How to Love When Dating Rules Have Changed

This past Friday night I got talking with a friend about how excited I am for an upcoming vacation to Cuba with my husband. Naturally, I expected him to be excited for me and give me some advice on things to see, but instead it struck a surprisingly different chord with him.

He started talking about how he’s been traveling so much on his own and how much he’d love to be able to go somewhere and share the experience with someone. We both agreed that sometimes it is nice to travel alone but there are some places and some times, like Valentine’s Day and special occasions, that it’s nice to be with someone you love.

This lead to a discussion I can’t seem to have enough of lately which is why it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to find love.

Some say everyone’s standards are too high, others say the Internet is to blame for our lack of integrity and ability to dismiss possible connections with a ‘swipe’. There’s also the common belief that generation x and millennials are lost when it comes to love because many of them are children of divorce and the fear of getting into a relationship is clouded by the possibilities of where it inevitably leads.

Sigh.

I have a lot of friends who are trying or have tried online dating, some successful, others not. I hear so much frustration with finding people online to begin with and then being disappointed when meeting face-to-face.

I hear a lot of confusion about this hook-up culture we’ve created, where we get together ‘for the moment’ (if you know what I mean…), but nothing more is expected or considered.

Not only that but sexuality and gender roles are in flux and being experimented with and explored. Not only could this be confusing for potential partners but even to ourselves, becuase it can put us in an unbalanced and unconfident place – not the greatest head space to be in when trying to find an ideal partner.

What we do know is that it never comes down to one thing. There’s no one thing or one group of people to blame for what dating is like in the 21st century.

And let me remind you that it’s especially unfair to only blame ourselves for not having found the right person yet. But it’s equally unfair to say that it is everyone else and not you. We’ve all contributed to this and if we don’t step it up or change the behaviour ourselves, we have no right to complain.

Not being out there and experiencing it all myself, I certainly would never look you in the face and say that “Just give it time for the right person find you,” or some other positive outlook crap – and I hope you aren’t saying this to your frustrated friends either – it’s condescending and terribly unhelpful advice in every way imaginable.

I may not be in the trenches but I certainly hear and feel this pain that’s everywhere I was heartbroken to look into my friend’s eyes across the table as he describes how sad he feels when he comes home and there’s no one there to greet him.

But I gave him my hand and I shut my mouth. I just listened, every once in a while reminding him to not be so hard on himself.

None of us can deny that the rules of dating have changed. No more are we taking as many chances with asking someone to go out in a face to face situation – that’s what texting is for, right? But are we losing our nerve?

If the world was only filled with Matthew McConugheys and Sandra Bullocks, maybe we’d all catch each others’ eyes easily and swoosh our hair behind our ear as ‘the signal’. But to catch someone’s eye nowadays we have to cut through a lot of noise and so it takes patience and maybe a little more creativity.

We have to find a creative way to make him or her look up from the smartphone.

We have to dare to interrupt him even if he’s got earbuds in.

We may have to let our guard down a little more so that she sees you’re not ALL about your bros, ironic beards and craft brews.

And let’s not let technology rob us further by being the focus of your date. Turn off your phone and turn up the charm. Give him or her your attention – phone is not only off, it’s away and out of sight. I can’t promise your date will follow suit but at least you’re setting your standards. If all else fails, you could point out how much nicer it is to have your phone off so you two can really chat.

Take risks. In the online dating world, people are answering a lot of the same ‘getting to know you’ questions. While these are great and small talk is necessary before you go for the intense questions about your parenting style, there are still ways to make things more interesting.

Where are you from? (good) 

Where’s your favourite place in the city? (better)

What are your hobbies? (good…ish) 

What’s the next thing you’re going to cross off your bucket list ?(getting better)

Do you have any brothers or sisters? (ugh!)

Do you have a weird family too? What are some of your family traditions?

(You can use this one after the delightful anecdote of your crazy uncle and what happened at last year’s Christmas in July barbecue).

I personally think that the best advice in all of this is that you have to roll with the times. Smartphones, Online Dating and a general unease in the romantic world are part of our lives now. Knowing this, we have to find ways to get a little creative to push out the fog and the noise that can cloud people’s judgments.

We also have to remember that in real life we deal with more frustration in dating than we see between lovers on TV or in movies.

We may also have to deal with the fact that we may not get married by the age we always thought.

But the one great thing about things being in flux is that we can refine a lot of the crap that wasn’t really working anyway. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that dating was any easier twenty or thirty years ago. Back then, meeting someone in a bar or at work were really the only two options. At least we have the entire world at our fingertips!

And if you’re sick of travelling alone? Well, there’s an app for that.

Seriously: travelmates.com.

😉

So, yes, I’ll be taking an ‘off the grid’ hiatus this week but I’ll have space for new clients starting February 26th. If you’d like to have a chat about where you’re heading this year, get in touch at support@ashewoodward.com with the Subject line : COACHING 2017

Go to ashewoodward.com for more info

Let’s Master Adult Life

I know I’ve written about the term, “adulting” before but I have another take on it. Used as a verb, the terms suggests that being an adult is an activity. We can all agree that activities like sports, hobbies, or even weird things people do on reality shows, can be mastered.

So could it then be possible, being that “adulting” is a verb, that we could one day perfect our adult lives?

Common sense, of course, tells us that it’s quite impossible. Yet, I know that there are a good many of us that are trying to do just that. We compare ourselves to friends, family members or celebrities, and wind up in shame spirals about not adulting right. We may kick ourselves for a while as we compare our silhouette to someone on the red carpet one or we may have a cry in the car as we leave our friends’s beautiful home.

But, eventually, we have to get back into our routine and keep our lives going. And, interestingly, I think it’s in our routines that the key to shaking off that shame spiral may lie.

If we really wonder closely about why it’s impossible to perfect our adult lives, consider how routine works. Routine rarely truly stays exactly the same for very long – we age, we grow and s#*!happens. It may seem that once we perfect routine, a stick is thrown into the spokes and we have to adapt – change jobs, gyms or move across the country for our own or spouse’s job.

The other problem is that there is no one specific activity that adulting is or that we could perfect. Maybe we can get really good at paying the bills on time or checking the oil in the car, but we could never be a professional at adult life…right?

No. No one is just born being good at life – Not you, me, your friends or even Beyoncé.

They might be good at singing, marketing, selling or sailing, but that doesn’t make them good at life in general.

In the book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains that it takes, on average, about 10,000 hours to be really, really good at something – like in the realm of a professional. In other words, a lot of practice makes pretty well perfect.

If you’re in your thirties, you have lived more than 10, 000 hours, but are those all good, adulting hours? Probably not.

Here’s some math I got obsessed with this past weekend while pondering:

By 30, we’ve lived for 262, 800 hours – clearly more than 10,000 hours, but that’s pretty ‘normal life’ hours.

If we take the government’s suggestion and say that age of majority is 19 (in Canada), I’ve been an adult for 11 years or 96,360 hours.

Again, quite a bit more than Gladwell requires.

But, if I’m really honest, it hasn’t been until recently that I really knew what being an adult truly meant besides being able to stay out really late, being able to drink alcohol and finally being able to curse around my mom.

I think that feeling of truly being responsible for myself and my actions and even thoughts and mood has only come to me lately – maybe when I turned 31. That was 3 years ago –  so, really, I only have 26,280 hours experience.

But it also hasn’t been consistent.

There are still times that I regress and reject being an adult. I skirt responsibilities, avoid talking about serious topics, and sometimes spend hours under a blanket watching Netflix, hiding from this cruel, cruel world.

And then the game will change again – and again and again.

Another way to think of it is being a parent. Everyone wants to be the perfect parent. Moms especially have guilt and perfection complexes out the ying-yang. They stretch themselves to reach an unreachable goal of being a ‘perfect mom’ and having the perfect routine (even though they’re doing a pretty perfect job already in most cases).

But think about it: how can you be a perfect parent to a growing human? Every minute the game changes. As soon as you’re a great parent to a five-year-old, he turns six! As soon as you’ve mastered the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she turns around and says she wants jam!!

Perfect is just not gonna happen. And that’s the joke.

You’re not supposed to be good at it. The game will inevitably change again and all we can do is use our experience it to live it. We just have to marvel at the variables, the changes, the curveballs and take note of how we get slightly better each time we’re under the gun.

And the cool thing is that we’re all in the same boat. Not one single one of us has it all figured out. I know you’ve heard that before but this time, really listen.

For some reason, we’re all guilty of believing that some people have an extra magic gene that makes life simple. It may look like it – but it’s not. It never is.

Life is never something anyone can perfect or hack or do better than anyone else. And this is precisely why we have to acknowledge that we LIVE life and not DO life.

We can DO yoga, homework, singing and sailing – but not life. Life won’t let you DO anything to it but LIVE it.

But take comfort in this:

You have some experience being kind

You have some experience with working hard

You have a lot of experience with love

Hopefully, you’ve racked up quite a score in these areas.

Because adulting is hard. Yep – we like it like that. It’s meant to be. It’s what keeps us on our toes, and never lets us become too comfortable with mediocrity. It will continue to have memes created in its name, proclaiming its harshness. And, all the while, we laugh because we know the futility of our protest.

dogult

So don’t give in or give up. Continue the pursuit of betterment because that’s what we are meant to LIVE. It’s a big part f what it means to be a grownup – never give up, even when it’s hard.

I don’t mean to discourage you – quite the opposite. I want all of us to embrace our adulthood as something that we are blessed to experience. I urge you to remember that you’re doing everything just fine – there’s not really a wrong way – we’re all in this experiment together!

So even when the game changes completely, we just have to show up, love, work and continue to be kind. That’s all we can really say we’re good at, but it’s actually quite a lot. Don’t you think?

What part of adulting do you struggle with? Have you found any area that you think you may have mastered? Any advice for when we compare ourselves to others?

I’d love to talk about these ideas so leave a comment!

And if you’re ready to step into adulthood to become the best version of YOU, get in touch for a FREE coaching consultation – support@ashewoodward.com.

And be sure to download your copy of The Thirtysomething’s Guide to Successful Goalmaking HERE

   goalmaking

Is Your Family Normal?

My husband is so funny.  The other day while he was doing dishes, I asked him if he had the day off for Family Day.  After a slow, ‘no…’ he paused and looked out the window for a moment.  Then, without knowing if I was still behind him, (so, to no one in particular) he blurted out, “What the F$%* is Family Day?”. 

I laughed from the hallway.

“Seriously,” he said, drying his hands, “Every day is Family Day, isn’t it?”

Family Day is a relatively new holiday (the first in Ontario was in 2008) so I think the confusion from my husband and other Canadians is that we don’t know what to do with it yet because we haven’t established any traditions.  From the sound of it, it seems like we have to jump in the car and visit our parents and grandparents or find a way to keep the kids busy all day.

But my husband is right – we are a family, even if it is just the two of us and our beloved fur babies.

Personally, I love the fact that this holiday is wide open for making new traditions.  It reminds me that the idea of family itself is the same. I don’t have to tell you that the idea of family nowadays can really mean anything you want – kids, no kids, lots of kids, step and half siblings, fur babies, reptile babies, whatever!  I love that this holiday is a reminder of that and I’m grateful for my own crazy family that breaks all the norms.

Even though my husband will be working, I got to spend a nice Valentine’s Day with him yesterday, touring through the countryside and cuddling up on one of the coldest weekends of the year. Tonight I’ll be home to go for an extra-long walk with my fur babies and I’ll cuddle up with them for a Family Day movie night. I hope you too enjoy this extra holiday in February to celebrate your family, in all its shapes and forms.

How will you be spending your Family Day or President’s Day?  I’d love to hear in the comments!

No plans? Get a head start on the week and year ahead with access to The Empowered Woman Summit, or go to ashewoodward.com to find out more about how coaching can help you design the life you’ve always dreamed of.

photo credit: Sarah Liora

Celebrating Our J’s: How to Really Support JLaw and The Toronto Blue Jays

I recently heard somewhere that when a sports team isn’t doing so well people will refer to the team as ‘they.’ Like, “They suck this year,” “They’re not doing so well,” etc. But when a team starts to do well, the language changes to ‘we‘: “We’re doing great this year,” “We’re going to take it all!”bjteam

Of course, I really got thinking about this because of my hometown team scoring a big win this week. And although I truly am
a Boston Red Sox fan, I can’t ignore the amazing energy in the city right now and not want to be a part of it. So I am definitely guilty of this bandwagon psychology, I guess you could say. Go Jays Go!

Anyway, this ‘we’ and ‘them’ stuff also got me thinking about some other hot news this week. Jennifer Lawrence (JLaw), star of The Hunger Games, wrote an essay about her discovery of her lower wages than her male counterparts in a Sony film when Sony was hacked last year. In it she says, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable f— that!”

As a woman, I admit I have participated in this phenomenon as well. More than once have I stayed silent, just so no one was put out. Don’t cause a fuss is a common thing for us ‘good women’ to think because we don’t want to put anyone out. But, who exactly are these people that women are offending by asking for an equal share? Who is put out by a woman receiving the pay she deserves or what is at least the equal to a man doing the same work?

But we can only go so far to blame the show or the companies or the industry before WE all admit that WE contribute to this outdated treatment of women. Even JLaw admitted that she wasn’t mad at Sony when she found out about the pay discrepancy: “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.” The gist of her reason was that she didn’t want to seem like a brat or spoiled for asking for more money. She writes that she also realizes now that there wouldn’t have been the same thought of a man for asking the same.jl3

Applause to all the men who support women receiving equal pay, like Bradley Cooper for Jennifer Lawrence and like the recent scandal on the Netflix series, Grace and Frankie. Martin Sheen and Tom Waterston came forward and agreed that they should receive less pay than Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, two female stars of the show.

Not to get too cheesy, but we ALL need to contribute to empowering ourselves, our team – us humans who want the world to keep progressing into a greater and greater place. This is a human problem, not an industry problem, and WE are all responsible for how we got here and how WE get out.  WE all deserve equal pay.

If you are aware of any woman earning less pay for the same work as her male counterparts, you have a responsibility to yourself and all of us to speak out and correct the error. WE all will be better for it.

And while I have your attention, and in the spirit of a great week in baseball, let’s all stop saying, “He/She throws like a girl,” in a negative way. WE need to set a better example for OUR next generation of awesome girls and support them as strong equals.

For more kick-ass thoughts to fuel your thirties or your next big life change, check out ashewoodward.com for more great articles and the down low on private coaching.

Make your first appointment!

Jennifer Lawrence and bird photo adapted from vanityfair.com/at premier from hitfix.com

Blue Jays photo from thestar.com

A Head Start on Holiday Time-Management

Today was a perfect family day. The weather was amazing and I was out at Toronto’s Woofstock (our dog festival) with ‘the fam’. We were also together to celebrate my mom’s, grandma’s and brother’s birthdays.

I love getting together every year and doing something in the city at the end of the summer. But it’s also a gentle reminder of what’s coming – the holiday season. As I write this (September 27tth) there are only 88 days left until Christmas. I haven’t decided if that sounds like a lot or a little, but I do know that the holiday season comes faster than you think.

My mom’s birthday usually falls around Canadian Thanksgiving so it’s really the first signpost of autumn busyness. Next is Halloween, and then American Thanksgiving is soon after. Here in Canada that just means that Black Friday sales are everywhere and retail stores are eagerly reminding you that you’re running out of time. Then, for many of us, it’s time to buy gifts and food, plus achieve all those goals you set out this year on New Year’s Day, ten or eleven months ago.

Right now, luckily, we’re not quite in the thick of it yet. We have some time to sit back still and maybe do a little planning and time-management strategizing, which is exactly what I intend to do.

Every year I say I’m going to buy gifts early. I’m pretty good at sticking to this but I really want to be done done. Not, ‘I have one more little thing and then I have stuff to wrap’ – NO. I want to be done, ready, relaxed and set to enjoy the autumn and the beginning of winter from outside of the mall.

So, what’s my plan?

I’m not totally sure yet – it is still quite early.  But I think it involves some sort of shopping trip in October to buy EVERYTHING and then in November I wrap it all up and focus my energy on goals and end of the year lose ends. I think it also may take the form of starting my Christmas cards now too and having them ready to send by early December.

The point is, I’m sick of feeling rushed and pulled in so many directions at this time of year. And I know I’m not the only one who loves the fall season and the change to winter.

So, if you don’t have any family member birthdays to remind you, let me be the first – Winter is Coming! So have a plan to manage your time so you can enjoy it, rather than dread it.  Even if it’s not a fully formed plan (as mine clearly is not either), the fact that we’re at least thinking about it is a good start.  This helps us to keep it on the brain and when we’re out shopping from now on, we may pick up some gift ideas early on.

Time-management Tips for The Holidays:

  • Buy gifts early (and somehow label who they’re for…I’ve forgotten why I bought something for someone in the summer by the time Christmas came.)
  • Fill out Holiday cards early
  • Create your Holiday E-card and save it for later
  • Do away with Holiday cards altogether
  • Buy gifts in multiples for younger family members
  • Keep your receipts all in one place
  • Set a date, long before Hannukah and Christmas, for when you want to have your shopping finished by
  • Relax. Give yourself some time off from the craziness between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to have a day off. Go do something to enjoy the season like going outdoor ice skating by yourself or seeing a holiday movie on your own. You can also use this time to reflect on 2015 and what you’ve accomplished this year and start dreaming about next year.

For more time-management tips, get in touch for private coaching sessions

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How You ‘Should’ Make Decisions in Your Thirties

‘Have tos’ and ‘shoulds’ are great to use as warning bells to save you from perfectionism, as I discussed last post. But ‘Should’ has even one more superpower that thirtysomethings can really benefit from, and it’s a doozie!

‘Should’ comes up a lot when we talk about decision-making and can actually be a great signpost or another warning bell that can help guide you towards making better decisions based on your longer term desires, rather than your need for immediate gratification.

There are two kinds of shadowy ‘shoulds’ that come up in making decisions and this is how we get confused and can’t hear our intuition over the muddy meaning of the word.

The first kind of ‘should’ is often paired with a counter-justification.

It sounds like this:puss

“I really should stay home and work but I really waaaaant to got out.”

“These shoes are way out of my price range. I really shouldn’t buy them, but they were made for me!”

“I shouldn’t leave early but It’s Friday!”

The second kind of ‘should’ is likely paired with a twinge of resentment because you know it’s the right thing to do.

It sounds like this:

“I really want to go out tonight but I should stay in and get ahead on stuff for work next week.”

“I feel like working but I really should get out and meet more people.”

“I should save more money for retirement but I promised myself two vacations every year.”

Of course, at times, you really should get ahead on work projects instead of feeding into your immediate desire to get crazy. So which should ‘should’ we listen to?

Well, try this:

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who isn’t sure if she should work on her Saturday night or go out partying. Try not to find a way out just yet like, “Well I can do work on Sunday…” Imagine there’s no time on Sunday and ask yourself these two things:

hidinga) Which decision will benefit you more in the long run of achieving your goals?

b) Which one is hiding from an actual decision?

The reality is that in this situation, going out might be really important for your well-being and releasing some stress. It could actually benefit you more in the long run. In fact, staying home and working might actually be you hiding from the fact that you know you need to let lose and get back out into the dating scene. But staying in really satisfies you short term – “Phew! I’m safe for now!”, you say.

It could also be the opposite. You could be hiding from this work project and sabotaging yourself by going out every weekend and avoiding putting in your best.

Whatever the reality, it can often come out in these questions because very often we’re only plagued by decision-making because we create an option that can be very tempting in the moment.

In other words, if it feels like we’re rebelling against our own rules, we’re probably letting ourselves off the hook too easily. More than likely we’re actually afraid of getting the future we truly desire.

In more other words, we self-sabotage by taking the easy way out at the moment and forget about our longterm goals. This is either because we’re scared of admitting what we want or we’re sure that it will be too much work. But this inivitably keeps us in our safe present and we never stretch out and grow if we continue to hide. It’s all a little in your face but there it is.

Now, the thirtysomeone can also have difficulty making decisions because we have other people and other responsibilities to consider, not just our own desires to fulfill.

For example, you could take a job that will take time away from spending QT with the fam or, you may even be looking at a relocation situation. On the other, you have this great opportunity – financially and maybe even something that will satisfy you professionally.

In this situation, you’ll likely say that you ‘shouldn’t’ take a job that will take up a lot of your time right now and you definitely ‘shouldn’t’ relocate your family to serve your own needs.

But who is behind the ‘should’?

Are you afraid that your kids will hate their new school?newschool

Ya, they probably will at first.

But will they hate you?

Only for a little while.

Or, are you afraid ‘the new kids’ at your job will hate YOU and you’ll fail?

So will you let your kids’ kidness rule your life or can you stand up and make a choice that could be really great for everyone?  Plus, aren’t you a little scared of staying where you are and not taking the chance?

Inaction can also feel like an easier option. Relying on what you think is proper can be hard to ignore too. And sometimes it’s a great excuse and it seems right to play martyr. It all can be as tempting as letting the next episode role around on Netflix, but eventually you have to get off the couch and have a life.

At the end of the day, who’s running the show –

your fear or your future? [@ashewoodz, tweet me!]

If it’s your partner or your larger family who can’t see the value in such a move, they may be right and in our thirties we have the responsibility to listen to people tell us we’re being selfish. But if you have even a little encouragement from them, run with it. You do not have to play the victim here. Own your opportunity and bring your advocates along for the ride.

And if you’re struggling with something like this in your own life, get in touch for private online coaching with me, Ashe. Go to ashewoodward.com or email me directly at support@ashewoodward.com for more information.

How to Harness the Power of The Placebo Effect

There’s so much about the brain that we don’t know – and we don’t know we don’t know, and it really freaks me out. Yesterday, a video on placebos reminded of another way the brain seems to have a ‘mind’ of its own.

As you may or may not know, all drugs that are tested must also run placebo trials before they are approved by the FDA. The actual drug must be more effective than the placebo in two trials before being considered a valuable treatment or remedy (Wired Magazine).

Now before you start thinking this is a waste of time and money or even unethical that we deprive some trial participants of the ‘actual’ medication, here is the fact that shook my world: Placebos work 50% as effectively as aspirin but also 50% as effectively as morphine in treating pain!

Seriously, brain, what’s going on?!

Though it may be frustrating to not be able to completely understand what’s happening in our own heads, beyond our control, there’s some great news for us once we see that there is a possibility for harnessing this insensible power.

I actually think it might be a blessing that we don’t fully understand what’s going on here. That way, our job is kept pretty simple.

Believe you’re healed and you will be. Believe you can do something and you can.

If that doesn’t sound simple enough, let me say that the next sugar cube you eat will give you all the power you need to make your dreams come true.winkey

Now, those of us in tune with the power of visualization and positive thinking might also notice that this is all very similar to how The Law of Attraction works. We truly bring what we’re thinking and dreaming about into our lives by way of positive thinking and keeping ourselves connected to a feeling of love and excitement. If you’re excited by life and you love what’s around you, you’ll continue to feel that and see more evidence of it in your life. And even when things are not ideal, you’ll be able to stand strong in your happiness and love of life and all its ups and downs and miracles.

On a more practical level, you can use The Placebo Effect and the Power of Suggestion to shift a negative feeling from taking hold by buying into a more positive perspective. For example, maybe you’ve been actually feeling pretty good lately and then all of a sudden, “WHAM!” Big traffic jam. Your high is over…or so you think…headphones girl

Instead of freaking out about getting fired, give your boss a call, tell her what’s honestly happening and that you’ll be there as soon as you can. Then, turn up the tunes, knowing your ass is covered for the foreseeable, ‘can’t-do-anything-about-it’ future and rock out. Notice that this extra time was a gift. The universe is not screwing you over – she’s rewarding you for feeling good all this time.  And the more you keep your perspective in this positive placebo, the more gifts will appear. It really is all in your head – in a good way!

One more example from a very successful man:

If you say you can or you can’t, you’re right either way. – Henry Ford

Here’s to staying in a good space and reaping the rewards of the Universe all this week!

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO I WATCHED HERE