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.

How a Conversation with my Young Self Reminded Me to Play Big

iStock_000010510059SmallAt the risk of raising suspicions that I’ve been sniffing Wite-Out, I’d like to ask you a question.  When was the last time you had a conversation with your eight-year-old self (or any younger version)?

At the closing of a conference I recently attended, participants took part in a guided meditation.  During this guided meditation, we briefly glimpsed younger (and older) versions of ourselves who smile and point us on our way.  This exercise got me thinkin’!

If I was able to meet with myself as a child, what questions would she ask me about how life has been? This thought alone brought me a (surprising) amount of emotional pain.  See, as a child, I was optimistic, excited, curious, and filled with a hope that couldn’t be distinguished, (like most children I suspect).  While, for the most part, I’m still all of those things, there’s one thing that has dimmed.  I was a Fearless Dreamer.

By Fearless Dreamer I mean there was no dream too big for me.  I could be a firefighter, astronaut, college professor, lawyer, humanitarian, philanthropist…anything I could imagine.  I could drive a hot pink convertible Corvette, have a huge apartment in Manhattan and a beautiful country home in my hometown.  Yes, all of these, and more, were the things I dreamed about.

So why does the idea of meeting with my child-self make me sad?  Because I think I’d disappoint her.  I picture her excitedly trying to guess which of my dreams came true. “Are you a college professor? Do you have a Manhattan apartment with a beautiful view of the city at night? How many kids did you have? Did you change the world and make it better?”  On and on she’d go, ticking off questions quicker than I could answer them.

Then my adult-self would begin to say things like, “well, it’s complicated.  See, it’s not as easy to accomplish those dreams.  There are bills and obligations and responsibilities…” It’s at this moment, that her face goes from bright eyed excited curiosity, to confused bewilderment that shows on her furrowed brow, to a disappointed, shoulder drooping, sad glance down to her lap.  As if I told her there was no Santa Claus or Easter bunny.

This image makes me sad.  Very sad, in fact.

That is until I start coaching myself.  I’m all about perspective (as you probably know), so how could I shift my perspective to a more positive angle, while still being truthful?

Well that wasn’t as hard as I thought.  I imagined a new and improved conversation with my child-self.  I’d say, “Well, I didn’t accomplish those dreams in the way I thought I would when I was you, but I accomplished many.  I have an office that feels warm and welcoming, has lots of sunlight and the sound of birds chirping.   I’m not a college professor, but I’ve been able to help people be more optimistic, excited, curious and hopeful about life.   I’ve helped them to dream big, thanks to you.  And also thanks to you, I’ve continued to dream big.  In fact, I’m working on a big dream now!“  This is where she says to me, “So dreams really DO come true!”  She jumps up, gives me a big crooked-toothed smile that reaches her eyes, a tight hug and runs off towards that swing set she so loved to dream on.

All I know is that I have more work to do to make even more of my dreams come true.  Meeting with her reminded me to stop putting limitations or restrictions on my dreams.  If I can dream it, I can be it.  Care to join me?

Tell me in the comments section how you would feel meeting with your young self and what you could still learn from that version of you.

Fast Track to Authenticity – Stop Letting Others Define You

Do you remember being called something negative as a child?  Ugly, stupid, fat, skinny, short, etc.? Or maybe nothing THAT negative, but labels like, willful, stubborn, argumentative, flighty, absent minded or the like?

It amazes me how many of us, as adults, still unknowingly hold onto those labels.  How we’ve taken the words and actions of others and assigned them meaning in our life and in our identity, (keeping in mind that some of these labels were given to us by 7 year olds).  And we’re still buying into it, or trying to prove them untrue.

So much of our joy (and pain) in life is determined by our perspectives.  As a recovering people-pleaser, I get it.  For years I tried to be whatever others expected me to be.  I put so much value on the opinions of others and virtually no value on my own.

On the flipside of that, I would expend a huge amount of energy trying to prove people wrong if I didn’t like their opinion of me (all while wondering if their opinion of me was actually fact).

Worse than all of that was, at times, I would make assumptions about what other people thought of me.  As a 26 year old single mom, attending PTO meetings at my son’s school was awkward to say the least.  I was sure all those other moms were judging me.  Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t, but this colored my perspective of myself.  I put a high value on what I assumed these women thought of me.  That was not only unfair to me, but also to them.

So how did I stop caring what other people thought of me?  I didn’t. I still care what others think of me, I just don’t let it define me.  I define me.  I decide every day who I am and who I want to be.  Does it hurt when I have a hater?  Sure it can, but that’s ok.  I reflect on their perception, see if there’s any room for improvement and move on.

If I feel there’s room to improve and align with who I want to be, then I work towards it because I want to be the best version of myself.  For me. Not to prove them wrong.  Haters gonna hate! They’re not going to suddenly adore me if I change.

So what criticisms have you over-valued in your life?  What labels just aren’t true anymore (and maybe never were)?  Who do YOU want to be?  All your yesterdays are over.  You can’t change them.  But you can change your today and all your tomorrows.

What are you waiting for?  Tell me in the comments section which three adjectives best describe who you want to be.

Are Lap Dances Cheating?

A couple weeks ago a woman called into the local radio station.  She wanted to ask the listeners if they thought her boyfriend getting a lap dance at a strip club was considered cheating.   So in essence, I guess she was wondering whether to be mad or not.

I got the impression that “boyfriend” told her he was going to the strip club.  I also got the impression that he told her he got a lap dance.  Regardless, I couldn’t figure out why she was asking the question.

What if the majority of callers said, “Yes, that is absolutely cheating and unacceptable”?  How would she have reacted?  Or, what if the majority of callers said, “No way, that’s totally ok”?  She seemed so clearly neutral to the situation and just wanted to know which socially acceptable “team” she should be on.

While most of us don’t come by our beliefs from the radio, do you ever wonder where you acquired some of them?  How you came to believe them?  If you even really believe in them anymore?

One of my favorite questions to ask is “why”.  This is especially true when someone has a limiting belief.  This typically drives my friends and clients crazy, but it really gets to the core.  So for instance, I recently spoke with a 40-something-year-old, who said, “I could never change careers now”.  I asked her why and continued to challenge her limiting beliefs.

In another conversation a woman thought she had nothing to offer the world because she didn’t finish college.  I asked if she truly believed that or if she just thought everyone else did.  I could rattle off a bunch of successful people who didn’t finish college.  Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Russell Simmons, Ted Turner, Brad Pitt, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Oprah, Tom Hanks, shall I go on??

Moral of the story?  Don’t let others define your rules.  You’re the boss of you!  If you want to “cut off” your boyfriend because of a lap dance, have at it.  If you couldn’t care less about lap dances so long as all involved retained possession of their own DNA, that’s cool too.

On the other hand, if your beliefs are limiting what you can do or enjoy, ask yourself why you are hanging on to it.  The most inspiring stories come from those who challenged both their own and other’s beliefs.  The 4 minute mile was at one time deemed impossible by experts…until someone did it.  Then someone else broke that record.  Bob Wieland lost both his legs in war.  Yet he’s run numerous marathons…entirely on his hands.

Do you have a belief that you let go of once you realized it wasn’t truly yours?  How about a belief that’s unshakable to you.  You believe it to your core.  Share in the comments section what those are for you.

Exploring Your Negativity

I’m a very positive, non-judgmental kinda gal.  However, recently I drove by a billboard that had a woman decked out in German attire holding a nice big mug of beer.  She looked kind of silly.  Well not “kind of”, she looked ridiculous.  As I drove beyond it, I couldn’t stop wondering what she was thinking posing for that billboard dressed like that.   How does she respond when her friends tease her about it?  What about when she’s grocery shopping?  She must get those odd glances from fellow shoppers.  How does she feel about being the “Billboard Lady”?

Then I started wondering: Why do I care? Why am I spending so much energy trying to get in this woman’s head? Why am I feeling such negativity about it?  And then it hit me.  I would never have the kahunas to dress like that and have it plastered on a billboard.  I’d be too worried about what other people thought about it.

I’m all about embracing your authentic self without regard to how others judge you, and yet here I was.  Feeling negativity towards a woman who clearly didn’t give a crap what others thought about her billboard image.  In fact, maybe she felt pride to be the one pictured.  Maybe that’s her German restaurant and she’s damn proud of it.  Either way…You Go German Girl!!

This incident has led me to reflect on my own insecurities when I have a knee-jerk reaction to judge someone else.  These are the questions I ask myself:

Why do I care? – This is the first question to determine where the negativity is coming from.  If it involves harming someone or something else, then I’m probably justified.  Otherwise, it’s likely pointing at an internal issue.

What’s my issue with it? – That middle aged mom clearly wearing her teenage daughter’s clothes.  I’m not the “Fashion Police”.   What’s my issue?  Am I jealous that she can pull it off?  Am I insecure in my relationship and concerned she’ll steal my romantic partner’s attention?

How can I work on this now? – Once I’ve identified the insecurity, I can work on it.  Using the example above, I would ask myself if I’m not confident in my own appearance, what can I do to change that?  Or, if I’m concerned about a straying partner, what work needs to be done in the relationship?  Is that insecurity because I’m not confident in my appearance or is my intuition telling me something is going on?

Ultimately, I’ve found this type of reflection incredibly beneficial to understanding what aspects of my life I need to focus attention on.  Exploring the root cause of any negativity helps me understand myself, and others, better.  Look within first.  It’s a good practice to living a positive, authentic life.

Tell me in the comments section how this resonates with you.

Empty Your Mind to Spark Creativity

There are an endless amount of books and workshops dedicated to the topic of creativity.  We’ve all heard at one point or another that incredibly annoying phrase: “Think outside the box”.  Whether your work is in art, construction, accounting or management, we all need to get creative in order to be innovative and cutting edge in our chosen field.

The creative process begins in our brain.  Many of us, however, are using so much of our brain power to remember “stuff” that we aren’t leaving a whole lot of space for being creative.  We are so busy trying to remember appointments, plans, schedules, dates, names, numbers, facts, responsibilities and about a thousand other things, that we can’t very well afford a lot of time and energy on creativity.

So what to do?  Get all of that “stuff” out of your head! Here are my Top 5 tips to activating your creativity by emptying your mind:

#5 – Learn To Say “No” – You can’t do it all.  Respectfully decline requests and favors that you just don’t have the time (or interest) to do.  Creativity takes time, so using your time wisely will contribute to your pièce de résistance.

#4 – Practice the Two Minute Rule – Sometimes procrastinating on a task uses more energy than if you had just done it in the first place.  A great rule of thumb is if you can take an action on something in two minutes or less, just do it.  This works really well for email and delegating.

#3 – Write (or record) All Those Amazing Ideas – I tend to think of the most ingenious ideas when I’m driving, waking in the middle of the night or showering.  Then I promise myself to remember the idea at a more opportune time.  Which I don’t.  So when the next epiphany strikes, write it down or record it on your phone’s voice recorder immediately (or as soon as you’re out of the shower)!

#2 – Get Everything (yes, EVERYTHING) Out Of Your Head And Down On Paper – This was no easy task, but a truly life-changing one.  I literally wrote down every single thing I was trying to remember:  Upcoming birthday’s, errands to run, emails to send or respond to, phone calls to make, ideas to research and explore, shopping lists, to-do lists and so on.  This exercise took about an hour but resulted in nothing but space in my brain (zero points for any and all jokes resulting from this line!).  I truly had nothing to think about but ideas, concepts and theories.  It was like having Disney World all to myself!

#1 – Use A Project Organization Software Program  – You aren’t freeing your mind if you don’t trust the system you use to maintain all the “stuff” you just emptied. You can use a good old fashioned filing system, but I prefer Nozbe.  (There’s a free version too.) I put everything I wrote down in Tip #2 into my Nozbe account which alerts me when an action is due.  So Nozbe does the remembering for me.

Some of these ideas came from David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” which is also featured in my March ‘Recommended Read’.

If you’d like to take your creativity to the ultimate level, I recommend that you check out two of my favorite books on the topic:

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield                                                                                                               “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon

I’m not kidding when I tell you these steps have been life-changing for me.  The first few days after using them, I came up with some really original and creative ideas.  I was also more relaxed and quicker on my feet because I wasn’t using so much of my brain power to remember things.  Tell me in the comments section how you keep your creativity charged.