What’s Driving Your Self-Improvement?


Our society conditions us in a such a way that we’re constantly pushing ourselves to grow. There’s always something to do or acquire to make you feel better about yourself. Make more money, get a more fulfilling job, have another kid. It’s always more, better, faster.

Well lately, my inner rebel has been calling for me to:

  • Slow down
  • Let go
  • & Just be

And by doing all of this, not only am I proving that I’m able to hear my own inner guidance better, but I’m also taking control away from my ego by placing my trust in the Universe to know what’s best for me and to guide me toward the highest expression of myself. It’s holistic goal-setting, as opposed to the way most people do it: from the ego.

I’ve realized that I DON’T have to have everything all figured out. All the go, go, go isn’t feeding my soul, and letting go is the actual freedom that I’ve been searching for.

I struggled for years to find my life purpose. Now, I find that I love what I do so much that I’m constantly working. And now my self-care isn’t what it should be.

So yeah, even when you get what you think you want, there’s always another challenge right behind that. This is why I’m really paying attention to and embracing the concept of surrender.

I posted on Facebook yesterday about how I’m crushing on Tosha Silver.

Tosha is just all kinds of awesome. She teaches from a very heart-centered space. She sees herself as an instrument of the Divine, as working through the Divine, as opposed to working from the ego of course. But it’s not shaming the ego like some spiritual teachers do. She just understands that her ego is easily seduced.

It’s easy to slip from one shame-based framework, like perfecting yourself so that God will love you and accept you, right into another, like the self-help/spirituality/new age one where you accept that you are God, you are the Divine, but you still drag along with you all the same needs for validation and acceptance, all that shame-based baggage. It’s like dressing your ego up in a different costume. It doesn’t change the problem.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be anything. That the key to being happy is to just follow your heart. Do more of what lights you up, and less of what doesn’t. There’s a lot of crap that gets in the way of that and all of it is based on what your ego thinks you want. Your higher self has a much different perspective and that’s what you want to tap into. You do that by surrendering control.

Tweet: We need to take the pressure off of ourselves and give it over to the ones who can handle it.  #lifealchemy @nicolenortegaTweet Me

We need to take the pressure off of ourselves and give it over to the ones who can handle it.

Let the Universe help and guide you.

Today, I woke up with a song in my head: Fitz and the Tantrums’ The Walker.

So yeah, even my guides think I’m crazy!

It’s clear that I need to slow down.

To honor that, I’ve started off my day by

1) Taking a nice, long shower. I conditioned my hair and everything.
2) Meditating
3) And then sitting down to have a nice, long breakfast complete with homemade blueberry buttermilk pancakes & my current favorite tea: a Jasmine Green Tea by Rishi Tea.

What small act can you do to slow down today, just enough to listen to what your heart is telling you and possibly even let go just a little bit?

Does Organization Really Boost Intuition and Flow?

organized-craftsSome intuitive professionals and spiritual teachers say that clearing clutter helps to unblock your intuition or to make it more readily available. I resisted this idea for a very long time because I thought I was lazy and just didn’t want to face it. Truth is, I am lazy sure, but really there’s a lot more going on that I never consciously realized.

Fact: I want to live in an organized home.
Fact: I put off organizing until I’m pretty much buried under stuff.
Fact: I’m hiding behind my clutter (and for more than one reason).

It’s a freaking visibility issue! Who knew!?

More on this in one sec. But first, some backstory.

Lately I’ve been feeling like everything’s been slipping through my fingers. Things to do, especially. I don’t write them down, or I write them down and forget them. Then my husband gets upset because I forgot I was supposed to do 50 million things that I promised to do. Then we have an argument because he’s feeling ignored and I dropped the ball again, etc, etc, etc. Keeping the peace is one of my motivations for wanting to get organized, but mostly it’s about not wanting to be stuck anymore. I have these big goals and plans and I keep repeating the same cycles over and over and I’m really getting tired of it!

And here’s the kicker: the problem isn’t just related to daily management of my household. “How you do anything is how you do everything,” or else I’d probably just keep neglecting my house and focus on business so I can pay somebody else to do it for me (sad but true, and if I’m completely honest, that’s what I really want anyway! :x) The problem is though, that I’m also forgetting business things-to-do as well, or putting them off. I have no sense of priorities and I recognize that none of this is going to fly. At first I thought it was just a time-management issue, but when I began my quest toward the solution, I realized that it’s so much more than that.

So off I went to do what I do best: I found a book about it! What can I say? I like to read from other peoples’ genius zone perspectives. What I found (almost immediately, thank you universe!) was a book on Amazon called, Organization from the Inside Out (The title really caught my attention. I’m allll about doing stuff from the inside out!). And after diving into it a little bit I’ve decided that Julie Morgenstern is a freaking genius! She has hypothetically solved my GTD problem in only a matter of two days. Granted, I’m not through the entire book yet, not to mention even put a dent in my house clutter, but the mindset shift that I got is definitely worth bragging rights.

This right here is brilliant. Just. Freaking. Brilliant.

Most other books, articles, and seminars on organizing tend to focus on the solution rather than the problem: Here’s a hot idea for organizing a bathroom; here’s a cool technique for organizing your files…What they ignore are the internal and external issues–the psychological quirks, hidden dissuaders, and common mistakes we all make–that stand between us and achieving our dream of a usefully arranged and organized space. And yet without understanding these all-important issues, no amount of hot ideas, cool techniques, or neat tips will work.

Yes, OMG yes! This is what has always gone wrong for me with (almost) anything that I’ve EVER failed at, let alone organizing. Treat the cause, not the symptom! I’m going to sidetrack for a minute to drive this point home with an analogy.

When I went to the allergist last winter, they tested me for every environmental allergy pretty much known to anyone. I had about 75 pricks up and down both forearms and don’t you know every single one swelled up and itched like hell? In other words they said a big fat “yes, you’re allergic to everything, Mrs.”

Now, I’ve always had allergies but they’ve increased over the years and that’s just not normal. I know normal is relative, but seriously, do you think it’s normal to be allergic to everything!? I suffer through all four seasons, not just fall and spring… The doctor wanted me to get started on allergy shots immediately. And I seriously considered it, that is until I spoke to a friend who’s into holistic health. She told me to look into gut health. And I did. And I was amazed at what I found.

Did you know that your gut is the first line of defense against germs and illnesses? Everything from allergies, to autoimmune diseases in fact. Did you know that the foods you eat (and don’t eat) contribute to the deterioration of that all-important stomach lining that protects you from said germs and diseases? Yeah, me neither. And I’d like to think that an allergist would have been able to tell me something as important as this, but sadly this is not the case.

It’s like prescribing aspirin for the headache and overlooking the underlying tumor…

Ok, back to organizing.

What’s Holding You Back?

Someone wise once said “You can’t fix it till you know what’s broken.”

Julie says that messes may look alike, but there are many reasons behind them. Their “whys” are different, and this is the key to fixing them. She breaks disorganization down into three causes:

1) Technical Errors, like items having no home are the easiest to fix
2) External Realities such as unrealistic workloads
3) And what really got my attention, the mindset stuff, Psychological Obstacles like: a need for abundance, wanting to “rescue” chaos, unclear goals and priorities, fear of success, and fear of failure. These things hold you back not only in getting your house organized, but in LIFE!

I had bits of this figured out before when I tried David Allen’s GTD system. It didn’t work out though because I was doing more planning than doing, so I gave it up. Now as I’m reading this book however, I’ve had some major aha’s. No, you don’t need to be organized, but if your life is really disorganized, it’s going to start showing up in lots of ways if it hasn’t already and it’s going to start getting in the way of your business and your life, if it hasn’t already. And even if you don’t think it has, chances are you’d be much more productive, clear, etc, because you don’t have all these things pulling on your consciousness at all hours of the day.

But let’s get one thing straight: I am NOT touting perfectionism here. What I am doing is saying that there is a point where these things will start to get in your way. And resistance to fixing them is a huge, flashing, neon sign of self-abandonment, and a symptom of a visibility issue.

Julie says that we need to redefine what being organized looks like. It’s not boring, sterile, minimal, limiting, none of these things!

“Organizing is the process by which we create environments that enable us to live, work, and relax exactly as we want to. When we are organized, our homes, offices, and schedules reflect and encourage who we are, what we want, and where we are going.”

Doesn’t that sound just perfect!?

I’d love to know what you got from all of this. Let me know in the comments.

Can We Please Stop Saying We Don’t Care What Other People Think?

Mark Tighe Goods Sticker

Image Courtesy of Mark Tighe

It’s not healthy and it’s not true. We DO care. Maybe we don’t care what some people think, but there’s at least one person in your life (past or present) who has the power to bring you an extreme amount of elation, an extreme amount of pain, or some shade in-between, by their acceptance or rejection of you.

It’s Shame 101.

We base our sense of self-worth, our esteem on this idea of who we think we should be. And when we don’t feel that we measure up to that, often because other people are criticizing us, in comes the doubt, the anger, the defensiveness, and the tears. In other words, we’re triggered.

This JUST happened to me when Ashley Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project decided to shake things up like only she can. She posted this question on Facebook and I was equally saddened and livid about most of the comments:

She really stirred up a hornet’s nest! And to be quite honest, I’m both disappointed and annoyed that Ash would put this out there and just let it fester without once stepping in to say her bit. As my husband said, “it was cowardly.”

Who knows though, maybe she’ll prove me wrong and tell us all what the point was. I’m really, really hoping it wasn’t just some marketing tactic to drive more activity to her page. Because in the aftermath, there are equal amounts of hurt feelings, flying tempers, prejudice and judgment. A friend said to me that it felt a lot like a witch hunt and I’d have to agree… At least metaphorically speaking.

But personal feelings aside, this really got me thinking about where I am with my own authentic expression and my comfort (and discomfort) with being visible about who I am and what I do. Depending on who you talk to, I have some pretty radical beliefs compared to the status quo:

  • I believe that guides and angels hang out with us on a regular basis, helping us through life and talking to us all the time.
  • I believe the same about our loved ones on the other side.
  • I definitely believe in reincarnation.
  • I believe that we’re all here with a concrete plan that we decided before we were born to this particular life.
  • AND, I don’t believe that God is some dude chilling up in the heavens doting out favor and scorn to believers and sinners accordingly.

And that’s just the tippy top of things.

One of the main pillars that I stand on is the right for every single person alive to believe whatever the fuck they want! And to not have to take shit for it! Period!

But of course, reality dictates that such is not life. I can run my own inner world and my business community the way I want, but the rest of humanity has a different idea. Maybe we’ll get there someday but in the meantime, we need to figure out what to do when people do judge us for being ourselves.

I think that when you’re triggered by someone else’s opinions of you, the best thing to do is to get really curious about it. I say this all the time: triggers are meant to help you grow. If you’re triggered, look for the why. There’s always a why and when you figure it out, it’s like WHAM! Epiphanies and glitter flying everywhere.

When you’re triggered, you can’t just affirm it away, saying “I don’t care what other people think of me.” Because if you are in fact triggered (and you’ll know when you are because you’ll have a reaction, whether that’s defensiveness, the need to be right, anger, sadness, you name it) you need to HEAL something! There’s a whole domino effect of things going on that all tracks back to your core values and how you define yourself. And it’ll happen over and over until you face it. Until you face who you are and what you feel.

So start by admitting it to yourself. Because that’s where the healing begins. We all have a need to be loved, and when we’re defending against what other people think and say about us, we’re trying to control them. It becomes about your ego and your need to be right. And so you have to let that go.

And that’s the sucky part about being on a spiritual path: Once you’re aware of something, you can’t deny what’s staring you in the face. It’s just straight up raw truth. And sometimes it can leave you feeling cold and stripped bare.

But in this place of vulnerability and acceptance, you’ll also see that you have a choice in how to respond and whether or not you want to heal. The sucky part is of course taking the high road when you really just want to tell them off. But if you’re not on this path to grow out of that ego-oriented mindset then what are you really doing?

“Give yourself permission to be affected.”
- Robert Ohotto

Is Your Spiritual Ego Wreaking Havoc on Your Relationship?

demolition buildings

Image credit: Lotte Grønkjær

It happens like this: you’re floating along in a little lifeboat, and all of a sudden you get hit with a wave of truth that churns the water around you. Instantly, you realize a paddle has appeared next to you and you think, “Yesssss! Now I can move this thing! I don’t have to follow the current everyone else is taking anymore!”

(We’re all floating along in these little boats in this example, see.)

Excitedly, you paddle over to your best friend and blurt out “OMG, Alex! Did you know these things had paddles!?” Alex looks at you blankly, so you nod at the paddle, silently directing her to pick it up. When she doesn’t, you spout off about how much easier her life would be if she’d just open her eyes and use it. This time she flat-out ignores you. You prickle, declaring, “The hell with it. I’m going off to follow my dreams.” And the two of you part wistful ways, never to reunite again.

But what you don’t realize is, she never could never see the damn thing in the first place…

Admit When You’re Getting Spiritually Hijacked by Your Ego

It is so easy to fall into this trap. To find the answers to questions you’ve been seeking your whole life and to want to share that wisdom with others–especially those you care about. One of the biggest challenges (and accompanying lesson to follow) along my spiritual journey was exactly this.

I believed with my whole heart that if my husband didn’t take the leap into a spiritual life with me, then I couldn’t do it at all. But like in the story above, I was missing one key element: what works for me, even if I think it’s the best thing ever, won’t necessarily work for him or anyone else.

There are no universal truths. Only your truth.

And it takes a lot of humility and wisdom to accept that fact.

When I started getting back into my spiritual journey as an adult, I had a strong desire to get on a soapbox. Not to just anyone, but to my poor husband. Because I don’t know about you, but when I know someone loves me as much as he does, I also know they’ll put up with all my crap and so I tend to go pretty uncensored.

This is both good and bad. And in this case, things definitely went south. My husband had to listen to me preach day in and day out about how I thought he could live happier. “You created this reality, so you can choose differently,” I’d tell him. He was literally my (unwilling) coaching client punching dummy.

I thought that because I was doing all of this reading and taking classes and learning to be a better person, that I knew better than him because I was all “spiritual” and he wasn’t.

Hang on a second and re-read that:

I thought that I knew better than him.

Say what!? Any time a thought like that goes through your head–that you think you know what’s best for someone else–you better re-examine it again because thoughts like that aren’t “spiritual.” They’re ego. And letting your ego creep into your spiritual life is a very real thing.

Ask Where and Why Am I Being Triggered?

If you’re having thoughts like these, I’d invite you to look very closely at what you believe. Could your beliefs be ego-based? A big, big clue is to look at where you’re being triggered.

When my husband would question my beliefs–not shaming, just questioning with streaks of skepticism–I would get really flustered. Mostly because I didn’t know how to answer him. But that was a reflection on me, not him. I was triggered because I saw cracks in my carefully constructed spiritual foundation. I found myself thinking, “Holy hell, if I can’t answer this question, how can I believe any of it?” And that was really, really frustrating because I needed the conviction of my beliefs to keep me grounded. I had found what I was searching for and I really didn’t want to give it up!

So I stuck a bookmark with my spiritual ego in it, right there.

I displaced my feelings and lashed out at my husband instead of looking deeper into my own mind. Things went on like this for a while until I finally caved and “gave up” my spiritual pursuits. But not really…

All that stuff just festered within me, clawing to get out and I was completely miserable in the time being. Even my husband knew I was crazy for trying such a thing. So I caved… again!

I went back in for round two, promising myself not to make the same mistake. But of course I did because I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time. And again, I tried to inject him with my own truths, making us both miserable in the process because he wasn’t yet in a place to hear what I had to say.

Only, the second time around it was worse. I began to internalize the way I was making him feel–empathically taking on his shame for not being “enough”–feelings imposed by my constant prompting for his self-improvement. This was all just another way of implicitly saying that I didn’t think he was enough just as he was. Finally, after one breakdown too many, I realized that I was slowly killing both of our spirits. And with the help of my mentor, the awesome Lisa Wechtenhiser, I (literally) cut my cords to all of that negative energy and turned a huge corner.

And it was absolutely liberating.

Remember Not to Rob People of Their Spiritual Processes

People are here to walk their own journeys. By trying to convince them to follow your way of thinking, you’re infringing on their own spiritual experience and growth process, because no matter what people are doing, we’re all spiritual beings having a human experience. And that means, we’re all on a spiritual journey. How do you feel when others try to push their beliefs on you? It’s no different when the shoe is on the other foot. No matter how well-intentioned.

It really becomes a matter of discernment: When to give advice, when to let things be, when to walk away, how much to reveal to whom and when. But most importantly: How much is enough for you in this moment in time?

Set Your Conditions for Self-Care

For myself, I decided that having a husband who loves me unconditionally…someone I can laugh with, cry with, someone who takes care of me when I’m sick, who’s a wonderful father to our children and just overall one of the most thoughtful, caring people that I’ve ever met, was enough by itself. I didn’t need him to be on the same spiritual page as me. Not even the same ballpark really. We differ in our beliefs, but I accept him for who he is, and he accepts me for who I am.

At this point, it honestly wouldn’t matter to me if he went to church every Sunday or if he became an atheist, because I get other things out of our relationship that are necessary for me. He meets my “conditions of enoughness.” And that’s enough for me.

We all grow at our own pace and we’re all meant to be exactly where we are. If you try to push someone past where they’re supposed to be, there’s a strain on both of you and they won’t get the message anyway. You’ll just cause them (and yourself) more pain and more shame. We’re only ready for certain truths when we’re ready. This is one reason why two people can read the same book and walk away from it with two completely different experiences. It just depends on where they are in their journey.

In every area of your life, you have to make these kinds of decisions for yourself, what’s an ego-based problem or desire vs. a soul-based one? And it really comes down to self-care: what do you need in your life?

Not want, need. What’s enough?

Take your ego out of the picture. Ask yourself: Where am I being fulfilled? Am I being fulfilled? Or could I be if I laid all my cards out on the table and took a chance on being vulnerable? What’s enough for me?

Start there. And remember. You’ve got this!