You are not your story

Western culture has a bad habit. Well, several actually, but that’s the subject of another blog. Or a Masters level seminar. Anyway, the habit I want to talk about here is our felt need to have a backstory for…well, everything. This often extends to ourselves and how we view ourselves in the context of our daily lives.

We listen to what others say about us, combine that with what we think we want our lives to look like, or what we think we stand for, and voila – we end up with a narrative, often with a side order of low self-esteem and unreasonable expectations for good measure.

And that’s where I want to pick up the story (pun fully intended) – after we’ve built this narrative around these externally derived concepts of ourselves. First, you need to understand that these stories often serve a valid purpose. They can give us the motivation we need to keep going when things get difficult. They can smooth the bumps in life.

However, these narratives can also lead us astray – to a false sense of self that’s based on the story and not on who we truly are.

The tricky part is recognizing when you start telling yourself such a story, then being able to separate your actual, present self from the version in the narrative. Start by realizing that you’re constructing the story around past events. Because that’s all you have to build them around, events you remember and can put yourself back into in order to sort out what’s happening now. You’re telling yourself, “something like this happened once, and here’s how I handled it.” This is often followed by a critical assessment of how you handled it and how your past self failed in some way. Here comes the self-doubt.

Now step back from the story you’ve constructed and realize that this is not who you are. This is an event from your past. Your present self has learned from that past event and is attempting to translate what happened and make it relevant to the present.

Let go of the story and allow yourself to live now.

“Nothing happens for a reason, but everything that happens has purpose.”

– Megan Hollingsworth

Saying that an event happened for a reason shifts accountability (blame) to something that happened before that event – and since that precipitating event is in the past, there’s nothing that can be done. This conveniently shifts any impetus to take action off your present self, since all you can affect is now.

However, saying that “everything that happens has purpose,” now that’s a different story (I know, I know, again with the puns). Now you’re saying that the event happened in order to affect something that hasn’t happened yet. Now the focus is on the future, something that your actions in the present can certainly impact.

Suddenly, your future is firmly in your hands and rests on what you do now, in the present – in reaction to the event in question.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

– Epictetus

This follows from the first quote, and Epictetus’ words ring true today – two thousand years after he said them. Granted, he was a Stoic philosopher who believed that all external events happen as a result of fate and should be accepted without fuss. I’m not advocating that extreme a view, I just want to take it far enough to adopt an outsider’s view of events in order to learn from them and carry that lesson forward.

If you can make this perspective shift, even if only when you remember this article, imagine the changes you can affect. Instead of saying, “why did that happen to me?” What you’re saying is, “what can I do with this right now to affect my future positively?”

You’ve just taken the negative experience of dwelling on the past why and turned it into the positive experience of figuring out the future how.

Let me tell you about Frank

It may be a stretch to call him a friend, I mean, I haven’t actually seen the guy in 20 years. But back in the day, we were tight. I taught skiing with Frank (do I have to tell you that’s not his real name?). We also lived in close quarters with ~40 of our closest friends in 3-high bunks at the school’s lodge all weekend for 13 weeks a year. So, we got to know one another. This is the story that sticks out in my mind, even after 20 years. Keep in mind, this story relates to Frank, there were others present who will have parts to play in later stories. Today is all about Frank.

Several of us were up early one Saturday morning, and since the morning meeting wasn’t until 10:00, we decided we had time to take a couple of runs, there was fresh snow out there calling to us. On with the gear, grab the skis, chug some horrible coffee, and we’re off. Runs 1 and 2 go smoothly, nice fresh snow, make some turns, hit the lift line, repeat. Then run 3 begins. Everything is fine until Frank utters the words I had come to fear when they come out of his mouth, “watch this.”

Not as bad, nor bone-chilling, nor, if I’m honest, funny – as when preceded with “hold my beer…” but still.

He proceeds to huck himself off the edge of the trail we’re on, landing somewhere ~30 feet into the woods below – which may as well have been somewhere over the rainbow given the ease with which you can find someone buried in snow deeper than they are tall. I skied over to the brink and yelled “Frank?!?! Dude?!?!” approximately 47 times before I heard a faint “ooooooover heeeeeeeere” and saw the very tip of a ski pole waving back and forth.

In I wade, muttering things like “…moron…what a dipshit…who does that…?!?!” as I shuffled. Arriving at the edge of a crater roughly 10’ across, I looked down to see partially buried goggles and a gloved hand waving said pole. He put the pole down long enough to wipe off his face, exposing an ear to ear grin.

Dipshit.

“Little help here?” He says all nonchalant and stuff. “Sigh,” is my reply. I then commence beating on the snow around the edge of the crater. It’s sorta like a dowsing rod, except I’m looking for the rest of a dipshit, not water.

~79 swings later I make contact. With his shinbone. Just above the edge of his ski boot. Whoops. That ear-to-ear grin? Yeah, that left. Replacing it was a grimace spewing a string of expletives I’m glad his class of 10-year-olds wasn’t around to hear, combined with a handful of choice curses relating to my mother and all potential future generations of my family. Have I mentioned that Frank is a fundamentalist Christian? Because he is.

At this point we’re nearly late for lessons, never mind the meeting we missed by a good margin. I had sent the rest of the group ahead to let folks know what was going on, leading to one of the managers actually coming by us on the hill to see if we needed help/ski patrol/an exorcist (he arrived just about halfway through the expletive string, just in time to hear the curses). The two of us worked together to hoist Frank out of the snow and be sure nothing was broken.

Once we had verified that, Mr. Manager suggested that I might want to remove myself to my class meeting point. I started to say that my assistant could greet our class when he suggested that the issue wasn’t me greeting my class right now, rather he was concerned about Frank causing permanent bodily harm to my person, leading to me not being able to greet my class anymore that season.

Right. That.

I dug myself out post haste and hit the trail.

There is a happy ending to this introduction to the wonder of Frank – he was able to laugh about it over beers at the end of the day.

So there’s that.

Wellness, it’s about how you show up

I’d like to dive right in with a topic several people have brought up with me recently. Just what do I mean when I say “wellness?”

“Wellness is about how you show up, it’s about how you allow yourself to BE.”

That’s paraphrased from an episode of The Living Experiment podcast. I’d like to go into a bit more detail on this, and along the way, I’ll explain how this comes into play in my coaching. The speaker went on to say that what wellness isn’t about is how much you can lift. It isn’t about what your abs look like. These are just two external factors, strength & appearance – that join with other external, as well as many internal, factors to make up whole body well-being. Let’s look at one example of this interplay of factors – weight loss.

Have you noticed that when you put on a few pounds, you feel…off? It’s almost like your overall health and well-being and your weight are connected, right? There are two ways to approach this situation. You can go on a diet to lose weight and hopefully feel better and attain better overall health and well-being. OR, you can work on your overall health and well-being, and watch as your weight slowly but surely comes into alignment with those goals.

Can you spot the difference?

In the first option, you’re addressing the weight loss as though it was the root cause. In the second, you’re treating your weight as a symptom, and addressing your overall health as the root cause. Which sounds like the more sustainable, and effective, method?

Now, how to address something as broad as “overall health and well-being?” By looking at the separate pieces that make up the whole of course. What are the aspects of BE-ing that lead to that elusive whole body well-being?

For the sake of brevity, these are my top 3:

 

  • Mindfulness
  • Being fully present
  • Treating your body right

 

These are still REALLY broad categories, and there is a staggering amount of interplay between them, so I’m not going to attempt to cover them in depth here. This post is a summary, stay tuned for future posts going into more detail in the coming weeks, months, etc.

Mindfulness

I once heard Mindfulness described as “paying attention, on purpose.” That sums it up so well, I can’t add anything useful. Mindfulness is the overarching idea, the one that encompasses the other two in this article. Think about it for a minute, what better way to monitor how you’re showing up than paying attention, on purpose?

Before entering a room, be it for a meeting or otherwise, where you want to be sure of your presentation – stop and take a deep, intentional breath. Then as you enter, you’ll be more present and more tuned into how the others in the room are reacting. You will, in turn, be better able to fine-tune how you’re presenting yourself in real time. Eliminating the after-meeting hair-tearing-out where you get all over yourself for that thing you said that you KNEW you shouldn’t have…etc.

Being Fully Present

This one piggybacks on Mindfulness. In fact, it’s really just another way of saying “stay mindful.” When you’re confronted with that jar of candy on your boss’s desk, do you mindlessly take one? Or 5? What if you took a moment before you walked into their office, took a deep breath, and primed yourself on your reasons for going in there in the first place? Not only does this narrow your focus to the task at hand, it can also quell the inherent dis-ease many feel when talking to The Boss – that lead to the candy looking so irresistible. Now you’re set to enter, ask your question, make your pitch, etc…and you won’t even notice the jar.

Treat Your Body Right

What the heck am I talking about here? Simply this – don’t do things that you know cause your body harm or discomfort. Sounds easy, right? Yeah…well…this is one we all have trouble with, therefore it will be the topic of several further posts. The takeaway for today is this – if you know you have a presentation tomorrow morning, and you know that you’re a big hairy mess when you don’t get enough sleep…maybe think about NOT staying up until 2 binge-watching Netflix. If you know caffeine makes you blarghy and causes your brain to vibrate in your skull (personal experience here) – maybe it’s time to wean off coffee.

Your homework this week is to assess your behaviors and look for opportunities to make minor tweaks in just two areas – tweaks that you think just may improve how you show up.

Intro Time

New blog, new audience (fingers crossed…) – so it seemed appropriate to start off with a little background information. Hopefully, you checked out the About Me page and at least glanced at my first post. If not, go ahead, I’ll wait.

Good, now for that background, I’d like to briefly touch on 3 things today:  who the heck I am, what I’m doing here, and how I got here. Oh, and maybe a little on just where here is.

I’m Jesse. I’m a Personal Development & Wellness Coach in Seattle. Well, that’s currently relegated to the status of ‘side gig’ for the time being. The job that pays the bills is Operations Manager for a small IT service provider. I know, right? Does that count as irony? Or just annoying?

I’ve been in the IT support world for something like 16 years now, working my way up from customer service, through the ranks of support analyst, to team lead, and finally to management. However, at the same time, my interests outside of work have always strongly favored people over machines. My BA is in Anthropology. ‘Nuff said.

Through a series of discoveries about myself (to be chronicled in a post series down the road a bit), I have come to understand some important aspects of my personality. This ultimately culminated in my Graduate Certificate in Health & Wellness Coaching and the founding of JK Wellness Coaching. I describe my coaching as Personal Development & Wellness because I discovered folks have similar stumbling blocks affecting multiple aspects of their lives – health issues, diet-style issues, coworker/boss troubles and even toxic interpersonal relationships. It mostly comes down to feeling stuck and not being able to see a way around the roadblock. My coaching consists of a lot of deep listening, then gently guiding folks through whatever is tripping them up and seeing their way clear to make the changes they need to make.

So, why am I starting a new blog? Well, I realized that trying to maintain 2 separate online identities was part of why neither one was flourishing. I’m not a fan of multitasking in any situation, it’s not something I recommend, so why was I doing it in my personal life? By combining everything under one heading, I get to talk about all the things that interest me and don’t need to remember where I said what or worry about repeating myself.

I’m also not a fan of, nor do I feel the need for, anonymity online. I don’t say things I’m ashamed of or worry about being attributed to me. In that vein, I’m going to try leaving comments open, only your first comment will be moderated. Please respect each other and hopefully, I’ll be able to leave it that way. I’d love to see a community be created here.

The rest of the ‘here’ stuff I mentioned wanting to touch on is Seattle. As in, that’s where I live and where I have lived, with limited stints in other locales, for 35+ years. Specifically, I live in a neighborhood called Ballard, which used to be a separate city back in the day. That is what led to one of the area’s main draws for me, walkability. My apartment is ⅓ of a mile from the library, grocery stores (yes, plural), great coffee/tea shops, restaurants, and useful shops (like my local bike shop and an outdoor reseller). If you read the Welcome page, you’ll know that urbanism and alternative transportation are high on my interest list, so my living in a neighborhood like this isn’t really surprising.

I’ll sign off with that, I like keeping most of my posts at just about the 600-word length. I find much longer and folks lose interest. If something I post is going to stretch much past that point, I’ll let you know in the opener. Thanks for joining me, I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!

Hey There!

Welcome to JesseKelber.com, my newly consolidated home on the internet. Let me explain, I’m not exactly new to this having started – and gradually abandoned – several sites in the past. And my with my day job being in IT, well we’ll just leave it at I’m no stranger to the interwebs or computers.

That said, I’m doing something a little different this time around in that I’m combining my presences. This site will serve as homepage and blog for me personally, as well as a homepage for my coaching business (coming soon, for now, hit this link here, or the one in the menu to be taken to my existing coaching site). Since I’m combining presences, the blog entries will cover…well pretty much everything that interests me. There will be posts on topics coaching clients have told me help them, and then there will be posts about other things that interest me.

An example of some of the ideas holding my interest right now (subject to change as I am constantly reading and tend to be distracted by shiny objects):

  • Voluntary Simplicity
  • Personality – Intuition/Introversion/HSPs (Highly Sensitive People, of which I am one)
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Human Powered Transportation
  • Alternative Building Techniques (cob, strawbale, etc)
  • Conscious Community
  • Analog Technology (like pens and paper for example)
  • The Lifestyle Thou Shalt Not Call Paleo (that’ll make sense eventually, promise)

Since I mentioned that there have been other blogs/sites in my past, I should say here that I will be borrowing from these sites heavily. What I mean is that I’ll basically be plagiarizing myself and re-using some of the posts I wrote over there, over here.

Am I planning on monetizing the cheez whiz out of this one and going pro?

Uh, no.

Might I try for a larger audience than my previous attempts?

Well yeah, I might.

We’ll just have to see where the path leads won’t we?

As I mentioned above, along with that list of possible topics I’ll be talking a fair bit about coaching and coaching related things. A partial list of these subjects might look like this:

  • Just what does ‘Wellness’ mean, anyway?
  • Self-care breaks
  • Anger, and how to exist with it
  • Emotions, and how to exist with them
  • Willpower, what it is and what it isn’t
  • Toxic relationships and ways to avoid them
  • You are the expert on you

OK, I’m going to leave you with that, Don’t want to give away too much on the intro page do I?* I’m excited to start this little adventure and am already hard at work editing some of my existing pieces, getting them ready to post in the coming days/weeks (I’m not going to publicly declare a posting schedule – I’ve made that mistake before).

Join me, won’t you?

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