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You never know what you are really writing about.

On Monday, I wrote a post called “Just A Feeling: Dealing with Difficult Emotions.” I thought I was writing about the freedom that comes from knowing that a difficult feeling is “just a feeling” – temporary, often arbitrary, not necessarily a call to do anything.

On the way to making that point, however, I told a story about craving connection with others during a solitary week. I thought I was just giving an example of a difficult feeling.

Your responses said something different. What spoke to so many of you was the experience of longing for connection. You could relate.

Thank you for sharing so honestly and bravely in the comments and in emails.

When I read your words, I felt ambivalent about mine. Did I really want to suggest that human beings longing for one closeness with one another should recognize that’s just a feeling, and leave it at that?

Or did I want to say, when it comes to this feeling: Honor that longing. Take it seriously. Pick up the phone, go down to the soup kitchen to extend your heart, write that long overdue email to an old friend.

This is, of course, a bigger question. When should we take action to change a difficult feeling? When should we just be with the feeling as is?

I don’t know. What I do know is this: it’s always helpful to know that a feeling is “just a feeling.” When I know that, the rational, mature, happy Tara is back in charge. I’m now longer being whirled through the storm like Dorothy in the twister.

I’m not desperate to escape an uncomfortable experience, because I know it’s not permanent and not that important. I know lots of feelings come and go. Feelings and action to change feelings shrink back down to their proper place.

From this place, I’m at choice: I can take action or not. I can lean into the discomfort or I can make some choices that are likely to change my mood. I’m not caught in a wild chase of good feelings or a frantic rush to avoid bad ones.

But on loneliness in particular, I want to say this: yes, know that what you are feeling is just a feeling. Know it will pass.

But use your feeling of loneliness, your longing for connection, to get to know your true nature.

Examine your loneliness. Not all your ego’s thoughts about it, but the feeling itself. Hold it up to the light and look at it. See what’s at the kernel of it.

Use it to investigate: What is your true nature? What kind of connection makes that nature happy, in balance? What kind of relationship to people makes it unhappy, out of balance?

Who are you deep down, underneath it all?

I know that for me, the answer is love. When my life reflects that, I’m at peace. When it doesn’t, a war begins to rumble inside.

Love,

Tara

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Hi folks,

A couple weeks ago I had an icky, embarrassing experience.

I decided to mine it for all the wisdom and interesting writing it could be worth.

And that’s what I’ve done.

It turned out to reveal all kinds of gems.

I hope you’ll come read it – it’s a guest post over at the Journal of Cultural Conversation. I share about the experience, about shame, and about how we can each stop feeling ashamed and shaming others. (And yes, you enlightened, yoga-doing, sensitive people, I promise you there are ways you are subtly shaming others, despite your intentions. We all are.)

While you are there, take a look around. This blog is one of my favorite discoveries of late. Very cool, eclectic mix of topics and great writing, woven together by brilliant mastermind Laura Cococcia.

I’d love to hear what this article sparks for you – please share in the comments! If you enjoyed it, share on twitter or facebook….or wherever you like to share things.

Sending lots of love to you all,

Tara

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Today I’m very pleased to have my first ever interview at Wise Living! Jen Smith is a life coach and personal development blogger, and she’s based in England.

I encounter so many blogs and writers online these days, but Jen’s energy really stood out for me. I could feel her kindness and integrity popping off the page.

Over the past several months, Jen’s been on a journey successfully changing her own habits of people-pleasing—which we all know is no small feat.

I asked Jen to share her wisdom about what allowed her to make real change in this area of her life, and the kinds of tools she uses to help her coaching clients do the same.

There’s a lot in here to think about, including many simple, practical steps you can take to reduce people-pleasing in your own life.

You can read more from Jen at her site, Reach Our Dreams., or subscribe to her RSS Feed here. I encourage you to soak up Jen’s positive energy and let it enrich your life.

Tara: You describe yourself as a recovering people-pleaser, which is an issue so many people struggle with. Can you tell us a little bit about how people-pleasing affected you and how you came to recover?

Jen: When I am in ‘people pleaser’ mode I worry too much about other people and what they think … “Are they ok?”  “Are they happy?” “What can I do to make them happier?” It is exhausting!

I have realized that people pleasing is often more about me than other people … What I mean by this is that I want others to be happy but more importantly I want them to be happy with me, which ultimately is about me!

I think for many of us this is a lifelong journey. What I am beginning to see is that I have to learn to know myself and what makes me happy and be able to take care of those needs. The more we can do that, the more conversely that we can be there for other people. This isn’t about being selfish, but about being true to ourselves and knowing what works for us and what doesn’t work for us.

Another thing to mention is that it is about letting go of control. It doesn’t mean anything about me if someone else isn’t happy, and it can be draining for others to feel like your happiness depends on them being happy!

Tara: Your point that people pleasing is really about us – not the other people, is so important. That in fact, as you say, it can be draining for those around us to sense that our happiness depends on theirs.

What do you see when you are working with people-pleasers in your coaching practice, and what strategies do you use to help people-pleasers recover?

Jen: I think when you are a people pleaser you know what you are doing on some level or see the pattern when it’s pointed out. I know for myself, people-pleasing was something I was acutely aware of. I knew something was off when I was in that mode, in comparison to genuinely helping people.

One strategy I use is to ask people to start catching themselves when they notice they are people-pleasing, and to implement a new behavior. Learning to say no, being authentic and listening to your intuition are all powerful strategies that make a real difference.

Tara: Yes, about “learning to say no” – can you say more about that? You’ve written about developing your “no” muscle and the surprising results.

Jen: If you are not used to saying no to requests, start with small things and build your confidence up with doing it. That is what I have done and it has helped me realize that it’s not as hard as I used to think it was.

There is a skill to saying no and leaving others feeling good too. For example, I recently said no to a request for my time, but genuinely thought the idea was great. I was honest about why I couldn’t do the request but also made sure I let the other person know that I thought it was a great idea too… Being honest and sensitive at the same time has helped me a lot in this area.

Another thing to mention is the trap of “over-explaining” why you are saying no. This can leave both yourself and the asker uncomfortable. Take the time to get comfortable yourself and why you are saying no first, before you respond. When you have decided to say no, be confident in your decision.

A final tip is if you feel ‘put on the spot’ explain to the other person that you need some time to think about their request and that you will get back to them. I often do that and it helps me take the time to decide what to do. It helps me not agree to things straight away because I didn’t know how to say no in the moment.

Tara: Got it. That idea of really getting comfortable with myself first – why I’m saying no – is such a powerful one. I love these other great tips too: taking time to consider something, watching out for over-explaining, being sensitive and kind while saying now. So simple, but we forget that we have them at our disposal.

In your blog you wrote, “others respect your boundaries when you respect your boundaries.”  Can you tell us more about that?

Jen: Great question. I think this relates closely to what I said about saying ‘no’. I used to worry so much about saying no (for example.) I would put the other person’s feelings ahead of my own. I am seeing these days that that helps no-one. Eventually you feel burnt out or resentful or your feelings come out in another way.

Taking the time to know what’s right for yourself helps you be clear. You can then be clear with others. With regards to my quote, I think we do teach others how to treat us. To explain a little more, if we respect ourselves and are clear about our own boundaries, we let others know where they stand and we don’t give mixed signals. They know we respect ourselves and our time and that we expect others to do the same.

Tara: Last but not least, one thing I’m enjoying right now is making up “rules” for living. So, what are the three “rules for living” would you like to share with readers here?

Jen:

1. Be yourself.

2. Trust yourself. Listen to your intuition.

3. Enjoy life and make the most of each day.

Jen is a Life Coach and Personal Development blogger who can be found at Reach Our Dreams. You can connect with Jen on Twitter @reachourdreams or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to her RSS Feed?

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I had the best time walking with my friend M yesterday, and I’m still on a high from it. So much laughter and humility and sharing the truth. There’s nothing like being in the presence of someone who lifts up your energy from blah to yay, that you feel kindred spirit-ness with, and that you feel cool and hip with all at the same time.

Gratitude. Thank you.

I am reminded of my very first coaching session – the first one I ever had with another coach. We did a visualization of my 80th birthday party. I got to close my eyes and picture the party. What did I want it to be like? Who was there? What was I like at that age?

A lot of things in the picture were vague, but one thing (besides my cute haircut) was clear: a web of gorgeous, powerful connections. The sense of a life lived long and filled with intimate, meaningful relationships.

What does it mean to me, having “meaningful relationships?”

I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that so and so saved me or that I saved them. It doesn’t have anything to do with dependence and drama.

It means I think (and I have never quite taken the time to put this in words before), that there are people in my life whom I adore, and with whom I’ve shared rich experience.  Both parts are essential.

I think of my friend D. I adore this persons’ very essence. I’m a raving fan. And when I look into his eyes I see the whole river of our ten year friendship, the streams rushing together: wicked laughter, ridiculous adventures, tears of loss, happy celebrations.

I fall in love with souls. I just fall in love with them. It’s mysterious who and where and how, just as love always is. It’s as if, with some souls, I’m given special sight, and I see the stunning gorgeousness. They aren’t better or worse or different than anyone else, but cupid’s friendship arrow struck me with them.

Something right in the center of my chest is connected to something right in the center of theirs. I’m moved to tears by their very existence. I want to be in their orbit.

I’m crying now, because I’m so grateful.

To be in web of connection, to look into faces and see decades of shared conversation—that’s what I want.

To look into eyes and have shared experience stretch before us, invisible and palpable in the space.

To choose others and have been chosen by them to share the walk with.

At 80, if the room is filled with that, I’ll be humbled and overcome. I’ll feel like I’m resting in a bed of roses.

When I picture that room, I can feel what I and everyone in it would learn that day: Our lives don’t begin and end with birth and death. Our lives are the swirling currents between us. Our lives are what we send and receive and mix and create.

My life rests not in my life story but out there, in the space, in the currents.  That life never leaves this realm.

Love,

Tara

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about the scientific research on the causes and correlates of human happiness, and there’s some fascinating findings from recent years.

Overall, the research about happiness is in its infancy. There’s a lot we don’t know, but there are also some very interesting discoveries. Here’s one to think about today:

The presence of “rich and satisfying social relationships” in one’s life is the only external factor that has been shown to differentiate people who describe themselves as “very happy” from those that are less happy. When studied across large groups, other external factors – such as class, wealth, or life events—were not shown to have an overall impact on happiness levels.

A note about this finding: I’ve noticed that when women hear this, they tend to interpret it as putting weight behind the idea that they should focus on family above work, but in fact rich and meaningful social relationships can come from many domains of life – family, friendship, professional colleagues and teams, or relationships formed through your community.

It’s also important to note that rich and satisfying relationships were not shown to alone be sufficient to create high levels of happiness (there are many other factors I’ll cover in subsequent posts), but having rich and satisfying relationships is a necessary component – people don’t reach high levels of happiness without them.

Got it?

In light of this, here’s a little homework / exploration / self-reflection to do with paper and pen this week:

1. Would you describe yourself as having rich and satisfying social relationships?  On a scale of 1-10, 10 being “my life is full of the most rich and satisfying social relationships” and 1 being, “my life is totally devoid of rich and satisfying social relationships,” how would you evaluate your life right now?

2. If you scored under an 8, think about: what would an 8 score look like in your life?

What would need to be present? What would be different?

If you scored an 8 or 9, consider what a 10 would look like. What would need to be different?

And if you gave yourself a 10, imagine what an off the charts 12 would look like.

3. Look back: which relationships in your life have been deeply satisfying, and what precisely made them so? Was it the sense of shared interests or the fabulous fun times or the sense of embarking on a challenging project together? The answers about what makes relationships rich and satisfying vary among us. Remember to include professional, friendship, family, and community relationships in  your reflections.

4. Is your investment of time and energy in your relationships (whether professional, communal, family or friend relationships) commensurate with their major impact on your well being?  Are you over-investing time and energy in things less likely to have as significant an impact on your happiness?

5. What actions (pick 1-3) can you put in place to begin bumping up your relationships score? Here are a few ideas:

  • Eliminate something from your schedule and replace it with a weekly friend get together
  • Make a phone date with a long-distance friend you adore and have fallen out of touch with
  • Identify someone in your workplace you’d really like to know better and invite them to lunch

I’ll share my own personal answers to these five questions in a post next week, and I’d love it if you add your thoughts on these questions (below today , if you are so inspired, or in response to that post).

And one more thing, I would love for you to come visit over at Tess’ blog, The Bold Life. She interviewed me! Yes, it this is my very first interview as a blogger, and Tess has been the most remarkable champion of my work and my writing. (And she asked great questions). We talk about how people lose their creativity and how to get it back, the things I love about blogging, and….my favorite topic, compassion as the natural expression of wisdom. There’s even some controversy in the comments! Come check it out!

Love,

Tara

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Good morning.

It’s one of those mornings when everything has worked to enable me to be up and at the desk at 5am. Delicious.

Many of you know this is my favorite time to write.

It’s been an amazing few days for my writing, with my posts being published at some great blogs around the web.

To new readers who jumped on board over the past few days, welcome. I’m so glad that you are here.

There are two guest posts from this weekend that I haven’t had a chance to share here yet. Both share ideas that are dear to my heart, and that have been central to my own growth over the past few years.

1. Make Life Thrilling Everyday, at Positively Present, Dani’s blog. Our culture tends to define excitement in terms of sky dives, roller coaster rides, and whirlwind romances—extraordinary, external experiences. My experience is that the true thrills of life come from what we do with the everyday life in front of us. We never, ever need to be bored. At Positively Present, I talk about my five favorite ways to cultivate excitement in any moment, no matter how ho-hum the moment seems.

2. Discover Your Internal Mentor, at Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Steve Aitchinson’s blog. Of all the personal growth tools in my toolkit, the Internal Mentor would be among my top three in terms of impact–-both for me and for my coaching clients. The concept is based on the “future self” tool I was trained in by The Coaches Training Institute. This post is the first of a monthly guest post series I’ll be doing at Change Your Thoughts.

Also, in case you missed them over the holiday, here are the my other guest posts published during this past week:

“Five Beautiful Things” over at Jen Smith’s Reach Our Dreams. I think we started a Five Beautiful Things revolution! This post really resonated for readers, and Jen did a beautiful job hosting the conversation at her site. In the comments, you’ll find some gorgeous descriptions about how people used this in their own lives.

Why Happy Couples Should be Apart, at Josh Hanagarne’s blog, World’s Strongest Librarian. If you and your partner spend a lot of time apart, get some new ideas about how you can use that time to strengthen your relationship. And if you and your partner don’t spend time apart, here’s why I think you should.

What It Takes To Stay, at Peter Clemen’s The Change Blog. Most of us tend to focus a lot on the “finding” work in our lives, finding the right job, the right relationship. I think we’ve neglected the art and skill of staying. This post is about how to sustain the goodness of a good thing—whether a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a job.

Happy reading, and happy Monday.

Oh one more thing, which something is steering me to add here. If there is a difficult truth you need to tell in your life, a concern that may shake things up and make a bit of a mess when voiced, consider sharing it. The truth you see should be part of the conversation. It should be on the table. Don’t underestimate your power.

Love,

Tara

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Hi there!  The adrenalin is flowing through my veins this morning, because I’m so excited to have a guest post, Why Happy Couples Should Be Apart, at one of my favorite favorite favorite blogs, World’s Strongest Librarian.

Josh Hanagarne, the blogger behind the magic of World’s Strongest Librarian, describes himself as “an aspiring strongman, bookish nerd, twitchy guy with Tourette’s Syndrome, devoted family man, tearer of phonebooks, and humble librarian. A tall, thin paradox wrapped in thick glasses.” Need I saw more?

In addition to all that, he’s (in my opinion) one of the most original writing voices on the web.

About the post: A few weeks ago, when my husband was coming home from a long trip for work, I wrote about why I felt time apart had actually been very good for our relationship and for me personally.

Something in me said, “send this one to Josh.” So I did. This morning it’s up at his site.

Please visit and join the conversation about couples and time apart.

Love, Tara

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