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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Boy, Does Time Fly!

I remember being about 13 or 14 and I was talking to my mother about how I couldn't wait to drive. She laughed and said the words that I hear often in my head now. She said, "You are in such a rush! Time seems to pass so slowly for you. You can't wait to drive, then to graduate high school and then go to college. You just wait and see. After you get around 25 to 30, you are going to be surprised at how quickly time flies."

She was right.

It seems like just yesterday, we were all hording water and contemplating whether we should take all of our money out of the bank in anticipation of a possible Y2K disaster. Here it is 10 years later. We are a full decade into the new Millennium. Who would have thought? Where did the time go?

As we go into 2010, let's make a promise to cherish those around us and stop and smell the roses. Play with the kids and the grandkids. Get off work early and do something fun. Watch a sunset. Time flies and before you know it, it will be gone. So let's enjoy what we have, while we have it. Right now. The past is over. Tomorrow isn't here yet. All we ever really have is today. Think about it. There is a reason it's called the present.

Oh, yeah and one more thing...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Review

The week between Christmas and New Year's is filled with The Year in Review stories. What were the biggest songs and movies and TV shows of the year? Who had the best year? Who had the worst? What stories got the most attention?

When I do my goal setting workshops, I always start by having people do their own personal Year in Review. What happened this past year that was good? Maybe you found a great job or fell in love. You could have stopped smoking. Maybe you made some significant revelations about your life. Maybe you welcomed some wonderful new people into your life. Maybe you removed some not-so-wonderful people from your life. Or maybe you just found a hairstyle you loved. Big or small, there were a number of great things that happened this year and now it's a good time to acknowledge what worked, what went right.

In my workshops, I spend twice as long on what went right as I do on what went wrong or what didn't go as expected or planned. We tend to overlook the good and focus on the bad.

The bad things - the disappointments, the failures, the losses -seem to always be right in front of us, in the forefront of our minds and on the tips of our tongues. The good - the successes, small victories, the happy moments - aren't on the surface. We have to dig for them, sometimes very deeply.

As we prepare to go into 2010, take a little time to commend yourself for the things you have accomplished this year.

Celebrate you.

Oh, and next Monday, we'll be starting a whole new series: Win In 2010, where we'll be looking at what you can do to reach your goals in the new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Here is wishing you the Merriest of Christmases.
May your holiday be filled with love
And loads of memories and special moments.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do It Anyway

A few weeks ago, I tried to tear down some of the myths around positive thinking. I want to revisit that idea one more time. Being positive is more than a thought or a feeling. Let me explain.

Overall, your thoughts should be positive. This is true. However, being positive doesn’t mean that you will be immune from fearful, doubting or even, downright negative thoughts. It does mean that you should be aware of them so that you can work to counter them and lessen the impact that they have on you. As you move closer to your dreams and forage beyond your comfort zones, it’s only natural to face some opposition. Be prepared to combat those thoughts and move beyond them.

But most importantly being positive is NOT a feeling. You have goals. You have dreams. You have steps to take and plans to accomplish. You have a lot of work to do! And, you need to do that work whether you feel like it or not.

The difference between a true champion and everyone else is that a champion pushes beyond the feelings and does it anyway. He gets up and runs when it is cold outside. He might feel like sleeping in but he does it anyway. The writer doesn’t feel like writing today, she feels blocked, but she does it anyway. The dieter doesn’t feel like having the sensible meal, she’d rather have something deep fried or covered in chocolate, but she eats the sensible meal anyway.

A surefire way to not progress on your goals is to let your feelings be your guide. Being positive means more than just warm, fuzzy thoughts and hyped up emotion. It requires consistent actions and enough discipline to do it anyway.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Selling Your Cow

Ladies, I’m sure, after discussing the birds and the bees with your mother, the conversation turned to livestock. “Why should he buy the cow, when he can get the milk for free?” She asked. Basically mom was saying that a man wouldn’t value you if you just gave it away. However, a lot of us are giving it away. Every day. I’m not suggesting we are all a bunch of strumpets, harlots and hoes. In fact, I’m not even talking about sex. Allow me to explain.

I pride myself on being a generous person and a good friend. My friends know they can count on me for help anytime. I have another good friend, Lindsey, who has the same philosophy. She called me the other day and she was extremely frustrated! The problem is that she’d taken this generosity of spirit into the business world and it was costing her. In fact, often the line between friend and colleague is often blurred and when it gets that way, she (and I) tend to operate in friend mode.

Recently a colleague needed help on a project. Lindsey jumped into action. She wrote a press release for her, helped her develop a press list, lined up several vendors, scouted locations and even made calls on her behalf. She never got a dime.

My friend and her friend/colleague were coming from different places. Lindsey was coming from small and peaceful place called Friendship Island where inhabitants naturally do for a friend with no expectation of payment. The colleague was coming from bustling Business City where you get what you negotiate. She had asked Lindsay for help with one thing and she helped. Then came the next request and the next. Lindsay did them all with a smile and a “No problem.”

But, I asked, “Why would she buy your cow when you’d given so much away for free?”

Lindsey, and I, and probably you need to start valuing our services. Stand up for yourself. Even if money is not involved, stand up for your work, your time, your space. Set your boundaries. I know I’d been reluctant to do that in the past, but then I realized, most people who are asking you expect you to negotiate and even think that you might say no. When you don’t, they are more than happy to take that cow.

Next time, I suggested Lindsay do two things:
1) Set a price for the cow, be it cash, barter or some other arrangement.
2) Get the full scope of the project and then state clearly exactly what you can do.
3) Stick to your guns. If they ask you to do more than you stated, you have the right to say no. If you agree, set a new price and new boundaries for the additional work.

Remember, the people drinking the milk love a free cow, but that milk isn’t free from the cow’s perspective!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down with O.O.P.

As a trainer, and now as a life coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide array of people. From entry-level employees to front-line managers to executives and CEOs, I’ve trained and worked with them all. No matter what their job title or income, I’ve noticed when it comes to making real and lasting changes in their lives, all of them face the same hurdles.

Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution to lose weight (New Year's is just around the corner) or a vow to finally quit smoking, we all face the same challenges. However, there are some very simple things we can do to overcome these formidable obstacles.

Often the changes we want to make are pretty major. Giving up a pack a day habit or losing 75 pounds is no cake walk. Yet, at the same time, we make it larger than it really is by focusing on the big picture – the really, really BIG picture.

“A pack a day is 20 cigarettes. Everyone knows that a nicotine addition is one of the hardest to overcome”
“75 pounds is a small child! That’s a whole lot of weight.”

We get exhausted just thinking about it! As a result, we never quit before we ever begin, rationalizing that it’s just too much.

There is an old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” People who have never heard the joke think of all sorts of elaborate answers but the truth is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. That’s the same way that you lose weight, or start exercising or stop smoking. You do it one pound, one workout or one cigarette at a time.

Let’s say you want to start an exercise program. The reason you haven’t started is that it’s just so expensive. After all, you need the gym membership, the new fancy tennis shoes and of course some new outfits to go with them. It would be great if you could also get a hold of one of those ab-crunching whatchamajigs you saw late last night as you watched Saturday Night Live (while munching on some potato chips). If all those things fell into place, then you could work out.

Likewise, you might put off starting that diet until you have removed every bad food from your pantry and replaced it with its healthy alternative, joined a weight loss program and invested in a fancy new scale.

The truth of the matter is that you’ll never have everything in place and if that’s what you are waiting for, you’ll always be waiting.

The thing to do is to start where you are with what you have. Wear some comfortable clothes and shoes and start taking a walk around the block. Invest $15 or less in an exercise DVD (Walk Away the Pounds is a great one to start with), and walk, tonight.

Let’s say you get over the overwhelm and the need to overhaul and you actually begin to work towards your goal. And then, it happens. You have a bad day. You reach for that Krispy Kreme or that cigarette or forget about going on that walk. The next day, you are frustrated and disappointed. You messed up. Now, you ask yourself, “Why even bother?”

As you plan to achieve your goal, you should also plan for setbacks as they will occur. It’s not a matter of if but when. This is not pessimistic but realistic. The thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself but firm. Yes, you made a mistake but it’s not the end unless you decide it is. Forgive yourself and get back on plan as soon as possible.

Over the years, I’ve learned that regardless of the kinds of change you want to make, the secret is to approach it slowly and instead of making big, sweeping changes, make small incremental ones.

Want to go back to school? Then take it one step at a time. Research your schools, fill out your applications, and make an appointment with a financial aid counselor. Each of these mini-goals makes the task of getting an education a lot less daunting.

Looking to lose weight? A week at a time, make one substitution. Replace that sugar 20 ounce soda with a diet one or water. If you do just that and nothing else, you can lose over ten pounds in a year. The next week, replace the chips with low-fat popcorn. Trade in the fried chicken for broiled, you get the picture.

Finally, if you want to make lasting changes, commit to the long haul. All real change takes time, so give yourself the time you need to succeed.a

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don't Tolerate It

Abuse in any way shape or form is wrong. Be it physical, sexual, emotion, verbal or otherwise. Just about everyone knows this and will rally to the aid of anyone they know who is being abused. Yet, there is one form of abuse that is still acceptable.

We often engage in patterns of abusive thoughts and emotions when it comes to ourselves. We call it ‘pushing ourselves’ but, truth be told, many of us take it a step further. Some of us take it a step too far. We berate, talk down to, and abuse ourselves.

I can speak about this because I did this for many years. “I’m so stupid.” “I can’t believe I did that! What kind of idiot does that?” Or “No wonder you can’t find a spouse/get a promotion/etc…” Since I would eventually get back up and dust myself off, I convinced myself that this kind of abusive self-talk was okay. I convinced myself that it was helping me.

It took me years to realize that the opposite was true. I could rebound faster without the emotional beat down. I could get beyond my setbacks and shortcomings with love for myself.

One thing is clear. When you are in the throes of emotion, clear thinking is next to impossible and that’s when you need it most. It is possible though to drown in a sea or frustration or get lost in a thick forest of discouragement. In fact, things seem a lot worse when a lot of negative emotion is attached. And when you are feeling bad anyway, the very last thing you need is to feel worse.

I still have feelings of discouragement and frustration. I still make mistakes. Those things will never change. But what has changed is my response to them. I feel the emotions but I try not to add to the situation by piling a whole lot of negative self-talk on top of them.

I try to replace the reactive self-talk with proactive questions.
“Okay, I messed up. What can I do next time to keep this from happening again?”
“What can I learn from this?”
“What did work in this situation? And what can I do differently the next time?”

I would never tolerate abusive language and behavior from someone else, it was time to stop tolerating it from myself.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Karyn Cooks: Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies always remind me of Christmas. I have not made this recipe yet, but it sounds yummy and since it is the season, I will be making them soon. Tins of cookies also make great gifts!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar 1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
additional sugar
Microwave chocolate and margarine in large microwavable bowl on high 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir 1 cup sugar into melted chocolate mixture until well blended.
Stir in egg and vanilla until completely blended. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375'F.
Shape dough into 1" balls; roll in additional sugar.
Alternately, roll out to 1/4" thick and cut with cookie cutters.
Place, 2" apart, on ungreased cookie sheets. (If flatter, crisper cookies are desired, flatten balls with bottom of drinking glass.)
Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Myth-Busters: Independence

From the time we are born we long for independence – we want to walk on our own and ride the bike without the training wheels. As we get older, the images of independence change – driver’s license, living on our own, surviving financially without those convenient calls home for cash. We want to do it all and we want to do it all on our own. But independence can only take us so far.

The quest for independence omits one important fact – we can’t possibly do it all on our own. We don’t have the know-how to do it all. We don’t have the resources to do it all. We don’t have the time to do it all. Any kind of real success is going to take help. We need other people.

This is not a sign of failure or lack; it is an admission of truth. It is an acceptance of who we are and where we want to go. As soon as a business begins to grow, the business owner knows that he’s going to need help. He can’t be responsible for generating all the sales, making all the sales calls, handling all the manufacturing, juggling all the accounting and fiscal responsibilities while, all the while, holding the vision for the company and its leadership.

Not only can he not do all of those things, he can’t possibly do them all well. He recognizes the need for a talented sales person or a bookkeeper with a knack for numbers. By hiring people who have those talents, he’s free to focus on what he’s best at.

In high school and college, students move from teacher to teacher. The science teacher/professor is not the one to go to for English composition and the English professor probably isn’t the best source for questions about calculus.

Yet, we are often unrealistic when it comes to our own capabilities and we tend to beat ourselves up when we need to reach out and ask for that dreaded ‘h’ word, help.

In many aspects independence is enough, however, if we want to reach beyond what we are individually capable of, we need to strive for interdependence ­– a state where independent people depend on one another. My strengths augments your weaknesses and vice versa. My passion and interest compliments yours.

Together we can do things that would have never been possible on our own.