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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shameless Plug

I love New Year's! It's a new beginning and a new start and there is a real feeling of optimism in the air. That's why people set resolutions, or at least that's why I think they do. They want to make the most of the fresh start the New Year affords them. But then, something happens.

In doing a little research I found that less than half of people (about 45%) make resolutions. A generation or two ago, that percent was has high as 88%. So what happened?

Resolutions, like the road to Hell, is paved with good intentions. But good intentions don't often lead to real results. So by the end of the month, many people have given up on their resolutions. Don't believe me? Try going to a gym in mid-January. It's packed! By mid-February, you have no problem getting on your favorite treadmill!

There are three main reasons why resolutions don't stick.

Lack of a game plan. Losing weight. Stopping smoking. Getting a new job. All of these are possible but none are plausible without a real plan, a strategy. Even something as simple as spending more time with the kids or the hubby won't happen without some planning.

Lack of motivation. Some resolutions make the list just because you think they should be there. For example, smoking. You know it's bad for you. You know you shouldn't do it. So you make a resolution to stop it. There's one problem ... you still really enjoy smoking. More importantly, if you are honest with yourself, you don't feel like going through the enormous tasks of stopping. So you give up for a hot minute and then you start again.

Lack of discipline. To me, this is also related to motivation. They say discipline is what keeps you going when the initial enthusiasm wears off. The ability to "just do it" or "do it anyway" is discipline. To me, it's easier to maintain discipline when you have a goal that motivates you.

I've developed a 90-minute seminar called Feelin' Fine in 2009! In less time than it takes to watch a movie and for less than it cost for dinner and a movie, participants can hang up the phone at the end of the call, and have three goals they they are excited about achieving and a plan to make it happen.

Check it out for yourself at
Feelin' Fine in 2009.

Make 2009 your best year yet!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beyond the Mirror

As a trainer, I work with all types and I enjoy almost all of them. Every once in a while, I get a student who truly rubs me the wrong way. There was one employee in particular, who I would dread every time I saw her name on a roster. Smug, condescending and very sarcastic, when she was in my class, it was a struggle to maintain a positive and upbeat atmosphere.

A few days after one of my sessions with her, I was in a store and had to make a return. I was having a bad day and apparently the sales clerk was too. I completed the transaction and as I walked through the parking lot, it occurred to me, I had acted as smug, condescending and sarcastic as my dreaded student!

I was mortified. The behavior that I found so ugly and repulsive on her didn't look any better on me.

Those opportunities to see ourselves in others are rare but they can also be priceless. If we are open to them, they allow us to see how we appear and the effect that we have on others. If sarcastic downer chick could have such a profoundly negative affect on me, is it possible that I could have had that affect on others? It was truly a moment of truth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

King Kong and the Unbearable Possibility of Falling

When I was a little girl, about seven years old, we went for a trip to New York City. It was fun. It was exciting. And when we got to The Empire State Building, it was terrifying. You see, in my mind, that was where King Kong lived and if we made it to the top, we wouldn’t be making it back down. I was panic-stricken. In fact, I was so scared, that 33 years later, when I rode the elevator back up to the top of the Empire State Building, my inner child experienced a little bit of that panic all over again.

When you think about it, a lot of us experience that sort of fear – fear that feels crazy and irrational and all too real. What terrified me wasn't the reality of riding up to one of the city's tallest structures. What terrified me were the possibilities of what could have been. I could have been whacked off the building by one of Kong’s hands and hurdled down thousands of feet to my death. Maybe he would have done a Faye Rae and held me in the tightening grip of his primate paws. Maybe he would have chewed my head off (I didn’t know gorillas were herbivores at the time).

A co-worker of mine had to fly to our home office last week and make a five-minute presentation. All the bad possibilities ran though her head: what if she said the wrong thing, or didn’t include the right information, what if they asked her questions that she couldn’t answer? Even though she was prepared, she was still a bundle of nerves and anxiety. However, none of her fears came to pass.

Imagination is neutral but we often use it to focus on the possible negative outcomes like getting killed by an oversized ape or flubbing a major presentation. We see those things so clearly and so vividly. Yet, we can also use our powers of imagination for good. What if my co-worker had used her imagination to focus on giving a great presentation? What if she replayed over and over, people giving her their rapt attention and congratulating her after her presentation was done? What if I could have made friends with Kong and been the one to tame him and make him my friend? Think of all the nerves and anxiety that could have been avoided.

There is a statistic that says 95% of the things we fear never come to pass. And if we manage to live to see another day then the 5% that do come to pass can’t be that bad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comfort Food for the Soul

Macaroni and Cheese, mashed potatoes and down here in the South, fried chicken, are the quintessential comfort foods. They offer comfort not just because they taste good but because they are surrounded with memories of simpler times – before the traffic jams, bills, multi-tasking and long work days took over our lives. Times when your days were filled with bike rides, games of tag and hide and seek and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Now, more than ever, we need comfort, but I’m interested in looking at other places to find that comfort because too much comfort food can lead to some very uncomfortable and tight fitting clothes!

We need to seek out comfort throughout the day and find ways to distress.

In the car: I fill my CD player with music I love. In fact, one co-worker got a good laugh out of me when she pulled up next to me as we were leaving work. I didn’t even see her but she definitely saw me dancing and bopping my head to Maroon 5! Sometimes it’s upbeat songs, other times it’s more mellow and subdued, on occasion it’s even been a book on CD, but whatever it is, it makes for a much calmer commute.

At work: I use music at work but, since I have the luxury of having an office with a door, sometimes I just close it. Maybe it’s because I grew up as an only child, but the solitude alone for me can be comforting. Taking walks at my break is also a great way for me to relax on the job.

At home: My home is my sanctuary and just being there for me is comforting. There are some days that all I have to do is walk through my door and I instantly feel better. Playing with Marty (my toy poodle) is comforting too. But at home, nothing beats a nice warm bubble bath!

With our busy lives we have to make time to comfort ourselves and soothe our own souls. It’s not a luxury. It’s a priority. In fact, it’s a necessity. If you don’t have the time, make it. Just 15 minutes a day can be enough. Get the kids and the spouse to work with you. If you think about it, they have a vested interest. If you are happy, they are happy.

So what are you going to do today or at least some time this week to comfort yourself?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Curb Level Aspirations

Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with a young man in my neighborhood who doesn’t have any respect for boundaries or for other people. Without going into too much detail, the police have been called twice. I now am forced to walk my dog with a leash in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other while constantly looking over my shoulder.

When the police asked me to press charges, after the second incident, I did. Several people applauded me for taking a stand but I also got several responses that were unexpected and disheartening. I “shouldn’t be so eager to put another young black man into the system,” they said, as they sympathetically attempted to argue his side. Basically, since I wasn’t raped or beaten, I should cut him some slack. I don’t agree.

People should be accountable for their actions. The fact that there was a second incident more egregious than the first after the police had been called once already said it all to me. He has shown absolutely no remorse. In fact, he seems to think he’s entitled to trespass on my property and violate my personal boundaries.

I am not without compassion, but compassion shouldn’t be expected, it should be earned. What’s sad is that so many people assume that this boy can’t do any better and that he deserves a second, and a third and a fourth chance. I wonder what it would take for them to side with me? A severe beating? A rape? A murder?

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it is true. No one rises to low expectations. I expect more from my neighbor. I expect him to act with courtesy and respect. I expect him not to engage in inappropriate behavior. I expect others to stand by me and demand more from this young man.
As a community, we have to demand more from ourselves and from each other. Life is hard. In some cases, it’s downright tragic but none of that gives people carte blache to act like a fool. It is not okay to violate another person. It is not okay to help yourself to someone else’s property. If we want more for ourselves, if we want more from our families, if we want more from our communities, we have to demand it and accept nothing less.

Young black men (or any men) don’t have to go to jail. It is not inevitable – neither is a life of crime or a life colored by poverty and despair.It’s not easy but we can overcome. As Obama would say, “Yes, we can!”

I hope my ordeal with this young man is over. I hope he learns several lessons from all of this. I hope he learns to have respect for other people. I hope he learns that there are consequences for every action – good and bad. I hope both he and his parents take this as a wake-up call and see this as an opportunity to do and be better. I hope this is the last time his name is uttered by the police.

I hope he sets his sights higher than the gutter and higher than curb level.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stealing Your Joy

Things are going well. Work is going fine, maybe you just got promoted. Your relationship is on solid ground. The kids are alright. Life is good. You’re appreciating and enjoying this smooth patch because at some point, things could change. Right now, though, you’re good; but not for long, if some people can help it.

Sadly, there are people who won’t share your happiness. Even worse, there are some people who will actively try to sabotage it. The saying misery loves company is tragically true. They will try to replace certainty with doubt, planting nasty little bugs in your ear: Are you sure he’s working late? They say feigning concern about your marriage.

They grit their teeth when you talk with pride about your child’s latest achievement. The offer you cake and fried chicken when you are losing weight or complain that you are too thin when you reach your goal.

Maybe they don’t talk to you at all. Maybe they talk about you to other people, complaining, nagging, gossiping about you to anyone who will listen.

Trying to change them is useless; so why try? The best way to defend yourself against these killjoys is to maintain a safe distance and create a buffer zone around you by surrounding yourself with those who want to share your joy and not steal it.

The holiday season is upon us and unfortunately, some of these killjoys might also be kin! If you can, still create that buffer zone. Another thing you can do is make it a game. Killjoys love to push your buttons, so when they start pushing, you start smiling. See how many times you can deflect their negative arrows. Heck, it might even be fun.