowing that truth by keeping ourselves busy and on the surface of our minds. If you have the courage to look inside deeply, you’ll know if you’re creating spaciousness or if you’re merely using the idea to keep you stuck.

What if  you really don’t know – like #8 suggests you really should – when you look inside yourself …because you don’t know if you know anything “true” about yourself anymore?

One of my readers emailed me that question. She pointed out that once you get into this career exploration thing – letting go with who you thought you were and what you thought you wanted and in the vacuum-like state of trying to discover what you DO want – you can often feel more lost and confused than you have in your entire life.

When you’re in that state, not only do you doubt yourself, you tend to also doubt yourself self-doubt and then second guess your second guess doubting. Head spins ensue. Lying on the floor in the fetal position begins to look like an appealing life choice.

My reader is right – and good to remind me – that the great unknown of searching for your passion can make you feel much more vulnerable when being told you should “know” whether or not something is true for you.

And that’s where Self-Trust comes in.

Self-Trust is the unsung, oft-missed and yet vital element of a transformative career search. What I’ve come to learn…though it’s really rather obvious when you think about it logically…is that if you don’t trust yourself, no matter what possibilities open themselves to you, you won’t take them – or often won’t even see them – because you don’t trust yourself enough to make the right choice.

I find this often happens particularly later in someone’s career, when they’ve been around the proverbial block enough times to have been “burned” by their decisions (even if they couldn’t have foreseen the consequences of the decision, such as a workplace environment going toxically sour). Even if there was no way of knowing the outcome, they begin to question and doubt their choices. They get stuck. “I don’t want to choose that direction if it’s only going to end up the same way”. There’s no way out of that one with certainty. No one knows how it will end up.

Or, another version of the Self-Trust shake up: losing one’s certainty of life purpose that comes from knowing what you do. That can seriously mess you up. I knew a guy who loved his marketing job so much he’d named his cats Trix and Snap after the brands he worked on. But when he didn’t love the job anymore he got severely depressed…who was he if not a marketing guy? Trust goes out the window because you begin to wonder “Did I know myself at all? And if I don’t know myself, how do I know if my new ideas are the right ones?”

So we could actually say that self-doubt is an integral part of career exploration. And Self needs Trust in order to move forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career, Yoga and Career Exploration | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

We Aren’t Taught About The Value of Space

Posted by Karen on June 5, 2009

Just as a follow up to the previous post, I just had to share something I saw in the free Metro paper handout yesterday.

So in the paper they have this Canada-wide “Word on the Street” poll, with a little on-the-street photo of about six people, their ages, their city and their on-the-spot quote (we assume) when asked a question. Yesterday’s question was “Should Canada have more legislated vacation days?”.

I’m going to pick on Richard Kevis here, age 19 from Calgary. Richard, caught on camera with slightly untidy long hair and a rocking sunglasses/black blazer/no tie with his collared shirt look, served up this gem of an answer:

“Probably not. Days off aren’t really practical. They’re not really used for anything. They’re not really necessary to the system”.

We can speculate as to whether Richard Kevis, age 19, Calgary was having us on, or if he truly believes that no one “uses” days off productively and therefore aren’t necessary to the Kafkaesque machine we like to call “work” but it’s interesting to hear what bubbles under most people’s thinking about time off so blatantly. We have not been taught that it is wise – nay essential – to have space from our work. We don’t get great or easily accessible models for spaciousness and how that might link to productivity, creativity or even the ability to rest and re-charge.

We had a model once, long ago, in the Christian world, that went something like “And on the seventh day God rested” but lately we have all started to act like God was a bit of a wuss, and that spaciousness is a sign that we’re getting soft or lazy. I meet so many people (myself included) who have a secret suspicion they’re lazy.

We’re not. We’re exhausted.

Some of the things I love to say when I teach yoga is “Enjoy the spaces between the postures” and “Enjoy the resting posture, the counter-posture to the active movements. Observe how this rest allows you to feel the energy you’ve created”. Often students come up to me after to tell me how much they liked that direction, in part because we tend to devalue the parts of the yoga class where it seems like we’re not “doing” anything. But we are. We are observing our energy releasing. We are enjoying the active part of our practice from the restful state. We are allowing the active postures into our being.

Holidays serve as that same spaciousness to our life. They allow us to sit back, appreciate who we are, where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved and what we’d like to be doing. Often, it’s not that conscious a process. We don’t think at all (and perhaps this is Richard’s real protest). We happily “don’t think” about anything but jumping into the cottage lake, or enjoying our families, or visiting a new place, or sitting in the back yard reading the paper cover to cover and weeding the petunias. Little do we know it, but our “don’t think” period refreshes us at the deepest levels, allowing (wait for it) SPACE for new ideas to emerge. I bet you all have had the experience of moving away from something you’re working on, and coming back to it fresh with new ideas after a bit of a mental ‘holiday’.

So…thank you Richard for your opinion. You made me laugh and you also made me think about how to start better speaking the value of space.

Enjoy your summer vacations!

Posted in Career Exploration, Careers and Work in the News, Yoga and Career Exploration | 1 Comment »

Recognizing Stagnation and How To Shift It

Posted by Karen on February 17, 2009

Someone mentioned to me the other day that while reading “Now, Discover Your Strengths” she found the line “input without output leads to stagnation”. That captured my imagination immediately, because the opposite could also easily be true: output without input leads to stagnation.

What is stagnation? And what’s with all the A/V club input/output metaphors?

Let’s start with the word “stagnation“. Stagnation is the opposite of growing. Stagnation has this sort of “stinky” connotation- a green film of algae coating a still pond on a windless day. Stagnation in people means to me that feeling when you start to get that feeling of dull and dreariness to your being. That you are slow and sludgy or that you are feeling less than inspired by yourself.

Input without Output

My client’s example was that she feels stagnate when she spends lots of time reading and getting new insights and ideas, but instead of sharing them she lies on the couch. That’s when we take in, and in, and in, but we don’t let what we have percolating out into the world. Sometimes it’s important to give yourself time to percolate unmolested by the world’s challenges, but at a certain point what are you learning it for if you can’t apply it, test it, see it in action? The ideas and insights stagnate without use.

Output without Input

My example here is teaching yoga. I am always in love with my yoga, but there are times I have gone too long without new “input” – that is either new postures, new variations on postures, new bursts of creativity in movement and flow or conversely no new input in the insights of yoga – new explorations of how to describe the movement of energy or meditations or themes that carry through the yoga. The class feels stuck – like the class was still good but not exactly inspired or revelatory.

Interestingly, in both cases what’s “off” is the balance between what goes in and what comes out.

If you are taking in and taking in and taking in, but allowing no space for it to be “out” in the world – either space for you to let it bubble out (some people, myself included, can “over-stimulate” – try and read and take in too much, without allowing time between each new to process and let new insights reveal) OR in sharing it in such a way that you get new energy and purpose from the sharing.

If you are giving out too much without nourishing the core, without giving yourself time to find new sources of input – a book, a course, an idea, a workshop, a conversation with someone in your field – you may find yourself going slowly stale.

 Stagnation is part of the cycle…the Indians call it tamas one of the three gunas. While no one likes feeling it, it’s a reminder from yourself that it is time to get out there and either feed yourself or feed the world with yourself.

If you are feeling stagnation, start with this question…is it your input or your output that needs adjusting?

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