How to start meeting your needs

In April, I started a new round of my Changemakers’ Mentorship program, and I challenged participants to commit to a fifteen-ish minute discernment pause each day.

Last week, a participant in my mentorship program wrote me this question: “I’m still really only tracking glimmers as a daily-ish practice.

What other discernment practices might I integrate into my daily routine?”

Today, I want to share part of my response to her with you:

First, Pause.

It matters less what you do when you pause than whether you pause in the first place.

Often, people drain their energy, show up less-than-effectively, and head down paths that don’t honor their needs because they get caught up in reaction mode.

Rather than pausing to discern what they need and choosing a response that meets their needs, they unconsciously react to the demands around them.

So the first step is to take moments throughout your day to pause.

A helpful pause can be as short as a few seconds to take a deep breath. Three minutes can be a long time when you pause and do nothing. Integrating fifteen minutes throughout your day to pause and reflect can make a powerful difference.

Second, Ask Yourself What You Need.

Once you pause, the next step is to get curious about what you need.

And to discern what you truly need, get curious about how your body feels.

Dominant culture (imperialist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy) has taught us to escape to our left brains and avoid the sensations and information held by our right brains, hearts, bellies, and bodies.

Avoiding our bodies is a trauma response. Because of course we escape our feelings when they hurt. But avoiding our bodies can also perpetuate modes of being that harm ourselves and others and do not meet our needs.

If we only ask our left brains what we need, we’re apt to get stuck in analysis paralysis, spinning in circles of confusion, not quite knowing which way is up or down.

When we tune in to our bodies, we can more readily access the wisdom of our guts, hearts, skin, and bones.

Our feelings are the spokespeople for our needs.

So, to discern what we need, we must first turn our attention toward our bodies with warm curiosity, not trying to convince ourselves to feel any different but instead paying close attention to what we need.

Third, Get Curious About What Step Forward Might Help & Choose One Tiny Step

Once you pause, turn your attention toward yourself with warmth and kindness, and get curious about what you need, the next step is to get curious about what might help meet your needs.

For example, you might notice your body is feeling rushed and harried from trying to get more done than fits in one day. When you ask yourself what you need, you might think: “I need to stop trying to do more than is realistic. I need to create more realistic expectations and take a break.”

And when you ask yourself what is one small step that might help, you might decide to look at what you’ve committed to this week and take something off your plate.

Or you might not see anything you can say no to this week, but rather, plan some time for solitude on the weekend and rearrange next week’s schedule. You might email a couple of colleagues asking them for support or letting them know you won’t be available.

Or, you might notice that you’re feeling lonely and sad, and you realize that you have a need to connect with friends. So you send a couple of texts, reaching out to old friends and asking them to set up a time to connect.

There are infinite actions you might take to meet your needs. What matters is that you pause, get curious about what you need, and choose one teensy tiny, itsy bitsy step toward meeting your needs.

And when it feels impossible to meet your needs, because sometimes it will, I encourage you to acknowledge how impossible it feels. Acknowledging what is and loving yourself anyway is always a step in the right direction.

Four, Track the Glimmers.

You might have noticed that my client mentioned something about glimmers.

Glimmers is a term coined by licensed clinical social worker, Deb Dana, as a positive counterpart to the more commonly-used word triggers. Whereas a trigger is a cue—something you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or think—that prompts feelings of stress or fear, glimmers are cues that prompt feelings of safety and wellbeing.

One of my favorite practices is tracking glimmers—searching for the teeny, tiny cues of goodness in life and lingering in the feelings of goodness, even for just a few seconds.

Noticing the needs that are well met, the good things happening around us, and the choices we feel proud of has many positive repercussions: Tracking glimmers replenishes our energy, helps us learn more about what works, and supports us to do more of what works in the future. Tracking glimmers sparks and sustains a positive feedback loop that helps us meet our needs.

I encourage you to integrate a moment of tracking glimmers into as many discernment pauses as possible. And notice how it makes you feel.

To recap:

  1. Pause.
  2. Turn toward yourself with warmth and kindness, and get curious about what you feel and need.
  3. Get curious about what might help you meet your needs, and choose one tiny step in that direction.
  4. Track the glimmers.

I welcome any questions you might have about strengthening your discernment pauses. Feel free to send them my way.

And may all your needs be met.


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