Where Do You Go When You’re Sad?

The other day, I found myself at a pity party for one.  Each time I tried to leave this party a new cup of Poor Me Tea was delivered along with platters of Succulent Self-Doubt.   All these enticements made it difficult to leave.  Once I successfully exited this party, (which took longer than I’m comfortable admitting), I replayed the scene over and over until I cracked the pattern.

There are two places we tend to time-travel to when we are sad.  The Land of Back Then and The Land of Wish I Was.  Reflecting on our past and wondering about our future can be good exercises in thought.  However, if we allow too much time in these places, we are robbing ourselves of the one thing we actually have possession of…The Land of Right Now.

Let’s take a peek at each time-traveled place.

The Land of Back Then

Short visits here allow you to see any short cuts you could have taken, any wrong turns you made or red flags you missed, and can help to prevent you from making those same errors again in the future.  Spending too much time here can result in a rosier view, which didn’t actually exist.  You’ll see the mistakes you made but you’ll be more likely to make them bigger than they actually were.  This is where your pity party will likely begin with an all you can eat buffet of missed opportunities.

The Land of Wish I Was

While taking a short trip here, you can see all the potential available to you.  Using all five senses will help you remember the feel, sight, taste, sound, and smell of each possibility.  Longer visits will envelop you in what could have been, which will be on the edge of perfection, of course.  Like a dream that seemed ‘so real’, a lengthy visit here can have the same lasting effect.  Also like a dream, it isn’t accurate.

Reality can be greatly skewed when visiting these two lands for too long.  I’ve seen these scenarios play out for myself and others.  The best way out of sadness is to seize the day and live in the moment.  One caveat: Visiting The Land of Back Then and The Land of Wish I Was, are natural during the early stages of grief.  Whether this is due to the loss of a job, a relationship or a loved one, it is part of the process when grieving.  Beyond this however, it’s important that we not spend too much time in either of these places.

We have no authority in the past or the future.  It’s the Land of Right Now where we hold the power.  This is the sweet spot where we can marry the lessons learned from our past and the hopes and dreams we have for our future.  Only by making the best of our Now, can we make our past mistakes worth making and our future dreams worth reaching.

I’d love to hear from you! Tell me in the comments section how you’ve been affected by spending too much time in the past or future or share any tips you have to stay in the here and now!

As always, if you could use some help staying grounded, while still reflecting on your past and planning your future, contact me via my contact page and we can set up a FREE Strategy Session.

Tolerance v. Acceptance

Have you ever had to tolerate a difficult person and the more you tolerated them the more you resented them?  This may have been a boss, a family member, a friend’s spouse, a co-worker.  Over time, you may have found yourself making digs at this person or feeling agitated each time you had to be around them.  I’d like to suggest an alternative to tolerating them: acceptance.

Tolerance can build resentment and often houses anger and judgment.  Acceptance, on the other hand, is a release; an understanding.  This is a much healthier alternative than mere tolerance.  This approach has helped me and many people I’ve coached.  So how do you cross that bridge from tolerance to acceptance?

First, don’t try to change the other person…it’s not going to work.  In a diversity and inclusion workshop I teach, participants are asked to answer the following question: Are you oblivious to others?  The answers they have to choose from are: 1) Always 2) Sometimes 3) Never.  Ninety percent of the time, participants reply “Never”.  Ninety percent!!  If you’re oblivious do you really think you KNOW you’re oblivious?

Second, don’t mistake acceptance for agreement.  Truly accepting another person as they are doesn’t mean you agree with their approach or views.  (Phew!!)  In fact, when you accept each person “as is”, it’s easier to have a conversation because you’re not trying to change them.

Finally, understand that we are all doing the best we can.  As a general rule, none of us TRY to be annoying, inconsiderate or oblivious to others.  We want to be liked, respected and accepted by others.

So, what’s in it for you to accept rather than tolerate?  When you make peace with the idea of accepting someone “as is”, you will feel that peace as well.  You’ll find yourself less resentful.  Accepting someone for who they are, makes the annoying things they do and say, less personal.  They aren’t doing anything to you per se, that’s just the way they are.

The fact is that some people are inconsiderate, bossy, rude, condescending and in possession of other undesirable traits.  And, (here comes a bombshell), sometimes that person will be you.  Wouldn’t you rather be accepted than tolerated?

Share your thoughts on this approach in the comments section.

As always, if you’d like to work on a strategy to improve your relationships, your life and yourself, contact me for a free strategy session.  We’ll make magic together!!

Death by Preparation

How many dreams have died at the hands of preparation?   A lot I tell you.  Are you using preparation as an excuse to stall action?  Are you so busy acquiring credentials that you’re ultimately procrastinating on your dream?  Here are 10 clues that you’re preparing the life right out of your dream:

  1. You said you would take action after completing the last step
  2. The moment you’re on the cliff’s edge, you convince yourself you need “one more” piece
  3. You tell everyone action is coming…soon…but it doesn’t
  4. You don’t have a written plan of action…you’re just winging it
  5. Self-doubt creeps in as you’re approaching completion of a particular step
  6. You compare yourself to others credentials…and feel you come up short
  7. You disregard your own experience and instinct
  8. You are suffering from the Imposter Syndrome…just waiting for everyone to figure out that you’re a fraud (but you’re really not)
  9. You start many sentences with, “I’m going to….”
  10. You’re doing more planning than acting

Perfection comes from action, NOT preparation! You are not guaranteed success on the first try, but you will be a hell of a lot closer to it after each attempt (failed or otherwise).  Your goal should not be to avoid any failures in the pursuit of your dream, but rather to ultimately achieve success by learning from every misstep.

What dream have you been plotting and planning but have yet to take action on?  That’s the one I’m talking about.  Stop plotting and planning and get moving on it.  The most successful and innovative geniuses did not achieve their goals through planning, they achieved them by taking one step at a time.  Some of those steps were planned, but most were not.

You are putting your dream in jeopardy by not taking action on it.  You’ve got this.  I promise you.  It’s time to start doing and stop stalling.  There is little to be learned in the planning stages.  Your lessons will come from your actions.  Learn them in real time, not theory.  You are brave, you are strong and you will be successful…but only if you act.

Tell me in the comments section what action you are going to take to make your dream come true.

As always, if you need a little help stepping out of the planning stage and into the action stage, contact me to set up a FREE strategy session.  Isn’t it time you stopped circling around your dream and actually landed on it?

The Best Investment

Father’s Day is a perfect day to talk about the best investment adults can make.  It isn’t stocks or bonds; fine art or real estate.  It’s children.  All children, not just those you take part in creating or raising.    Your investment need not be monetary, as your investment of time will pay the most dividends.

Children are adults in training.  They are making determinations about life, the world, and how to navigate both.  What lessons are you contributing to?  Which children do you influence?

The kids today will be our leaders tomorrow.  They will run the businesses we work with.  They will make decisions that affect our schools, towns, cities, states and country.  They will change laws and change lives.

Their values and beliefs will be formed from a young age.  These will be influenced by their observations and experiences in life.  Their decisions will be determined by whether they believe most people are good or most people are bad.  Whether the world is worth saving or only worth surviving.

Our children (collectively) are lacking in positive role models.  Particularly male role models, but females as well.  So how can you help?  Here are 10 ways you can get involved in a child’s life:

  1. Volunteer to coach a sports team
  2. Big Brothers, Big Sisters http://www.bbbs.org/
  3. Volunteer at your local YMCA http://www.ymca.net/volunteer/
  4. Volunteer for a United Way sponsored program http://www.unitedway.org/take-action/volunteer
  5. Get involved at a church or other house of faith
  6. Offer your time to a local hospital
  7. Consider fostering a child
  8. Spend some extra time chatting up that neighborhood kid who always seems to be “around”
  9. Find an organization near you that focuses on mentoring children at http://www.mentoring.org/
  10. Seize every opportunity to make an impact on a child and show them the good in the world (grocery stores, restaurants, etc.)

Parents are so overwhelmed these days.  Single parents, economically disadvantaged parents, grandparents who have taken on the responsibility of childrearing and those with medical issues and addictions, tend to struggle the most.  We can judge them and their lack of good parenting skills or we can help out by investing in these children who are our future.

We are all busy, but if we don’t invest now, we will pay later.  Share in the comments section a time as a child when an adult taught you something or share a time you taught something to a child.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s and Father-figures out there today!! <3

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s The Common Denominator After All?

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What’s your struggle in life?  Is it finances, relationships, weight loss, time management, career success or any other challenge?  Do you find yourself attributing this struggle to the economy, no ‘good one’s’ left to date, the environment, all the expectations others have of you, crappy bosses, or some other vague explanation of your woes?  Allow me to introduce you to the most likely contributor to your struggle…you.

I have contributed to every relationship I’ve ever had.  If it was a great relationship, I helped make it great.  If it was a shitty relationship, I helped make it shitty.  At one time, I limited this belief to relationships I had with other people.  But I found this was true in my relationship with money, love, food, time and success.

Sure, when feeling down in the dumps I blamed bigger things (economy, crappy bosses, etc.), but these were not things I could control.  I had to take control of my part in these relationships.  I had to look at my patterns and see how I was sabotaging myself (shock face).  My research indicated I was the common denominator in all of my struggles (duh!).

To illustrate, allow me to introduce my friend “Ray” (some details have been changed to protect privacy).  Ray is one of the nicest guys I know and would give me the shirt off his back if I needed it.  Ray loves his kids (ages 19 and 20), lives in a $500/month, one bedroom, 500sq.ft. apartment in Concord, NH and drives an unreliable 1992 Buick. He divorced when the kids were 5 and 6 and began paying child support then.  He works full time for the city making roughly $50,000/year. Ray is always complaining about money (or the lack of it).  He was recently notified by the state that his child support responsibilities were reduced in 2012 and completed in 2013 (when his youngest turned 19).  Ray had been continually paying the full child support amount until he was notified a few weeks ago.

See where I’m going with this?  He frequently complained about Obama, or the economy, or his low pay, or high rent or any number of external factors.  Yet, he never considered how he was contributing to his own struggle.

As I thought about it, I realized I had walked in those shoes a few times in my life.  I blamed external factors on my struggle.  Granted, those factors contributed to my issue, but they were not the sole cause.  I had a role in it.  A leading role if I’m being honest.  I had to be really honest with myself and commit to changing my own behavior before I started bitching about my problem (this was excruciatingly difficult).

Can you relate?  After considering your most pressing challenge, consider how you are contributing to it.  Then, if you’re comfortable, please share in the comments section your challenge, how you contribute to it and how you will (or did) take steps to turn it around.

As always, if you would like to “turn the ship” more quickly, and get a whole lotta support, contact me (via my contact page) to set up a FREE strategy session.

The Meaning of Life

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Are you searching for the meaning of life?  Like it’s a treasure hunt for only you to find?  Yet you look around you and see so many others finding their treasure and you wonder what the deal is.

Let me set the record straight. The meaning of life is not something you find…it’s something you create.

Stop trying to figure out what you’re meant to do in life, and instead, figure out what meaning you want your life to have.  Do you want to be known for your knowledge or financial success?  Or maybe how you impact a particular field of business or a group of people?

There is no wrong answer.  Do good and be great.  That’s it.  Maybe you’ll be known as an awesome mother.  Perhaps an entrepreneur who found a way to monetize a passion.  It’s possible you’d simply like to be that person who brings joy and happiness to all who know you.  Maybe volunteering is your passion.  Or cooking.  Or running.

There’s no barometer.  There’s nothing to measure yourself against.  This is a game of one.  Solitaire.  Your greatness has nothing to do with others’ greatness.  There is no competition.  I know this may be difficult to understand, but I promise this is true.

Whoever or whatever you’ve been comparing yourself to, you need to stop it.  It doesn’t matter.  We are all on our own independent journey.  It truly doesn’t matter where anyone else is on theirs.  It has nothing to do with yours.

What do you love to do?  What brings you the most joy?  Do that.  The answers to these questions may or may not be your career (aspired or actual).  That’s ok.  Being a great parent or partner may not add to the bank account, but it sure makes a significant difference in the world.

Making millions, saving lives, having the biggest home or most expensive cars mean little if you don’t love what you do.

I want my children to say I impacted their lives in a way that will carry on for generations.  I want my friends and loved ones to say I made their lives better just for knowing me.  I want my clients to feel that their lives are richer and more fulfilled because of my support. That’s it.  Can you measure that in a house or car or bank account?  Do I have to be featured in People magazine or win a Noble prize to confirm my accomplishment?  Nope, I don’t.  I just have to know I did good and I was great at what I did.  That’s it.

So what’s your dream?  I bet it’s awesome!  What would you like to be known for?  I bet it’s great!  Tell me in the comments section.

Consider me your “Dream Advocate”.  If you’d like to explore your dream in a safe, non-judgmental, supportive place, contact me (via my contact page) and we can set up a FREE 1 hour strategy session.

Circle of Friends

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I have some of the best friends in the world.  Some of these friends have known me for most of my life; others have known me for just a few years.  All of them are incredibly valuable to me.  Yet even some of them have scratched their heads at some of my far-fetched plans, ideas and goals.  It isn’t because they didn’t support me or didn’t believe I could achieve them.  But more that they may not have understood my “why”.

Here you are, all passionate about the latest scheme you’ve cooked up and you hear “crickets” and get the “deer in the headlights” look.  You begin to ask yourself if you should toss the dream or toss the friends.  Allow me to answer: Do neither.  You can (usually) keep the friends and the dream.

Should you ever find yourself in this situation I have some “Do’s” and “Don’t’s”.

DO:

  • DO: Share your new struggles with your friends (in a general overview kind of way)
  • DO: Share your new successes with your friends (in a general overview kind of way)
  • DO: Tell your friends specifically how they can support you
  • DO: Continue to support your friends
  • DO: Communicate any changes that may impact the friendship due to working towards your dream (ie: less time to hang out, etc.)
  • DO: Expand your circle by finding new friends with similar goals and interests
  • DO: Nurture these new relationships without feeling guilty

DON’T

  • DON’T: Make every conversation about you and your dream
  • DON’T: Get frustrated with friends that just don’t “get it”
  • DON’T: Allow their attempts to “protect” you, discourage you from achieving your dream
  • DON’T: Assume you can’t make life-long friends later in life
  • DON’T: Pass up opportunities to surround yourself with like-minded people
  • DON’T: Lose sight of your “why”
  • DON’T: Rule out the idea that you may have to let a friend go

There may be attempts, made by friends, to save you from yourself.  Appreciate the fact that they are trying to look out for you instead of assuming it’s because they doubt your ability to achieve your dream.

The idea of a loved one taking a risky, unfamiliar “leap” towards a dream is terribly frightening to some.  Just because they aren’t ready to play at that level, doesn’t mean they don’t support you.  They just may not be able to comprehend the possibility.

Change is scary.  When a friend is changing in some way, it is likely going to impact the relationship.  This may cause friends to resist the change out of fear of a changing dynamic.  I’ve seen this in career shifts, relationship changes, and moving out of a geographical area.

Be you, even if it’s a “new” you, unapologetically.  Be the best friend you can be. Be an advocate of your dream.  Just Be.

I’d love to hear your comments in the comments section.  What are your thoughts, experiences, opinions, and dreams.  I’d really like to know.

Top Ten Positive Qualities of Bitches

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When I think of the qualities I most want to possess, “bitchy” has never been one of them.  But maybe it should be.  Hear me out here peeps.  “Bitch” has several definitions, but I’m referring to the version used for women who behave in a demanding, dominant, dismissive and/or insensitive way.

So why would I EVER want to possess any characteristics related to this behavior?  Because, while this label is associated with undesirable conduct, there are some lessons we ladies could learn:  Here are my Top 10 Positive Qualities of Bitches:

  1. They are decisive
  2. They are clear about their expectations
  3. They communicate their needs succinctly
  4. They don’t let obstacles stand in their way
  5. They have a plan
  6. They aren’t concerned with what other people think of them
  7. They stay focused on their goal
  8. They make certain their needs are met
  9. They use all available resources
  10. They expect to succeed

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a recovering people pleaser.  I tried so hard to please everyone that it would slow me down in making a decision.  I also cared way too much what others thought of me, so my needs often ended up on the back burner.  I’ve found that embracing qualities that can be associated with being a bitch has helped me communicate more clearly and achieve more of my goals.

So while I’m not suggesting you now strive to become The World’s Biggest Bitch, I think as women we could benefit from turning our bitch up at times.  You don’t have to become a mean girl, in fact, please don’t, but be decisive, be assertive and expect to succeed. Communicate your needs respectfully, but unapologetically.

Everything is degrees.  Assertiveness is great, but if it’s turned up too high it becomes aggressive; turned down too low and it’s timid.   Fine tune your inner bitch and let her help you achieve your goals.

Tell me in the comments section which of the Top 10 Characteristics you could “turn up” to gain more satisfaction in your life.

Mommy Memories

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So for this week’s post, I enlisted the help of my kids.  I asked them to share some of their most memorable Mommy moments.  I gave them total control over what they shared and let them know I would be posting it today.  They could share funny, embarrassing stories including those where I completely screwed up.

I was expecting some stories about close calls: That time when Vince was in 5th grade and I washed my underthings with his pants that happened to have Velcro pockets…(see where this is going?).  Caught in time, but it was a close call!  Or maybe a few of those dinners that didn’t come out, um, edible?

For the happy moments, I was sure Sabyl would mention Disney World and Vince would mention his car.  Two huge expenses that both were so grateful for, but neither of which were mentioned.

I wasn’t so surprised by what they did share, but more that these were the first to come to mind.  So here goes:

Sabyl:  I remember when you were yelling at me for something and I just started bursting out laughing, because of my tendency to laugh in awkward situations, but you just started bursting out laughing and beating me with the stuffed banana. (Is there a DCF statute of limitations?)

Vince: When you came to my first sponsored skateboarding competition and stayed the whole day to watch us compete.

Sabyl:  All of the lunches we spent together just talking about anything and knowing I can tell you everything.

Vince: After I got my driving permit, you taught me how to drive standard and stood behind the car on a slight hill, telling me if I didn’t pull forward in time, I’d roll backwards over you. (I don’t recommend trying this at home, but hey, I recognized that he possessed his mother’s superior driving skills!)

Sabyl:  When we went to the grocery store and you would talk in a British accent to the cashier purposely to get me mad.  (It wasn’t just to get you mad dahling, but perhaps if you weren’t being such a bloody nincompoop, I wouldn’t have had to resort to such methods!)

Feeling in the spirit of things, I then asked them to tell me what piece of advice or life lesson that I gave them, do they most live by today.

Vince: Think before you act (hearing this made me smile, but he continued with…”I ask myself that question before I do a lot of stuff, but when you used to yell at me for doing stupid things, I heard that a lot.”

Sabyl:  Be trustworthy.  Be the friend that doesn’t share secrets. (Girl Code, ya know?)

So while I would love to say that these examples fully represent my parenting skills, that would be untrue.  I just have very compassionate kids who were kind enough to not share my many, many mistakes as a mom.

I share these to show that you just never know when one tiny memory, seemingly forgettable, will end up being a child’s fond memory.

Their memories reminded me that it isn’t the things, the big events or even the toughest lessons.  It’s just the time.  The time that they felt I was 100% present with them.  I wish I knew this as a young parent. But I know it now.  I know that no matter how old my children are, they will always crave my undivided attention when they need it.

Another thing I know now…I’m just really, really lucky to me a mom.  Happy Mother’s Day to all you mom’s out there and all you wonderful women who have supported and cared for another living thing.  It’s your day too!

In the comments section, I’d love if you would share a special Mommy memory you have.

Verbal Boxing Ring Roles & Goals

winIsn’t it funny how when you’re observing others argue, you possess all the necessary skills of fairness, yet when you’re in the verbal boxing ring those skills are less accessible?

Arguments and disagreements are a way of life.  They’re inevitable.  They can also be incredibly beneficial when handled correctly.  While I understand the whole “passive-aggressive” approach, it’s wholly unproductive.  Unless the recipient of the passive-aggressive behavior is intuitive enough to understand what the message is, a resolution is virtually hopeless.

There are two roles in the verbal boxing ring:

  1. Advancer – The one swinging
  2. In the Ropes – The one ducking

In order for a conflict to have any chance at a resolution, there must be one of each role in the ring.  If there are two Advancers, nobody is listening.  If there are two In the Ropes, nobody is communicating effectively.

There are two universal goals to any person in a conflict:

  1. Understand where I’m coming from
  2. Acknowledge the validity of my perspective

As the Advancer is usually the most emotional, following are tips to help the one In the Ropes understand and acknowledge the Advancer.

Understand where I’m coming from

In times of conflict, the Advancer wants to articulate their version of the story.  The more emotional they are, the more difficult this is for them to do.  If they are dodging “jabs” or getting “blocked” each time they try to communicate, the conflict will only escalate.  Remember, you don’t have to agree, you only have to understand their perspective.  Here are some tips to understanding:

  • Just listen – respond only to indicate that you’re listening
  • Do not interrupt – this includes not correcting any inaccurate information they have
  • Stay in control of your emotions – you can’t both be Advancers
  • Ask questions for clarity – once they have completely finished speaking
  • Mirror back the story – this is not to be a wiseass.  You want to be sure you correctly understand where they are coming from and how they feel
  • Tone & body language – these need to support your words of understanding

Acknowledge the validity of my perspective

Nobody likes to feel crazy.  The idea during the acknowledgement stage is to assure the other person that you understand how they could feel that way.  Again, this is not about agreeing with it.  Here are tips to help during this stage:

  • The Advancer’s feelings are not up for debate – acknowledge their pain
  • Do not negate their perspective – no matter how “out there” it may seem
  • Apologize when appropriate
  • Once the Advancer has stopped advancing, ask them if they would allow you to share your perspective

Once an Advancer truly feels understood and acknowledged, they are likely in a better state of mind to remove the gloves.

Once you understand where the other person is coming from, you’re in a better position to tailor a response that respects their viewpoint while sharing your version.

I know that in the midst of arguments, it’s much more difficult to take on the role of the one In the Ropes let alone follow all the tips. Trying even just some of the tips will shorten the length of your arguments, make them more productive and increase the likelihood of a resolution.

Feel free to share and post these tips, but in the meantime, share in the comments section which tip you find most difficult to follow when you’re in an argument.