Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My New Blog Is Up and Running

Today I am launching a brand new blog. It's called Live Bold and Bloom: Personal Growth for Fearless Living. I feel like I've just delivered another child. I am so excited about the new look and what I will be able to offer you, my valued readers.

Live Bold and Bloom is for people who want to live fearlessly and make extraordinary things happen in their lives. If that's you or you wish it were, please hop over to my new blog.

Here's the link:

Live Bold and Bloom

Thank you for following me here, and I look forward to your comments and inspiration at Live Bold and Bloom!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do You Have a Mission Statement?

Many years ago, I worked in public relations for the JCPenney Company. James Cash Penney, the founder of the now giant retailer, based his business philosophy on one simple notion: "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" --The Golden Rule. In fact, his first store was called The Golden Rule.

This philosophy permeated every aspect of how Mr. Penney ran his business. He asked for a "fair remuneration and not all the profits the traffic will bear." He was the first to call employees "associates", and he treated them like family. During the stock market crash in the 1920's, he lost his personal fortune and took a loan against his life insurance in order to pay the associates' salaries.

When I arrived at JCPenney in 1984, it was the fourth largest retailer in the nation with stores in every state. The retail business was pretty cutthroat, but The Golden Rule remained the company philosophy almost ninety years after the store was founded.

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Penney is this: "Give me a stock clerk with a goal, and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals, and I'll give you a stock clerk." Mr. Penney understood the value of having a mission, a goal around which everything in your life centers.

So are you are stock clerk with a goal or just a stock clerk? Are you a man or a woman with a mission? It's just my humble opinion, but I think it's as vital for individuals to have a mission and a vision for themselves as it is for any business. Writing a mission statement for yourself forces clarity and helps you define purpose. Putting it on paper makes it real. A mission statement is like your own personal constitution. It is the basis for making major life-directing decisions as well as making daily choices that impact us and those around us.

So here are my thoughts on writing a personal mission statement:

1. Think of a person in history or in your life whom you admire. What are the qualities of that person that you would like to emulate. List those qualities.

2. Define the type of person you want to become, not just what you want to have or do.

3. Define your life roles (career, family, community, etc.), and write down how you would like to be described in each of those roles.

4. Write down a goal or purpose for the four fundamental elements of who you are: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

5. List the talents and skills you possess that are most important to you.

6. Using the information you outlined above, begin crafting your mission statement. Keep it simple, clear and brief -- no more than 3-5 sentences long.

7. Create a mission statement that will guide you in your day to day actions and decisions, as well as your long term goals.

8. Keep your words positive and affirmative. Focus on what you want rather than what you don't want.

9. Review the mission statement regularly and revise and update it as you continue to ponder your values and goals. It may take you weeks to refine your final statement.

10. Keep your mission statement within view so that you can read it regularly. Use it as your personal framework for your life. Every time you make an important decision, let your mission statement be your guide.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Are You an Adrenaline Junkie?

Thousands of years ago when men were carrying clubs and wearing little fur loincloths, adrenaline was a life saver. You could count on its rapid fire results to propel you through the hunt or when some wild beast was hunting you. Adrenaline still gives us that jolt of energy when faced with a threat or surprise. But for the most part, it isn't necessary in everyday life. I mean, how often are you chased by a giant boar or a saber-toothed tiger?

Adrenaline creates some very unusual physical sensations that help you survive stressful situations. Time seems to slow down. Things seem to happen in slow motion. At the same time, you feel extremely alert, energetic and responsive. If you are physically hurt, you don't feel pain. You feel detached from reality -- more of an observer than a participant in what's happening. These mechanisms are in place to help you survive dangerous situations.

But what happens when your entire life is fueled by adrenaline? Is that possible? Absolutely. You may not have wild animals chasing you, but chasing your own tail will create the same effect. Our high-intensity, over-stimulated, stress-out lifestyles keep a constant adrenaline drip running through our veins. Initially, adrenaline gives you a high. You feel alert and energetic. Over time, you feel increasingly fatigued and unable to deal with stress. The adrenal glands are weakened, and you become susceptible to illness, insomnia and depression. You can become detached from the world around you, including family and friends.

Even with all of the negative consequences of an adrenaline-fueled life, adrenaline addiction is quite common. Type A personalities and people who are angry, worried, guilty or fearful are especially susceptible. Are you addicted to adrenaline?

Here's a self test to find out:

1. I drink caffeinated beverages in order to get going and keep going.
2. I eat sugar to calm myself.
3. I over-promise and then rush to finish projects.
4. I arrive at work rushed and already "on".
5. I feel an inner rush or lack of stillness most of the time.
6. I tend to be impatient.
7. I drive over the speed limit, tail gate and get angry in traffic.
8. I tend to run late or arrive just in time.
9. I often have to deal with a problem or hassle in my life.
10. I don't allow reserves of time in the day for things that come up.
11. I love a challenge and pushing through it as hard as I can.
12. It takes me a few days to calm down from surprises or upsetting events.
13. I find it boring or difficult to just relax and hang out with people.
14. I am at my best when under pressure and deadlines.
15. Sometimes I deliberately set myself up to wait until the last minute.
16. I don't arrive at the airport an hour before my flight.
17. I carry my cell phone even when I don't need it.
18. I unconsciously try the hardest way to get something done.
19. People complain that I'm not there with them, even when I am.
20. I am a driven type person.

Score Key:
15-20 -- You are a certified adrenaline addict
11-14 -- You probably have an unhealthy level of adrenaline in your body.
6-10 -- You may have an adrenaline problem.
0-5 -- Bravo! Adrenaline does not have a hold on you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ten Trends That Will Impact Your Life

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

from "The Times They Are A Changin'" by Bob Dylan

Even back in 1964, Bob Dylan understood that change is inevitable. The sooner you adapt, the better off you'll be. I'll even go one further than ole Bob. The times aren't just changing -- we are changing the times. Our behaviors and reactions are constantly evolving. Ripples of creativity, anger, innovation, dissatisfaction, greed, and optimism wash over humanity every day. Sometimes these ripples make waves. Sometimes they create tsunamis -- like wars and economic recessions.

One consistent attribute of the human spirit is resilience. We have an amazing ability to recover and adjust to misfortune, challenges and change. We are able to learn new ways of coping and responding to the ever-shifting events around us. As our societal responses emerge and take shape, we begin to see trends forming that give us a glimpse into the crystal ball of our future lifestyles.

There are hundreds of emerging trends on the horizon. Many of them are not real pick-me-ups to say the least. But I've researched some value trends that will have a positive impact on your life. Strangely enough, many of these positive trends have emerged from our economic meltdown. But isn't that they way it is with life? When it gives you lemons . . .

So here are ten trends that could be life-changing for you and your family:

1. Restraint
Showing restraint in spending and acquiring has become the new normal. The economic meltdown has melted our ability and enjoyment of free-for-all spending. We are now saving more, and even the most affluent see the value in cutting back and living more simply. Doesn't that take the burden off keeping up with the Joneses? Thank goodness.

2. Simplicity
This goes hand-in-hand with restraint and is a counter-trend to mass consumption. Consumers have been talking about simplifying their lives for several years now as reflected in the magazine titles and food labels we see. For many, the result of simplified living is a better life overall because we are producing less waste, eating simpler and healthier foods and having more time for ourselves and our families. A less complicated, cluttered life brings more peace of mind.

3. Global Influences
As globalization burgeons, people around the world are exposed to tastes, flavors, products and ideas from everywhere. We can communicate with just about anyone, anywhere, at any time. This ability is opening our minds to new experiences, and we want more. Increasingly we are becoming eager to try things irrespective of where they originate.

4. Adventure
As materialism declines, experiences are what people are seeking. And not just the same old experiences. We want adventure. We are looking for more creative ways to enjoy the world, and the travel industry has seen a huge up tick in active, experiential, and personal growth oriented travel. Trips that involve outdoor activities like rafting, hiking, kayaking, or biking, as well as educational travel is on the rise. We want memorable, beneficial adventures that we can share with friends and family. With so many travel options available at reasonable rates, now is a great time to plan the adventure of a lifetime.

5. Authenticity
With less expendable cash lying around, we want to spend our money on real products and craftsmanship. We want authentic experiences that don't flash with bling and over-marketing. Spin has spun itself out. Useful, well-made, practical, and meaningful are words that define what we purchase and why it's appealing. This move toward authenticity is a reflection of our shifting personal values. As we scale back to basics, we see the value od our outer world reflecting our inner core essentials.

6. Changing Gender Roles
Women will play an increasingly more important role in redefining traditional ideas at work. In 2009, for the first time ever, women represent 50% of all jobs in the U.S. Women represent 57% of all bachelor's degrees and 60% of all master's degrees, making them the most valuable part of a company's talent pool. The result will be more customized careers, flexible work arrangements, and the encouragement of more female-oriented management traits like empathy and compassion. It is also becoming less rare to see the woman as the main income earner and the man handling childcare and domestic duties. The pressure for maintaining traditional gender roles is definitely loosening up.

7. Mass Mingling
For the last several years, you've probably been hearing that the movement toward virtual communication and social media is going to create a generation of isolated robots who are wary of interpersonal relationships. Well, it appears that just ain't so, Joe. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. Our online connections are encouraging real-world meet-ups. In some instances, that might not be great. But for networking, social gatherings, education, and business meetings, the virtual world is just another vehicle to finding like-minded people.

8. Happiness Measurement
Happiness is becoming a measure of economic prosperity. Factors such as quality of life and vacation time will be included in the overall measure of economic well-being. Including the happiness equation as part of the world of economics is certainly a huge paradigm shift taking us away from purely rational considerations. Behavioral economists are scrabbling to quantify "happiness", and we are seeing more books on the shelves about how to find it. I think if we look at the other trends I've list, it's easy to see that happiness probably includes a good dose of simplicity, adventure and authenticity!

9. Individuality
Increased experimentation with our own identities is spilling over into our cultural landscape. With blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we can brand ourselves and launch businesses around our personal passions. In fact, everyday people are becoming national celebrities because they are media savvy and have something to offer. The absence, for the most part, of censure and ridicule, allows us to be creative in how we express and present ourselves to the world.

10. Youthfulness
We've known for years how to stay healthy and fit. The expectation of living a longer life isn't enough anymore. Now we want to stay young and look young. Cosmetic surgery has become popular, accepted and easily available. You can order off a menu of cosmetic treatments that smooth your skin, zap your veins, and suck your fat. Looking young isn't just for the fabulously wealthy anymore. I must admit, though, that I'm looking forward to the trend of loving wrinkles and revering the old and wise. Perhaps the trend toward authenticity will support that!

Sources: GfK Custom Research North America; Trendspotting Market Research

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's Never Too Late

When was the last time your age stopped you from doing something? For me it was recently when I was wearing a particular outfit, and I saw the look of horror on my teenage daughter's face. My brain doesn't even have to catch up with the notion that I'm too old for something. I have kids who take care of that for me. (Sometimes I take great pleasure in "not acting my age" just to get under their skin!)

Perhaps there are situations when age really matters. I don't want to look like a complete fool or injure myself. But how often do we use age as a reason or an excuse for not really going for it? Whatever "it" happens to be. Sometimes we look at a younger person who's achieving something great, something that we want to achieve. It's hard not to become disheartened if we believe we can't accomplish this same great thing as fast, as easily, or at all.

As the years float by, inertia creeps in on tiny cat feet. To break out of our circle of comfort and familiarity, we have to take bold action. But trying something new and changing our perspective is like budging a rusty hinge. Where's that oil can?

So here's where the rubber meets the road. Whatever age you happen to be, realize that you have a finite number of days left to do the things you want to do. Go ahead, count them up. Let's say you live to be 85. You can do the math. Seeing that number on paper forces you to grasp that every single day is a gift. Don't waste one of them moping around or watching another episode of The Simpson's. Wake up before it's too late!

So here's what I suggest you to do to get the ball rolling:

1. Write a Bucket List
Get some paper and create six columns. Write down the following headings for each column: relationships, career, travel, lifestyle, accomplishments, and altruism. If you think of another category, add it to the heading. Now think of every possible thing you'd like to do related to each category before you die, and write them down under the appropriate heading.

2. Perform Triage
Go through your list and pick the most important goal in each category. Keep doing this until you have prioritized each category. If there are two or three of equal importance, then just order them randomly.

3. Pick Two
From your list of most important goals, pick two -- one that is really challenging or scary and one that's easy. On another paper, write down all of the action steps you'd need to take to accomplish both of these goals. Think of everything, even possible roadblocks or problems you might encounter along the way.

4. Commit Some Time
Commit to some amount of time every day or every week to completing your action steps for both goals. If you can commit to an hour a day, that's wonderful. If not, commit to something. You'll probably achieve your easier goal before the harder one, but that success should motivate you to keep going. Pick another easy goal and create action steps to begin working on it.

5. Try Not To Think About It
Just do it. Don't think about the obstacles, your fears, or your age. Just keep working on the action steps. Worrying hinders action. Action creates results.

6. Inspiration
If you start to lose motivation, don't worry. Just keep taking the actions anyway. But if you'd like a little inspiration, look at what these old creekers accomplished:

-Alice Porlock of Great Britain published her first book, Portrait of My Victorian Youth, when she was 102 years old.

-At age 98, Harold Mark Foster of Owensboro, KY, began learning to read.

-Nola Ochs, age 95, became the oldest person to receive a college diploma, a degree in general studies with an emphasis on history.

-Allan Stewart of New South Wales completed a Bachelor of Laws degree at age 91 from the University of New England. He said he finished what would have normally been a six-year degree in four and a half years "because of my age."

-At age 87, Francis Peyton Rous became the oldest Nobel Prize laureate.

-At age 84, Mae West starred in the movie Sextette.

-Venus Ramey, 82, balanced on her walker and fired her handgun to shoot out an intruder's tires. Ramey, winner of the 1944 Miss America pageant, confronted the man on her Kentucky farm and disabled his vehicle so he couldn't escape. (Don't you just love this one?)

-At 77, Grandma Moses started painting.

-Ronald Reagan was reelected President of the United States at age 73.

So you see, whatever you want to do, just go do it. It's never too late.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ten Tantalizing Travel Destinations for Personal Growth

I'm reading the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think I'm the last person on Earth to read it, and now I know what all of the hoopla is about. It's a delightfully engaging book about feeding the body, feeding the soul, and feeding the heart. Ms. Gilbert writes about her own journey of personal growth during her travels in Italy, India, and Indonesia. Her adventures got me thinking about all of the places I want to visit, and how I might combine my love of travel with my desire for continued personal development.

So I've been doing a bit of research today, and darned if there aren't a plethora of destinations world-wide that combine beautiful, unique locations with self-development and relaxation or adventure. So here are ten that jumped off the computer and screamed "Buy a plane ticket right now!"

1. Costa Rica
This transforming life safari is an all-inclusive retreat in a tropical paradise with private, professional life coaching from Rosemary Rein, PhD, international author of Go Wild: Survival Skills for Business and Life and the co-author of Blueprint for Success with Dr. Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard. During this personal growth retreat, you’ll explore the enchantment of Costa Rica, called the "jewel of the planet" while being certified in a personal and business survival course.

2. Hudson Valley, NY
The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is one of the nation's foremost educational retreat centers. On a serene and beautiful campus in the Hudson Valley, you can enjoy beauty, art and cultural innovation. Regular workshops and classes are offered in personal growth, and you can enjoy film, concerts, and community gatherings. The Omega Institute also has a wellness center with a variety of therapeutic services, a meditation sanctuary, and an expansive library. Lodging is in comfortable cabins on the campus.

3. Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai Healing Vacations is run by Jane Winter, a licensed marriage and family counselor who has a private practice on Kauai. She offers customized vacation programs that include personal growth workshops, personal counseling, and eco-tour adventures on beautiful Kauai. Jane is well-versed in Hawaiian culture, history, customs, hula and chanting and can share Hawaiian tools for achieving peace and balance within. She was also a core member of Shakti Gawain's (author of Creative Visualization) clinical staff and co-leader for many of Shakti's programs.

4. Isle of Wight, UK
The Grange by the Sea is a gorgeous Georgian country house bed and breakfast. It is in the Old Village of Shanklin on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Nestled in greenery, it is very secluded. Yet it's moments from the thatched pubs and cozy tearooms, the local train station, shops and restaurants and the long sandy beach. At the Grange you can enjoy award-winning authors to sharpen your writing skills, local landscape artists, leading life coaches and exceptional singers, dancers, and yoga teachers. There are a variety of courses from which to choose. The yummy English breakfasts consist of fresh, organic foods -- and tea of course!

5. Cyprus
The Zen Retreat Cyprus offers four different retreats to address well-being, self-discovery, and relationship issues for couples and families. The goal at Zen Retreats is to foster change and harmony within your life and to restore the much needed life - work - emotional balance. The spacious retreat villa offers a commanding view of the surrounding mountains and countryside with views towards the coast at Polis and Latchi. The luxury property sleeps 6, and has its own private pool and garden areas with a covered gazebo were you can enjoy an outside massage or acupuncture treatment.

6. Amalfi Coast, Italy
During the Amalfi Coast Retreat, you will learn leading edge techniques and highly effective personal growth principals. The retreat offers a holistic approach to their teachings, working on the physical, behavioral, emotional, mental and spiritual levels during a variety of workshops. The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular coastline situated in the South of Italy. This retreat is for the luxury traveler, and the accommodations are in one of the finest five star hotel’s on the Amalfi coast. Sumptuous meals, a private yacht outing, and guided tours of the region are part of the luxury retreat package.

7. Kenya
This 14 day Self-Discovery Safari held August 2010 focuses on personal and planetary healing within the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, known as the "birthplace" of man. Meditations, group dynamics, ceremony, and individual healing sessions encourage each participant to realize their highest healing potential for themselves and the planet during this tour. The tour also includes the best in cultural and natural history that these powerful locations have to offer.

8. Alaska
Combine adventure and self-discovery during the Inside Passages Alaska Kayaking Retreat in August 2010. The retreat will be based out of the Keene Channel Lodge on the Wrangell Narrows, a sheltered and secluded location fourteen miles south of Petersburg. The lodge provides a lovely setting for day and overnight kayak trips in sheltered waters, with rustic, comfortable accommodations. The retreat includes a multi-day kayak camping trip to the Castle Islands, as well as the opportunity to explore meditation practice in a wilderness setting in order to experience presence, both inner and outer, through a variety of contemplative disciplines.

9. Charleston
The Sophia Institute in Charleston, S.C., offers retreats featuring nationally and internationally renowned authors and teachers, like Marianne Williamson and Anne Rivers Siddons. The Institute offers a variety of programs for those engaged in personal and interpersonal transformation. The Phoebe Pember House in the heart of historic Charleston offers accommodations and retreat space in beautiful surroundings with tranquil gardens and peaceful spaces to reconnect with yourself, discover a calling or expand your spiritual journey.

10. Bali
The Heal-in-Paradise programs in Bali, part of the Indonesian archipelago, offer strategies for balance, discovery and awakening to manage stress, bring clarity of mind, enhance vitality, re-center and bring harmony. Life coaching, workshops, meditation classes and spa treatments are included in the programs. Cuisine is geared towards optimally fueling the healing process. Accommodations are in bungalows near Pererenan Beach and set in lush gardens. Bali is indescribably beautiful and is regularly voted by major travel magazines as the most enchanting travel destination in the world. It's also one of the settings for Eat, Pray, Love --so of course, it had to be on the list!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are You Lovable? Ten Actions to Be More Appealing

We all want love. We are hard-wired to want it. From the moment we leave the womb and enter the world, we are kicking and screaming for love and care. Babies demand love, and mothers are programmed to provide it unconditionally. (Thank God, right? Those crying, pooping, eating machines don't always foster warm, fuzzy feelings at three in the morning!)

In most healthy families, love is offered to children unconditionally by their parents. And if we're fortunate, our parents continue to offer this love even as we become adults ourselves -- whether or not we deserve it! Parental love is one thing, but what makes us deserving of love from other people? What qualities make us lovable? Here's what I've learned over the years about lovability:

1. Be Light
There are two meanings for this. Be light as in don't be heavy, and be light as in don't be dark. People who are light draw others to them. It is effortless to be around someone with a lightness of demeanor and an easygoing manner. A person with a light heart reflects happiness and brightness to others, and it is uplifting to be near them. Be someone who offers light, positive energy to the world, and the world will be drawn to you.

2. Like Yourself
If you don't like yourself already, then make that a daily objective. Write down all possible reasons that you should like and respect yourself. Focus on your positive qualities and successes. Don't allow your mind to lock on to negative thinking. If you don't like yourself, your lack of self-esteem will be apparent to others. It is very hard to love someone who doesn't love themselves. It is very hard to receive love openly and completely if you don't believe you are worthy of it.

3. Set Boundaries
I know this sounds pretty negative if you are trying to attract love, but it goes hand in hand with liking yourself. Setting boundaries is about having respect for yourself and gently letting people know who you are and how you want to live. If you allow yourself to be taken advantage of and walked on, it is hard for others to respect you and to offer you real, healthy love. You won't lose love by setting boundaries. You will become more lovable.

4. Show Kindness to Everyone
Just be kind to people. Buddhists have a meditation called "loving kindness" to develop selfless and altruistic love. Show loving kindness to all people, regardless of their station in life or behavior toward you. In this hurried, self-centered world, show kindess to everyone you encounter, the check-out lady at the grocery store, the fussy child on the airplane, the guy who flips you off on the highway. Develop a habit of kindness and make it part of who you are. A kind person is hard not to love!

5. Laugh at Yourself
Don't take yourself too seriously. Have enough confidence to laugh at your own foibles. Embrace a healthy self-deprecating humor. If you let the defenses down, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and real, then you become more approachable and oddly enough, more respected.

6. Show Affection
The power of loving touch is astounding. When you offer someone a hand, a hug, a friendly squeeze, you are jumping into their space and pulling them into yours. You are inviting a connection. There are some who aren't so comfortable with lots of affection, but even so, a small amount of touch communicates volumes about who you are and your willingness to reach out.

7. Be Real
Sometimes in our efforts to be lovable, we lose ourselves. We put on an act to appear smarter, funnier, richer, more powerful or simply to become the person we wish we were. That's all fine if you want people to love the imitation you. But eventually the act is not sustainable and you're found out. Don't waste your time pretending. Just be yourself. Be honest with yourself and others about who you are so the real you can receive the love you deserve.

8. Have Integrity
Honesty. Loyalty. Reliability. Strength of character. You might win love without these, but you won't be lovable for the long term. Define what integrity means to you, and live that every day.

9. Be Surprising
Step out of your comfort zone. Do something unexpected. Go out of your way for someone. Say the nice thing that you are thinking. Say yes instead of no. Gain a reputation for being interesting and surprising -- in your own special way.

10. Love Unconditionally
Offer love to others expecting nothing in return. Offer love because you want to give it without fear, conditions, or strings attached. Give love for the sheer joy of giving, and you will discover that your own lovability factor increases exponentially!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leave Work Early: Making the Decision to Scale Back

What would happen if you decided to arrive at work no earlier than 9:00 in the morning and left at 5:00 every day? Maybe you already have that kind of job, and if so, you're excused from reading this post. I was talking to a friend the other day who told me he'd lose his job if he left at 5:00 every day. His work requires him to handle certain things well after 5:00 -- it's simply not a nine to five job.

Americans work longer hours than any of our Western European cousins.
We also take fewer and shorter vacations than most Europeans. In my research, I learned one explanation for this: the impact of advertising on our mass psyches. Americans work longer hours so they can make more money to purchase all of the goods and services they see in advertising. If this is the case, we are working harder for fabricated desires. If there were fewer ads, would we relax a little? The irony is that we have less time to enjoy the goods and services we are working so hard to afford.

In my coaching work, many of my clients are striving for balance. They are working long, hard hours at jobs they don't really like. They don't have much time with their families, and they certainly don't have time to pursue their passions. Many are quite successful, but they are drained and unfulfilled.

So here's a bold idea. What if you made the decision to start cutting back? What if you shut down your computer at 4:45, tidied up your desk, and walked out of the office at 5:00? What if you started with the decision that you would work less and have a more balanced life, and then let all other decisions revolve around that commitment? For some, like my friend, that might mean some big changes -- a new job, a simpler lifestyle. It would be a huge shift in thinking. But it would also be a huge shift in living. Life would be a bit slower, with more time to pursue fewer activities -- but with focus and intensity.

At first blush, this idea might seem impossible for you.
But I invite you to consider it and mentally explore the possibility. Start with the concept of scaling back, and think about how you could do that and the possible consequences. Think about how you would deal with the consequences and whether the resulting fall-out and change would be more or less painful than the life you lead now. Perhaps you will surprise yourself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Money Mindfulness Bootcamp: A Week Long Spending Challenge for You

I just finished a five day "Blogging Bootcamp" with Leo Babauta, the founder and writer for the wildly successful blog, Zen Habits. Leo is one guy who practices what he preaches. In spite of his success, he lives very simply and spends very little money on material things. He focuses his energy and money on truly valuable things like serving others through his blogs, raising six kids and being a good husband, and living mindfully and creatively. He has been able to completely pay off his debt and now can enjoy some of the non-material things that money can buy, like travel and helping other people.

He said something the other day in the Bootcamp about asking yourself every time you start to buy something, "Do I really need this?" Is it completely necessary to spend this money on this thing? So for those of you who enjoy tackling a challenge, I've got one for you. Starting today, begin a Money Mindfulness Bootcamp. Why would you want to do this? Well, for two reasons. First, you will save some money and discover just how much you spend on mindless stuff. Secondly, you might discover some pleasure in living simpler and having less. Here's how it will work:

1. Mental Preparation
So if you're going to do this, you need to prepare yourself mentally. For the next seven days, you won't be living the lifestyle you have been living up until this moment. This Money Mindfulness Bootcamp will be an exercise in financial and emotional dieting. But there will be positive results in the end if you stick it out.

2. Get A Savings Jar
Get a jar for savings. Pull out any one, five and ten dollar bills you have in your wallet and put them in the jar. You can keep any twenties or higher, but once you break those bills, put the ones, fives and tens in the jar. You can keep getting twenties from a cash machine if necessary. But you can only keep twenties or higher in your wallet.

3. Start With Meals
Go through your pantry and refrigerator to take inventory of what you have in stock right now. Using the food you have in the house, write a menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the next seven days. If you don't have enough food in the house for seven days, plan menus using very simple, inexpensive, but nutritious ingredients that you can purchase. Go buy those ingredients at the grocery store, purchasing store brand items if possible. Do not purchase any other items except what is on your list. Now, calculate your average weekly grocery bill. From that number, subtract the cost of the groceries you just bought. Write down the remaining number and shove that piece of paper in the savings jar.

4. Credit Cards
Unless it's an absolute emergency, do not use a credit card during this week. An emergency is a hospital visit, a flat tire, or a hold-up at gun point. Not too many robbers take credit cards anyway.

5. No Starbucks, No Fast Food
Sorry. Make coffee at home. Pack your lunch. If you regularly purchase coffee or fast food during the week, calculate about how much you spend on those purchases per week. Write that number down and put it in the jar.

6. Dinners Out, Entertainment
For the next seven days, you must not eat dinner out. Every meal must be either eaten or prepared at home. Any entertainment must be free. So no movies, concerts, or other activities that cost money unless you have already paid for them. Spend some time finding free ways to have fun. Do some research. There are great web sites about cost-free fun. Consider spending time in nature, playing games with your family, reading, exercising, or doing creative projects. Or use the time to clean, reorganize, and pull out useless stuff to sell or give away.

7. Spend Mindfully
Any time during the week you start to pull out your wallet to buy something, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" You probably don't, but if it is something you absolutely do need, ask yourself if it can wait until next week. If you don't buy it or you delay buying it, write down the cost of this thing and put the paper in the jar.

8. What You'll Be Buying
Not much. You can pay necessary bills. You may need a few groceries. You may need to pay for parking and gas, although you might find alternatives to driving. Cancel any lawn or housekeeping services for the week. Your kids may have events or activities to attend that cost money. If they are optional, bag them. Wherever you cut back, write down the savings and put it in the jar.

9. Add Up The Savings
At the end of day seven, sit down with your family and open the jar. Add up the money that you saved by creating your own Money Mindfulness Bootcamp. Write a check for the total amount and put it in your savings account, along with the cash in the jar. Pretty amazing, huh?! (This is a great opportunity to talk with your kids about saving and spending.)

10. Make It A Habit
Consider participating in a Money Mindfulness Bootcamp once a month or at least once a quarter. In between, stay mindful about your spending. Keep asking yourself, "Do I really need this?" Keep a running total of your savings from each Bootcamp and total it up at the end of a year.

I'd love to hear back from you about your success with this challenge and how much you saved!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Limiting Beliefs: Overcome Thoughts That Sabotage Success

Right now, think of something that you've always wanted to do but haven't done. Got it? Okay, now ask yourself why. What has held you back from doing that thing you've dreamed of doing? There might be some solid reasons. I have two daughters who are ballet dancers. I've always wanted to be a ballet dancer, but if I started training now, I might make it into Ballet Geriatric. I'd be in the corps, standing in the back, wearing a heating pad under my tutu. Sadly, it's too late for me to be a professional dancer, but I can still dance. (And I do, much to my daughters' chagrin!)

Yes, there are some dreams we might not be able to realize. Most of us won't become professional dancers, athletic superstars, or president. But I'd like to suggest that the vast majority of our dreams can become reality, and we are the only ones holding ourselves back from seizing those dreams. As Paul Simon says, "There must be fifty ways to leave your lover." I think there are fifty ways to sabotage your success. Let's look at a few of them.

I Don't Have Time
Oh boy. This is the oldest excuse in the book, isn't it? You don't have time if you don't make the time. Life is a demanding mistress, and if we let her, she can take over and manipulate us like puppets. We race around with our tasks and jobs and look longingly at our dream like it's a distant vision in the mist. It will stay that way if we don't seize life by the horns and control it. Put your dream first or at least near the top of your priorities. You control time. It doesn't control you. Make the decision to act on your vision, and remarkably all other activities will find their place in your schedule.

I Might Fail
Yes, you might. But if you only do things you are already successful at doing, you will never grow. Even though it can smack you around and embarrass you, failure is really your best friend. If you fail, you have tried. If you never try, you will never make it to your dream. Sometimes success is a pathway cobbled with failures. Every stepping stone leads you to what you want, and you will get there. Try to laugh at failure, even love it. It shows that you are bold and fearless and willing to step out of your comfort zone. Accept that failure is a natural part of the path to success and just keep going!

I Don't Know How
This is the first cousin of I Don't Have Time and I Might Fail. If you knew how, you probably would have done it. You just don't want to take the time to learn, and you might not get it right the first time. Most of the time, it's never as hard as you think. I have been a special needs computer user most of my adult life. Now I'm blogging, even though I just recently learned what "URL" means. (I know.) I figured it out, mostly by myself. Whatever it is, you can learn it. Just get started. Take the first action.

Others Might Disapprove
This is a hard one. It's so uncomfortable to offend or disappoint people, especially people in your family. Like your mom or dad. Or spouse. We do so many things because we feel we "should". Or we let our dreams sail by because someone else doesn't think it's the right dream for us. Sometimes sacrifice is necessary, especially if your actions might really hurt someone. But if you are just avoiding the discomfort of someone's anger, then you will be forever resentful. This is your one and only life. If you live to age ninety, count up the days you have left. Do you want to give up your dream because it might make someone mad? They will get over it, and if they don't, they are not supporting you the way you deserve to be supported.

I'm Too Old
I recently turned fifty, but inside I feel like I did at thirty. Don't act your age. Act on your dreams in spite of your age. Your brain continues to grow and thrive even into old age -- but only if you keep learning! See every single day as a delicious PuPu platter at a Chinese restaurant. There are so many wonderful choices, so keep choosing to engage in life regardless of age. Age has some limitations (I, for one, no longer wear bikinis), but life is to be lived with joy and passion and adventure. Use the wisdom of age to enjoy every minute to the fullest!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Embrace the Blues: How to Find the Good in Winter Sadness

So we are in the thick of it now. It's mid-February, and we are hovering in the windy, dark corners of the winter season. The holidays are a distant memory and spring seems still buried under the cold, hard earth. Here in Atlanta we have seen more rain and snow (yes, snow!) this winter than in the past several years combined. In fact, it's been a blustery, rainy, and mostly sunless stretch of days that has left me and many of my friends depleted and downright blue.

February can be a most unkind month. I lost both of my parents in the month of February. Valentine's Day, for all of its hype and hearts, can highlight loneliness and pain for the un-coupled among us. The cold and harsh weather keeps us inside when we so desperately need the sunlight to boost our mood and energy.

Much has been written about how to boost your mood when the winter blues descend. Exercise, sunlight, healthy eating, positive thinking. These are valuable and worth pursuing. But sometimes there's a stretch when the blues hang on like a heavy old coat. I've been pondering how the winter blues might serve me when I can't beat them. How can the slate grey aura that surrounds many people teach us something and help us grow? Here are some thoughts that came to me as I huddle at my desk.

1. Patience.
This is a highly underrated virtue. In an age of nearly immediate gratification in all things, it's hard to wait on happiness. That's why we frantically scramble for something to do to make those blues go away. When all else fails, just be patient. Moods come and go. Learn the fine art of patience and watchful waiting. Come to accept that this too shall pass.

2. Rest.
Sometimes our moods send us a message. Maybe your heart, your soul, or your body needs to rest and recuperate. When our mood is low, we aren't as productive, and for action-oriented, achieving types this can feel like the ultimate self-betrayal. Try not to struggle against your mood, and allow yourself to rest in acceptance. You will expend less energy this way and will recover more quickly.

3. Reflection
Use these wintry days as a time for reflection. Pull out some books that feed your soul. Write in a journal about how you are feeling. Sometimes just the release of expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper will help your mood lift. Practice prayer or meditation where you quiet your active mind and sit in stillness. Use this time for quiet planning, self-discovery, and goal-setting. You can still be productive and creative during this time.

4. Self Care.
Don't berate yourself about your mood. Feeling blue is part of the normal range of human emotions. Instead of fighting your mood, embrace it. Welcome the blues as a reason to take special care of yourself. What feels comfortable and soothing to you? Take a long, hot bath. Get a massage. Watch a movie. Snuggle up with someone close. Treat yourself with kindness and the tender care you would give to your child.

5. Awareness.
Spring will come and your mood should lift. The winter blues are generally short-lived and rarely intense. They might last a few days or even a couple of weeks. But if you can't shake the blues and feel yourself sinking lower, call your doctor. A blue mood is one thing. A full-blown depression is another. Be aware of the duration and intensity of your mood, and take action if need be.

6. Gratitude.
When your energy is low and activity is slowed down, be grateful for the small things you miss in the rush of daily life. That first sip of coffee. The burst of warm water from the shower. The red bird perched on the branch outside. There is a gift in every moment if you pay attention. Be grateful for that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love: The Agony and The Ecstasy

Look at the photo of these incredibly powerful, beautiful dancers from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Are they in agony or ecstasy? Or both? We know the story of these star-crossed lovers. They are passionate soul mates whose circumstances pull them apart and lead them to untimely death. Damn. I hate it when that happens.

But isn't that the way with love? On the one hand, it is exquisite, thrilling, rapturous, lovely, fulfilling, and passionate. And then that same love can leave you wounded, fearful, angry, confused, and depressed. What gives with love?? We all want it, but boy can it turn us inside out. Even when love gets older and cozy and predictable, suddenly the love rug can be pulled out from under us, and all we can see is that creep who leaves the toilet seat up or the raging Tasmanian she-devil who steals the remote.

Love has so many obstacles, but we still go after it with dogged determination. Why? Because it is a noble pursuit. I think we long for love, strive for love, because it reveals our greatest good. It shows us the depth of our capacity to feel and the measure of our ability to give. It can bruise us, batter us, and reshape us, but we will still knock down doors to get at it.

I suppose it's that way with everything -- that there are two sides to the coin. Without black there'd be no white; without sorrow there's no happiness; and without pain, there can be no love. Just as love brings out our greatest good, it also reveals our deepest hurts and most deplorable behavior. However, the unique blessing of love is its remarkable healing powers. It brings out our best and it brings out our worst. But like a sheepish, steadfast puppy, love creeps back in and licks you on the face when you are least expecting it. Unless the wounds are too deep or the walls too high, we almost always welcome love back with open arms.

This Valentine's Day, whether you are single or with someone, my wish for you is to welcome love in your life. Yes, pain is inevitable. But healing and growth are inevitable too if you keep your heart open.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

20 Amazing Personal Growth Blogs

Now that I'm a neophyte blogger on personal growth, I have become achingly aware of the plethora of extraordinary blogs with different slants on the same subject. I look at them and drool with the dreams of a one-legged sprinter. I am about to take a Blogging Bootcamp with two of the world's greatest bloggers, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen. So you may be seeing some changes for the better in my blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are 20 blogs in no particular order that will show you how the pros do it!

1. Pick the Brain
Topics include motivation, productivity, education, psychology, health, and money.

2. Change Your Life, Change Your Thoughts
The title tells the story. This is a beautiful, easy to read blog.

3. Christine Kane
About creativity, courage, and conscious living. One of my all time favorite blogs. Great writing and practical info.

4. Dumb Little Man
This cool blog offers you tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, and keep you sane! Don't you love the title?

5. Zen Habits
Leo's subtitle is "simple productivity". That's what the blog is about, and it's so refreshing and calm. Leo is a regular guy, married with six kids, who figured out how to blog and now makes a great living at it. Simply.

6. Goodlife Zen
This is a sister site to Zen Habits. It's written by Leo's partner Mary Jaksch who is a lovely, brilliant lady. The blog offers "practical inspiration for a happier life", and it lives up to that claim.

7. Simple Mom
Live simply. Stay sane. All you moms out there, you can't miss this one. It's beautiful, practical and engaging.

8. Live What You Love
This is the coolest web site and blog written by a married couple who are living what they love. They give you great ideas on travel, food, books, goal setting, and many good things.

9. Think Simple Now
It's a "candidly written blog that addresses real-life personal issues on our path to happiness and fulfillment, along with practical and simple solutions for those issues," according to the blogger. It's very sweet and personal.

10. The Change Blog
If you’re looking to make changes in your life this year, then this is the blog for you. Great posts by Peter, the blog's founder, as well as many wonderful guest posts.

11. Litemind
Exploring efficient ways to use your mind. Like I just did with that efficient sentence.

12. The Unclutterer
This is an beautifully uncluttered blog about getting and staying organized with great daily tips.

13. Life Optimizer
This site is about living life to the fullest and getting the most from every day.

14. The Brazen Careerist
According to dear Penelope Trunk, the writer, she offers advice at the intersection of life and work.

15. Motivate Thyself
A guide to helping you make the most out of yourself and everything you do.

16. Universe of Success
This is sort of the superstore of personal development sites. It's dedicated to helping people help themselves by making small changes for the better.

17. The Bridgemaker
This site offers stories of faith, hope, courage and change. We all need some of that.

18. Abundance Blog
The writer offers a simple equation for personal growth: Creatvity + Productivity + Simplicity = Abundance.

19. Positivity Blog
It's easy on the eyes, fun to read, great photos, and usable info.

20. My Super-Charged Life
Great stuff to help you stay motivated and get the most out of life.

Enjoy these amazing blogs, and check back in with me too for more great life blooming goodness!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Listen and Learn

Life is rarely black or white. It is usually various gradations of grey. Any problem, decision, action, or belief can almost always be perceived from a multitude of perspectives with many possible, logical, or even "right" choices or outcomes. Yes, there are some situations that have a best or more believable result, but even then, there is always another side to the story that may have some merit.

We often take a stand about something. We thrust a stake in the ground and proclaim the rightness of our belief or choice. We know best because we have gathered the data, mastered the debate, and slathered ourselves in the self assurance that our "knowingness" about the situation should be enough to convince those other morons that we are right.

But then something or someone comes along and fuzzies up our "knowingness". They present a real alternative, another way of thinking. If they aren't screaming their opinion or bloviating with self-righteousness, it's hard for rationale people to completely ignore them. Whether it's politics, religion, the weather forecast, or the best driving route, if a viable, reasonable alternative is in our faces, shouldn't we close our mouths and listen for minute?

I've seen liberals and conservatives debate about how to serve our country while screaming red-faced into the television camera. I have known atheists who have demonstrated profound acts of kindness while religious fanatics bomb buildings and kill in the name of the Creator. I've known good people to make bad decisions, and difficult, troubled people to surprise me with goodness.

We need to humble ourselves. We need to become listeners and learners. If we accept that very rarely there is one "right" choice, belief, or decision and stay open to all possibilities, we expand our world and find new ways of connection. Become a truth ferret. Assume that your way is not the only way. Hear and acknowledge other people and their ideas and beliefs. Embrace differences as opportunities for enlightenment. Learning and growing is a life-long endeavor and the world around you is your master teacher. Be curious and grateful for your daily lessons.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Create Your Life Vision

Do you have any idea where you're going? I used to wonder that all the time as I bobbled through life like a pinball, bouncing from one task to another. If my dream job was to be a Task Master, I'd become the expert in the field.

Routines, errands and other people's schedules ran my life. This wasn't intentional. It just enveloped me like slow growing kudzu. I was tangled up in a web of insidious activity leading nowhere. In fact, I used my tasks and to-do lists as an excuse for not consciously creating my life.

If I was busy with projects, cleaning, driving kids around, and generally chasing my tail like a crazed puppy, I didn't have to think about finding a passion or accomplishing something meaningful. Frankly I was afraid if I focused on it, I might discover I had no vision or plan for my life at all. Well, I didn't. But I was determined to create one, and here are the steps I took.

1. Step Away from the Car.
You must step out of your routine to begin this process. Force yourself to carve time out of your schedule to work on this vision. Even if it's just an hour a week, breaking the cycle of activity to focus on creating your life is the most important step on the path. Get a notebook and a folder to start gathering information.

2. Become a Self Sleuth.
Start learning about yourself -- your personality, motivations, strengths, and aptitudes. I love assessment tests. They are a great tool for starting this learning process. There are many free tests online and some that require a fee but provide you with more in-depth information. Just Google "assessment tests" or visit http://www.rileyguide.com/assess.html to get a list of various assessment tools. A coach or counselor also can administer these assessments and provide feedback.

3. Phone a Friend.
Ask those closest to you to give your their perceptions of your strengths and natural gifts. You might be surprised at what you hear. Sometimes the qualities we take for granted in ourselves are areas where others perceive us as gifted and valuable.

4. Dig Deeper.
Here's the part that assessment tools may not cover. Get pen and paper and write down everything you feel passionate about or that brings you joy, in your personal and professional life. Now write down all of the things you'd like less of in your life. If it's a feeling (ie: stress), write down the root cause for the feeling (over-scheduled). Finally, write down a list of your values and pick the top 4 or 5 that are non-negotiable for your life and career. Here's a great list of value words to help you: http://www.brefigroup.co.uk/resources/values_list.html.

5. Outline Your Vision.
Now you should know a good bit more about yourself -- your personality, your gifts, your motivations, your passions and your values. Using all of the information you've gathered about yourself, you are going to begin to outline your life vision. Get your pen and six sheets of paper. Put the one of the following headlines on each sheet: Career; Relationship; Family; Physical Space/Home; Personal Growth/Learning/ Faith; Lifestyle/Fun. Now begin writing your ideal vision for each of these based on what you've learned about yourself.

6. Find the Imbalances.
Now review the vision you've written for each category, and determine how your current life is out-of-balance with your vision. There may be big areas like being in the wrong job. And there may be small areas like you want to travel more. Go to your list of things you want less of in your life (see #4 above) and decide if you can make adjustments here to help you create your vision in each category.

7. Begin Somewhere.
Pick one of these out-of-balance areas and begin to do something about it. If you are ready to tackle something big, then pick the area that is draining most of your energy. Write a list of everything that needs to be done to get you to that vision and start the work. If this is overwhelming, start small. Pick one action from any category and do that. Then another and another. You get the picture.

8. Visit Your Vision Daily.
Every day, re-read your vision so that you build excitement and energy around it. Make adjustments as you create more awareness. Then keep working toward it. Every step, whether large or small, is moving you forward on the path to your wonderful new life. Don't get overwhelmed. Just take it one piece at a time. One day you will wake up and realize you haven't just created your life vision. You are living it!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Big Decisions: Making Them Without Regret

Every day we have decisions to make -- what to wear, what to eat, how to spend our time. Some decisions are no-brainers. You make your choice, and even if it's not the best decision, the potential consequences are rarely worth breaking a sweat. Then there are the BIG decisions. Should I move? Which job offer will be best? Am I in the right relationship? Sometimes the elements of a big decision are so complicated that your brain gets muddled, and confusion and indecision grip you like a vice. You're languishing in Limbo Land, frozen like a deer in headlights.

You just want a voice from the heavens to shout down instructions and tell you what path to take. "Hey you, take that job in Miami. You'll be much happier!" So far, that's never happened for me, although there are many voices on terra firma offering input and suggestions.

When I've had to make big life decisions, I've learned to take several practical steps infused with a big dose of emotional guidance. In other words, I start with my head but also listen to my heart. Here are some steps to help you make a big decision and hopefully not look back with regret.

1. Have a Life Vision
A life vision should be the foundation and reference point for every decision you make. In my next blog, I will write more about creating a life vision. For now, realize that you need to know yourself and your values, the lifestyle you want, your life purpose or goals, and what really brings you joy and fulfillment. If you deviate from this vision, it will cause you eventual pain and regret. Evaluate your choices based on your vision. Which one is in closest alignment with your vision?

2. Write Down the Pros and the Cons
Consider the possible positive and negative aspects or consequences of your decision. Write down a list of pros and cons for each possible alternative. Then prioritize these points with the most important considerations at the top of the list.

3. Phone a Friend
Carefully select two or three trusted friends whose opinion and judgment you value. Tell them about your life vision, show them your list of pros and cons and ask for their input about your decision. Someone who is removed from the turmoil of the decision and who has a different perspective can help you see things in a clearer light.

4. Invoke a Higher Power
Go to a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Go within. Pray or meditate (or whatever feels right to you) and ask for guidance. Your own inner wisdom and intuition will often rise to your conscious mind when you calm the mental chaos of over thinking your decision. Give it a few days. You may be surprised that the answer presents itself unexpectedly.

5. Try the Coin Trick
I love this idea, because it puts you in touch with you real desires. Grab a quarter and assign one decision choice to heads and the other to tails. Flip the coin, and before it lands, pay attention to side you hope it lands on. More than likely, this is what you truly want to do. Something in your heart is pulling you in that direction. Examine this result carefully, because even if the choice conflicts with all of the practical considerations, you may be dishonoring your deepest desires.

6. Don't Look Back
If you have done the work, honored your vision, examined the pros and cons, sought guidance, and connected with your intuition, then make your choice and don't look back. There are millions of paths that we can take in a lifetime, all leading to different opportunities and problems. Once you are on this new adventure, have confidence that you have made the best decision with the information available, and move forward with a spring in your step. There is something good to be learned on every path we follow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Motivation and How to Live Without It

Motivation is such an ephemeral quality. Sometimes you have it. Sometimes you don't. It comes and goes like an uncommitted suitor. You're thrilled when it shows up, but left sad and confused when it disappears again. It seems that every accomplishment in life hinges on that unpredictable suitor. You plan to get up early in the morning to run. Morning comes and you're just not motivated. "Oh dear," you think. "Motivation is not here this morning. I guess I can't run." And so you don't. Then you feel bad about yourself and once again define yourself as "SOMEONE WITH NO MOTIVATION". And you repeat this mantra with every task before you that isn't glossy with excitement and fun. No motivation, can't do it. Your brain is now operating in the No Motivation, No Can Do mode.

Well here's a startling concept. Motivation is for sissies! I proclaim it to be unnecessary and sometimes downright counterproductive. Are you going to wait for some floaty feeling to take over before you accomplish anything? No way! Some might argue that if you just don't feel like doing something, it can't be done. If the glove don't fit, you must quit! If you wait on motivation, you will never, ever break out of your comfort zone and seize the day. So here are some thoughts on living boldly without motivation:

1. Whatever It Is, Chop It Up
If you have to start a big project or tackle a goal, chop it up into many smaller pieces. Even the act of chopping will make you feel more relaxed and in control. And for heaven's sake, write it all down. If it's on paper, it will feel official. Type it even.

2. Create Some Energy
Pick one of those teeny, tiny chopped up pieces of a project and start doing it. Even if you are hating every minute of it. Just give yourself permission to do that one little piece and nothing else. See, not so hard. Didn't take any motivation. So now you've started. What? Are you starting to fell a little energy around this project?

3. Keep the Momentum
So you feel a little bit of movement. You aren't really jazzed about doing this thing, but now you've started. That's the hardest part, right? So pick another teeny, tiny piece -- or maybe two or three pieces. Just do them. Don't think about it. Things are getting a bit easier.

4. Make a Pronouncement
Tell some folks what you are doing. Let them know that you have this thing you are working on and planning to finish. Ask them to check in with you about it. Put yourself out there and be accountable to someone. If you want to make some big, bold movement with your goal, tell ten people that you will pay them $100 each if you don't reach your goal within a certain time. Money talks and money creates momentum.

5. Give Yourself a Sticker
Acknowledge every little accomplishment along the way. "Hurray, I put my running shoes on. Now I can eat a chocolate doughnut!" Not really, but you get the idea. Create a reward system for yourself that reinforces every step forward.

6. Redefine Yourself
You may no longer use the excuse of no motivation to slack off. Sorry. It isn't necessary, so don't wait around for it. Just take action, even if it's just a little bit of action. Once the ball is rolling, odds are you will get the job done. Take away motivation as a necessary factor in achievement, and the sky's the limit for you. Don't think, just do.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Was So Much Older Then, I'm Younger Than That Now

That's me, above left, with two of my best friends in the world on a recent girl's weekend away. The three of us went to high school together. Class of '77. Yep, this year was the big 5-0 for each of us. Ugh! I choke when I write that. I have similar pictures of us sitting around a table laughing from about 35 years ago. We had us some really good times in high school. But somewhere around my late twenties and especially into my thirties and forties, I really started to get old. I'm not talking about physically (although I'm fighting that tooth and nail), but I mean in the way I approach life. Remember that line, "Youth is wasted on the young"? I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

I wish so much that my fifty-year-old self could time-travel back to my twenty-five-year-old self and give me some advice. I don't know if I would have listened to me, but here are the lessons I'd want to share:

- Whatever adventure you dream about, do it now, next week, this year, before you have the responsibility of a family. Don't put it off, because it's a whole lot harder when you have kids who'd rather go to Chuck E Cheese than spend a week skiing in Colorado.

- Before you get married, learn to be totally, completely self-sufficient and financially independent. Live on your own, pay your own bills (on time), know how to cook, and wash your own clothes.

- Pay less attention to how you look, what you wear, who you impress, how much money you or others make, or what kind of car you drive. Pay more attention to who you can serve, what you can learn, how you can grow, and how grateful you are.

- Tend to your relationships like they are part of a prize garden. Treat them as the most important aspect of your life. Work on them daily and diligently, and sow the seeds of love, kindness, respect, and laughter every single day. Nothing else matters if we can't share it with the people important to us.

- Make your marriage the center of your family, not the children or your work. Make your spouse the centerpiece of the above-mentioned garden.

- Outside of work or childcare, do something every day that feeds your soul and your creative spirit. Don't lose that spirit under heaps of mindless tasks or television.

- Love your work, love your work, love your work. If you don't, you are giving away precious time to something that is less than you are worth.

- Don't micromanage your children. Don't give them endless stuff. Let them fail and learn natural consequences. It's okay if they aren't child prodigies. Relax about them. They will be fine.

- Relax about everything. Life is to live. Go have fun. Find joy. Laugh a lot.

- Picture yourself at fifty. Now look back and ask yourself if you've done what you wanted to do, been the person you wanted to be, lived the life you wanted to live. If not, go get started.

- Know that you will probably ignore every piece of advice I've given you. But don't worry. When you're fifty, you'll get it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are You Doing What You Love?

Do you love your job? Do you even like it? I used to think that people who jumped out of bed in the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to take on the day, were either grossly exaggerating or were on some very lovely medication. I always liked my work, and there were some parts about it that I really liked. But I rarely woke up overjoyed to begin the day. Now I do -- every single day.

So you want to know what changed for me? I got to know myself a little better, and I stepped outside of my comfort zone. After more than twenty years as a public relations professional, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn't the best fit for me. Parts of it were, but not enough. If this resonates with you, take a look at the steps I took to change the course of my life.

1. Know Thyself
If your work doesn't reflect and support who you are and your values, you are always going to feel off-kilter. I started by taking a bunch of online assessments -- personality tests, career tests, and motivation tests. There are plenty of free assessments online and many other in-depth tests for a fee. You also can work with a career coach to administer and explain them as well. These test results are like the outline for a book or project. They give you a rough idea of who you are and what makes you tick. Some people think assessments give you a label, but I think they are great. They give you a starting point and set you off in the right direction.

2. Value Your Values
If you want your work to have meaning, substance and purpose, it needs to reflect your strongest values. For me those values were serving, creating, interacting, uplifting, and communicating. Now I'm a life and career coach rather than a publicist. I found some of those values in my past career, but now I have all of them. Hence, the happy pill mornings! Some people have a hard time defining their values, so go on the internet and look up a values word list. Pick the values that are most important to you in life and in your career. Narrow it down to your top five, and be brutal about ensuring that your work supports these values.

3. Don't Freak Out
You might start feeling all dark and twisty about changing careers. Don't get sucked in by fear and limiting beliefs. Keep your day job while you make it your mission to find something that makes your head spin with happiness. Yes, that's possible. Suspend beliefs that will sabotage you, like "I can't afford to start over" or "There's nothing better out there that I'm qualified for". Open yourself to all possibilities. Assume, better yet know, that something great is out there for you, and you are just working your way toward it. It sounds mystical and magical, but really it will help keep you focused and positive.

4. Joy and Dreams
These two can be clues to show you the way. Get yourself a nice piece of paper and your favorite pen. Write down everything (legal) that brings you joy. This can be a hobby, a relationship, an environment, or anything that really makes you happy or adds meaning. Below that, write down anything from age 15 and older that you dreamed of doing, but for whatever reason you haven't. Travel, skydiving, taking a cooking class. Now, take your lists and circle anything that might have application to your career. From those, circle any that you really want as part of your career.

5. You Know Who, Now Go Do
At this point you should have a pretty good idea of who you are, what you value, and what you really feel excited or passionate about. Use all of this information to start researching some potential career applications. I have a client who went through this exercise and discovered her passion through a personal tragedy (the loss of a child). She combined her creative talents, her interpersonal skills, and her compassion to create a beautiful business of presenting group rituals to help people with their major life transitions. She is amazing and so energized about her new career. Think creatively. This process might move you from one department to another at the same company, or it might be the beginning of a brand new business venture.

6. Write A Vision
Once you have an idea about what you want to do, write a vision statement about it. Writing things down always makes them more real. So write a story about how you see yourself in your career, the specific work you are doing, your income, your surroundings, the location of the job, and the type of people with whom you work. Post it where you will see it every day. Read it over and over.

7. Make a Plan
Now it's time for strategy. How are you going to get there? Will it involve interviewing, updating a resume, making calls, financial planning or saving money, getting a business license? Again, make a list of what you need to do to get the ball rolling. Taking action will make you feel safer about the change and more enthusiastic about your vision materializing.

8. Depend on the Kindness of Strangers
Ask for help and support. This is a big change, and it takes courage and accountability. Hire a career coach, go to a counselor, find a mentor or friend to bounce things around with. It's so easy to stay stuck in the same place because it's safe and secure. Once you have the momentum to do the work to find what you love, don't let fear or inertia undermine that. Stay the course. It is so worth it!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ten Books To A Better You

Books have come to my rescue my entire life. Growing up in an appropriately dysfunctional Southern family, books were an escape and my introduction into life outside of my youthful inexperience and weirdo family life. Books were little packages of entertainment, both cheap and easily available, that lasted for weeks. They were friends when real friends weren't available. They curled up with you at night like a lovable cat, purring for your attention.

As I got older, books came to my rescue in more profound ways. They became therapists, spiritual advisors, historians, professors, and coaches. Some books have made such an impact on me that I would be remiss not to share them with you. So here are ten books that I hope will come to your rescue:

1. Shift Your Mind, Shift The World, by Steve Chandler
Steve Chandler probably thinks I'm some kind of creepy stalker given the number of times I've expressed my undying love for his writing and wisdom. I'm not usually a groupie, but I'd hang around backstage for his autograph if he did a book reading. Steve's a regular guy who's had regular problems like the rest of us, but he figured out what's important and how to live it. He shares that in his books in the pithiest, most humorous, and practical ways. He writes in little blips, so you can read a page or two, digest his wonderment, and pick it up later. All of his books are great, but I particularly like Shift Your Mind.

2. The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D.
If you've been reading any of my blog posts, you will see that this book really blew me away. It's a book about brain science, which probably sounds about as exciting as warmed-over toast, but it's crazy amazing stuff. This breakthrough science called neuroplasticity reveals that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age. The impact on physical, mental, and emotional healing, learning, and growth is staggering. It puts science behind the power of positive thinking and the impact of repetitive learning. It's easy to read.

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I know, this is not a self-help book, but it touched me so deeply because of the man Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he was a political genius and a President perfectly suited to his time in history. But this book laid out with clarity and beauty who this man was -- his suffering, his remarkable humor, his integrity, his patience, and his almost supernatural insights into human nature. You will learn so much about being a decent person and a strong leader from this book.

4. How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra
This is a fascinating book that blends science and spiritual mystery. Chopra suggests that the brain is hardwired to know God, and that the human nervous system has biological responses that correspond to levels of divine experience. He explains these levels and how to reach them in beautifully, weaving religion, quantum physics and neuroscience into his new spiritual paradigm.

5. Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
I read Younger Next Year for Women, but there's a book for men too. If you are truly serious about staying healthy and fit as you get older, then this book will light a fire under you. Our bodies are programmed to grow or decay. The authors spell out very simply how to grow more and decay less with seven specific rules related to exercise and lifestyle. Nothing new here, but it's written with humor, great stories, and solid information. It will motivate you to get moving.

6. The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Dr. Lyubomirsky has spent her career researching what makes people happy. She's discovered that 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% comes from outside circumstances, and that the remaining 40% is completely in our control. She has learned that there are some very specific activities that can optimize that 40% and significantly raise the level of your happiness. I don't want to give it away if you want to read the book. If you don't, go to my past blog post about it for an overview.

7. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
I have to mention this book because it led me to discover a gift I didn't know I had until I was forty. I could draw. The author asks you to pick a creative pursuit and stick to it without any preconceived notions about your own ability. You work through limiting beliefs and fear of failure and discover that everyone has creative ability. It turned me from a stick figure artist to a portrait drawer. There are lots of great exercises and activities that get the creative juices flowing.

8. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, by Eckart Tolle
There are probably only three of you out there who haven't read this book since Oprah gave it her stamp of approval. So for you three, go read it! Tolle calls our ego the "pain-body", and he suggests that our attachment to the ego is the source of all suffering. Awakening, personal happiness and peace are possible when we transcend our ego-based consciousness. Tolle shows us how to follow this path, but it's up to the reader to live it.

9. The Power of Intention, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
"Intention is a force in the universe, and everything and everyone is connected to this invisible force." So sayeth Dr. Dyer. This is pretty much an attraction principle story told in Wayne Dyer's straightforward and readable style. By intending something, we are beginning the act of creating it. He sees intention as a force that allows for creation, and by tapping into it, you can propel your desires and dreams into reality. Intend to read it, and it might appear on your bookshelf!

10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
This is just a great story with some of the most beautiful prose I've read in a long time. It's a coming-of-age story about a mute boy and his dogs. I know, that sounds depressingly sentimental. But this is stunning debut novel, with remarkable characters, mystery, and emotion. You don't want it to end. How did it make me better? It touched my soul.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten Practical Steps to Inner Peace

Unflappable. That is such a wonderfully descriptive word. I have known some truly unflappable people. They exude an inner calmness even in the most trying circumstances. They are fully present with everyone, gentle, and accepting of themselves and others. Then there are the flappers. Flappers have chaos and angst in their midst. They are busy, busy, busy. Frantic and preoccupied. A flapper can't relax or fully enjoy life because they are so easily disturbed by events, people, and problems. In fact, they are prone to create problems and crises. We all flap around on occasion, but some folks are perpetual flappers.

Everyone desires to be less flappable and have more inner peace. We all know the restorative power of meditating, prayer, staying in the moment, deep breathing, and exercise. However, sometimes we need to make some profound and practical shifts in the perceptions of ourselves and how we live to lay the foundation for inner peace. Here are ten ideas to integrate into your life to begin the peace process:

1. Have nothing unresolved as opposed to just having things finished. Don't create "to do" lists for the thrill of checking things off. Clear up the larger unresolved issues personally and professionally that sap your energy and create other problems. You will feel a weight come off your shoulders.

2. Surrender and accept what is so instead of resisting and fighting. Stop struggling. Resistance blocks energy and creativity. How can you find a solution when you are flailing about? Unhook yourself from the situation or person and view it from a detached perspective.

3. Take full responsibility for how you react to others. Other people don't make you behave in a certain way. You choose your behavior. Decide who you want to be in all circumstances. Mentally prepare yourself and plan for a calm, unflappable response even during trying times.

4. Become aware of and sensitive to feelings rather than ignoring them. This means your own feelings as well as others. Don't shove away feelings because they are uncomfortable. They are sending you a message. Take time to poke around those feelings to discover what is behind them. If you don't, the feelings will come back in more unpleasant ways and really disrupt your peace.

5. Tell the entire truth versus editing, lying, or translating. Be real. Lay it on the table in a gentle and authentic way. Hiding the truth doesn't serve you in the long run. Staying true to your integrity brings peace of mind.

6. Distinguish between your self versus your mind, ego, needs or past experience. Take the time to understand who you really are. What are your values, your goals, your joys and passions, your integrity? Those are what define you and make your authentic.

7. Immediately catch yourself when triggered by adrenaline. Adrenaline is the drug of choice in a stressed out society. It gives us a jolt of superhuman energy when faced with a threat. But we mostly use it to get that rush to blast through difficult times. An adrenaline lifestyle can do soul-damaging things: overworking, being greedy, insistence on getting ahead or winning even at the expense of relationships. Kick the adrenaline dependency. Slow down and let go or risk losing your health, your relationships, and your peace of mind.

8. Recognize and determine why your cage gets rattled. What makes you bristle or pushes your buttons? There's a reason this happens, and understanding what's behind these feelings is the first step in addressing the problem or letting it go. Keep asking yourself, "Why do I feel this way?" until you know the real answer.

9. Step over nothing, even the small stuff (but don't fix others!).
Don't ignore even the smallest tolerations or imbalance in your life. You may not be able to change everything, but awareness and the ability to manage tolerations in a healthy way can bring you peace.

10. Reprioritize peace ahead of performance. Make an estimated guess on the days you have left to live. Do you want to look back at your life and celebrate the rushing around, the completed "to do" lists, the stuff, or do you want to reflect on days of calm, connectedness, great relationships, wonderful experiences, and peace of mind?