Tag Archives: habits

#49: Happy New year, goals vs. intentions!

Hello readers, Happy 2017!  I am grateful for another year!  Like many people, I have spent some time this past week reflecting on 2016.

While reflecting, here are a few things I noticed that helped 2016 feel like a great year. I experienced lots of professional growth, including; stronger client skills, supporting the development of other therapists, more speaking engagements, and more teaching opportunities. I also experienced personal growth in openness, mindfulness and the ability to put my body and my own well-being first. (Remember this refrain from a past blog—Self-care is never Selfish!) 2016 also included more surfing and much more time spent having fun! Which is probably what I am the most pleased about. Sometimes we grown-ups can get so damned serious about life and accomplishing that we forget what all work and no play does to our bodies and souls.

While reviewing the list of intentions (not goals/resolutions) I made in January of 2016, I was gratified to see that many of my intentions were met this past year. And, even with the intentions not fully met, there was forward movement. I had heard so often that setting intentions is a powerful practice and opens up wonderful energy for moving us toward those things we intend.  The results of 2016 proved this to be so.

So my “intention” for writing this short blog today, as we end 2016, is to cheer you all on! Those who usually set a list of intentions for the New Year,  go for it!  Be bolder and more creative and courageous in your imagining and intending.  For those who don’t always set intentions, I encourage you to give it a try for 2017!  Think about what you would like more of in your life and move toward that. You will not regret it!

Perhaps it is helpful to end by clarifying my terminology. The reason why I encourage setting intentions rather than settling goals for 2017. While the term goal and intention can have similar meanings, they feel different and have a different energetic force. I have felt much better about the outcomes in the years I have set intentions, than years when I have set “goals”. That may be because goals tend to be tied to very specific outcomes, which can be disheartening or feel impossible to meet. So, I quit before I reach them. Here are a few popular New Year’s Goals/Resolutions; “I will lose 15 pounds, or, I will go the gym 4 times per week”. There is nothing wrong with these goals, and in fact, for some people this works great. They regularly set and meet specific goals. But many of us humans are not so lucky in this regard. And so, it is well known that many New Year’s resolutions/goals tend to bite the dust by mid-February.

On the other hand, an intention could be said to be less specific in it’s parameters, and thus paradoxically, more powerful overall. I.e.’ My intention for 2017 is to treat my body as a valued part of my being and care for it tenderly and lovingly’.  (Now meeting this intention could include going to the gym often and losing some weight, but it will also include giving my body plenty of food, rest, pleasure, etc). So the power of the intention for care and nurture has more compassionate-growth potential, or forward momentum/energy, than me telling my body it has to accomplish a certain outcome.ENERGY FLOWS WHERE INTENTION GOES!  (Which can tend to cause us to feel like our self-love and body love is conditional. Because let’s face it, most of us are not kind to ourselves if we do not attain a goal.)

So, thank you readers and fellow bloggers for journeying together in 2016. I am excited about 2017 and I encourage you to set your intentions for this New Year before it arrives. As always, I am eager to hear how it goes. I would love if readers would share with all of us some of your intentions for 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

May your new year be full of flow and restful times!


1.) I shared my connotations with the terms goals and intentions. What are yours?

2.) What intentions might you add to your list for 2017 that you may never have thought of or had the courage to say aloud before? What experience have you had with setting intentions in the past? What are some of the notable intentions you have set and met?

Blog 46: Love & Anxiety-What lights you up?


What absolutely lights you up inside? By “lights you up”, I mean, fills you with passion, joy, and enthusiasm for more of this thing/person/situation. Do you know the answers to these questions? We can be lit up by an inherently positive experience, such as collecting old cars, creating art, cooking for others, traveling, writing, sports, etc. Or, our passion can come for overturning negative issues. For instance, eradicating sex slavery, overturning racism, feeding the hungry, finding a cure for a disease, etc. Humans experience passion for many things in life. However, most of us have a strong passion that lives in our hearts, blood and souls.

Many people already know their “passion” and are living energized and guided by it, but some humans are not so aware. Today’s blog covers the anxiety caused by confusion regarding the meaning and purpose in our lives!  This may sound like a 1st world problem to some, but this struggle can cause great ennui and significant anxiety in human beings.

Listen to George Bernard Shaw’s quote about living with meaning and purpose. “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” While I am sure none of my readers are “feverish selfish little clods”, due to dominant cultural messages many of us can become confused about why we are alive and what we hope to gain from our time here in this universe.

“Have it your way, & look out for number one”, are predominate cultural messages most of us have heard repeatedly, but are they wise slogans?  To live my life only for myself, in sole pursuit of my own happiness, does not bring a sense of meaning, purpose, or even long-term contentment. Living only for oneself may seem like the American dream as evidenced by some movies, TV shows, & popular music. However, if you believe having it all and always getting our way is the preferred option for human beings, why are selfish people so unhappy? You would need to turn a blind eye to the gossipy papers and magazines. You would have to ignore the often poor behavior, addiction problems, and relational betrayals that seem ubiquitous to many Celebrities no matter what their race or culture.

There is plenty of evidence that George had a good understanding of some of the benefits of living with meaning and purpose. If you look at studies of generosity and happiness, a very strong correlation is always discovered. Another benefit of generosity is a strong decrease in anxiety levels, along with an increase in awareness of how all humans are connected. I have volunteered overseas in developing countries. I have witnessed first hand, races of people who have very little material goods, but are full of love, joy, and gratitude for simply being alive and having a family. Many seem to have a strong sense of purpose, living for the good of the group, tribe, city, etc.

But you needn’t go overseas to help others, to make a difference, or to develop a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Those options are available right in your own hometown. It helps to know your passion, your purpose. What is your sense of purpose in life, why do you believe you are you here? These do not have to be spiritual questions, though they often are. They are great questions to ask ourselves as we move forward in life. It can be easy to spend years on auto-pilot, just making a living, collecting possessions, buying every new device, and just getting by.  Rather than putting effort and time into crafting a life that fits our desires, purpose, and passions.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets.” Though these words were written many years ago, they still are relevant. As I have attempted to live these words my life has deepened and become richer than I could have imagined.

So, all that said, What is your meaning and purpose? What really lights you up inside? How does your sense of being a part of the human race impel you to reach out and make a small (or large) difference in your sphere of influence, or in the world in general. We tend to admire those people who make a great difference. People like, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, The Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, Oprah, etc., but we might not consider what kind of effort and sacrifice it cost them. What passions and desires for the world’s betterment lives or lived in their breasts? And, how much time, money and energy have they sowed into the field of their passions and in the culture at large.

Being a hero/heroine is something many of us aspire to, Joseph Campbell spoke copiously about the heroes journey. Though, to become One also means that we must struggle, sweat, and often suffer, three things most of us don’t enjoy much. But great passion and great deeds come from great dreams and great effort. What great or small dreams live in our hearts, sometimes unknown and maybe unspoken? If we are not already living them out, can we begin to connect with them, begin to listen to them? Every great journey begins with a small simple step. What is yours?

Going Deeper:

1.) What does light you up? Is it easy to answer this question? Perhaps you have several things, which one burns brightest for you? If you don’t know, take some time over the next weeks to perhaps listen to your heart, to your life, and to the circumstances that you find yourself in.

2.) What dreams are you already living out that began with a passion? What bigger dreams may you be a bit afraid of trying? If so, besides fear, is there any other blockage to beginning to live toward your dream?

Blog 43: Love & Anxiety, why Pleasure and Enjoyment matter!

Adventure – healthy Pleasure

I thought we would take a break from harder topics today and think about something we love, Pleasure and Enjoyment! These these 2 concepts, while related topics, they are not the same thing. Though many of us assume that Pleasure absolutely leads to Enjoyment, this is not always true. Today, we will talk about the difference between Pleasure and Enjoyment and what this difference means to our bodies and Nervous systems, and how this difference deeply impacts our ability to either rest in love, or to flail in the chaotic sea of anxiety.

Let’s start with Pleasure! As I have recounted in prior blogs, healthy Pleasure is the best antidote to chronic stress and high anxiety. I wish more of us lived and experienced healthy Pleasure on a regular basis, if we did, this country would be a very different place. However, my experience as a human/therapist is that most of us do not experience healthy pleasure on a regular basis. America is a country that craves Pleasure, our advertisements are full of promised Pleasures, but we seem to have a difficult relationship between our desire for pleasure and our experiencing of Pleasure. Most people I know are craving Pleasure but enjoying very little of it.
TV Advertising extolls the joys of being rich, driving great cars, eating tasty (often junk) food, drinking beer and other alcohol, and having tons of sex with hot men/women, etc. While these options may seem pleasurable, why do they often bring so little Pleasure? Why do so many people get addicted to alcohol, food, more money, and sex, just to name a few of our advertised Pleasures?  My hypothesis to these questions does not come from a place of judging Pleasure or thinking it is bad and dangerous. My Mennonite heritage used to cause me to fear Pleasure. But those days are over, I have not been a Mennonite for a very long time, and I have learned how critical it is that I have plenty of healthy Pleasure in my life. My hypothesis comes from living, experimenting, and my observations of humanity.

We experience so little Pleasure because many of the things advertised to bring us Pleasure are either not healthy in certain situations/amounts, or are not actually pleasure, but a gateway to addiction. We all know that alcoholism often begins with social drinking or partying in high school/ college. It seems fun and a harmless pastime, a Pleasure even. But anyone who has lived with a human struggling with the weight of alcoholism can tell you there is NO pleasure in any drink they take. An alcoholic now drinks because they have to and because they cannot quit. What began as a Pleasure has become their Master.

Pornography is another example. AAMFT’s website states that 12 million people struggle with sexual addiction, which usually includes the use of pornography and a majority are now addicted to the use of it. (If you think you are not addicted to it, try to stop viewing it for good and you will know the truth.) It is known that pornography has caused many problems in relationships and that it causes people to become sexually attracted too an unreal human body (airbrushed men and women). Pornography is an example of how a healthy Pleasure, sexuality and the beauty of a human body, can become tainted and unhealthy because it has become an addiction. Addictions are often healthy Pleasures miss used, or run amok. Humans can become addicted to booze, drugs, food, work, sex, exercise, etc. So my hypothesis is that healthy Pleasure is often different from TV advertised Pleasures, and a healthy Pleasure is usually not something we are addicted to.

I make this connections because a healthy Pleasure is something we are able to ENJOY! Craving Pleasure is very different from Enjoying Pleasure. Many humans are not even enjoying the Pleasure they do have, but they are craving more Pleasure, so they run from experience to experience, from sexual partner to sexual partner, from new car to another new car, from one type of pornography to another. Desperately craving Pleasure but finding little enjoyment therein.

I repeat, Pleasure is a wonderful gift, we need Pleasure as humans to balance out all the stress and work we experience in life and relationships. Since American’s over-work compared to many other developed countries, it is no wonder we are a Nation that struggles with many addictions. But the Pleasures we need are healthy Pleasures and those we can Enjoy!  Many of us are adding healthy pleasures to our lives but not enjoying them either. Pleasure and enjoyment are not the same thing!

I have learned this truism over the years. I have had lots of healthy (and some unhealthy) Pleasure in my life but I have spent years not enjoying much of it. This happened because I was not living in my body, or living in the present moment, actually experiencing that Pleasure.  Instead, I was living in my head and in my thoughts. I was adding to my to-do list, or planning for the future, or regretting the past, etc., instead of actually feeling the Pleasure I was experiencing in that moment. If you are not in the present moment and living in your body (aware of your body sensations) you will not experience much Pleasure. This is not a hypothesis but a fact borne out by the last 10 years of research and study of the human body.

In closing I have found that most people agree walking on a beach, vacations, a loving relationship, warm baths, being in nature, eating a lovely meal with friends, sharing a great bottle of wine, a good workout or adventure, sports, art, creating, writing, etc., are all healthy Pleasures.  I will not try to suggest I know what your healthy Pleasures are, but I would suggest you find out and make yourself a list.  If you are currently not allowing yourself to experience your Pleasures ask why not. People who have enough play, rest and healthy Pleasure tend to experience less stress, less struggle with addiction, and more enjoyment in life. And, finally, when indulging in your Pleasure try your best to ENJOY it. After all this is why we really crave Pleasure, we want to enjoy our lives!

To learn more about pleasure and health, click this link.  Steps to perfect health, practice pleasure.

Going deeper:

1: What were your formative messages around Pleasure in general? Was healthy Pleasure modeled for you by your parents/caregivers.

2: Do you Enjoy your Pleasure? Can you resonate with the concept of having Pleasure but not Enjoying it? What attitudes or actions can you take to slow down and become aware of your life and your body so that you can actually experience your Pleasures on a regular basis?