Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After you make those New Year's resolutions

If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run. John Bingham, Runner & author

I love this quote. It speaks to how I feel about running and about so many other things. Which diet plan to choose? Which running shoes should I wear? Which health club do I join? Should I take a dance class or a yoga class? Is it better to tell my kid I love him or spend more time doing things with him? We’re often so caught up in doing the right thing, making the best choice or having the right clothes and equipment that we’re paralyzed and do nothing.

So when you make your New Year’s resolutions keep this secret in mind; it doesn’t matter. That’s right. All you have to do is make a change. No rules.  It doesn't have to be the best.  Just do something (or stop doing something).  Stop drinking soda. Stop having dessert. Cut out whites (that’s foods, not t-shirts). Walk 15 minutes a day. Take a yoga class. Run a mile 3 times a week. Tell your kid you love them once a day. Call your mom once a week. Start writing in your journal.

Whatever your resolution, work on making small changes, or one small change. If you forget to do it one day, just do it the next. Keep building on the small changes you’ve made and, before you know it, you’re a runner, yogi, writer or better parent.

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. Ansel Adams

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reduce Holiday Stress. Re-gift

I am surrounded by people stressing about the holidays. At the office, at the mall (where I went mistakenly thinking picking up a few items was going to be a slam dunk), in restaurants, everywhere. Never one to stand on ceremony, I’m going full disclosure; I have taken some of these suggestions from a recently penned post-divorce blog. It’s kind of like re-gifting, which is a perfectly acceptable stress reducer as long as it’s done unobtrusively. Manage holiday stress with a few changes.

*Acceptance is golden. Last year things didn’t go perfectly well, and they won’t this year. Accept that truth. Aunt Sally didn’t like her sweater (next time get her a gift card) and your dad complained about the turkey. It’s okay to do the best you can. It’s good enough because it has to be. If you and your brother didn’t get along well before, you’re not going to get along better now just because another year has passed. If the kids argue normally, they’re going to argue even though it’s the holidays.

*Money can’t buy you love. In the present economy, most of us just don’t have as much as before. The kids can do with less. Either they’re old enough to understand or too young to care about exactly how much money you spent. Your friends will understand if you don’t have as much to give as you did before.

*Be helpful. Volunteering to serve a holiday dinner to people in need is a fulfilling experience and one that can make even the most stressful holiday warmer and more upbeat. If you can’t serve, considering giving food or money.

*Be thankful. It’s the end of a year and the beginning of another, so be thankful for what you do have. What a great time to start a gratitude journal or a gratitude book for the whole family. And speaking of gifts, gratitude letters are great gifts. So are personalized cards expressing thanks to friends and family for specific things. And so are photo books and other handmade or made-to-order personalized gifts that are not too expensive.

*Be social. Although we don’t always get along with our loved ones, even for the most diehard introverts, holidays are tough alone. If need be, invite yourself someplace. Friends and colleagues are usually more than happy to make room for one or two more.

Happy holidays! Thanks for reading my blog, and feel free to re-gift me anytime.

Say you don't need no diamond ring and I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can't buy
I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.
The Beatles. Can’t Buy Me Love.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exercise for Daily Life

We all know that limiting exercise to the weekend is not enough to keep fit and is hard on the body. Although we can’t all bike or walk to work, I like the idea of integrating exercise into daily life in as many ways as possible. It capitalizes on the momentum you develop around work. It builds on the schedule you already have for work. It can help you tap into your inner grit.

How about these options for you?

*Go to the gym right before or after work
*Walk, run bike or go to the gym at lunch
*Use the stairs instead of the elevator
*Walk or bike to your next appointment
*Schedule gym, yoga or biking time in your work-week
*Keep a yoga mat, stationary bike or exercise clothes/shoes at the office in case you get a break
*Use a jogging stroller, kiddy bike seat or baby back-pack to incorporate exercise into the work of childcare
*Use the exercise room at hotels during business trips
*Explore new cities on foot, walking or running when traveling
*Take a dance, exercise or yoga class during lunch
*Do short family/couple/friend hikes, walks, rides and runs during the week

Think about what might work for you. Each option will not work for everyone, and you may come up with some better ideas (please leave a comment) that work for you.

Tunes for daily exercise:
Boom Boom Pow, Black Eyed Peas
Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody dance now), C+C Music Factory
Just Dance, Lady Gaga
Life is a Highway, Tom Cochrane

Monday, November 15, 2010

Self-esteem or Self-indulgence?

In a discount shoe store I browsed recently, my eye was caught by the clogs called “Self-esteem.” And BTW, when did we start naming shoes? Do we now have to have the right shoes for good self-esteem? Or will wearing the shoes give us good self-esteem?

I’d like to call attention to the anti-self-esteem movement. Okay, I just made that up. There’s no such movement. But there are those who argue that self-esteem is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some psychologists have decried the emphasis on self-esteem because it leads to grandiose expectations that will be forever unmet, and others because it emphasizes self-absorption in the never-ending battle to be the best at everything.

Instead of aspiring to have higher self-esteem, perhaps we could aspire to have more gratitude or greater self-compassion. Most of you are familiar with gratitude, but self-compassion or self-kindness is newer to many. Self-compassion includes:

* Being tolerant and non-judgmental of the self, particularly in the face of failures.

* Recognizing that we all have pain as part of the human experience and we need not be isolated in our pain.

* Not needing to exaggerate our failings or indulging in self-pity when in pain, but instead trying to maintain emotional balance.

Not surprisingly, people who practice self-compassion tend to be, you guessed it, more compassionate toward others. They’re also happier and better able to attain goals, and less anxious, depressed and angry.

So maybe instead of buying the self-esteem shoes, we’d do better to focus on mindfulness, compassion and kindness.

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Instant Karma, John Lennon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bad Decision Blocker: Tempering the Temper Temptation

Writing about the endangered art of letter writing, Kate Bolick concludes that one of the great losses is the time lapse. That is, the time between penning your temper tantrum, and sending it. The presumption is that you can change your mind while writing, or perhaps before you get it stamped and mailed. Thus, the letter is a bad decision blocker.

Acknowledging your doubt about self-control is honest and useful. That’s why good dieters don’t have junk food in the house if they’re trying not to eat it. Why tempt yourself? Grocery shop with a list and don’t shop when hungry are other ways to temper temptation.

When it comes to anger, you must identify whether or not you’re an impulse complainer or temper tantrum tell-all. Once you know you are, you can temper your emailing or other electronic communications. I often write things on the computer and put them in drafts while deciding whether to send. Or sometimes, like a journal, I write them without intending to send.

Tempering your temper involves identifying and acknowledging your difficulty with self-control in particular situations. Don’t allow these things to be present in your environment if possible. You can’t always manage that, but often you can. But like shopping while hungry, don’t go in difficult situations when already teetering on the edge. It’s your internal bad decision blocker. For example, don’t start a conversation that you know will involve conflict when you’re in a hurry or feeling stressed out; it’s obviously going to add to your stress, and you won’t take the time to be careful in your choice of words, to listen, to be empathetic. Don’t send an email when you’re upset. Wait until you have a chance to cool down and think it over. Don’t ask your boss for the raise when you’ve just had an argument with your 17 year old (or 47 year old).

Let’s face it though, we’re not getting rid of texting or email anytime soon. So I do love the idea of the iPhone app Bad Decision Blocker. When you absolutely, positively are not sure you can refrain, the app does it for you.

Mood music:  Temptation, Tom Waits

Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Series: Lesson in Emotional Contagion

That 8th inning with the four consecutive walks by the Ranger pitchers was painful to watch. I kept thinking someone would break the cycle. One of the commentators referred to wild pitching as being contagious. There are many examples of references to bad hits being contagious, good hits being contagious and the like.

And what do you know, happiness is contagious too. Neighbors, family members, people you come in contact and the people they come in contact with can increase your happiness. It’s just like knowing someone that quits smoking; it too is contagious and will help you quit. And yes, unhappiness is contagious too, but not as much as happiness.

The thinking is that we “catch” people’s emotions from their facial expressions and other nonverbals. Without being aware of it, we mimic and track the nonverbal behavior of others and respond to nuances of their vocalizations. Think about what happens when your best friend calls. You can assess your friend’s mental state from the first three words.

But, how do we keep bad things from being contagious? The following are suggestions for not getting caught up in the negativity, bad luck or difficulties of people around you. I’m not saying don’t be empathetic, but if you’re on the field getting ready for your wind up, or the equivalent to that in your life, it’s not the time.

1. Breathe and focus inward on your personal power. Relax your body. Notice your face and adopt a slight smile. Notice when your breathing gets more rapid and body tenses, and get back to this calm, alert state.

2. Be present in the moment. When asked if tonight is a must-win for the Rangers, Ron Washington said that type of thinking would take his players out of the moment causing them to miss things on the field, which was not what they needed. Exactly! Your outward focus is strictly on what’s important for your task.

3. Use your personal pump up routine (see Maintain your Focus Under Pressure) or focus on a happy memory or song to get you in a success mindset.

4. Evaluate later. You can deal with what you did right, wrong or indifferent later. For now, your sole focus is on what you’re doing.

Later, when you’re day is over, or your game is over, and you’ve packed up and gone home, you can figure out how to help the people generating the negativity and unhappiness around you. For now, just play ball!

Study on contagious happiness: Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Take me out to the Ballgame

There’s something about the playoff games and of course the World Series games that inspires. Even the damn yanks with their $200,000,000 payroll are fun to watch, winning or losing; either way they’re really kickin it. Stolen bases, errors, sacrifices, beards, sunflower seeds, flying objects (other than baseballs), grand slams, and amazing plays. The National anthem, the seventh inning stretch, God Bless America in the rain, the fans cheering, booing, interfering with play, rookies and old timers, it’s all there.

The best of the best are out there playing their hearts out. They train, they work all season, and now they have a chance to be the world champions. It’s a great example of high performance that we can learn from.

Routines. Pitchers and batters alike have their set routines that enhance focus. Consider the routines you have, or ought to have, to start your day, shift tasks or improve concentration.

Teamwork. Though these games seem to be all about pitching, the pitchers can’t do it alone. They need all the guys on the field to win. How’s your team? Is everyone working together to make things happen?

Playing through the pain. You know there are players with injuries who just keep going for the opportunity to play the big games. What’s your big game? What’s important enough for you to show up for, even though you have to push through the pain?

Staying positive. You hear the interviews with managers and players. They’re pumped and they’re positive. They tell you what they’re gonna do, not what they can’t do. Are you keeping it positive? Setting your sights on the big goals?

I think we can all take a few pointers from our favorite sports stars, film stars and other heroes.

And don’t forget the snacks to help keep your energy up…peanuts and crackerjacks anyone?

Mood music, of course: Take me out to the ballgame.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Loneliness: Too much Facebook and Not Enough Face Time?

John Cacioppo, who has studied loneliness, says: “People who need social connections should think about being alone in the same way a person with high blood pressure thinks about salt.”

Loneliness is an emotional state in which a person feels an intense sense of emptiness and isolation (so says Wiktionary and I’d have to agree). It’s not a disorder but it is associated with health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. It’s not introversion, the process of being focused on one’s own interest, thoughts and feelings. It’s not shyness, the quality of being timid or shy in social interactions. It’s not the same as depression, a period of intense unhappiness which may be associated with suicidal thinking.

Getting back to Cacioppo’s quote, what this means is that if you’re introverted and like being self-focused, or shy and are afraid of being social, these are not the same as lonely. If you’re lonely, you don’t really enjoy all the self-focused time you have. You’re not afraid of talking to people, you just don’t seem to have the opportunities, and you’re not happy about it, but also not depressed because of it.

There are a number of ways to combat loneliness, depending on your need for social stimulation (introverts need less), shyness (you may need special techniques) and personal situation. You might consider:

Face time. Facebook, email and phone are great ways to stay in touch. But being with someone enables a different level of communication and intimacy. Even if you’re busy, try to make the time for an actual sit down, make it a coffee if you don’t have the time or inclination for an entire meal.

Confidants. A lot of people have friends or acquaintances with whom they do not share intimacies. Consider your group of peeps. Are there one or two people you might consider possible confidants? Try it without worrying about whether they have the time or interest. Just see what happens. And please, don’t worry about burdening people with your problems. Problems, conflicts and issues are exactly what people love to talk about.

Get out. Have coffee out and talk to the person at the next table. Join clubs, churches or hiking/biking/running groups. Joining a group gets you out, doing something and meeting people with at least one interest in common. Talk to people you meet in groups or even at the supermarket.

Volunteer. Staying connected with your community through volunteer work gives meaning as well as opportunity to interact socially. It’s a good way to meet people, with the added benefit of feeling good by helping others.

Keep in touch. If you work from home, or retirement isolates you, pay special attention to increasing your level of social contact . Since you don’t naturally interact with people daily at a job, find ways of keeping in touch when you retire and building this into your early retirement days. Similarly, working at home means you have to make a real effort to maintain enough contact with people.

Don’t be an Eleanor Rigby...connect with people.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Got Art?

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. Stella Adler, actress, acting teacher
Music gave me the door, or the key to open the door of expression, to express myself and to free myself… Christoph Eschenbach, pianist, conductor

I think fiction is unbelievably important - one of the most important things in my life and I think in the lives of a lot of [people]. Brock Clarke, author

Everything you can imagine is real. Pablo Picasso, artist

Just think about these quotes. Art sustains the soul, facilitates expression and is a means of personal expression, it is among the most important things to people, and inspires imagination in a way few things do.

You don’t have to be a creator of art to benefit. Think about the feeling you have reading a really interesting, moving or creative work of fiction. How about the experience of seeing a painting in a museum that you’ve perhaps only admired before in books? Do you sometimes reread a novel or revisit a painting you’ve already seen?

Then there’s music and film about which I could go on for decades. Is there anything like seeing one of your favorite films for the first time? Or even the second, third or fourth? I can’t even begin to talk about how important music is to so many of us. It brings us up, resonates with us when we’re down and is inspiring to see performed.

What’s my point? Like spending time outdoors, art is often a solitary pursuit that we put on the back burner. I’d rank it high among happiness increasing activities. When I ask clients about hobbies and interests, I often hear about the painting, writing or reading that they haven’t had time to pursue lately. Resuming the activity can be a real positive.

So if you don’t have enough art in your life, get some. It’s not that hard. Read, write, paint, draw, go to a museum, see a play or a film. You know what you enjoy. Make a little time for it and notice the benefits.

A fun cross-pollination literature anad music: Wuthering Heights, Pat Benatar

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dear Diary. On the Uses of Journaling

I saw David Sedaris the other night and was inspired to journal more. He read several of his incisive diary entries. There’s a lot of research to support the benefits of journaling for physical and mental health, learning and creativity.

Uses of journaling include:

*Gratitude journaling

*Figuring out problems

*Working through stressful situations/writing to heal

* Documenting positive events to refer to later when needed, i.e., when you’re feeling down

*Tracking progress in various endeavors, e.g., dieting, forgiveness

*Visual journaling for wellness/stress-reduction

*Pursuing goals

*Consolidating learning and enhancing creative thought

*Practicing writing

Journaling is free, you can do it almost any time and it doesn’t require any physical exertion or special equipment. People have all sorts of admonitions as to how it must be done: daily, 20 minutes, keep it private, buy a pretty journal, a new pen, etc.

There are just two things I think might actually be important. First, to try not to self-sensor. Your journal is your opportunity to say what you think. Next, if you want to really give it a try, you’re going to have to commit to doing it for a few weeks.

Dear, dear diary, I want to tell my secrets.  ‘Cause you’re the only one I know who’ll keep them.
 Dear DiaryPink.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: On Narcissism & Codependency

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Would you believe that several researchers wrote an article called “Why are narcissists so charming at first sight?”? They point out that what we notice upon first meeting narcissists is their colorful or fashionable attire, stylish hair and pleasantly amusing manner. We’re taken in by this first impression.  And, as I've been hearing a lot this week, it's hard to extricate ourselves . 

Oh my…are we so shallow? Be honest. Everyone likes them (well mostly everyone) initially, including you. They’re engaging and attractive and it’s easy to get sucked in, like a moth to a flame. There’s a neat book about relationships with narcissists, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.

You get involved. You’re in deep. And then, when you want to do something for yourself or no longer want to do the Wizard’s bidding, they get pissed and ugly. You start to think there’s something wrong with you since everyone else still thinks they’re the greatest thing since the ruby slippers. You wonder if you’re too sensitive or too self-absorbed. Or perhaps you’re just a wicked witch, AKA a bitch, as you’ve probably been told.

Maybe you feel you need to give more, or you’ve lost interest in your own goals and dreams, you feel responsible or you can’t give up the love. If so you’ve moved into the codependent camp and must consider immediate corrective action. This would include accepting that it’s not selfish to want to pursue your own goals. Indeed, it’s essential to your happiness. Do not be a doormat. Do your own thing. If you’re stuck, check out Codependent No More, coaching or therapy. And please, no more Wizards.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Work-Life Balance: But I Work at Home

You get to work at home. Good for you. And yes, working from home has its special challenges. From the annals of my practice these include, but are probably not limited to those that follow. The particular solutions are different for everyone but a few basic principles help.

Routines, time and scheduling. One of the joys of working from home is that you often don’t have to adhere to a strict routine. Wonderful, if that works for you. If you have trouble with the amount of time you’re spending, difficulty getting started, or trouble stopping when you need to, a routine may be in order. Some people need to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast (just want to make sure you’re paying attention; everyone should be eating breakfast) at the same time daily in order to feel ready to work. Scheduling breaks, snacks and the time you’ll end are also necessary if doing these things doesn’t come naturally.

Non-work activities. Doing housework, chores and eating are the typical things that bleed into work time at home. You wouldn’t have an opportunity to do housework at the office, so sticking to that limit when you work from home makes sense. Running out to get the dry cleaning and eating fall in the same category; if you worked from an office you’d have to do these things during breaks.

Housemates and work time/space. Kids come in while you’re working for help with homework and partners expect you to handle every emergency because you’re not in the office. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. It’s fine to handle the occasional emergency because you can, but setting the expectations that you cannot be available for every single repair person is necessary, unless this is part of your deal with your partner. If your kids are home during part of your work time, you need a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. You do have a door right?

Workspace. You’ve got to have a comfortable, private workspace. Think about what helps you feel comfortable and facilitates concentration. Windows? Fish? Family photos? Good phone and computer set-up? Lava lamp? Take the time and money to set up your space. No door? Get a screen and deem it a door.

Intellectual stimulation. You can get stuck in your thinking or feel out of touch because you work alone. Schedule lunches, coffee breaks or Skype meetings regularly with people who help you stretch and challenge your ideas. Attend conferences or other professional meetings if you don’t have an office to connect with.

Try a few things that seem workable for you and be creative. Savor your freedom.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sounds of Silence

I find the protests of people who don’t practice relaxation, meditation or any other similar activity interesting. I CAN’T JUST SIT AND BREATHE, they say. I have to be DOING something, they say. This often comes from people who complain of a lot of worry and anxiety. I’m here to say that mastering silence is something worth practicing. There are many benefits of silence, evidence of which comes (loosely) from the relaxation and meditation research. Benefits include:

Thinking. A chattering mind interferes with clear thought. Intuition speaks to us out of our silence. As a result, silence allows for creative thought.

Communicating. Silence allows us to listen to ourselves and others. In listening better we become better communicators. Discomfort with silence leads to idle chatter. Comfort with silence allows us to speak only what is important. Intimacy requires few words.

Being. Silence allows us to just be instead of always having to do. Silence allows us to let go of unfinished business. As in sleep, in silence we are able to work things out and let go. Silence is energizing in its ability to renew, while also reducing anxiety.

Experiment with a little silence. Try: silent meals (no radio, phone, tv, talk), silent work (no radio, phone, etc.), silent workouts (no…noise). See how it goes. You might find it as addictive as talk.

Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again. Sounds of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Work-Life Balance: Leaving Work at Work

I know there’s no simple solution to the work-life balance issue. One thing I’ve been talking with clients about a lot lately is leaving work at work.

I know, I know. You can’t, you can’t. Because:

Excuse No. 1. You own your own business. It’s 24/7. Okay. I also own my own business. It can be 24/7, but there are things I can control that make it more like 10/7. Maybe even 10/6.

Excuse No. 2. It’s dog-eat-dog out there. I have to impress my boss by being available 24/7…Okay. I’ve also worked for others. It can be 24/7, but there are ways to make it more like 10/6.

Excuse No. 3. I’m never going to achieve the fame, glory, money, [fill in the blank], unless I crank away 24/7…Okay, I want fame, glory and money too…well, maybe not so much anymore. But ask yourself: will it make you happy?

Not one to bring up problems without solutions, here are my suggestions:

Decompress before you walk in the door. In the car, on the train or even just before you walk out of the office or into the house, take a few minutes to clear you mind. Consider what you have to leave behind and give yourself permission to do so. Write down what needs to be handled first thing in the morning if necessary. Then consider what you’re walking into. Set an intention to focus on your family, yourself, your dog, or whatever it is you’re coming home to. Make your intention more specific if you have to (e.g., I will try not to yell at the kids; I will try to really listen to my partner).

Leave the crackberry, iPhone, or whatever, charging somewhere else when you’re engaged with your family, relaxing/meditating/ running, eating, watching a DVD, etc. No home phone? I bet friends and family have their own ring. You can still screen calls. On call? On call is on call, but it’s probably not 24/7. And if it is and you get a lot of calls, maybe it’s time for a screening service or time to negotiate a change with the boss.

Check your email at specific times, i.e., not constantly. How many things cannot wait a few hours? And if there’s something pending that’s important, I’m sure you’ll know about it and can apologize in advance to your significant others. But that ought to be relatively rare.

Do not text while engaged with your family, relaxing/ meditating…you get the idea.

Engage with people at home and try to focus and really connect. Leaving work at work helps us do this. If you need to vent about something at work, do it. Then shift the focus back to home.

About that fame and fortune, you’ve got to ask if it’s really going to make you happy. Will you feel fulfilled if you make more money this year? Will life have more meaning if you’re more famous next year? Will your health be better? Will you be more content? Where are you really going with all this work?

Money Changes Everything, Cyndi Lauper. Or does it?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chocoholics Unite and Get Healthy!

I am an unabashed chocoholic. That being said, chocolate, red wine, health foods? Really? I can certainly agree that most things in moderation are probably fine. Similarly, most things in excess are probably not so good. I’d also have to argue that quick fixes (think crash diets) are usually bogus. Long-term lifestyle changes are the only really credible way to go.

I’m not saying there are not health benefits to various foods that might otherwise be considered problematic. But seriously, “Leafy green vegetables, folate, and some multivitamins could serve as protective factors against lung cancer.” Who are we kidding here? Wouldn’t quitting smoking be the obvious strategy to reduce the risk of lung cancer?

There are many ways to get fit, diet and reduce stress. They take commitment, hard work and a touch of creativity. Another ingredient is to try to make it fun. You don’t have to run, eat celery or meditate. But I challenge you to figure out what you would enjoy and what might be fun (learning to tango, kickboxing, tai chi, macrobiotics?). Then give it a try. Find out what works for you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Set Intentions Mindfully

The practice of mindfulness often refers to intentions. For example, I’m working on my meditation practice, so I start the week with an intention to mediate earlier in the day. Is that different than my intention to go to the supermarket after work? Is it the same as my intention not to yell at my child? How does the intention affect my behavior? Is it even worth setting an intention?

There’s evidence that setting an intention and making it public do help with behavior change. You set your quit date (cigarettes, chocolate cake, whatever your poison) and start telling people and it improves your outcome. Intentions are good for all sorts of changes we desire. Think about what you’d like to be doing differently and consider how you might set an intention for yourself.

A few suggestions on intentions.

* Becoming aware our intentions is a start. Although I wanted to write a blog for the past week, I did not set a specific intention to do so until today. Think about it. Do you ever do anything without first intending to? If you do, I challenge you to go back and try to identify whether there was really a little bit of an intention, even if unacknowledged. If you really can’t identify your intention, that’s okay, you can set an intention to notice your intentions. No, I’m not kidding. And you can always just go on to the next step, which is setting an intention.

* Make a conscious choice about your intention. What is it you want? And how do you intend to get it? Do you want to notice every time you go into the kitchen to get something to eat and ask yourself the 3 mindful eating questions? Do you want to stop yelling at your kids and become more mindful? Do you want to get your expenses handed in on time?

* Remind yourself about the intention. How will you do it? You can write down your intention for the day or week in a lovely journal. That’s great, but if you do be sure to decide when you’ll refer to that lovely journal, lest it just gather dust on the shelf with your other new year’s resolutions. You can leave yourself little sticky notes in prominent places to remind you. You can set your phone to remind you. You get the idea.

* Continuing the work without judgment. In other words, work on your intention, notice if you’re sticking to it, but don’t start telling yourself your bad, lazy or a slacker if you don’t get it done as often as you’d like. Just notice, and remind yourself again of what the intention is. Keep at it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Compassionate Communication

A lot with people are talking about how to communicate better. In addition to substantive conversations, I like nonviolent communication as a model to strive for. It’s also referred to as compassionate communication, highlighting the empathetic nature of the process.

You can read more about it in Rosenberg’s book, but there are basically 4 steps that you can employ as needed, when communicating and when listening. Here are a couple of examples for communicating.

Step 1 – Observe without judgment or evaluation. For example, I see you looking away and wonder if you’re thinking, or bored, or something else. Instead of, Am I boring you?, a sarcastic jab.

Another example, I notice you missed your curfew since it’s 12:30 and your curfew is 12:00. Instead of, Why are you always late?

Step 2 – Separate feeling from thinking and express your feelings without criticizing or blaming. For example, I see you looking away and wonder if you’re bored and it worries me that I may not be interesting enough. Instead of, I’m feeling hurt because you don’t think it’s important to respond to me.

In the curfew example, I feel afraid that something may have happened to you when you’re not home by curfew. Instead of, Do you ever think about how worried I get when you’re late?

Step 3 – Connect what’s happening with some human need. For example, I need to feel valued and when you look away when I’m talking and don’t respond, I feel alienated. Here we must distinguish between human needs and how we are to get those needs met. In this statement, I’m just putting it out there.

When you’re out past midnight and don’t let me know where you are, I start to feel afraid that something’s wrong and I need to have peace in my life. I need to have peace, but it’s not necessarily up to you to meet that need. Bringing us to Step 4.

Step 4 – Request something to meet your need. For example, I’d like to hear what you think about this.  Can you tell me?

In the case of the missed curfew, I’d like to hear from you when you’re going to be late. Ask for what you want, not what you don’t want (i.e., I don’t want you to be late).

Bottom line, the other person doesn’t have to give us what we ask for. But asking is important. It helps us gain clarity and express our needs. Then we can decide how to handle things if we’re refused, or perhaps given an alternative. Often we may actually get what we’re asking for. Perhaps your companion is just pondering and can’t figure out how to articulate what they’re thinking. Maybe your child thinks it’s time for a later curfew and will now ask for one.

Listening works the same way. You friend may react to your request with anger or more silence. You can listen to their anger and reflect on it in the same compassionate way, e.g., I can hear from your tone that you’re feeling angry and I’d like you to tell me why. Regarding the curfew, From your explanation, I’m thinking you want a later curfew. You may or may not decide to give your child what they want.

I like the calm, clear communication that results. It takes a lot of work and practice to get there. I’m guessing on this last bit, since I still haven’t arrived.

Talk.  Coldplay.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Online Dating is Official

It’s official. According to a story today on NPR, more than half of modern couples meet on-line. That doesn’t include the people who meet in bars but actually met first on-line.

As the psychologist quoted pointed out, no one knows what you want the way you do. And you can screen for things important to you via on-line dating services. Sure you’ll meet some people you’re not interested in seeing again, but that’s always true of dating. It's still a lot quicker than traditional meets.

Shop as many sites as it takes to find one you’re comfortable with. Look for sites that capture your interests if the biggies like don’t appeal. You can date by ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, geekiness, profession, wealth, politics, athleticism and probably anything else you’re interested in. Consider free sites if you’re not sure about the commitment.

Other tips for on-line dating:

- Tell the truth and present your best self, but there’s no point in saying you’ve got an athletic body type or college degree if you don’t.

- Consider different options like speed dating and matchmaking services.

- Be safe, i.e., use your head.

- Do not personalize everything; if someone doesn’t get back to you there are a million reasons why.

- Be ready to move on if something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working right.

- Consider anyone who meets your criteria. You can always ditch them later and it’s good practice.

- Have fun!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy People Have Real Conversations

Did you know that people who have substantive conversations (vs how ‘bout this weather conversations) are happier? It’s not surprising, since really connecting with people requires more than an exchange about atmospheric conditions.

I have a few suggestions about how to have real and substantive conversations. At work, use the honest question approach recommended by John Baldoni. The principles are be curious, dig deeper, be open-ended, care about what they’re saying, be interested in what they’re saying, and take your time. If you can’t be interested and caring, why are you trying to have a conversation with this person anyway?

At home, the same. In social situations, the same. With your kids, the same.

In other words, when you talk with people, be focused. Try to learn something about them you don’t already know. Show them you care and are interested in what they have to say by making eye-contact, leaning forward, nodding and asking follow-up questions. Use open-ended, not yes-no, questions. Do not be thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner or what you’re going to say to get them to change their mind. Do not be checking your phone. Just practice listening, paying attention and asking good questions.

Maybe you’ll find yourself walking away feeling a bit happier. It’s cool to really connect with people. And as Chris Peterson, positive psychologist par excellence, says, people matter.

A good listen:  Connection. The Rolling Stones.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roadblocks on the Path to Happiness

Happiness experts advise that in order to attain the magical state of happiness, one must traverse a path of our choosing, and that path, or journey, is one of happiness. When you’re on that path you’re pursuing goals that you believe are worthwhile, and you’re enjoying doing so. This is one of those love yourself situations. You have to believe you’re worthy of the pursuit of happiness to travel on this path.

You decide you need to take a yoga class three times a week, or go on a meditation retreat for a week, or attend a gourmet cooking school, or change careers. Whatever it is, it has to meet a few criteria. It has to be something that is meaningful to you, that you enjoy and that you’re good at.

The first roadblock is you. Don’t tell me it’s selfish. It’s not. It’s the only path to happiness. If you think you’re being selfish when you pursue a personal goal, you’ve got to ask yourself, why? Why can’t you get a job you'll enjoy? Why can’t you get a PhD?

The second roadblock is others. If the person you call your soul mate cannot understand why you would need to do such a thing and tries to stop you, it’s time to ask yourself what makes you think this is your soul mate. You see, to be in a healthy relationship, you have to be free to do the things you need to do for yourself, as well as for the relationship. If your best friend thinks it’s weird that you’re taking off for an ashram, that’s fine, as long as s/he doesn’t try to stop you. And if they do try to stop you, what’s that about?

So ask yourself, what do I need to do to make myself just one little bit happier? And you’re on the path.

I’m thinking Sting, If you love somebody set them free.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lucky Charms Enhance Performance?

Research has recently shown that having a lucky charm improved performance on a memory game. The researchers draw the conclusion that lucky charms boost confidence thereby enhancing performance. I’ve written before about pre-performance routines (vs pre-performance rituals). I’ll have to respectfully argue again that it’s not the ritual but the routine that makes the difference.

Take a difficult talk you’re about to give. Preparing carefully and telling yourself you’re going to do a fantastic job are great. Doing a little abdominal breathing helps calm you down. If you have a “lucky” object that you keep in your pocket, touching it occasionally to remind you to breathe, it’s the routine you’ve developed, not just the ritual of the thing, that I suspect makes the difference.

You’re going into a job interview, or preparing to play a tough match. The same principles apply. Do your preparation carefully. If you have an object, it could be a piece of jewelry or a pen, that reminds you of your plan to be calm, or talk slowly, or play smart, that object can add something positive to your routine.

Mood music, of course, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happiness is a Journey

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, happiness expert, there are four ways in which we attempt to find happiness. They relate to the present and future benefits of our behaviors. We all have characteristics of all four types. Consider how you fit into these types:

The Rat-Racer, or, present detriment with future benefit. You are always in search of the next success and trying to reach your next goal. You’ll have fun once you get there. But of course, when you arrive, there’s yet another goal. You’re totally future oriented and the present only matters as it serve your future goal. While workaholics are the typical examples of this mentality, there are many others. For example, If I just stick to this diet and lose 5 more pounds, I’ll be happy.

The Hedonist, or, present benefit with future detriment. The opposite of the rat-racer, all that’s important is the present. You attempt to satisfy all your desires no matter what the consequences. You’re always ready for the next best thing. No surprise, you’re not terribly happy or interested in anything. Challenge and meaning are essential for happiness.

The Nihilist, or, present detriment and future detriment. To you, life has no meaning. There is no happiness, just continued unhappiness. You’re never more disappointed because you no longer have any expectations. You believe you have no control over anything.

The Happy, or, present benefit and future benefit. You’re happy now and hope to be happy in the future because of your present actions. Sometimes, you do things you don’t completely enjoy, because it’s going to be good for the future. More often you manage to have a pretty good time. You have frequent flow experiences.

Ben-Shahar recommends considering the times in your life you fit each of these types. You might also ask yourself some questions to get on track. In which type would you like to spend most of your time? How can you enjoy the journey more? What’s your road to happiness?

“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable.” Tal Ben-Shahar

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cell Phone Etiquette for Parents

A friend of mine, Michelle Cimino, is doing some special offers to promote her book, Cell Phone Etiquette, Observations from a Mom.

Just when you think you know everything, or at least all you need to know, about cell phones and texting, there’s more. Cell phone jammers, for example. Cell phone bans in the NYC schools. And more.

While Michelle has the obvious don’ts, like not texting in restaurants, in meetings, etc., she also goes beyond. How about, Do not text while I’m talking to you… perfect.

My favorite is Michelle’s great list of acronyms and other shorthands, like:

IDK (I don’t care) - I get this a lot from my textor

P911 Parent alert

The book also covers the good uses of cell phones…I’m in the store, do you want this shirt or that one?

And general cool uses to connect with your kids either by speaking their language (texting of course) to KIP (keep in touch) and using code to communicate.

And Michelle’s best advice, no naked photos.

Just click on this link with your Amazon purchase number and she’ll send you the info about free e-books, free coaching calls, recorded trainings, interviews, discounts on services, and other promotions she’s offering.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Writing your Goals

I like this book about achieving your goals, Write it Down, Make it Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser. It’s filled with clever anecdotes. I particularly like the one about Jim Carrey. Before we knew Jim Carrey, he wrote a check to himself for 10 million dollars “For Services Rendered,” which he carried around for years.

I have to be honest though, it’s not based on research. But there is a great deal of research on goal setting, writing down goals, commitment to goals, and the like. We know that goals encourage persistence, energize and direct us toward getting the information and skills we need to reach them. We know that goals direct our attention toward the goal and away from irrelevant pursuits.

Here’s where writing it down comes in.  When I write down my goal, things happen as a result. For example, I write down, I have 10 new coaching clients in the next 8 weeks. Writing it down doesn’t magically make anything happen. But consider what could happen. You’re reading this. Perhaps you think, oh, she wants clients. Is she any good? Maybe you’ll get in touch and get that free coaching call. If I look at what I’ve written, daily perhaps, then any time I have an opportunity to make a coaching contact, you bet it’s going to be at the top of my mind. We call it priming. The same way priming a wall gets it ready to be painted, priming our minds gets them ready to be open to a particular idea. My writing will probably be affected by looking at my goal in the morning. As a result, I’m more likely to mention coaching when I write. And so forth.

If you can think the goal through without writing it down, more power to you. Some evidence suggests that it’s not the writing but the complexity of the goal, your commitment and the SMARTness of it. We know that public commitment to goals helps us honor them. And possibly there is something to the present tense (I have 10 new clients, rather than I will have).

So consider your goals. Perhaps write them down or at least take time to elaborate them and consider the goals on a regular basis, getting more detailed about what you want and how you’re going to go about getting it. Maybe take another step and check out Klauser’s book.  Oh, and consider that free coaching call you can get by contacting me...coaching holds you accountable for meeting your best possible future goals!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mindful Parenting

I'm aspiring to be more mindful every day.  I’ve written about mindfulness in general. I’ve just focused on mindful parenting. I’m anticipating the reactions.

You make it sound so easy. To which I reply, I don’t mean to. It’s called a mindfulness practice. Which is no accident and not a misnomer. You have to really practice things like being, non-judging and letting go, in addition to the other skills. Some will come more easily to you than others.

But what about getting my kids to do the right thing? Good luck with that. Mindful parenting doesn’t mean hands off parenting. You teach, inspire, model and do whatever else you believe in order to instill values and morals. But at some point, your kids have to start making their own choices. See Do Kids Get to Make Choices?

Trust my kids! How can I when they do stupid stuff? I have to ask in response, And you didn’t? We all know on some level that making mistakes is the best way to learn. I may threaten and explain why he shouldn’t speed, but see those blue lights coming up on you for the first time...there's no explanation that can match that experience.

It’s like the three mindful eating questions. You may ask them a dozen times before finally, one day, you decide not toeat the thing you’ve pondered eating for all the wrong reasons.

So yes, the principles which also include acceptance, letting go, beginner’s mind and patience, are simply understood, yet difficult to put into action at times. But they don’t say practice makes perfect (or at least good enough) for nothing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Moving At a Snail's Pace

Happiness experts agree that we must slow down and smell the flowers. Taking more time for things allows us to savor, enjoy, calm ourselves and regain composure. All of this, in turn, allows us to be happier, more satisfied and more fulfilled.

I’ve worked on this myself for quite some time. The famous 59th Street Bridge Song phrase, slow down you move too fast, is one I use as a reminder and have mentioned before. I’ve been working on a running meditation practice. Although I’ve long been familiar with the walking meditation, this running meditation is new to me. I must admit the multitasking (running plus meditation) aspect of it is very appealing. It also means running without my iPod. It’s difficult at first, and later as well, but somewhere in the middle it seems like it might be working.

I returned home the other morning thinking, as I walked the last stretch, of all the things I had to do before zooming out to the office. As I turned up my driveway something caught my eye. A snail making its way slowly, very slowly, across the drive. Hmmmm. A bit odd. Then as I continued up, still in thinking/planning mode, I saw another. Now this really got my attention. I had to stop and take a closer look.

Having taken an appreciative inquiry class not too long ago, and now coupling it with a visioning class, I saw the snails as signs. No, I’m not getting all woo woo. Not cosmic signs that the universe is sending out to me. Just signs of something I’ve been working on myself. Signs to remind me to slow down and smell the roses, listen to the woodpecker and get ready that morning without doing every single thing on my to-do list for the day. Now I have the snail image as a reminder. And yup, I even took the time to get my camera and take a few pics, before moving on my more deliberate, measured way, to work.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grit Keeps us Going

There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on - Robert Byrne

You’re trying to start an exercise plan or a diet, or maybe both. Bravo to you. Perhaps you’ve tried one or both of these many times without much success. Or if you’re like most dieters, you know how to lose weight, just not how to keep it off.

I always tell people to pick plans that they think they’ll be comfortable with for life. After all, the goal is not to go to the gym for 3 months or lose 20 pounds, it’s to exercise regularly or lose weight and continue a healthy diet, right?

I like the construct of grit for helping us maintain the best laid plans. Grit is the combination of perseverance and passion for an important goal. I think your health would qualify as an important goal.

A few tips for getting more gritty:

-Find a plan you can be passionate about…don’t force yourself into something unappealing. Pick something you can be excited about.

-Pick out people who do it successfully and study how they do it…only use things you feel comfortable with that fit your lifestyle.

-Dedicate yourself…once you decide on a plan, stick to it. You can change it, but you cannot abandon the effort.

-Learn from setbacks…it’s really the only way to learn. Figure out how to tweak your program to make it work better for you.

-Run the marathon…no, not literally, unless you really want to. It’s going to take time to change habits and get where you want to go. Keep pushing since having a good challenge tends to keep us going.

Keep it up, and be that first kind of person Byrne refers to. Think about what it will feel like to be the kind of person who finishes what they start.

Keep an eye out for my Ezine article coming out soon on this topic.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gratitude Adjustment

Kristin Armstrong gives some great advice in her Runner's World piece, Feeling LuckyShe suggests that we adjust our attitudes by considering how lucky we are to be able to run.  Yup.  We're lucky we get to run. 

People always tell me how grateful they are after natural or unnatural disaster strikes and they are spared.  They comment on how they shouldn't complain because they know people in much more dire straits than they are in themselves.  I usually comment that everything's relative.  We all have our own personal pain, issues and burdens.

But I've gotta say that when you actually have the perspective than you are indeed much better off than many and can feel the gratitude for what you do have and are able to do, it's pretty sweet.  As Kristin suggests, how about thinking that you get to run you kids all over the universe, get to make dinner for them or get to work out?

I've written about gratitude before and will point out again that gratitude exercises (like keeping a gratitude journal) enhance psychological well-being  and physical health in a variety of ways.

Thanks for reading my blog.  And I still love Dido's Thank You.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Do Kids Get to Make Choices?

You may say, I always give my kids choices. Do you want chicken or pasta for dinner? I’m not talking about the small matters. I’m thinking bigger. Can your 14 year old decide what kind of clothing to wear? Who to be friends with? What books to read or movies to see? Researcher Larry Nucci says yes, they can. In fact, if they don’t, you’re going to have angry or even depressed kids.

I have to agree. Everyone is entitled to a personal domain. I may not always agree with my kid’s choice of friends, movies or language, but the big things are where I’m going to fight my battles. These include morality and safety.

Morality: No, it isn’t okay to lie about something important just because you won’t get caught; Yes, we give to the needy whenever we can, despite having to give up something ourselves to do it; No, soccer is not more important than school.

Safety: No, speeding is not okay even if you don’t get caught; No, it’s not okay to use your cell phone while driving.

Of course we all have our own ideas about what’s important morally and regarding safety. That means you put your personal parental mark on things and good for you. But you’ve got to consider what happens when you cross the boundary into the “personal.” And if you don’t think you’re kid has any personal privacy while they’re living in your house, consider this: When are they going to be able to make important choices while also having the safety net of parents?

Consider the current film An Education as a case in point. No Wikipedia entry here because it’s a total spoiler, but check out the film. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Clear the Desk, Declutter the Mind

Thrilled to have published my first eZine article, I’ve found that in the week since, I’ve produced absolutely nothing of any substance. Okay, it’s only been 5 days, but it feels like a lifetime. It’s amazing how hard we can be on ourselves. I’ve talked about writer’s block before.

Instead of producing, I go through the papers piled on corners of my desk and table. Toss some, file others, cross out things in lists. I have ideas I put in files (handy for when the creative spirit moves me), things that ignite a spark of interest which leads to reading an article or two, visiting a few sites, maybe copying a few lines, which I put in yet more files of ideas.  I balance checkbooks, read mail, pay bills.

I remind myself that these activities all count. They must be done in order to get to the next level. I’ve written before about decluttering in life. It’s like winning a tournament in your sport. After it’s over, you need some rest and recovery, maybe a break completely from your play. You wash your stuff (or have your mom wash it if you live in my house), reorganize it, possibly even clean out your backpack or gear bag. You post the pic with the medal on your facebook wall. You deal with some things unrelated to it all that must be done.  Then the training starts anew for the next big thing.

I’ve facebooked the eZine link, linked it in and tweeted it. I’ve cleaned up the desk. It’s starting to look neater. I think I’m going to be ready to do some real work soon. Oh yeah, this is actually a blog entry. Whew! I’ve moved on.

Mood music to help you Move Along, All American Rejects.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brilliant But Self-Conscious

Isn’t it odd that the most renowned architect of the 20th century worried about being photographed wearing glasses? Apparently, none of the photos you will see of Frank Lloyd Wright show him in specs. And his height (he was a bit vertically challenged) was something he tried to hide as well. That really hit me as I toured Taliesin West, an example of Wright’s amazing work. We were told he had 161 projects on his desk when he died at the age of 91.

The man was arguably the most important architect of the 20th century. He developed a type of organic architecture that was ahead of its time and served to shape the future of architecture, along with many smaller but important inventions and advances.

Wright also had a following of talented people who lived and worked at Taliesin West and it became a school of architecture which it remains to this day. The place has a commune-like feel in the best sense and was clearly a novel way of nurturing learning and creativity; his own and others.

So how is it that someone so brilliant, successful and creative could be concerned about trivial aspects of personal appearance?

Perhaps the thing we must master is the integration of our strong selves with our weaker parts. Whether that strength comes from our successful career, our parenting, our civic mindedness, or anything else we excel at. If we can tap into our strength and use it to offset our weakness, it makes for a much happier whole.

Just consider how you can use one of your signature strengths to make today more fulfilling. You might spend time with a friend to cheer them up instead of worrying about how that dress is going to look at the party, now that you’re put on a few pounds. Or really notice how good you are at one aspect of your work, accepting that you can’t do everything brilliantly.  And about those glasses, they make you look more intelligent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reduce Change Blindness with Awareness

I love this experiment investigating change blindness, unfortunately not available on-line. So I’ll explain. A confederate of the experimenter is asking the subject questions. Two people walk between the confederate and subject carrying a door, briefly blocking the subject’s view of the confederate. When the door passes, a different confederate is asking the questions. Change blindness refers to the incredible fact that a large percentage of subjects did not notice that they were talking to a different confederate. In other words, imagine you’re talking to your friend John, two people walk between you and John with a door so you can’t see John, and Ralph replaces John. You don’t notice that instead of talking to John, you’re now talking to Ralph. Pretty weird, huh?

We do this all the time with the people in our lives. We go from one dysfunctional relationship to another—different person, same issues.

We feel angry with one person, then the next and the next, never seeing how our own reactions trigger our anger. It’s not really the other person. They’re interchangeable. We don’t seem them. We mindlessly go through the same motions getting the same results.

It’s like smoking. You’re already on your next cigarette before you’ve enjoyed the first. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve lit another one up. Eating is also very much like this for most of us.

Awareness refers to just the opposite attitude. Awareness is about really noticing the things in our lives. That includes our own behavior as well as that of others. It is about paying attention with curiosity. It is about being deliberate in our actions. It is about noticing what’s in front of us, be it door, person or different person.

          Oh yes, you’re a different person, Ralph not John. I don’t have to expect the same from you.

          I just finished smoking a cigarette, do I really want another?

          This pasta is good, do I want more or have I had enough?

If we try to see and not allow ourselves to be blind to what’s in front of us, we’d notice when we’re talking to a different person. We’d care to hear what they’re really saying, and what we’re really saying and doing.

To reduce change blindness for yourself, practice being more aware by really paying attention while you go about one of your routine activities, like brushing your teeth, eating or walking. See how much you can notice about a routine behavior.

         •  Find out more about mindful awareness is in my newsletter.

         • You don’t have to be depressed to get a lot of good ideas from
            The Mindful Way through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn.
            I love the CDs.

          • Listen to Kabat-Zinn free

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In a Rut? Get Creative

Apparently, it’s not that difficult to be more creative. Csikszentmihalyi suggests a variety of steps to take in order to do so. These are some steps that I found interesting, and fairly easy to implement. As in all tasks worth mastering, climbing out of a rut does take a bit of doing, so beware: some work is involved.

Enhancing your curiosity and interest in the world is a good start. Incorporate surprise into your daily life.

Be surprised – notice how things are unusual, different and interesting. This could be something as simple as noticing the pot bellied pigs I passed on my drive the other morning. Wow! I don’t see too many of those on a daily basis. They’re kind of cute.

Surprise someone – be different in what you do, say or how you look. Have a meaningful conversation with someone you normally just say hi to.  I could have surprised those pigs by starting a conversation with them.

Investigate surprising things – if I’d been more open to my experience, I would have pulled over and had a good look at those pigs. If I’d really been thinking I’d have whipped out my phone and taken a picture which I could have used for this blog.
Another tip for developing your creativity is to get in flow, i.e., bring more flow to your life.

Daily positive goals – have a goal each day that you look forward to. It doesn’t have to be big or particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. Just important to you, like finding out about your kid’s day after school (good luck with that one). Meeting goals gets us in flow.

Do it well – putting your all into any activity (be it running, walking or meditating) makes it more enjoyable. Do one thing at a time; no multitasking here. Concentrate on what you’re doing and focus all your attention on it. When you’re pushing yourself pleasantly hard, you can get in the zone.

Increase the difficulty – where possible, once you’ve mastered the basics, push yourself further. So you know how to make lasagna. But can you make a healthy, low fat yet tasty lasagna? Pushing the limits increases the likelihood of having a flow experience.
On your upward climb out of the mundane, a few baby steps are a great start.  Know that it’s like walking vs running. It’s a hell of a lot easier to start walking than running, but walking still good exercise on the road to health. And you know you can trust NPR on that.

Music to get creative with:  Check out Ke$ha’s Tik Toc.  This chick is really in the flow, and she’s not just another pretty face.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Post Divorce Unconventional

I love red shoes, purses, backpacks and the like. I also love stories of unconventional people. Life Uncharted, Jan/Feb 2010 Psychology Today (sorry, not on line yet) gives a little info about seven unconventional people. Several have moved out of the country, most have never worked for anyone else, some are married, a few are single, one is a single mom. The thing that they share is their desire to map out and control their own destinies, often in ways that others might find odd or scary.

Divorce is a perfect opportunity to get unconventional. This is your chance to do what you want, not what someone else wants, or what others want you to do. After all, we have unconventional work days and work arrangements, unconventional medicine, unconventional leaders, and unconventional careers, among other things.

One of the things the divorced often report is how great it is to be you own boss and not have to answer to anyone else. If I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t. If I want to spend the weekend reading, playing the piano and watching movies, I can. If I want to take a trip someplace, I go. It’s all up to me.

I know this can be a bit daunting at first, but think about it. To be the proverbial master of your universe. How freakin’ cool is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I love relationships. I just don’t love relationships that are controlling. Let’s face it, most marriages involve a lot of control. It may be mutual, but control it is. It’s difficult to be in a relationship where both individuals are completely independent. It’s almost an oxymoron. But what a great concept. It's definitely something to look for.

If you were going to do everything you wanted to do in the next week, what would that look like? How would you describe it: fun, relaxing, exciting? How would it be different from what you usually choose for yourself? Can you do that, or come close to it in your current relationship? This is your chance: consider those new red shoes.

Music to go unconventional with: Live your life. TI & Rhianna

Check out the Living Single blog and Used-Car-Driving, Non-Property-Owning, Unmarried Man Somehow Happy; Experts Baffled

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Turn Your Loss Into a Win

I just read some great advice in Runnersworld about getting over a bad race experience.

1. Wallow (a bit)
2. Find a positive
3. Analyze it
4. Set new goals
5. Manage expectations

It’s not hard to see how you can apply these steps to many losse (in relationships, in work, in dieting).

Think of the last relationship you had that tanked. A lover, a friend, a colleague. Sure, you feel bad at first. Depending on the nature of the relationship, you might have to isolate for weeks, eat or starve (your pick), sleep all day or not at all, and so forth. Even if it’s not a terribly close relationship, you may still feel terribly bad about the ending. But the wallowing must end. You've go to take charge and move on.

Then it’s time to find the silver lining. What good is going to come of this? What did you learn? To trust your instincts in the next relationship, that you can’t mix work and pleasure, that even when you put in 110% you can’t make someone else be a better friend than they are?  Find something positive, no matter how big or small, that shows it was not all for naught.

Next, and this can be overdone so keep it simple, what can I do differently? Was I too needy? Too independent? Did I assume too much? Fail to communicate clearly? The idea being that next time, with a good analysis, you might behave differently.

Setting new goals can be fun. After the analysis, what would you like to strive for next time?  Maybe I just want to take on a small project next time, or my goals of losing 5 pounds a week was a wee bit high or I am absolutely not going to get intimate before the 5th date.

Now the expectation game is a rough one. If they’re not high enough, we don’t strive to be our best. Too high, and, well, you know… Consider your expectations going in. Were they too high? Too focused on the outcome and not enough on the performance? In other words, are you pleased with how well you did (the performance) vs pleased with how well it turned out (the outcome)? You might do a personal best (running time, job interview, date) but the outcome doesn’t necessarily work as you’d hope (didn’t win your age group, didn’t get the job, didn’t get a second date). Sometimes just finishing is a great performance. Or, as a client recently pointed out, my D is a whole lot better than the Fs that went before it.

If these steps don’t work and it’s dragging on too long, time for a coach!

Pump up music: The Distance, Cake