Finding Forgiveness on your Night of Power

Regardless of your religious beliefs, wouldn’t it be nice to be forgiven for all your past sins, mistakes and errors before you die?  I’m not religious as much as spiritual, but I find religious traditions and practices fascinating.  This week marks the Islamic holiday, Lailatul Qadr or the “Night of Power”.

To sum it up quickly, the Night of Power marks two events in the Islamic religion.  First is commemorating when the Holy Quran was revealed to Mohammad.  Second, tradition says that by praying sincerely to Allah on this night will result in forgiveness for all your past sins.  (This is a huge oversimplification of this beautiful holiday, so you can read this article for a deeper look at it)

By now, you’re probably wondering if I’ve converted to Islam or if I’m looking to convert you.  Neither.  I just think the idea of being forgiven for all past mistakes is pretty awesome.  Which led me to wonder…

Are you carrying the emotional baggage of past mistakes you’ve made?  Beating yourself up?  Wishing that God, the Universe or other people would forgive you.  Or maybe it’s not your sins or mistakes that need to be forgiven, but someone else’s.  Someone who did you wrong.  Maybe you’ve wished that God, the Universe or other people would properly punish them for their sins against you.

I’ve been in both of those situations.  I’ve made mistakes, some little and some big that I regret to this day. But at some point I forgave myself.  Not until I punished and verbally abused myself ‘enough’, but I did ultimately forgive my mistakes.

I also had to forgive someone that hurt me deeply:  my former best friend of many years.  At one point, she found herself in a financial bind.  While she didn’t ask, I offered her a loan.  It was only a few short months later that she gradually removed herself from my life without explanation.  In retrospect, I can see how it unfolded, but at the time I was just hurt and confused.  After a couple of years and only half of the debt repaid, my anger and resentment towards her was palpable.  (As fate would have it, life still requires that I interact with her occasionally).  Ultimately, I realized that this anger wasn’t hurting her at all, it was only hurting me.  I was carrying around this negative emotional baggage that wasn’t really mine to carry in the first place.  So after A LOT of reflection, I sent her a letter.  I told her (and meant it) that I forgave her actions and even the rest of the debt.  And it felt good to let it go.

Do you have to wait for a “Night of Power” to be forgiven? I don’t think so.  You can make your own “Night of Power” anytime you’d like. What have you done that you’re ashamed of?  What has someone done to you?  Is it serving you any useful purpose to hang on to all of that?  I doubt it.  Learn from it, adjust accordingly, and move on.  It’s not about letting yourself or others off the hook.  It’s about you.  It’s about removing any negativity or bad energy from yourself.

So there are two things I’d like you to do:  Comment in the comments section your thoughts on forgiveness, then write a letter to yourself and/or someone who has hurt you. In it, tell the recipient that you forgive them.  Write it from the heart and mean it.  Then you can send the letter or not, but let it go.  If the wound is too fresh, just try the exercise.  You can return to it when it’s not so raw.  Remember, you’re not doing this to do anyone else any favors.  This is for you.

As always, if you need some assistance in transitioning to a place of forgiveness, I will help you close the gap much more quickly than if you try to do it alone.  Go to my Contact Me page to set up a complimentary 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!!

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.

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.

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.

Using Your Smartphone as a Crutch

Picture this:  It’s nighttime. There’s a woman alone at a bar, wearing a skirt and flowy top with a glass of wine in front of her.  Two seats away, there is a man in a suit.  After several minutes, the woman leans towards him and says, “So, what brings you here?”  Is this woman trying to hook up with this guy?  Is she a prostitute?  Neither.  “This woman” is me.

A few weeks ago, I flew solo across the country to attend a conference where I was guaranteed to know absolutely no one.  While most who know me would describe me as outgoing, friendly and assertive, I also have a very shy side.  This means that networking can be a challenge for me because I don’t want to seem like that self-promoting, narcissistic jerk that I’ve had the misfortune of encountering in the past.

So my first night at the hotel, I went to the hotel restaurant and sat at the bar to get dinner.  I was looking around, observing people and noticed the guy two seats over was doing the same.  For the record, I was wearing a long maxi skirt and an American Eagle hippy-like blouse.  This is NOT my go-to outfit to convey sex appeal.

I’m pretty sure that the guy initially thought I was trying to pick him up or something.  This reaction to my first “step” outside my networking comfort zone could have been enough to have me quit the whole thing, but I stayed strong.  I continued leading the conversation for several minutes before he warmed up to me.  Truth be told, I was really just trying to prove that I wasn’t, in fact, a prostitute.

What really struck me was how many people were holding their smart phones in hand, while intermittently glancing around the room.  I sensed they wanted to talk with someone, but didn’t know how to begin a conversation.  Their phones nothing more than props to show everyone else they did have friends just a text away and were NOT desperate.

I began to reflect on how often I use my phone as a crutch to avoid starting a conversation with a stranger.  To be noted, I did strike up conversation with two other men who also gave me odd looks initially.  I don’t know where my fellow female tribe members were, but there’s a good chance they were eating comfortably in their hotel rooms texting their friends.

Oddly, none of these men were attending the conference, but they served as good practice for me.  I put my phone away and just went with it.  While admittedly it was a rough start, I did find that repetition made me less awkward.

I made many new friends at the conference.  Had I not stepped outside my comfort zone I would have missed out on the opportunity of meeting some amazingly talented and fun people.  Since then, I’ve also noticed that it’s easier to strike up conversation with strangers.

Remember, your friends and lovers were once just strangers to you.

Is it just me? Is everyone else comfortable in these situations? If you can relate, tell me in the comments section what tactics you use in these situations.  These can be either how you avoid interaction or how you engage in interaction.

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.

Hurry Up and Wait – 4 Steps to Achieving your Goals

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure am ready for Spring!! Right around the end of February each year, I start to get that itch to go outside and do things.  (That ‘itch’ is in hibernation pretty much from November through February for me!)

As Spring in New England approaches, I plan hikes and excursions and bike rides and picnics and parties and horseback riding and on and on and on.  There’s just one little thing…I don’t actually DO half of it.  I talk about it excitedly, even research where I’ll go or how I’ll do it, but ultimately, it’s the same old, same old.

I’m in this big rush to do stuff, and then I wait for the next weekend or holiday or season.  But when November returns, I realize I really haven’t done what I was so excited about in the Spring and Summer.  So how is this year going to be different? I’m so glad you asked!

First I’m going to identify my goals.  My youngest will be college-bound in only two years, so I want to put an even bigger emphasis on quality family time.   I want to be more physically fit than I was last year.  I want to focus on delivering more innovative, kickass results professionally.  I want to build relationships with more people beyond my inner circle.

Then I’m going to brainstorm actions that support those goals.  I will consult with family members to come up with activities we can do that everyone will enjoy and commit to.  To meet my physical goal, I will reach out to those who can help keep me motivated and challenge me (I have WAY too many “Mud Runner” friends!!!).  I will avoid “death by research” and take action on my findings each week.  I will schedule time to network or take advantage of opportunities that will expose me to new people.

Weekly ‘pulse’ checks will keep me on track.  I will review my week every Sunday to see which goals I met and any periods where I went off track.  Then I will look at the week ahead and ensure there are enough actions planned that align with my goals.  As new opportunities arise, I will ask myself if they will contribute to, or take away from, my goals.

Finally, I’ll yell it from the rooftop!  For a little accountability fun, I’m going to make sure anyone and everyone is aware of my goals AND schedule a time to Pay the Piper! There’s nothing like a weekly blog for this step!! SOOOO….my November 16th, 2014 blog post will be my “Pay the Piper” post (say THAT ten times fast!!)!

So tell me in the comments section, when do you find yourself ‘hurrying up just to wait’, which of the four steps above would help you the most and what tips do you have to ensure you accomplish your goals!  I’d love to hear from you!!