Wisdom from Trailblazing Women

I recently joined the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and went attended my first meeting Tuesday evening. The title of the meeting was  Powerful Women at SXSW and included Terri Gruca (KVUE anchorwoman), Brandy Amstel (filmmaker), Laura McCanlies (Business Technology) and Teryn Fogel (producer).

Shame on me because I wasn’t prepared to take notes and there was a lot of really good information and advice. Here are the highlights:

  • Try to be the smartest person in the room, it’s not about IQ or being a know-it-all, it’s about being prepared. Don’t bring up problems unless you can also offer solutions.
  • Take ownership of your future. Don’t wait for permission to do what you want to do. Go after it. This is a huge issue with many women. We wait for someone to make the offer instead of going after what we want.
  • Be the one with the idea or innovation and don’t be afraid to sell your idea. Speak up and be the first to get your idea out there.
  • Be true to yourself (this came up a lot). Realize not everyone is going to like you. (I heard a saying that sums it up perfectly. I call it SW3 – some will, some won’t, so what).
  • Stand up for yourself and for your vision. Don’t be wishy-washy and let other people water it down. Women tend to be pleasers so we’ll back down in an effort to gain approval. We need to stand in our power.
  • When asked what they considered the key principle that brought success they answered with:
    • Trust your gut,
    • curiosity,
    • a willingness and desire to learn,
    • listening,
    • understanding where other people are coming from,
    • connecting with others,
    • reading between the lines.
  • Advice they’d give to women starting out in their business –
    • Take time to get to know yourself
    • Be willing to experiment – it’s how you’ll figure out what you want to do, your talents, passions, etc. Get a broad base of knowledge and then narrow it down (or not)
    • Don’t be complacent. Grown, expand and try to learn something new about your job to love or look for new things to be excited about.
    • Figure out what is really important to you.
  • When asked as a trailblazer, how did were they able to move forward without affirmation. Brandy gave a wonderful answer when she said she didn’t need affirmation from others. Her affirmation came from knowing who she was and following her own path. Her affirmation came from her heart, not from some external source. Terri expanded on Brandy’s comment by saying it is our responsibility to do it for other people even if we don’t get it.

It was an inspiring and memorable panel and I was also impressed with my chapter president, Kerri, who did a marvelous job of asking the questions and moderating the discussion. I don’t know how other chapters do it but I was blown away with the Austin Chapter. It’s obvious that they are truly devoted to lifting each other up.

 

 

Lies we tell ourselves

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Everyday we tell ourselves lies that limit our potential. Here are some of them:

1.”It’s not my fault”

If you are talking about the weather or another person’s actions, then you’re right. But we often say these words when we have been called out on our behavior. In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey talks about our birthrights and one of them is freedom of choice. We all have the power to choose and as a result, we need to take responsibility for our actions.

When you apologize for your words or actions, try to right a wrong, suffer the consequences, make amends, fix your mistakes, etc, not only do you have a chance to learn and grow, you release yourself from the pain and memory and can move on. You are able to take that failure and make it a win. When you play the blame game, you end up holding on to all that negative energy and carrying it with you, letting it eat at your confidence and self-esteem.

2. “I can’t…”

At 53 my chances of becoming a prima ballerina are slim but nothing is stopping me from taking ballet lessons, watching ballet, photographing dancers, creating a movie about ballet, hosting a fundraiser for the ballet or writing a book about it or in any other way expressing my love for ballet.

There are some things that aren’t realistic anymore but there is a difference between accepting reality and fighting for our limitations. Don’t let your age, circumstances or physical abilities define what you can and can’t do. Ask yourself “Why can’t I?” “What if I did?” Maybe you don’t want to…but that’s OK, you’re making a choice which is different than accepting defeat before you even tried.

3. Letting your past determine your future.

The beauty of being human is that we are capable of learning and growing. What happened 1, 5, 20 years ago is inconsequential to what we are capable of doing today. Ten years ago I said I hated running and totally sucked at it. But today I am a runner and I can run an 8 minute mile. I’m not going to win any awards but my vitals (i.e. pulse, blood pressure, etc) not to mention my physique, have changed over time due to my commitment to running. The choices we make determine our future. If we want our future to be different, we do so by making different choices. Personally, if I’m still the same person in ten years as I am today, I’ll be disappointed. Living in the past is not living.

4. Life’s a bitch.

This isn’t a lie because life can be a bitch at times. As I write this post, it is my brother’s birthday. He passed away almost 20 years ago, leaving behind a wife and two-year-old son. That sucks, because if you ever met my brother you’d be instantly struck by how fun-loving and optimistic he was. He got sick when he was visiting me and I remember saying how it sucked and his comment when his wife brought him a bowl of soup was “Yeah, but I’m being taken care of.’ He wasn’t focused on how sick he was, he was just so grateful for the love and care his wife gave him.

People are probably tired of me saying it but it’s true – you get what you focus on. If you’re going to focus on the misery in life, that’s all you’ll see. And how does that make you feel? Not so good, I bet.

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident things will work out. As Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Studies show optimists live longer, are healthier and more committed to and likely to achieve their goals. Dreaming about a better future motivates you to work towards it.

Personal control is one of the traits of happy people. When we feel we are in control of our life, we are happier, more productive and have more confidence. We can pursue our dreams and have a sense of purpose in our life, which gives us meaning and more fulfillment. Stop the lies, quit putting limitations on your life and take control of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Questions to keep you on target

4 Questions to keep you on targetSo you have a goal – lose weight, start a business, get over your fear of public speaking, learn new software – whatever it is. That’s wonderful! Life is really just a series of goals – growing into our full potential. Before you dive in, it’s time to do a quick assessment of where you are at. This is not a one shot deal, you should check in with yourself often. Asking these questions will help keep your impulses/emotions from side-tracking your progress.

Am I hungry?

“Wait,” you say, “that’s great if I was on a diet but that’s not my goal…” Have you ever heard of the word “hangry”? It’s actually in the Urban Dictionary and is a composite of the word hungry and angry and defined as:

“When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.”

Since I mention diet, I will bring up two cases to illustrate the importance of this question.

First, I had a client who’s goal was to lose weight. She tried every fad diet, which are usually full of restrictions and create a deprivation mentality. Her enthusiasm would be high in the beginning but sooner or later (usually sooner) her hunger would become unbearable and she’d end up gorging on junk food. This would put her in a cycle of shame and blame that got her nowhere.

My second client wanted to finish her degree and start a new career. She was working full time and enrolled in night classes. Three nights a week she was driving from work to class and would be there for 3 hours. Her first semester grades weren’t good. She questioned her commitment and her intelligence and came to me as her one last hope before giving up. One of the things I discovered is that on the day of class, she didn’t eat dinner until she got home, usually around 9 pm. She would snack on soda and a bag of chips or a candy bar.

The problem was that both of my clients were hungry! Food is both a need and a basic pleasure in life so eating a well-balanced, nutritionally dense meal is important for mental and physical performance. I worked with both clients to develop healthy options so they were getting the nutrition they needed to function at an optimal level while also feeling satisfied. I knew why my first client couldn’t lose weight – she thought she had to eat salad all the time and hated every minute of it! After some research, she was able to come up with some healthier versions of her favorite meals as well as some snacks that satisfied her but were still nutritious.

My second client started planning some time into her schedule to have a light, nutritious dinner or pack a healthy snack that would still keep her focused during class.

Are there any emotional issues that need to be resolved?

I’m not talking about childhood or other big emotional traumas here. For those you should seek the appropriate help, such as a licensed therapist. I’m referring to those little emotional blips that we get caught up in a daily basis such as being stuck in traffic, oversleeping or dealing with a grouchy child. Little things that just seem to yank our chain and get us angry or frustrated. It’s best to clear the air before you try to do anything else.

Especially if you need to deal with someone else, one of the best tools is to write it out. Journal your feelings and frustrations. Have a little hissy fit on paper, rather than doing it in person and escalating the situation. Most of us get tired of our pity party and when that happens you can sit back and look at the situation objectively and do what you need to do to get back on track whether that means laughing it off as just one of those days or apologizing.

Is your social calendar bare or overloaded?

We are social creatures but we all need downtime. Is there a balance in your life? Is every spare minute filled up with work and social activities that you have no time to yourself? Or, are you starved for a little social interaction? Extroverts are rejuvenated by spending time with others. Introverts recharge by withdrawing into themselves. Know which works best for you and make sure that you schedule enough time so you don’t feel deprived and drained.

Consider your preferences when you are setting your goals. I had a client who was taking online courses but as convenient as they were, she often made excuses instead of doing them. Turns out she preferred the interaction of being in a classroom. Once she switched over, her motivation and enthusiasm returned.

Are you tired?

According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is a public health problem. Not enough sleep can result in difficulty concentrating and remembering things as well as lower reflexes resulting in vehicle crashes, industrial accidents and medical and other work related errors. People who are regularly sleep deprived also have more medical problems such as depression, obesity and hypertension. The amount of sleep we need depends on our age but the average adult should be getting 7-8 hours a night.

Trying to make changes in our life requires energy and it’s hard to stay on track if you aren’t getting enough sleep. It helps to establish a regular bedtime, turn off the electronic devices, avoid caffeine and alcohol and avoid large meals before bed.

Working towards our goals is part of what makes us happy but in order to give them our full, focused attention, we need to make sure some of our basic needs are taken care of.

One model for creating change

One model to make permanent changeIn my last post, I talked about how our subconscious mind, where our thoughts and beliefs reside, can sabotage our efforts to change without us even realizing it. It’s often the reason most new year’s goals are abandoned within the first month. Our beliefs and habits (including habits of thought) are so ingrained in our minds that no matter how much conscious exertion we put on trying to change (i.e. willpower), we often fail because we aren’t addressing underlying beliefs. The biggest problem is we usually aren’t aware that it’s our beliefs stopping us. We are trying to create change by using the wrong tools.

I’d like to share with you one model for making change.

Before I get into the specifics, I’d like to point out that change is not going to happen overnight, in most cases. It’s going to take practice so don’t be hard on yourself if you slip. Please don’t give up because it didn’t work the first time. You’re working against some pretty powerful forces.

Cognitive behavior therapy offers one model for change. It’s called the ABC model and this is how it works:

A = Activating event

B = Belief or perception

C = Consequence

So let’s say you decided to lose weight and just inhaled a whole quart of ice cream. You’re feeling a little disappointed in yourself (to say the least…) Here’s what you do. Get a piece of paper and write down the activating event – “Ate a quart of ice cream”. Stick with the facts.

Now write your belief or perception. You might write something like “What’s the use of even trying, I have no willpower.” “I’m a big, fat pig! I don’t deserve to be happy!” Get it all out. Often we’ll use absolutes (always, never) or words like “should”, “must”, “have to”, “ought to” which are indicative of irrational thinking.

What’s the consequence of those beliefs? Write them down. These are self-defeating emotions – guilt, anger, depression, a sense of worthlessness, self-pity, etc. These emotions don’t serve us, they leave us stuck and put us into a cycle of shame and blame.

In order to change you need to challenge/dispute your original belief. It could go something like this “I was stressed and hungry from skipping lunch. There are plenty of times when I’ve made healthy choices. I’ll ask my coach for some stress relieving tactics  and make sure that I make time for a healthy lunch so I’m better prepared.”

Now note the effect that this has on you emotionally. Do you feel differently than when you described the consequence? This part of the exercise elicits more positive emotions (disappointment, concern, sadness, hope). You recognize that you had a set back and have come up with some proactive solutions to keep it from happening again. This gives us a feeling of control and we often recommit to seeing our goals through.

Give this a try next time you’re having trouble making changes in your life

 

Why is it so hard to change?

Why is it so hard to change?Because you think your conscious mind is running the show.

Our brain is a complex and amazing organ. It has a built in survival mechanism, allows us to experience deep emotions, form social bonds and think, reason, analyze, and create.

The problem is we think the cognitive, rational, analytical part of our brain, the part we’re aware of, is in charge when in fact, it’s responsible for about 15% of our thoughts and actions. The other 85% is controlled by our subconscious – the part we aren’t aware of.

From the day we are born, our brains start building neural pathways. Because our brain values efficiency, when something is repeated, whether it be an action or a thought, these pathways become stronger and ingrained to the point we don’t even have to think about them anymore. That’s a good and bad thing.

It’s good for things like mastering a skill. Remember when you first learned how to drive and how awkward it was? If your experience was anything like mine, there was a lot of conscious effort as you tried to remember what you were suppose to do. Your actions were choppy, there was a lot of jerking when you turned, accelerated or braked. But after years of driving, our actions are smoother. I know how much room I need to ease into traffic. If a car cuts me off or swerves in front of me I react quickly. I don’t have to think “What should I do?” because I instinctively know what to do, I’ve done it thousands of times. I can predict what a lot of drivers will do around me before they even do it. I have my brain to thank for all of that.

Then there’s the down side. As we are growing up, we receive messages – from our family, friends, teachers and society in general. Some of these messages, if repeated enough, become internalized and we adopt as beliefs. Some work for us, some don’t.

My client, whom I’ll call Sarah, hired me because she wanted to start her own business. She had a viable idea and a good plan but couldn’t seem to make the leap. Instead, she kept taking dead end, low paying jobs she was overqualified for and hated. She was losing hope.

This wasn’t the first business she attempted to start. Any of her previous ideas could have worked but after the initial excitement of researching the business and coming up with a plan, she would hit an obstacle, procrastinate or just give up, believing she was too old or didn’t have the “right” credentials. It was a predictable pattern and she was frustrated. She yearned for something different but when she got to a certain point she always quit. It was a battle of wills – between her deeply conscious desire to have control over her own fate, to have the flexibility and variety that being her own boss would bring and choose exciting projects and work with people who inspired her – and her subconscious beliefs.

Her subconscious was winning. Sarah had a huge fear of rejection and as we explored the issue further, it turned out Sarah was constantly looking for someone to validate her worth. It was a driving force throughout her life, unbeknownst to her. Any rejection, off-hand remark, roll of the eyes or indifference, Sarah’s subconscious mind assumed were about her so it would rely on those deeply ingrained behaviors of the past and she’d retreat back to the safety of her comfort zone lest she be deemed unworthy.

Sarah believed her self-worth came from other people. It was outer-focused. She reflected back on her life and realized how this manifested in so many of her actions and interactions. She saw how it caused a lot of the conflicts she had with others and was the source of much of her unhappiness.

Sarah’s dream of owning her own business would (probably) never be realized until she could resolve the belief that she needed others to validate her worth. The biggest problem is we aren’t even aware of these subconscious thoughts so never bother to question them, even when they no longer serve us. We get caught up in a pattern of trying and then failing, creating an endless chain of disappointment.

So what can we do about it? I’ll address that in my next post.

The Intellectual vs. Emotional Mind

The Intellectual vs. Emotional MindIn a recent post, I talked about how I knew, intellectually, that I wasn’t a fraud, fake or a failure. I have accomplished a lot in my life. I graduated college, raised a phenomenal human being, mastered various skills, created tons of stuff with my own two hands, became a certified coach, formed some fabulous relationships, am a dedicated runner and yoga practitioner and have overcome an eating disorder, just to name a few. I have plenty of proof to know that I am a capable, intelligent, resourceful, compassionate and ever growing individual.

Intellectually, I know this, yet I still occasionally have feelings of doubt and inadequacy. Like I don’t have anything worthwhile to offer and will never be good enough. I turn into an emotional basket case.

It’s a battle between my intellectual and emotional selves.  Can you relate?

It’s no surprise that this battle is fought in our mind. There are actually 3 parts to our brain. The reptilian brain handles our vital biological functions such as breathing and pumping blood. It’s “largely unconscious, automatic and highly resistant to change”, according to Integrated Wellness Therapies article “The Role of Three Brains”. 

The limbic brain handles our emotions. It’s where we make value judgments that influence our behavior and form social bonds. It connects events with feelings. It is “active in situations that arouse fear, anger, frustration and pity.” It also operates mostly on a subconscious level.

The neocortex is our thinking brain (our intellectual self) and is responsible for abstract thought, imagination, higher reasoning and language.

These three separate parts of our brains don’t operate independently of each other, they are connected and the limbic and neocortex “influence each other via ongoing communication, linking emotions with thinking and voluntary action…Whilst we like to think of our neocortex or thinking brain as being the conscious decision maker, it is, in reality only selectively conscious. Psychologists generally agree that at best we are only 15% conscious of our emotions and behaviors. This means that even when we think we’re being rational and conscious, we’re largely being driven subconsciously by previous similar experiences and emotions.

Here’s the thing you need to know – “our subconscious brain is the ultimate decision maker. It always wins.” If it’s a matter of survival, our reptilian brain takes over – the fight or flight response. If it’s not a life-threatening situation, then emotional memories that have become ingrained, will triumph. The challenge, then, when making changes, is to overcome that emotional conditioning to create new habits or patterns of behavior. When we sabotage our efforts to change, it is our subconscious mind merely trying to keep the status quo.

Growing up, I believed that mistakes were bad and determined my worth so I played it safe. I gave in and reinforced my fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy over the decades. I’ve taken jobs that I was overqualified for and settled for less than I was worth.

I grew up in a household that neither encouraged or modeled any type of risk. It was an environment rife with control and rewarded “good” behavior – doing what you were told and not questioning why. Looking back with some maturity, a fair amount of counseling and perspective, I now understand the dysfunctional dynamics and have compassion for what we all went through.

That’s all fine and dandy except it doesn’t change the fact that I’m now stuck with these subconscious emotional responses that no longer serve me and what I want to achieve.

As I strike out on my own, forging an unconventional path (at least compared to what I grew up in) and challenging my beliefs, I often find my intellectual and emotional minds at odds. I get caught up in the excitement of learning new things, the freedom of being the master and designer of my own life and helping others do the same but inevitably, like clockwork, my emotional side starts getting nervous and shaking things up because I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone.

It’s a pattern I’ve come to know over the decades. I’d get excited about doing something and would make all sorts of plans. I am a Master Planner. After some progress, I’d often lose interest. Sometimes it was legitimate, it just wasn’t my thing. More often, though, I had my first challenge and I was scared. Having taken the easy way out most of my life, I wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it, so my brain kicked in and did what it does best.

After my divorce I realized that I had spent my life living in fear and decided to use this as a rebirth, if you will, to live my life in love. It’s an ongoing process which I liken to peeling an onion. Just when you think you’ve tackled one issue, you realize that you just scratched the surface and have to diligently be aware of your thoughts and habits, constantly reinforcing new ones to replace those that are counterproductive.

It’s a two step process really – being aware and questioning your thoughts and then taking SMALL steps outside of your comfort zone.

Awareness is probably the hardest part because most of our thoughts and behavior is reactive – that 85% of our brain that works subconsciously. And once you question a thought, belief or assumption, you have to replace and keep reinforcing it so it becomes the go-to response.

Taking it one small step at a time helps you ease into new behaviors, gain momentum and prevents the warning bells from going off in our brains, activating those old patterns. For instance, if you want to start an exercise routine after you’ve been a confirmed couch potato, telling yourself you’re going to go to the gym for an hour everyday is going to raise some red flags. Start small, maybe 5 minutes, or a walk after dinner. Grow into your goals slowly and you have a chance of achieving them rather than trying to strong arm your way to success.

It won’t be easy. You will have set backs. But you will also have triumphs. Show yourself some compassion, let your emotional mind know that you understand and just keep moving forward.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Get comfortable being uncomfortable - your ability to do so will make a huge differenceOne of the five truths about fear, according to Susan Jeffers in her book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway“, is the fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow. It’s part of change.

Humans are creatures of habit and most of us have settled nicely into couch potato status in our comfort zone. The problem with that is it’s a pretty boring spot, from my stand point. For me, a fulfilling life means growth and and meeting new challenges. This means risk, fear and a host of other possibilities that make me vulnerable. Will I embarrass or humiliate myself? Will I fail?

Maybe.

Then there’s the alternative – mediocrity, boredom, stagnation, resignation. A sure path to Regret-ville.

So if you hope to live a meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful life, one that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning, makes time fly, pushes you to the edge of frustration and then rewards you with joy, a sense of accomplishment and purpose, one that satisfies your mind, heart, body and spirit, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable.

There’s a big benefit to facing our fears and stepping outside of our comfort zone. When we push through it helps reinforce our feelings of resourcefulness and resilience. Living with a constant feeling of dread makes us feel helpless and adds more stress than if we took the chance. Taking risks helps us to cultivate our power – power over our thoughts and beliefs – boosts our confidence and self-assurance that will spill out into all areas of our life. We feel like we have control, making us happier.

Exactly how does one become comfortable with discomfort?

Acknowledge your fears.

Get to the root of your fears. Look past the excuses (“I don’t have time”) and find out what’s really at the core. Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that could go wrong. What’s the worst case scenario?  What are the odds that it could actually happen? Bring those fears into the light, acknowledge and challenge them.

Preparation and practice.

Once you have your list and narrowed it down to concerns grounded in reality. Let’s say you have to give a speech, the microphone exploding is a possibility but not a probability. “Going blank” is, so what can you do to avoid that? You can do research, prepare notes, practice your speech, mediate beforehand to calm yourself or find some other pre-speech ritual or focus on a friendly face in the audience.

I’m still nervous getting up and talking in front of people and I’ve done it at least a 100 times. I’ll probably still get nervous after I’ve done it a 1000 times, but because of the preparation and practice I put in, I’m not paralyzed by it.

Focus on the positive

When we are out of our comfort zone, we tend to focus on the negatives – what if I can’t do it? What if I look foolish? What if I embarrass myself? What if other people hate it? What if I fail?

Instead, focus on the benefits – learning something new, getting a promotion, helping others, being healthier, having more energy to play with your kids, being in control of your life, conquering a fear.

One of my running routes has an uphill section that I dread. To make matters worse it is at the end of my run so I am already tired. But the minute I turn that corner I start saying my mantra “This will make me stronger”, over and over until I make it to the top of that hill. It doesn’t make it easier but it reminds me why I’m doing it.

Take small steps

If you decide to start exercising after decades of inactivity, don’t try to run a marathon or come up with ridiculous expectations of exercising for an hour a day because that’s a sure fire way to not accomplish anything (ask me how I know this…). Start small. Teeny tiny small. Like 5 minutes. Ease into it. Get up and do jumping jacks during a commercial break or take a walk after dinner. Getting started is often the hardest part so make it as non-threatening as possible.

Once you’ve started, then work on expanding your comfort zone, in small steps. When you notice yourself becoming uncomfortable (not unbearable mind you, uncomfortable), sit with it awhile. Don’t give in right away. You don’t think you could possibly do one more jumping jack? Do a couple more. And then do a couple more after that. Don’t quit on the first try. We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit. Stick with it for a little bit longer, notice the discomfort, acknowledge it but don’t give into it right away.

Change is an inevitable part of life, especially if you want to keep learning and growing. Making peace with discomfort is a skill and asset that will help you conquer just about anything.

 

 

 

 

Who’s in charge of your life?

superhero-534120_1280Chances are it isn’t you if you hear yourself saying “I should…”, are a constant clock watcher at work, spend way too much time surfing the internet or watching T.V or are bored, disengaged and generally “living for the weekend”.

That feeling that there must be more to life is a sure sign you aren’t running it.

Be the Creator of your life. Engage in it, don’t watch from the sidelines.

I’m an introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking. I am inside my head a lot, thinking about ideas, concepts, problems, solutions and what I’m going to eat at my next meal. I’ve recently taken action to move my life in a different direction. It was painful and scary but the right thing to do. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes and live in alignment with my passions, values and talents,  I decided to craft a personal philosophy. I hold creative thinking in high regard so I’ve used the word creativity as an acronym.

C – Childlike curiosity –  Invite your inner child out to play and have fun. Laugh. Question everything. “We’ve always done it this way” is lazy thinking. Change is going to happen, you can look at it as an exciting new adventure or let it run you over. Innovations don’t happen by following the status quo.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Suess.

R – Rules – Know them, but don’t be afraid to break them (legally, that is). Or better yet, invent some new ones. Or forget them all together.

“The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” – Mark Twain

 

“Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.” Freidrich Nietzsche

 

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you” – The Golden Rule

E – Empathy – Before you jump to conclusions or judge someone, put yourself in their shoes. Be open to new ideas, new experiences, new cultures, new people. Get out of your own head and explore different perspectives.

A – Amateur – don’t be one. In Carl King’s book “So you’re a creative genius, now what?” he defines a pro, amateur and hobbyist. You want to either be a pro (you love what you do and work your butt off to create a viable career) or a hobbyist (not interested in money, does it for sheer joy of it). Don’t strive to be an amateur: a hobbyist who is half-heartedly trying to be a pro. As the great Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Amateurs fall in the “try” category.

T – Talents – Know yours and align yourself with them. Invest the majority of your time in them. Sure, it helps to beef up your weak areas but you’ll probably always just be mediocre and as a result, those are not the things that will bring you great joy. When you operate from your talents, tasks become easier and life in general becomes less of a struggle, and even, dare I say, a pleasure.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.

I – Imitate – Growth (as a human being) is important for our mental well-being and learning facilitates  growth. How did we learn as children? We imitated others. There is a saying “Good writers borrow, great writers steal”. There is a reason that art students copy the masters, not to plagiarize them, but to learn from them. Let’s say you are a salesperson. Watch high producing salespeople in action. What are they doing? What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? What are they wearing? What are their mannerisms? Watch the faces of their prospects and see how they respond. Obviously, you can’t be that salesperson (writer, painter, drummer, etc) because we each have a unique set of skills, traits and talents. Find the essence of that great sales presentation, piece of art, poem, music, campaign, etc, learn from it and then put your spin on it

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” – Eartha Kitt

 

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

V – Values – Figure out what your top 4-5 values are and use them as a guide for living your life. My top 5 values are: being connected, learning, design, have fun and appreciation. Funny thing, once I realized how much I valued appreciation (I wasn’t getting any), it dawned on me that I wasn’t being very appreciative of others. Since then, I have gone out of my way to make sure others know how much I appreciate them or what they’ve done. And wouldn’t you know, what goes around, comes around. Not only does identifying your values give you a filter in which to run every decision through, it helps you see your own behavior in a whole new light and when guided by those values, change is a lot easier.

I – Imagination – Use it. A lot.

“You see things; and  you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and  I say ‘Why not?’” – George Bernard Shaw

         

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Steven Covey

 

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

T- Thankfulness – Humans have a bias towards negativity. We overreact to the bad and undervalue the good.  We get what we focus on. If we focus on the negative stuff then that is all we’ll pay attention to. So to get ourselves out of the trap of negative thinking, we need to take time to give thanks for all the good that we have. It’s hard to do when you are chin deep in troubles but you can’t get yourself out of a negative situation with negative thinking.

“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

Y – Yin/Yang – Accept and embrace all of you. You’re a flawed being who can be silly, compassionate, petty, angry, sad, hurt, funny, ditzy, intelligent, thoughtful, loving and everything else inbetween. This doesn’t mean that you  give up trying to be a better person. It just means accept who you are right now.

What would you include in your personal philosophy?

7 Reasons to Journal

writing-828911_1280Journaling is one of the best tools to make meaning out of the chaos of life and if you aren’t already doing so, I highly recommend you keep a journal.

While a computer journal will work, hand writing has several added benefits. It helps us learn and retain information, engages motor skills and memory and is a good cognitive exercise if you want to keep your brain sharp.

Here are seven reasons to journal:

Vent

We’ve all had a day like this. You forgot to set your alarm so you’re running late. In your haste you end up spilling coffee all over yourself so you have to go and change. To top it all off, there is an accident on the freeway and traffic is at a standstill. By the time you get to work you’re wound up like a rubber band, ready to snap.

Or you’re replaying past events or conversations in your mind that left you stewing, feeling disrespected or unappreciated. Lay it all out in your journal. Labeling and acknowledging your feelings lessens their impact. A good venting will help clear space in your head for what you do want to focus on. Writing it out will help you let it go.

Problem solving

Why is it that you are so tired during the day but the minute you crawl into bed you have that one thought – “How am I going to…?” “What am I going to do about…?”  – that derails any chances of sleep? Our brains like to feel like we are in control and writing it down can help us gain it back. Journaling helps you think through a problem, weigh pros and cons, and come up with solutions.

First, define exactly what the problem is. Let’s say you’ve been hit with some unexpected expenses and you’re worried about money. Put it on paper. Make a budget, brainstorm some options and come up with a plan. Maybe think about preventative measures for the futures, such as setting up an emergency fund.

Find patterns of thought or behavior

Take a look at where you tend to get stuck. Does your interest start waning on a project when things get tough?  Do you start getting careless when you are on the brink of a promotion and end up sabotaging yourself? Notice what patterns come up. Awareness is the first step to change.

You should also be aware of the words you use. Words let you know what your mindset is. For instance, when something goes wrong (it happens, that’s part of life) do you use words like “always” (I always screw up) and “never” (Good things never happen to me)? Do you “should” on yourself? Observe the language you use to describe your world. Is there a better way you can phrase something?

Acknowledge Successes

Humans are a negative bunch. We tend to focus on what’s wrong, exaggerate our weaknesses and downplay our strengths. We all have things we do well but often take them for granted because if we can do them easily, surely everyone else can too, right?

Wrong! Just as it is important to learn from the things that don’t go as planned, it’s vital to celebrate and acknowledge when things do go right, when you’ve mastered a new skill, achieved a milestone in your career or managed to fix that leaky faucet all by yourself.

The satisfaction of accomplishing something, breaking out of our comfort zone, seeing the results of our hard work are part of our growth process and should be celebrated. Remind yourself of all the things that you have achieved to counter balance your not-so-successful attempts.

Sort out your feelings

Have you ever had one of those days where you just felt…off? You’re snappy with your family, feel restless or anxious. Or there’s a big lump sitting in the pit of your stomach, slowly rising up to your throat. Your body is sending you a message and writing can help you decipher it. Go for stream-of-consciousness writing, just let whatever comes to you spill out onto the page. Maybe something will show up and you can deal with, maybe not but the act of exploring it will help calm your limbic system, that part of the brain that deals with emotions.

Creative expression

You can do whatever you want in your journal. Write out your hopes and dreams, bucket list, make plans for your ideal home, business ideas, doodle, collage, tell stories, keep track of quotes or sayings that inspire you and anything else that you can think of or don’t want to forget. It’s yours to do as you please.

Say it with confidence

If there is a conversation that you want to have but are having a difficult time starting it, rehearse it in your journal. Your emotions are likely to get in the way of any logical thought unless you can clarify what you want to say and rehearse it.

Here are a couple of don’ts when journaling

  • Don’t make your journal precious, in the sense that it has to be “perfect”.
  • Don’t worry about scratching stuff out or making it look “pretty”.
  • Don’t worry about spelling. Use shorthand or come up with your own abbreviations.
  • Don’t share it with anyone (unless you feel comfortable doing so). Let it be your safe haven, where you can let everything hang out.

5 tips to stay motivated

motivational-1177435_1280It happens to all of us when we are pursuing our dreams, trying to be engaged in and passionate about our lives. The excitement and novelty wears off, you hit a roadblock, you’re tired. You start questioning if this is the right path. Doubts creep in. You procrastinate and start using avoidance tactics (this is when cleaning out the fridge seems appealing…) It can show up in a million different ways.

I know because it happened to me recently. It isn’t always obvious either, sometimes it just sneaks up on us.

This is normal. It’s all part of the journey and how you handle it can make or break you (or slow you down). Here are some guidelines for this tricky period.

1. Keep your vision in sight.

It is inevitable that we will hit a road block on the path to our dreams. This is when we need to remember why we’re doing this in the first place. Make a vision board, write down in detail what your end result will look like, feel like, smell like, taste like…whatever. Who will you become at the end of this process? Remember the compelling reasons why you started the journey.

2. Seek balance.

If you’re anything like me, when you are pursuing a goal, you tend to focus on it to the extent of ignoring other aspects of your life. All work and no play makes us…cranky. Not good.

We need balance in our lives. Like a car, if we are constantly driving, we will eventually run out of gas. We need to stop and refuel, get our oil changed and batteries charged. Rest, spending time with friends and family, blowing off steam, pursuing a hobby or just getting goofy will fill our tanks. Anything but doing our “work” seems frivolous but it’s not. Perseverance and discipline are good but they can lead to a rut or burn out if we’re not careful.

This is a particularly hard concept for women. We are socialized to put others ahead of us. We nurture everyone but ourselves. Figure out what works for you. It may be something as simple as a good book and hot cup of tea. Or a pedicure. Or a walk. I had to think long and hard about what I needed and a class popped into my head. I love taking classes so I started looking for something creative and fun to do.

3.Try something different.

You’re working hard. You’re hustling. You’re giving it all you got. You’re doing everything by the book but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere…

Maybe it’s time to throw out the book.

Mix it up, switch gears, try something different. If nothing else, just to make things interesting. You never know what will produce results so keep trying.

4.Throw yourself a pity party.

Who says we have to be “up” all the time? Working on our dreams is hard! There are going to be times when you are in the flow and other times you feel like the universe has made you its punching bag. You’re frustrated, disappointed, scared and tired. The last thing you want to hear is another “Be positive, this too shall pass” platitude. Give in to those emotions (I prefer to do this in the privacy of my own room…). Let loose, throw a good old fashioned tantrum, have a hissy fit, shake your fists at the sky at the unfairness of it all, scream into your pillow, or stomp and pout around like a bratty five year old. Really exaggerate it and blow off some steam. Get it out of your system and let it go. You’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to go.

5. Make it fun.

We are pursuing our dreams because we want to come alive, feel energized, engaged and excited about out life. It is serious business but who said you can’t have any fun?

I had a seasonal position in a tax office. I don’t know about you, but ‘filing tax returns” and “fun” aren’t two things I’d associate with each other. However, that was one of the funnest jobs I ever had. It wasn’t the job so much as it was the people I worked with and the atmosphere in the office.

There are always way that you can inject some humor into your day, even if it’s during a break. Can you make a friendly competition? Crank up some music? Turn parts of it into a game? Don’t turn your passion into something that you dread. Make it fun.

What ways do you stay motivated?