So you want to make a change — maybe you're contemplating ending a long-term relationship, moving from the city to the country, or starting a new lifestyle regimen — but you're not quite sure where to begin. Lois Barth, a motivational speaker, life coach, and author of Courage to Sparkle: The Audacious Girls' Guide to Creating a Life That Lights You Up, believes that people who are searching for something in their lives tend to fall into one of three categories.
"They're either the butterfly in the cocoon, thinking, 'I know I need to make a change, I just don't know what that is," she says. "Then there are people who want more excitement in their lives, and then there are those who know exactly what they want, but they need that tipping point that's going to launch them."
The most important shifts happen on the inside and begin with giving yourself permission to sparkle.
"I personally love the metaphor 'sparkle' because it's about standing out, reflecting a light about who we are, and embracing our multi-faceted brilliant self," Barth says. "There's nothing passive about sparkling — it's a revolutionary shift in your life, one that makes you come alive!"
And following her "5C Method" offers an "opportunity to look at your life through a new lens." So, without further ado… are you ready for a life that radiates?
Barth believes that children and animals are our greatest teachers because they are wildly curious about, well, pretty much everything.
"This is grounded in science — when we become more curious, our breathing will become more focused," she explains. "We're engaged, we're in tunnel vision, we're excited, and there's an expansiveness to our thoughts."
She recalls one of her clients who had been struggling to lose weight. "She sounded so uninspired, so I asked her to tell me what losing 20 pounds would do for her life — and that's where the magic happened," Barth says. "The client envisioned her thinner self as a soccer coach for her child's team, running up and down the field during the game. She then said, 'And I would be so proud that I'm not letting the number dictate my level of vitality,' and I screamed, 'There it is — that's your curiosity!'"
In other words: Dig deep to determine the driving force behind your goals.
If you have a bad habit of saying disparaging things about yourself, like "I'm too old to start a new career" or "I'm too weak to cut out sugar," it's important to understand that self-criticism constricts the mind.
"As a client once said, 'If I spoke to my friends the way that I speak to myself, I would have no friends,'" Barth says. "Being compassionate with yourself is a muscle — especially for women — because we can be so hard on ourselves."
She offers this simple exercise: Think about your BFF and the way you speak to each other. The next time you're feeling doubtful, defeated, or worried, start talking to yourself using the same tone and language you would with your friend.
"It's not about rationalizing our own behavior when we've made a mistake or acted inappropriately," Barth says. "Compassion provides a soft landing to open our hearts more, toward ourselves and others, while navigating life's sometimes seismic challenges."
Barth stresses the importance of connecting with your goal each day in order to keep the momentum going. But it involves more than just hanging positive mantras or images on the bathroom mirror (which isn't discouraged, by the way) — it's about consistently taking small actions.
Whether you have the desire to go back to school, write a novel, or just live a less stressful life, Barth highly recommends "a morning ritual that inspires you — one that is easy and applicable to your life."
Her suggestion: Start the day with the following six steps (taken from the book The Miracle Morning). And before you freak out and say you don't have time to do more stuff in the morning, relax: You only need to spend one minute on each step.
- Silence - Focus on your breathing.
- Affirmations - Read a mantra that reminds you of your purpose.
- Visualization - See your wish as a reality.
- Journaling - Jot down everything you're grateful for and the tasks you want to accomplish that day.
- Reading - Grab a favorite self-help book and read one page at random.
- Exercise - Stretch, dance, do jumping jacks, or anything else that will give your body a quick jolt of energy.
"These six minutes can be a game-changer," Barth says.
"People keep thinking courage is acting in the absence of fear, but courage is the willingness to act in the presence of fear," explains Barth. "The courage comes from taking the action. If you wait until you're feeling fearless, that moment will probably never come."
So if you find yourself feeling like the Cowardly Lion, keep in mind that's actually a good thing. Barth — who admits to having stage fright whenever she gives a presentation — refers to the term "eustress," aka "good stress."
"Our fight-or-flight mechanism doesn't know the difference between the charging buffalo or asking that attractive person out on a date," she explains. "This is your body doing its job. It's saying you're energized!"
And lastly, Barth insists on surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you to be courageous, which she dubs your "Sparkle Squad."
"Friends don't let friends live mediocre lives," she says. "Find friends who will help you stay true to what you want — and who will not take 'no' for an answer."
Many people abandon their goals because things aren't going according to plan. "Life ain't linear!" Barth says. "We can be linear thinkers, but life is not linear. And you will always get off track because life intervenes — that's its job!"
One way to redirect yourself toward your goals is to eliminate the black-and-white, all-or-nothing language. For example, stop using words like "good" and "bad," "right" and "wrong." Instead of saying 'I've made a bad decision,' reframe it as 'I've made an ill-informed decision' or 'I've made a decision solely based on my emotions.'
"It's a healthier way of looking at your choices," Barth says. "And this change is especially helpful when speaking about your diet, as well as your career."