Tenderness is a solution. But then, there’s also planning.

Breathing is therapeutic. So is goal-setting.

Clear priorities have medicinal properties.

Magic waits in every baby step.

Inspiration feeds authentic action.

Your response to life’s challenges can be systematic or something more limber, more spacious. Choose a time to act or choose to wait consciously as you tend to your alignment. Your choice.

Be focused or flexible, but either way you lean, be gentle about it. And keep your vision clear.

I’m all about checking assumptions and setting goals. I like the feeling of working up a sweat, digging in and getting my hands dirty. But I like to let it breathe, too…to sink down through the layers of my story until I better understand what I’m looking at. In the end, the situation and your response are about so much more than solving the problems and checking the boxes. They’re about worth, identity, and meaning. So, I sit with whatever it is so that I may run with it.

There are two ways to look at every problem and it’s solutions.

There’s the inward and the outward, the soft and the systematic. You can approach a problem from the open, loving side or the nuts and bolts, problem-solving side.

One does not preclude the other. They’re not opposing but complementary. They’re the two halves of wholeheartedness. Both, and.

When you’re facing a problem and feeling the pressure to solve it, ask yourself where you can put your attention to bring relief, pleasure, or consistency. How can you support yourself best in this situation?  

Is it through the externally-focused action part? That’s the more material, more logic part. The one with you interacting with the world, moving things around, learning from those who’ve been there.

Or is it the inward part? That’s the feeling, breathing, soul-knowing part. The one where you let go so that you may be filled up, where you love, trust, and heal.

It’ll almost always be both, so where would you like to begin?

Does a pain need to be softened to free you up to move?

A fire in your belly fed?

Must you first make peace before you can make progress?

Is this more a matter of perception or productivity, discernment or decision, refuge or reasoning?

When you’re seeking something more tender, start there.

Tender doesn’t mean passive. Soothe. Accept. Open. Soften. Awaken. Ask. All vibrant and intentional actions.

This is not avoiding or ignoring, either. It’s getting real with what really bothers you and what you really want. Sit with the problem, the pleasure, and the pain and face them. Dare to hold them. Ask their names.

This part’s the more paradoxical of the two.

Embrace the human elements with the cosmic elements. Leave something to the unknowable and trust in your innate knowing. Always with honesty. Always with affectionate accountability.@ralph_leslie (Click to Tweet!)

When you’re craving something more actionable and holdable, more nitty-gritty, start there.

Write it all down. All the questions and problems and ideas. Get it on paper and grab a big, red pen. Cross out the irrelevant. Translate the unanswerable into a clear, constructive question. Number your top priorities. Star the solutions that speak directly with your heart. Brainstorm the next most logical steps.

Get lovingly rational with your fears and beliefs. How accurate are they? How changeable? Confess to the distorted view you’ve come to trust. And get honest about the energy required to maintain them. Always with respect. Fears are very compelling for everyone.

Take a small step.

Practice a new habit for 30 days. 60 days. 90 days.

Eat something.

Get enough sleep tonight.

Then step back and notice. What next?

Leslie Ralph is a psychologist, writer, and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it.  Her people are creative, sensitive spirits who crave love and peace, inside and out. Leslie is the author of There, I Might Find Peace: Poetry and Prose, Mantras and Meditations for Peace, Love, and Strength. Download her free gift, a ritual for receiving, a daily ritual for bringing more love and light, clarity and confidence, meaning and connection to your life. You can follow Leslie on Facebook or Instagram.

Image courtesy of Almos Bechtold.