Be in the Flow – Follow Your Path!

Don’t Make Assumptions

Don’t Make Assumptions

 Today I want to share with you a part from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In it he shares the wisdom of the Toltec, an ancient wisdom that is most accurately described as a way of life, distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love.

 

We all want happiness and love. When asking any parent, what they most want for their children, happiness is at or near the top of the list.

 

The concept of “Don’t make assumptions” helps us see the world in a different light. The author shows us just how pervasive our assumptions are by giving us an example. If we were transported 700 years into the past, with all our knowledge that we have today, it wouldn’t be long until we would be seen as someone to fear who needed to be eliminated. The same way we can imagine that a person from 700 years into the future would see our current distortions and find us backwards and our world full of lies that we are assuming is the truth.

 

The concept of “Don’t Make Assumptions” is particularly powerful in human interactions. We assume that others think the way we do. We assume that our spouse knows us so well that we don’t have to ask for what we want. We assume that our spouse wants to do what we want them to do for us.

 

None of us reads minds. It is best when we explicitly ask for what we want. The other person has the right to say yes or no, but we have the right to be heard. Open and frequent communication clears the air of misunderstandings, helps us understand where the other person is coming from, and endears us to one another. We have the opportunity to genuinely appreciate the other person or share how much something they did meant to us. It is said that what we praise we get more of.

 

So, have the courage to ask questions, get clarification rather than assuming what something meant and ask for what you want.

Set a Goal and go after it

Jack Canfield, world famous author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, has also written his enormously successful book “The Success Principles”. In it he shares with us the most important steps he has uncovered for becoming successful in any endeavor. He not only draws on his own experiences but he has taken seminars and workshops from many of the most successful people and has interviewed many others on how they have achieved their success. Jack has boiled down all this expertise into 64 of the most important success principles.

 

Today I want to share with you his principle “Just lean into it”. When we set a goal we may not know how we’ll achieve it or even what steps to take. We may not even know exactly how our goal will look when we achieve it. The important thing is to get started. Let me give you an example.

 

I grew up in Germany. When I was in 9th or 10th grade, I was struggling in my English class. I wanted to get better but I just didn’t know how. Then I came across a summer school program in England. I signed up and spent several weeks in England taking English classes and living with a British family. Being immersed in English for several weeks certainly helped but I still needed more. Then my path took a completely different turn.

 

Next I found out about a program to spend a year in America as a high school exchange student. I applied and eventually not only spent a year in America, but I stayed for life. I am now fluent in English, but when I first started on a quest to improve my English skills, I would have never expected to settle in America. I thought I was just after getting a better grade in my class.

 

Another example is the story of Martin Luther King Jr. When he started encouraging people to fight racial segregation, he undoubtedly could not have foreseen that less than 60 years later we would have a black president.

 

So what about you? What are your goals and how can you begin to take steps? How can you find out what other people have done to achieve what you want to achieve? Can you interview someone? Are there books or tapes available to teach you what you want to know? Can you take a course or do you need a degree? In the end you can learn all about it but just like riding a bike – you can’t learn it from reading a book. You need to take action. And that might be scary.

 

Reasons we might not be willing to take action towards our goals:

  • It never occurs to us
  • It’s inconvenient – we have to seek out information and make time to learn it
  • Fear of rejection – asking others for help or advice – we might get rejected
  • Fear of change – learning something new and taking action will mean change and that might be uncomfortable
  • Unwillingness to work hard – taking actions towards our goals means having to work extra in addition to what we already have to do on a daily basis. Many people are unwilling to put in the extra effort.

 

Look at this list. Is it worth giving up on your goals and dreams because of these reasons? I hope you make the choice to go after your dreams and goals. Ask yourself, “What is the next step I can take?” And then have the courage to take it.

 

One of the best ways I know to stay on track towards achieving your goals is to have a coach or at least an accountability partner. We often will do things for others that we won’t do for ourselves. Having someone to support you and hold you accountable may be just what you need to help you achieve your goals. Aren’t you worth it?

Anxiety and What to do Instead

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

It can also describe a psychiatric condition, which is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Medication is available to address this form of anxiety. This article does not address the psychiatric condition but instead addresses that worry and unease that we all feel at times.

There are several categories of anxiety.

1. About the past or the future.
This type of anxiety is about mentally leaving the present and dwelling on the past or the future. We can dwell on the past of what we could have done differently or how we could have avoided certain mistakes. Or how we could have done a better job of getting things done instead of procrastinating.

How often do you worry about the future whether it is next week or next year? Will we be able to take a vacation? Will the kids get good grades and be able to go to the college of their choice? Will there be enough money? Will we like the new neighbors that just moved in next door? Will we get along with the new employee? All these and many more anxiety provoking thoughts will resolve themselves in time. Worrying about them does nothing but rob us of peace of mind and joy in the present moment.

2. Confrontations and conversations.
I remember my mother thinking endlessly about what was said and how she might have said the wrong thing or something dumb. She would worry endlessly about her lack of communication skills. Most of the time this was a complete non-issue. Nobody paid much attention to how she expressed herself. It was all in her head.

Similarly we can fret endlessly about a difficult upcoming conversation. May be we want to ask our boss for a raise, or we have a performance review coming up. May be we are planning a confrontation with a friend who has hurt our feelings and we want to clear the air and let her know how it made us feel. We can fuss endlessly over what to say and how to say it, and chances are, in the end, it isn’t a big deal at all.

3. Duties and obligations of the day.
We can worry about all that needs to get done instead of focusing on the task at hand. Or we start one thing only to think of another task that needs to be done, start that one and after a day of starts and stops have nothing complete and a mess on our hands.

Enjoy the journey

So what shall we do instead? All through life we have goals and expectations. As we achieve certain goals, others come into view. It is easy to keep our eyes on the goal to the detriment of enjoying the present. Make time daily to appreciate the little things and have joy in your heart. Life is about the journey and we miss out on so much if we don’t play and put joy into every day. Create memories every day. Once the day is gone, the opportunity to appreciate and love the day is over. If a day is particularly stressful, just remember – this too shall pass.

And don’t despise the day where small things are happening. Everything starts small. Before we can walk or run we need to learn to crawl. When going to school, we start in first grade, not in high school. When learning to speak to groups we start with small groups and short speeches, before we are ever ready to talk for hours in front of hundreds of people. So enjoy the small first tentative steps in any new endeavor, not only the big successes that come later.

Making Love Relationships Work

John Gottman, PhD is the expert on why marriages succeed or fail. He conducts his research in his “love lab” in Seattle. He has observed thousands of couples and with his research he has been able to predict with great accuracy which couples stay together and which marriages end in divorce.

 

First of all, there are four troublesome issues that cause a marriage to be unhappy. Gottman calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal.

 

The first horseman is criticism. There may not appear to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaints are an important part of a healthy relationship and allow for discussing differing expectations whereas criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality or character – rather than a specific behavior. An example of criticism is, “Why did you buy that – when you know we’re trying to save money? You always do things like that – you just don’t care.” Criticism is more global rather than something specific. Another example from Gottman’s book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” shows clearly the difference between a complaint and criticism.

  • Complaint: We don’t go out as much as I’d like to.
  • Criticism: You never take me anywhere.

 

The second horseman is contempt. Contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. It stems from negative thoughts about your partner – you no longer have respect for your partner. Signs of contempt include name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and body language such as rolling your eyes.

 

The third horseman is defensiveness. When contempt enters the relationship, people feel attacked. Often they respond with defending themselves. The self-defense can take several different forms.

  • Denying responsibility (I didn’t do anything wrong.)
  • Making excuses (Blaming external circumstances)
  • Cross-complaining (Countering a complaint with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your partner has said.)
  • Yes-butting (Agreeing with the complaint, but having a reason that outweighs the transgression.)
  • Repeating yourself (Continue to restate your position without attempting to understand the other’s point of view.)

 

The forth horseman is withdrawal. When defensiveness isn’t getting anywhere, one spouse will often turn to silence or physically remove himself from the room. But that doesn’t work either. Instead of being neutral, withdrawal conveys disapproval, icy distance and smugness. The message is that I am disengaging from any meaningful interaction with you. If this does not result in divorce it will result in living lonely parallel lives.

 

What can you do if any of these four horsemen have invaded your marriage? Here are several suggestions.

  • Calm down. When you feel your heart rate escalate during an argument, take a time out. When you are both calm, you can continue the conversation. But don’t just ignore the problem; make specific plans to continue the conversation.
  • Speak non-defensively. If you can learn to listen to your spouse without becoming defensive and without triggering defensiveness in your partner, it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Validate. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Tell her that you understand what she is saying. Acknowledge when you are wrong or apologize. When appropriate compliment your spouse. Sincere appreciation of what your spouse is doing goes a long way to maintain harmony in the home.

 

If you can keep the four horsemen out of your relationship and practice the above suggestions, you have come a long way towards making your relationship work. Additional resources are available at www.gottman.com

 

Seven steps to being highly confident

How you feel about yourself can affect how your day and your life goes. If you are feeling down about yourself, you exude that to others. People may give you a wide berth, since your negative energy is something they just don’t want to be around. So how can you be more positive and come across as confident?

Here are seven steps to a more confident you.

 

  1. Make a list of your strengths.

It doesn’t matter if there are people that are better than you. It only matters that you know it is a strength of yours. List everything you can think of: you know how to drive a car and ride a bicycle. You know how to use a computer, check your email, write documents using MS Word, create a spreadsheet, and make a PowerPoint presentation. You know how to buy groceries and put together a healthy meal. You know how to clean your home and do your laundry. May be you can paint, play a musical instrument or have other artistic talents. May be you are a good listener or problem solver. May be you are in a loving relationship. Think of your past successes. Make a list of all of it. Put it in a safe place where it won’t be discovered, maybe carry it with you, so you can give yourself a confidence boost any time you want one.

 

  1. Take care of yourself.

How you treat yourself is how others will treat you. Be kind to yourself. Have a routine that includes regular sufficient sleep, daily hygiene starting with a shower that wakes you up and refreshes you. Dress well. How you look has an effect on how you feel and how others perceive you. Make time for breakfast to start the day out right. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it is only a twenty-minute walk around the neighborhood. Try to eat moderate portion sizes and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Consider meditating or yoga as a form of relaxation.

 

  1. Learn about your body language.

When you walk hold your head high and your shoulders straight (no slouching when you walk). When you are talking try to become aware of what facial expressions you are making and what your hands are doing. You could try and hold a pretend conversation in front of the mirror or ask a friend to give you feedback on your non-verbal communication. With practice you can project confidence instead of emotions such as nervousness, anxiety or boredom. Nothing portrays confidence as a relaxed stance, speaking loudly and clearly, and making eye contact.

 

  1. In conversation, learn to listen.

People love to talk to someone who is interested and who listens to what they have to say. Ask questions about things you genuinely want to know about and then listen. Look for the best in others and sincerely compliment them. When others ask you questions, learn to get to the point or tell a short interesting story that illustrates your point.

 

  1. Learn to handle rejection.

Rejection is an inevitable part of life. Realize that often rejection isn’t personal. If you are asking someone to get together for lunch and they say ‘no’, it may not have anything to do with you. They may already have plans or they are overcommitted and need the time to work on something. If you are asking someone to buy something from you, again a ‘no’ in all likelihood has nothing to do with you. They may have no need for what you have to sell, they may not have the money to buy what you have or any other number of reasons why they say ‘no’. Don’t take it personally. On the other hand, rejection may be personal. Try to accept that not everyone wants to spend time with you or buy from you. Find others who do want what you have or want to spend time with you.

 

  1. Learn public speaking.

Being confident when speaking in front of a group is a major coup. It can be learned. To learn more about that topic read my article from May 22, 2014, ‘Fear of Public Speaking? No Problem’ In fact I know of someone who was a stutterer but learned to speak in public without stuttering. You can overcome your fear of public speaking.

 

  1. Practice entering new environments.

Whether you start a new job or join a new group, entering a new environment can affect your confidence. Decide to be outgoing and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Be sincerely interested in what others have to say and use your conversational skills. This is a chance to make a favorable first impression.

There are many steps you can take to build up your level of confidence. Pick one and stick with it for a while. Notice how your skills and confidence get a boost.

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How and Why to Forgive

How and Why to Forgive

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is something you can do whether the person you forgive is alive or not. Forgiveness is more about healing your heart than it is about the other person. And why should you forgive those who have harmed you? As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It damages the vessel in which it is stored.” Below is a powerful story of forgiveness.

There are many stories of World War II Holocaust survivors who have been able to forgive their captors and tormentors. Here is one of those stories. It is the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid their Jewish neighbors in their home, were caught and sent to a concentration camp. She was the only survivor. After the war she traveled throughout Germany, giving talks on forgiveness. On one of those talks she came face-to-face with one of her cruel prison guards.

“I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.“

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”.

 

Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Realize that the hatred you feel harms you and not your enemy. Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.
  2. Stop being the victim. The best revenge is to live a successful and happy life. Surviving the harm caused by another person has made you stronger.
  3. Make a list of the strengths you have gained from the negative experience.
  4. Think about the kind and selfless people who have helped you in your time of need and what example they set for you.
  5. Give yourself time to heal. Nurture yourself.
  6. Writing down your negative experience may help – get it out of your head and onto paper.
  7. Stop telling your negative story. Negativity is depressing.
  8. Wish your enemy well. This creates cognitive dissonance and eventually it can neutralize your feelings about the other person.

 

Additional Resource

For additional information on the forgiveness process and the benefits to the forgiver check out the book “Forgiveness is a Choice – A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope” by Robert Enright.

 

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By Guest Blogger, Wendy Cullitan, In the Write Zone

Much has been written about the power of the mind/body connection. As a yoga practitioner for 20 years and yoga teacher for eight, I know there’s truth to the benefit of moving the body and breathing in specific ways to help calm what yogis call Chitta Vritti or mind chatter. This chatter is constant, even though we are often unaware of it.

Practicing yoga is one way to clear the mind and create more space within for creativity and productivity. As the saying goes, what “we pay attention to grows.” By participating in mindfulness activities, you can train your mind to shift from negative thoughts to positive ones, from fear to calm, from non-stop chatter to clarity.

Starting a yoga practice is easier said than done. That’s why I am sharing with you a simple, restorative yoga sequence to gently release tension in postures that allow the body to rest and revitalize.

You don’t need any special props, but if you have a yoga mat, use it; otherwise, dress comfortably and have two firm pillows and a timer nearby. Set up near a wall with

 

1. Begin in Child’s Pose.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. If you can’t sit on your heels, place a pillow (or two) between your heels and your bottom.

Hold that position for 2 minutes. Take deep inhalations (listen for the sound of your breath, feel your belly expand like a Buddha belly) followed by slightly longer exhalations to release toxins in your body. Notice where you are holding on to tension (lower back is common) and visualize your exhalations traveling there. Notice what happens. Continue this type of breathing awareness for the next two poses as well.

 

2. Next up is Reclining Butterfly/Supta Baddha Konasana

This classic restorative posture stretches the inner groin, thighs and knees. It also helps reduce stress, mild depression and cramps. Click Supta Baddha Konasana to view details on how to set up and plan to rest for 5 minutes.

 

3. Now move into Legs Up the Wall Pose/Viparita Karani.

In order to more easily get into this pose, start off sitting sideways next to the wall with your feet on the floor. Place one hand at your low back, lean back and pivot your legs up the wall. Once your legs are against the wall, press your forearms into the ground to help move your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Lay on your back with your legs resting up the wall. The benefits to this pose include reduced backache and headache and is a wonderful antidote to insomnia.

Legs up the wall pose can be combined with the other poses if you have more time or done on it’s own if you are short on time. 2014JUN05 legsuptheWallPose

At first, aim to hold Viparita Karani for 2-5 minutes and build up to 10 minutes or longer. As soon as the weight of your legs becomes too much, roll to your side in the fetal position and rest for 8 deep inhalations and exhalations before doing the next pose.

 

4. Finally, sweet Savasana!

Every yoga class ends with this quintessential posture that allows the body and mind time to integrate what has shifted internally. Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Turn your palms face up. Take one deep inhalation through your nose and a long exhalation with your mouth open and sigh. Repeat three times. Then, let go of the pattern of your breath. Let your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. This is your time to completely relax in a state of deep relaxation. Stay for 5-10 minutes.

This sequence can be followed whenever you need to unwind! Let me know what you think.

 

About the Author: Wendy L. Cullitan, principal of Wordsmith Communications, is an award-winning writer, editor and marketing consultant. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University. Wendy finds balance in her life through an avid yoga practice that began in 1995. Her personal self-discovery prompted her to become a yoga teacher in order to share this meaningful, life-affirming practice with others. Wendy loves spending time upside down — which is why you will find her in a headstand or handstand every day. You can reach her via email at wordsmithcomm@gmail.com, via her blog In the Write Zone or visit her website at www.wordsmith-communications.net.

How to be ‘In the Zone’

Being ‘in the zone’ is characterized by complete absorption in what one is doing. Other words for that state of complete absorption are ‘in the flow’, ‘being in the present’, ‘in the moment’, ‘on a roll’, ‘in the groove’, ‘on fire’, ‘in tune’, and ‘centered’.

I used to get in the zone when photographing events. One time I was photographing a kids’ soccer game and two boys collided in mid-air while going after the ball. A parent standing near me asked if I got that shot. I explained that often my finger works independent of my consciousness, so I might have gotten the shot. Sure enough when I reviewed the pictures that night, I got the shot perfectly as the two boys vied for the ball in mid-air. So I know how to be in the flow. But how do you get in the flow on purpose.

You hear about an athlete being in the zone. You also hear about a writer who talks about the words just pouring out of him and onto the page. So it can happen in athletics as well as in intellectual pursuits.

First of all, there is no flow in new activities. Flow happens when you’re not even trying, when you’re just doing it without consciously trying. That doesn’t happen until you’ve put in hundreds if not thousands of hours of practice. Flow kicks in when the subconscious takes over from the conscious mind. Other ways to get in the flow may be through meditation or through visualization.

I recently attended an educational session by two World champions of public speaking. They described the journey of public speaking as follows: in the beginning of your speaking career you are self-conscious and worried about your performance. Once you have some speaking engagements under your belt, you are no longer self-conscious and you worry about your message coming across. Lastly, when you have done quite a bit of public speaking you will enter a phase where you are in tune with your audience. You will have totally internalized your speech and it comes out with every idea in the right sequence and not memorized. Mark Twain called it “rehearsed spontaneity”. He would say, ‘It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good spontaneous performance.’

So – how do you find this elusive flow? There are several things you can do.

  1. Find the right environment. May be if you are writing, you have a desk with flowers on it, or you have a favorite spot out in nature. If you are an athlete, you may do best on the ‘home court’ advantage. Your special space helps you get into the zone.
  2. Time of day. I once had a coaching client who could best give her complete focus to our sessions at 6 am. While that wasn’t my favorite time to work, it made such a big difference in her receptivity and ultimately her success that it was worth getting out of bed for.
  3. Music. There are many types of music that can help you get into the flow, music that tunes out distractions or helps while pursuing intellectual pursuits or while meditating. Experiment and see what works for you.
  4. Focus with intensity. In order to get into flow you have to be doing something you do well and love doing. You focus intensely and your subconscious takes over.
  5. Emotions. You can’t get into the flow when you’re anxious or afraid. On the other hand when you are passionate about something you have a greater chance of slipping into the zone.
  6. Mindfulness. It is a state of paying attention to the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judgment. Mindfulness means living in the moment.

Training your mind to intensely focus on a task is a key skill for excelling at anything. Being in the flow makes peak performance possible.

 

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Fear of Public Speaking? No Problem

An estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness when public speaking. Symptoms can be either physical or verbal. The physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased perspiration, stiffening of neck and upper back muscles, and dry mouth. Physical symptoms have been found to be reduced with a category of medications called beta-blockers.

Verbal symptoms can include a tense voice, a quivering voice, and vocalized pauses such as ahs and ums, which tend to comfort anxious speakers. If untreated, public speaking anxiety can cause serious detrimental effects on people, as it may prevent them from accomplishing their career goals – whether it is having to make presentations at work or in college. So – what to do?

Help is available. There are numerous public speaking classes at local community colleges. There are public speaking courses held by Dale Carnegie Training. I feel that one of the best options is Toastmasters: http://www.toastmasters.org Toastmasters is a large organization that is organized into speaking clubs all over the world. Clubs often have around 20 members, and the members take turns giving short (5-7 minute) speeches and take on different roles to run the meeting. Each speaker has a chance to receive a short feedback session from another member of the club. The speeches are organized to practice various speaking skills. For example one speech may focus on how to organize your speech, whereas another speech project focuses on vocal variety. One speech focuses on gestures, while another focuses on using humor while speaking. After the first 10 speeches you receive recognition for your accomplishment. You will be surprised by how much you have learned and how much more at ease you are preparing a talk and speaking in front of a group.

To find a Toastmasters club near your home or your work go to http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/

Enter your zip code and you’ll be surprised how many clubs exist in your area. If you can’t find a club that is convenient for you, you can contact your Toastmasters district and they can find someone who will help you start a club.

 

Next Steps

Find two or more Toastmasters clubs that fit your schedule. Contact them and go as a guest to one of their meetings. Some clubs are smaller and that gives you the opportunity to give more speeches more quickly and even step up to take on a leadership role. Other clubs are larger and you will speak less often but you will have the opportunity to learn from more senior members as they give their speeches and you will have more time to prepare each speech you give. Once you have visited the clubs, join the one you liked best and begin your Toastmasters journey.

By the way, there are also speech contests, district wide training and a conference. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn and grow.

 

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How to Eat Healthy

How to eat healthy

The USDA periodically updates what healthy Americans should eat. USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA administers programs that provide services to farmers. So it is not some health and wellness or medical organization that tells us what we should eat, but instead an organization that supports farmers. In addition there is heavy involvement of lobbyists who support the various branches of agriculture and the food industry. So who won the lobbying wars?

 

USDA My Plate

USDA My Plate

Take a look at the “My Plate”. I’d say the dairy industry won this round’s top lobbying award. Dairy is protein, but instead of sharing nearly a quarter of the plate with fish, red meat, poultry, and legumes, Dairy gets its own section. And this is in spite of the many people who are lactose intolerant for whom dairy is not a healthy choice at all.

A similar controversy surrounded the previous food pyramid. For instance, the pyramid recommended two to three servings from the protein-rich group, but this was intended to be a maximum. The pyramid recommended two to four fruit servings, but this was intended to be the minimum. The previous food pyramid and the “My Plate” also say nothing about drinking water, which is important for good health.

 

Let’s look at food pyramids/eating guidelines from other cultures.

mediterranean food pyramidThe Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was created in conjunction with the World Health Organization. It, for example, relegates red meat into the ‘eat monthly’ category. It also shows the importance of drinking water and daily physical exercise. Note also that potatoes are grouped in with the grains/starches category, not under vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

2014MAY15 JapanesePyramid

The Japanese Food Guide Spinning Top also shows the importance of water and exercise. It shows grains as the most consumed food, and fruits and dairy the least consumed with 2 servings each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014MAY15 EssensPyramideThe German Food Pyramid starts with lots of liquids; next are 5 portions of fruits and vegetables; then 5 portions of grains and potatoes; Milk and milk products daily; meat, sausage and eggs in moderation; fish regularly; high quality oils and fats; and avoid foods and drinks high in sugar and fats.

 

 

Clearly there are commonalities between the food guidelines, but there are also important differences. The Mediterranean and German food Pyramids are the only ones that point out to avoid sweets and other sugar-laden foods and drinks, whereas “My Plate” does not distinguish sugar-laden donuts and muffins from whole grain breads.

There are many other food pyramids and eating guidelines from other countries. There are also eating guidelines for specific dietary needs such as vegetarians, vegans and diabetics.

Among others I also found some humorous food pyramids. One German Food Pyramid consisted of Bratwurst, Pretzel, Beer, and eat all other foods sparingly!

Compare the eating guidelines to notice common themes and do your best to eat a healthy diet. Eat a variety of foods to get lots of nutrients and keep the portion sizes small, so as not to overeat.

 

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Learn to develop and trust to your intuition

Once I was looking for a specific book. I was working downtown Chicago and wanted to pick up the book after work. I called a bookstore near my office. While they were checking their inventory on the computer, suddenly a vision popped into my head of a large bookshelf in the store with the book I was looking for in the top right corner. When the store clerk came back on the phone she said that they were out of the book. The vision of this bookshelf was so vivid, that I decided to stop by the bookstore anyways. I found the bookshelf and lo and behold the book was exactly where I had seen it in my vision.

Intuition doesn’t always come as a vision. It may come as a persistent or fleeting thought, a gut feel, goose bumps, or in a variety of other modalities. Learning to get in touch with this intuition is your first step.

So why bother with your intuition? Here are a couple of very successful people who have followed their intuition and what they have to say about it.

In the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson “Steve said that ‘intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.’ You can see that intuitive sense in Jobs’ incredible ability to foresee – and then design – what users will want next. The iPhone is a great example.

Steve Jobs’ personal intuition helped the company to reinvent itself across many different product lines. Isaacson named seven industries that Jobs revolutionized or re-imagined over his career: personal computers, animated movies, music, telephones, tablet computing, digital publishing and retail stores.”

2014MAY08 Einstein quoteAnother person who felt the importance of intuition is Albert Einstein. One of his famous quotes is, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Psychology Today states, “For Einstein, insight did not come from logic or mathematics. It came, as it does for artists, from intuition and inspiration. As he told one friend, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” Elaborating, he added, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration…. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.””

The New Jersey Institute of Technology states “ In a study conducted by Professor John Mihalasky of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, it was found that CEOs who performed best in tests of intuition also tended to be the ones with the highest profit growth in a space of 5 years in their respective businesses.”

Next Steps

So how do we tap into this intuition and how do we distinguish it from experiences? One way is to enroll in the Silva Mind Control Training. http://www.silvaintuitionsystem.com/products I don’t get anything from recommending this link. I have taken the Silva training and have found it helpful.

In the meanwhile what else can you do?

Clear your mind: Focus on your breathing and allow your mind and body to relax more with each breath. You might even try counting down from 10 to 1 and allow yourself to relax more with each count. Once your mind is clearer, you can then access your intuition.

Meditate: Clearing your mind of repetitive thoughts and worries will make it easier to listen to your intuition. Find a meditative technique you are comfortable using and practice.

Listen to your gut: There’s a reason it’s called a “gut feeling”. Many times, a decision that you “know” is wrong makes you feel discomfort in your stomach area.

Keep an intuition journal: spend some time writing out the intuition that you have like “I have a feelings that…” or “My intuition tells me that…” If there are any sensations associated with your intuition, such as a vision, or physical discomfort, be sure to record it. Looking back in your journal, see how often you are right. As you learn more about how to recognize your intuition, and you see it leading you in the right direction, your confidence will grow and so will your intuitive power.

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From Inner Critic to Inner Wisdom

ImageAll of us have self-sabotaging inner voices that hold us back. The job of this saboteur, inner critic or gremlin is to keep us safe, to keep us within our comfort zone. Therefore, when we contemplate doing something new, the saboteur wakes up to keep us in line. It’s no wonder that when we contemplate taking bold steps forward, we encounter the inner critic. This inner critic can come in a variety of voices and we can have an entire committee. These voices can be those of our parents, teachers, siblings, neighbors or other relatives.

For example I know of a man who struggled to become truly successful in his career. His father had often criticized him and told him that he would never amount to anything. Only after his father passed away did this man become successful. But we don’t have to wait to become successful or move forward with our goals and dreams.

One way to deal with our inner critic(s) is to describe him. What does s/he sound like? What is the voice saying? How would you describe this voice? May be you can even describe the person of the inner critic. This all helps to identify the voice of the inner critic as separate from you. Once you realize that the inner critic is separate from you, you can decide who is boss. You can appreciate the inner critic for trying to keep you safe and within your comfort zone and then boldly move ahead towards your goals and plans anyways.

Another way to silence that inner critic or negative self-talk is to turn to a positive voice. May be you can think of a person who is or was a positive and supportive influence, may be you can think of someone famous whose wisdom you admire. May be you make up a person with the positive supporting qualities you wish you could turn to for guidance. Then, when you want to take bold steps forward, in your imagination you ask this supportive person what you should do. Try it! You might be surprised by the outcome. With practice you can silence the inner critic’s voice more and more often and follow your internal wisdom.

Contact me: 

Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what changes for the better I can help you with. Call now: 847-913-3900 or email Edith@esCoach.com.

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On Leadership

On Leadership

What does it take to be a leader?

Leaders aren’t born that way. Over time they acquire and cultivate skills that make them stand out as someone who is ready for a leadership role.

2014APR24 2right woman climbing ladder Forging relationships. You can work hard as an individual contributor. That will get you noticed, but eventually you will need to learn to work in cooperation with others. Your success depends on how well you work with others as a team.

Be a team player. As a leader you depend on a team of people to get things done. But not only that: you are part of a team of leaders, where cooperation between teams becomes essential. How well you work with cross-functional teams becomes important.

Customer service. Not all customers are easy to please. Knowing how to effectively diffuse difficult customers is an important skill. Knowing how to make a customer feel welcome is another. Here is an example. As treasurer for a not-for-profit I handled a very small checking account. When I took on that role I needed to change the signature cards. I met with the branch manager of the bank and he also introduced me to an assistant. After that initial meeting, every time I walked into that branch office of the bank he and his assistant greeted me by name. That made a big impression on me.

 Communicate.  It is your responsibility to communicate with your direct chain of command. Let them know of your interest to take on greater responsibilities and your readiness as a leader. In larger organizations the Human Resources Department may also be an ally in letting you know of opportunities as they become available.

Networking.  Make acquaintances in other departments of your company. Meet over coffee or lunch with people you don’t have a chance to work with. Learn about what they do. You never know when an opportunity opens up where you need a contact in that department. Or you could become the go-to person for that contact in your department.

Energy. Identify what gives you an energetic boost during the day and what drains you. Are there tasks or people who lift you up and others who will suck the wind out of your sails? It is important to manage your energy, so you can produce top quality results.

It’s about the company. Are you a company person? In the end it’s about what’s good for the company. Are you someone who is aware of the overall picture of the industry and how the company can do well and how your contribution matters?

Be connected. Belong to a professional organization to know what’s going on in other companies. Represent your company well. Take on a leadership role.

Volunteer. Volunteering in a professional organization gives you opportunities to learn and practice leadership skills.

Strengthen your leadership skills and don’t be surprised if others notice.

 

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From Surviving to Thriving

The first year of a transition is hardly a time for thriving. The first year after a divorce, the first year after the loss of a loved one, the first year after getting married or having a first child, the first year after a move or losing a job or retiring – these are all times of adjusting to a new reality. When we are hit with a major transition, we come into a time of instability. We may resort to surviving and making it from day-to-day until we get our bearings and relate to our new situations.

Let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

2014APR17 Maslow_hierarchy_of_needs

When we are faced with a new reality we want to make sure the basic needs are met. Let’s take the reality of a divorce. The first year after divorce there are lots of changes for the woman: the family home may have to be sold; if she was not working she may need to reenter the workforce; childcare changes become necessary, moving to a new neighborhood may affect friends and school for the kids; the reduction of living on one income effects what the family can afford. It is easy to see how a divorce is a difficult transition. How about the opposite side of the coin – getting married. Here a myriad of decisions that were previously made alone that are now needing to be shared. Many marriages don’t make it through the first year: especially decisions about money provide much struggle: how much to save, what expenses are necessary and what can be done without. Many people come from different financial backgrounds and have different ideas about money management. All of these expectations have to be resolved or they will slowly fester.

I once worked for a company that said in their new employee orientation: Don’t quit in the first 6 months of your new job. It will get easier after that. So, regardless of the transition, there is a time of readjustment. Realize it and trust that it will get easier. But for it to get easier, we have to work at it. If it is a new job, we have to learn what is expected of us. If it is a new marriage we have to learn to work out our differences and disagreements. If it is a divorce, we have to adjust to the new reality.

Once the basic needs are attended to – the Physiological and Security needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – we can then address our higher level of needs and begin to thrive. We can begin to build new relationships and nurture existing relationships, which may have taken a back seat while we were building our new base. Self-esteem may come from a job or from volunteer work, contributing to the greater good. Lastly we become aware of our personal growth and we seek out opportunities to grow. This is when we make changes in our lives and we truly soar.

Jack Canfield (author of “The Success Principles” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books) has this to say about thriving: “Greater self-esteem produces greater success, and greater success produces more high self-esteem, so it keeps on spiraling up.”

 

Next Steps:

In order to produce greater self-esteem you need to produce success. One way to do that is to hire a coach who can help you with goal setting and achieving those goals. That success will feel great and you can build on that success with higher self-esteem.

 

Contact me:

Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what changes for the better I can help you with. Call now: 847-913-3900.

 

You have a GPS for your life

2014APR10carGPSWhat is a GPS? It is a Global Positioning System. The GPS in your car or the handheld device is actually a receiver. It receives signals from the GPS satellites and therefore knows exactly where you are. When you enter a destination into your GPS, it also knows where it is, and you can make steady progress towards that destination. Without entering a destination your car still drives. We all have destinations where we need no GPS – the GPS is in our head. We know how to get to work and the destinations for the various errands we frequently run. And we have destinations where we don’t know how to get there and without a GPS we get lost or need to ask for directions. So how can you apply the GPS concept to your life?

One area where these concepts can be applied is your finances. Many people have no idea how much they spend each month. They may simply charge their purchases on their credit card – having little idea how to stop and how to get out of debt. The first step in applying the concepts of the GPS is to figure out how much debt they have and what they spend their money on, in other words: what is their current location and which direction are they facing. The next step is to determine a destination: for example to have no credit card debt. Having no credit card debt may be a long distance goal. A more immediate goal may be to live within their means: having a budget and spending no more money than they bring in each month. This may require taking a careful look at every expenditure and determining what they will live without.

Another destination could be wanting to be married by a certain date. This too requires taking stock of your current location. Are you single and unattached? What kind of person are you looking for and are you the type of person they would be looking for? Then there are the actions to take on this journey. May be you want someone you can share a hobby with, so it is important to hang out where people share that hobby. May be you want someone in the same career field and a professional association is the place to look. There are also many online dating sites that help with finding a compatible partner. But it is also important to become the kind of person your ideal partner is looking for. That may require giving up some bad habits or getting fit.

Other destinations can be to save money for a new car, a house, a vacation fund, or to set money aside for the children’s college, or a retirement fund. All of these require determining where you are now, where you want to go and how long you have to get there. Having big financial goals may require going to college to be able to get a better job that pays well enough to allow the savings or lifestyle you want to achieve. It may require doing without some things to achieve bigger financial goals down the road.

 

Next Steps:

Are you living your life without a destination? May be you want to move to another state or travel around the world. May be it’s time to make a bucket list of things you want to do, see and have before you die. It all starts with an assessment of where you are now and what your destination is. Otherwise you may wake up one day and realize that life has passed you by and it is too late to achieve the things you want to achieve. That would be a shame. You have a GPS for your life. Start entering some destinations.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

Embrace Change

Embrace Change

It is that time of year: the drabness of winter gives way to spring; our nesting instinct kicks into high gear and we start our annual ritual of spring cleaning; The housing market churns and people start looking for new homes; senioritis, like an epidemic, hits students ready to graduate from high school, college seniors and their parents worry about the job market and if students will be able to find that first real job. May be there are changes in your job as well; a new supervisor; a job transfer or layoff; new rules in the office.

Change is everywhere we look. How do we deal with it – and how do we do it effectively? Let’s first look at what doesn’t help. We can dig our heals in and pretend we can stop the changes. We can yearn for what was and keep a blind eye to what is or will be.

What other options do we have? How do we embrace change?

Change is really only there for us to grow. When everything stays the same, many people get comfortable with the status quo. Change allows us to embrace something new, something we might have otherwise not even considered. Change brings opportunity to try new things.

Let’s take inspiration from the following quotes:

  • If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. (unknown)
  • To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. (Winston Churchill)
  • Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. (James Baldwin)
  • It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. (Alan Cohen)

Step by step:

Psychologist Kurt Lewin came up with this model of change that can be adapted to the individual.

Start with a period of “unfreezing”. This is a time to look at the status quo as well as the changes that are upon you. What does the change involve? How is it different from what you do or have today? What do you like and dislike about the change? What do you like and dislike about what you have now? What opportunities does the change present? What can you learn from the change? Can you be a pioneer or change agent and be perceived as a leader instead of an obstructionist?

Step two in Kurt Lewin’s model of change is the “transition” period. This is where the change is implemented and the bugs are worked out. This can take some time. For example, if you are moving to a new house you have to get the current house ready for sale; you have to pack; you have to find a new home; you have to unpack and settle into the new home. There are many other little details that have to be attended to, before you can get comfortable in your new home. Similarly other transitions require many transition steps before you can settle into a new routine.

Step three is “refreeze”. Once you get the changes under control, it is time to establish new routines and new ways of doing things. It is time to settle into the new life.

Next Steps:

Rather than waiting for change to force itself on you, take a critical look at your life and determine where a change is in order. If your relationship with your spouse could be better, schedule a frank talk or suggest counseling; if you hate your commute, consider moving closer; if you hate your job, may be it is time to consider a change. Be proactive. Embrace change!

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Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what changes for the better I can help you with. Call now: 847-913-3900.

Live an Inspired Life

Live an Inspired Life

Don’t lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come out.
Unknown

Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

Ships in harbor are safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
John Shedd

I am thankful for the difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I don’t want to be.
Unknown

If we are not a little bit uncomfortable every day, we’re not growing. All the good stuff is outside our comfort zone.
Jack Canfield

We go about our daily lives. Most of what we do is on automatic pilot. Is there room for inspiration in your life? As Jack Canfield says, the good stuff is outside our comfort zone. Sometimes it is just outside of our automatic zone. So how do we create an inspired life? An inspired life is one where we live on purpose, living intentionally. An inspired life has meaning. It is getting out of our automatic life, starting to do something every day, that is different from what we do normally. Here is how I was introduced to the power of living intentionally.

Many years ago I attended a workshop. After every break the workshop leader asked us to gather our belongings and move to a different seat. Not just one seat over, but to a different part of the room. For me it was the beginning of getting unstuck from the way I always did things. After the workshop I started to implement little changes into my life on purpose.

One example is when back then I took a train to work. On purpose I started to get on in different train cars. Through that little change I found there was a small group of people playing bridge in one of the cars. First I watched, then I was a substitute when they only had three players, later I became a regular. That became a very enjoyable train ride.

While talking I came to find out that one of the bridge players was Robert Goldsborough, author of the Nero Wolfe murder mysteries. When his next book came out, I read it. I liked it so well I read other books he published. It gave me many, many hours of enjoyment. All that just from taking a small conscious step to get on a different train car than the one I had always gotten on.

Since then I have taken many conscious steps to do something different – with many happy results. Sometimes it’s as simple as beginning to brush my teeth on the opposite side of my mouth than what I do normally; or putting my pants on with the opposite leg first. These steps in themselves are insignificant but they get me doing things consciously. When you are consciously doing things differently you will start to experience new and happy circumstances – like my discovery of the bridge-playing group. So – get in the habit of living life on purpose and get a little inspiration into your life.

Contact me:

Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. See what inspiration we can create for you. Call now: 847-913-3900.

20 Coaching Questions to help you GROW

As a life coach I ask many questions that are intended to help you get clarity about your life, your goals and direction. Here are some questions that provide food for thought. Write down your answers and see how it clarifies your thinking. They will help you GROW.

GOAL

What is a goal you want to achieve?

Why do you want that?

How much of that goal can you achieve in the next 12 months?

REALITY

Where are you now relative to your goal?

Is the goal realistic?

Is the time frame doable?

Who are the supportive people in your life?

What do you need in order to get started?

How will you get that?

OPPORTUNITIES

What can you do now?

How can you break your goal into achievable steps?

How much time can you set aside each day/week to work on your goal?

Who will help you?

What choices do you have?

WRAP-UP

What is holding you back and how can you overcome it?

What needs to happen before you can take the first/next step?

What is in the way and how will you deal with it?

Are there unsupportive people in your life?

How can you neutralize the negative impact of unsupportive people?

What action will you commit to?

Next Step:

Most people don’t have goals. Of the small minority of people who have goals, few write them down. Even fewer work meticulously towards achieving them. Rarely can someone achieve goals without the support of others. Many successful people, just like successful athletes, have a coach, who can push and stretch them to live their best life. Get a coach to support you on your journey towards your goals.

Contact me:

To determine if Edith is the right coach for you, schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. Call her now at 847-913-3900.

Align yourself with self-love

We are busy. We do all the things that need to get done: for work, around the house, maintaining the cars, do, do, do. Then we are asked to volunteer: at church, at the kids’ school, … When is it our turn: meditate, take a walk, curl up with a good book? The answer is never. Others look to us to see how we treat ourselves. If we are apologetic about taking time out for ourselves, others will be more than happy to pile on the requests and expectations. It is said if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. And so it is. A busy person is more often willing to say yes to yet another task and is less likely to think of themselves and the downtime they so desperately need. They go, go, go until the body steps in and says enough. Then they come down with a cold or some other ailment to slow them down. Even then, there is little rest for the weary. Got to power through it and get everything done on that do to list.

Is this the life you lead? Is this the life you want to lead? What would it take to slow down and build in a commitment to yourself to give yourself some downtime? Downtime comes in many shades. It might mean an extra hour of sleep, or a mid-afternoon nap on a weekend. It could be curling up with a good book in front of the fireplace for a couple of hours. It might mean taking 15 minutes a day to start your day with prayer or meditation. It might mean at the end of the day writing in a gratitude journal. Or it might mean making time each week for a hobby or something artistic or creative.

For something more luxurious take a nice warm bubble bath, light some scented candles and have a glass of wine and may be a book. Or go get a massage.

The important thing is to schedule time for self-love. It may be challenging at first, but with practice it can become a way of life. First you train yourself, then you teach others how you want to be treated. Make your self-love time sacred, keeping your commitment to love yourself above all.

Next Step:

Decide what self-loving act you would like to do first. Then schedule it into your calendar as a firm commitment this week. Let others know that you will be unavailable during that time. Start small so you can feel successful when you have given yourself this act of self-love.

If you want more ideas on acts of self-love, here is a website with more ideas: http://www.abundancetapestry.com/70-ways-for-self-care/

 

Contact me: 

To determine if coaching with Edith can help you achieve a better life balance, schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. Call her now at 847-913-3900.

How to Set and Achieve S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting and achieving goals is not easy. Setting SMART goals is even more challenging. But the satisfaction is great when goals are achieved. The best way to achieve your goals is to set SMART and SMARTER goals.

Let start with what is not a goal:

  • You wish you had more money.
  • You want to lose some weight.
  • You wish your spouse would treat you better.
  • You wish your kids got better grades in school.

Now let’s look at what a SMART goal is.

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Action-Based

R – Realistic

T – Timely

Jack Canfield (author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books) likes to tell the story where in one of his workshops he talks about goals. Invariably someone says they want to have more money. Jack responds, “If I give you a dollar you will have more money. Will you be satisfied?” Of course the answer is NO. So the first step to setting a SMART goal is to specify a precise amount. For example you may want a goal of having $2,400 in a savings account by July 1st, in order to go on a vacation with your family. This goal is specific (S); it is measurable (M) because you can look at the bank balance on July 1st to see if you met your goal; and it has an end date. It is timely (T).

To add Action-Based (A) to your goal you can specify that you will make a deposit $600 on the 15th of the month for the next four months (March through June) into your savings account.

Now the question is whether or not this action based goal is realistic (R). How can you save money on your current expenditures to free up $600 for the next four months? If you normally spend your entire paycheck, this may not be realistic. If on the other hand you usually have some money left over at the end of the month, you may be able to do with a little belt tightening and make your vacation a reality.

Maybe you can only save $200 per month. That means you will have $800 by July 1st. Maybe that’s enough for a vacation over a long weekend. After that you can save for an entire year ($200 x 12 = $2400) and go on your trip next year.

So here is what that SMART goal looks like:

I will put $200 per month into a savings account from July 15 of this year until June of next year to save $2400 and take my family on a vacation.

Now there is one more step you can take. How about a SMARTER goal? The E and R stand for

E – Enjoyable

R – Review

Your goal is already (E) enjoyable since the planned family vacation is a trip you are looking forward to.

Lastly, often when you have a goal there is something along the way that can derail your best intentions.  For example you may have an unexpected expense. Maybe shortly after you start on your goal your washing machine breaks and a replacement costs $400. You have some choices you have to make. You can abandon your goal because it is just too hard. You can defer buying a new washing machine for a year and use a Laundromat. You can replace the washing machine and not put the $200 aside for 2 months. Then you cut out more expenses and make more sacrifices and save $240 per months for the next ten months, so you can go on your vacation as planned. Maybe you can do something to earn a little extra money. Reviewing (R) your goal monthly is an important step to achieving your goal.

Example of a SMARTER goal in action

A number of years ago I decided that I wanted to earn money from my photography. I bought my first semi-professional camera in January. There was a lot to learn about that camera. By mid-year I had sold my first photo to a newspaper for $50. I was then offered a position as a freelance photographer for that newspaper and had several assignments that year. My first goal was to earn $2,000 the next year from my photography. I thought that would be an easy goal to achieve. Meanwhile I was still learning how to use my first professional camera I had purchased. By mid-year I had earned about $500 from occasional newspaper assignments. It was time to review (R) my goal. I recommitted to my goal of earning $2,000 that year. First, I asked for more assignments from the newspaper I was already working for. When that wasn’t possible, I approached other newspapers and even started to learn about wedding photography. By the end of the year, I had made and even exceeded my goal.

Next Step:

If you have never set a SMART or SMARTER goal, start small. Choose a goal that you think you can easily achieve. The important thing is just to start practicing setting and achieving goals. Make sure the goal statement fulfills all the letters in SMARTER.

Contact me:

 

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a complimentary coaching consultation. During this coaching consultation you will experience coaching and at the end of the call, if it is a good fit, you will be given the opportunity to continue the coaching relationship. Call Edith at 847.913.3900 now to schedule your first session.

How to Tap Into Your Intuition For Decision Making

We make decisions every day. Having to make decisions can add to our stress. Some decisions are inconsequential, like what to eat at a restaurant. Choosing one meal versus another makes little difference to your life. You will nourish your body one way or the other and what you ate will soon be forgotten unless the meal was particularly good or really bad.

On the other hand, where to go on a vacation can be more memorable. If you like sunny weather and the beach, it behooves you to check out your destination, so you don’t end up going there during their rainy season or you are miles and miles away from the nearest beach.

Then there are decisions that have more impact: choosing a career, whom to marry, where to live, whom to hire to fill a particular job. These decisions have long ranging implications. Sometimes these decisions are easy; other times there are unclear choices. In those situations it would be nice to have some additional insight. If we felt comfortable to listen to our gut instinct that would be wonderful. But that instinct needs to be developed so that we can feel comfortable depending on it for our small and big decisions in life.

So how do we develop that confidence in our gut instinct or intuition?

Listen to your intuition on small things. Once I met a person for lunch, who was very comfortable with her intuition. We were at a restaurant she had never been to, yet she knew almost instantly what she wanted to eat. She explained her process as follows. On the drive to the restaurant she “checked in” with herself: how hungry was she; did she want something light or a heavier meal; salad or meat, what kind of meat; what would satisfy her hunger. Once she got to the restaurant she had an idea of what she was looking for. She merely turned to the appropriate page on the menu and an entrée jumped out at her. She went with that choice. Her meal was delicious.

Here is another example. When I managed rental properties, I used the Silva Mind Control technique of “going to level”. I would get to the rental property a little early. In the car I put myself in a relaxed state and in that state in my mind I pretended to meet the person who was interested in renting the property. In that relaxed state I got a 6th sense whether the person was a good fit and whether the person would end up being a good tenant. Many times this 6th sense proved to be correct. On the other hand I’ve had a gut feel that I should not rent to someone and if I went against my intuition those times turned out to be costly mistakes.

Next Step:

One way to gain confidence in your intuition is to keep an ‘intuition journal’. When you have an intuition about something or someone, write it down, whether you act on it or not. Also note if there are physical symptoms that went along with your intuition, such as a vision or a physical discomfort. Simply observe whether you were correct. As you recognize your intuition and see that it is leading you in the right direction, your confidence will grow and so will your intuitive power.

Contact me:

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a free coaching consultation. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

How to Become Absolutely Determined

I recently came across a keynote speech by Art Mortell on YouTube. It is definitely worth watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9X5HycEtWA

In the video one of the points Art makes is how relentless a three year old can be about getting something they want. Somewhere as we’ve gone through life we have lost that absolute determination to go after what we want. How do we get it back?

 

Decide

First of all, we have to decide what we want. This can’t be a vague inclination, or something we sort of want – only if the stars line up right. It has to be something that we want from the bottom of our hearts, something that we are willing to go after – no matter what.

 

Have a Partner

Once we have decided on what we want, it is best to have someone with whom we can do it together. For example if you have decided to exercise, you will be more likely to go when you know someone is waiting to go with you.

 

Be Accountable

Next best is to have an accountability partner. For years I had an accountability partner. Every night we each wrote down the top goals we wanted to achieve the next day. Then in the morning we had a brief phone call to commit to each other what we wanted to get done. We also briefly reviewed what we did and did not accomplish from our list of the previous day. This was more than a TO DO list. It included steps towards bigger and long-term goals.

 

Break it Into Steps

In order to make progress towards big or long-term goals, we need to break the goals down into manageable steps. If I want to exercise more I might say I want to swim three times per week for an hour and I’ll do that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then I put these steps on my list for those days. When I break it down to exactly what, how much, and which days I will take those steps, it is easy to see whether I did or did not exercise as I had committed.

 

Don’t Give Up

We all make decisions to do something and then don’t follow through. When you have absolutely determined that you are going to achieve a goal, you may fail for a day, but you don’t stay down. You renew your resolve and get back on track towards your goal.

  

Remind Yourself Of a Past Success

When you come to a difficult step, remind yourself of a past success. You have been in difficult situations before and have pushed through. Remind yourself how you felt when you succeeded with a difficult task. It will renew your resolve to keep going.

 

Keep a Graph

Find a way to keep a graph of your progress and display it where you see it daily. Looking at the progress you are making is inspiring.

 

Make It Fun

If possible find a way to make a game out of achieving your goal or each incremental step.

 

Carrots and Sticks

Reward yourself and celebrate your successes. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a “punishment”. I know someone who would require himself to do a 3 A.M. walk if he did not complete the step he committed to for that day. Since he did not want to get up in the middle of the night to go for a walk, he had a high incentive to set reasonable and achievable goals and to get them done.

 

Be Honest

If you find yourself not following through on your steps, take a serious look at your goal. Is it really something you want? How badly do you want it? Is it a goal somebody has set for you? If it is an expectation from a spouse, parent or somebody else, you may need to be honest with yourself and others. If it is not a goal you are wholeheartedly committed to, it may be best to admit the truth.

 

Visualize the Goal

Visualize your goal as if you have already achieved it. This creates tension in the present to pull you towards that future.

 

Next Steps

Do some soul searching. If you have given up on some goals, decide if they are something you really want to achieve. Think of goals you really, really want. Then pick one. Think of small steps you can take towards achieving it. If you have failed before, ask yourself why failing was more important than succeeding and how you can overcome the failures next time.

 

Contact me: 

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a free coaching consultation. Call Edith at 847.913.3900. 

How do You Get More Resilience?

Resilience is the capacity to easily recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

Since we are living in a fast changing world, it is to our advantage to build our resilience. So – how do you get more resilience?

There are several ways to increase resilience.

1. Good Relationships With Family  

Good relationships with family members provide you with a safety net. More and more households are living with two adult generations under one roof. This is often a stressful situation but it also provides several benefits. House-sharing with elderly parents can provide built in child care. For the elderly parents it provides safety when a medical emergency occurs. When adult children move back home with their parents, it can be a significant saving to recover from financial hardship. The proximity can be a challenge but it isn’t even an option when there is a rift between family members.

2. Close Friends

A small circle of close friends provide mutual support. They can be a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on or help out in a pinch.

3. A Community

Being part of one or more communities can be a life saver. A couple of examples follow: A young woman had no close relatives but she was active in her church. When she unexpectedly lost her job, her church community pulled together for her. To save money the young woman gave up her apartment. Several church members stored her furniture and belongings in their basements. Then people with an extra bedroom in their home offered to let her stay with free room and board in their home for a month each. This community support helped save her from going bankrupt and helped her get back on her feet.

Another example: A retired schoolteacher became an avid photographer. She joined a local photography club and became active in the amateur photography community and its leadership. She learned and then taught others about photography. When she ended up in a car accident that left her wheelchair bound for many months, many jumped in to help. Some gave her rides to appointments, others ran errands like grocery shopping and the like, others brought companionship to this homebound photographer. All this made the long months of recovery much more bearable.

4. Ask for Help

In order for the young woman and the photographer to get help, they had to let people know about their difficulty and ask for help. They also had to be gracious about the generosity extended to them. I was particularly amazed at the asking skills of the photographer. Though many offered to help her, she was wise enough to find out what each individual enjoyed doing already. Then she asked for help that most fit in with the lives of those who offered. I was lucky enough to have a vehicle that could easily accommodate her and her wheelchair and I was able to bring her to photography club meetings. I really enjoyed the conversations and what I learned from her during those car trips. With my help she was able to get out of her condo at least once per month.

5. Set Goals

While the photographer was wheelchair bound she could not pursue her photography hobby. So she focused on another part of her photography. She organized the many photos she had taken, selected prints to be displayed, created slideshows she could present at future meetings, and found opportunities to sell her beautiful photographs. And she did it in the company of fellow photographers who provided companionship.

When adversity strikes it is important to have goals and to regularly take actions to achieve them.

6. Understanding That Setbacks Are Part of Life

Many of us have gone through setbacks, be it losing a job, health issues, natural disasters, loss of a family member or divorce. Those who are resilient are more likely to work through the difficult times, and move on from there. Believe that whatever difficulties you encounter, you have the strength to move on and rebuild your life.

7. Problem Solving Skills

When problems present themselves, learn to break the problems down into small and manageable steps. Then take the steps, one at a time.

8. Understand That All Things Are Temporary

Each day brings new challenges. Some are good and some are painful. Savor and be grateful for the good things that come your way. It makes the difficult times more bearable knowing that they will become less painful over time. Resilience doesn’t make challenges go away. It simply helps us rebound more quickly and with less pain.

Next Steps

If you are facing a challenge, don’t do it alone. Reach out. Support is out there. But also realize what strength you have, what challenges you have already overcome, and that you can overcome the current challenge as well.

If life has got you down and you are feeling excessive anxiety or depression, seek professional help.

If life is good to you, reach out to others and strengthen your communities. Reach out to others who need help and volunteer your time.

Contact me:

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a free coaching consultation. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

 

How to Beat Procrastination 

Procrastination is the leisure time we build into our day when we don’t have enough leisure time.

Is that true for you?

Let’s look at some of the reasons we procrastinate:

1. Lack of How To

When we don’t know how to do a task or don’t know how to get started, and don’t have someone to ask, we tend to put the task off.

2. Overwhelm

The task is so big we don’t know where to get started and there is no end in sight, there is so much to do.

3. Stress

Stress can be a trigger for procrastination. We procrastinate when we can least afford it.

4. Lack of time management

Spending time on non-essential tasks can be a form of ongoing procrastination, until we are face to face with a deadline.

5. Perfectionism

It is easy to procrastinate when we know that the end result of our work is never good enough.

6. Lack of Goals

Very few people live their life on purpose. Most people go through the motions of what needs to be done day in and day out.

 

What can you do in each of these situations?

1. Lack of How To

First of all decide if there is a resource that can help you get started. It could be a book, a person whom you can ask for help, or searching for answers on the internet. Other times the best course of action is to get started. Set aside 30 minutes and try to figure out something to get you started. Get started with breaking the job into bite-size tasks and then tackling these one at a time.

2. Overwhelm

If a task is too big, the first thing is to break it down into smaller chunks. If there is just too much to do, write down all that needs to be done. Cross out the tasks that you can do without. Delegate tasks that someone else can do. Prioritize the most important tasks, knowing that some lower priority tasks may not get done. Sometimes you can negotiate for extra time.

3. Stress

When you feel the stress getting to you, take a relaxation break. Take some deep breaths; meditate for 3-5 minutes; get up and take a short 5 minute walk; listen to a piece of music. Rather than letting the stress get to you and pushing forward, a short break may be the answer.

4. Time Management

One way to manage time is to manage priorities. Eliminate non-essential tasks. Work on the most important tasks first. Another form of time management is to break large tasks into blocks and spread them over time. For example taxes need to be filed every year. Instead of waiting until April to get the taxes done, spend time every month to organize your tax receipts and bank statements, so that the task is small when the taxes need to be filed.

Write down all your tasks and divide them into 4 categories:

  •      Important and urgent
  •      Important and not urgent
  •      Not important and urgent
  •      Not important and not urgent

Then eliminate as many of the not important and not urgent tasks as possible.

Regularly work on important tasks while they are not yet urgent. This eliminates a great deal of stress in your life by preventing urgent tasks in your life.

5. Perfectionism

This is a tough one to overcome. Often this trait was encouraged from early on – like getting all A’s on your report card. One way to tackle this is to allow yourself trial runs or in case of a document – a first draft – or even just the first few paragraphs. With practice you can loosen the grip of perfectionism.

6. Lack of Goals

Goals give your life direction. Take time out to dream about your life 1, 5, 10 or even 20 years into the future. Think about where you’d like to live, who you’d like to be sharing your life with, and what you’d like to have. Then build tasks into your schedule that will get you closer to your dreams. Those tasks are important motivators to keep you going with everything you need to get done.

 

Next Steps

Recognizing how you spend your day and what needs to change can be a real challenge to do alone.

Consider keeping a time log for a couple of weeks and reach out for help to implement changes to the way you live your life. Remember to build regular leisure activities into your days and weeks. It replenishes your energy to keep going.

 

Contact me:

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a free coaching consultation. Call Edith at 847.913.3900. 

In Pursuit of Happiness

In Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is not something we chase; it is not something we can buy. Happiness is a state of mind and it comes from within, but it is influenced by our environment.

The country of Bhutan measures Gross National Happiness (GNH) the way we measure Gross National Product (GNP).

Bhutan’s Centre for Bhutan Studies developed a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population’s general level of well-being or happiness. The four pillars of GNH are

  • the promotion of sustainable development,
  • preservation and promotion of cultural values,
  • conservation of the natural environment, and
  • establishment of good governance.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined these four pillars with greater specificity into eight general contributors to happiness—

  • physical, mental and spiritual health;
  • time-balance;
  • social and community vitality;
  • cultural vitality;
  • education;
  • living standards;
  • good governance; and
  • ecological vitality

These eight contributors to happiness are solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and well-being.

Measuring Happiness

So – how can we measure happiness? And more importantly – how can we increase our happiness?

At its simplest form we can rate our happiness from 1 to 10 on these categories:

  • Health – physical
  • Health – mental/emotional
  • Spirituality/religion
  • Work – Life balance
  • Relationships – significant other
  • Relationships – family
  • Relationships – friends and social network
  • Finances
  • Physical environment – home and neighborhood
  • Access to nature

Once you see in which categories you are happiest and in which you are less happy, you can decide which category you would like to improve.

Increasing Happiness

Be Grateful: First of all we can increase our happiness by being grateful. It’s easy to forget just how good we have it. The practice of being grateful can help us focus on the many good things we have. Take a small notebook and at the end of each day write down at least five things you are grateful for. These can be things like having a roof over your head, a nice meal, having money to pay your bills, a conversation with a friend, a nice and sunny day.

Celebrate: Next, make a habit of celebrating accomplishments – large and small. It is easy to check off tasks off a to do list, and move from one thing to another. After completing a small task, celebrate by giving yourself a short break, may be do a little happiness dance. Just watch a football player after a touchdown. You get the idea. When a major project is done, be sure to recognize and reward yourself and other team members.

Change: Now take a category that you would like to improve. Let’s take relationships for example. Evaluate your friends – which uplift you and which drag you down. May be it’s time for a heart to heart talk; may be it is time to let a friendship end. People change over time, may be you are no longer into the bar scene, but your friends are. If nothing else holds the friendship together, then maybe it’s time to let it go. Make room for new friends that share your other interests.

Share Happiness: Lastly, get in the habit of sharing the happiness of others. For example if you are playing a game and the other person wins, congratulate them on a game well played or on their good luck.  When you win, accept congratulations graciously.

Contact me:

To determine if coaching can help you achieve your goals, schedule a free coaching consultation. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

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