Thursday, July 31, 2008

You Get What You Permit

Every parent and teacher knows that if you reward bad behavior, it's more likely to happen again. So you ignore the tantrum and dole out the time outs when little Johnny hits his sister. It seems so easy with kids.

As adults, we forget this valuable lesson. Out of college and looking for a job, I worked as an appointment setter for a realty company. Patty was the superstar agent. She didn't even consider representing a home that cost under a million. One evening, an agent called and wanted to view one of her homes. I refered to the file for that property and set the appointment.

Flash forward to 10:00 p.m. I'm at home and the phone rings. It was Patty and she was livid that I had made the appointment. She berated me. She questioned my intelligence. She was rude and ugly. Before I could get in a word, she was done and she slammed down the phone.

I called her back. I explained that I had followed her instructions and that calling me at home at night was inappropriate.

That Monday at work, I started cleaning out my desk. I knew I was going to get canned! LOL! Patty walked in and do you know what she did? She complimented my blouse. I never had another problem with her.

Patty acted that way with people who allowed it. Impressed with her sales record, the rest of the office cowered in fear. They let her talk to them anyway she pleased, and she did. You get what you permit.

I couldn't change the way she treated them; but I could confront the way she treated me.

That was a pivotal moment in my life. It's the moment when I began standing up for myself and demanding to be treated the way I should be treated. Among other things, that means:
  • You are not allowed to yell at me.
  • You are not allowed to lie to me or be dishonest.
  • You are not allowed to waste my time.
If you do, I will call you on it. That doesn't mean that I will be loud or rude or angry but I will say something. Keeping quiet and just going with the flow, says to the offending person that what they did to you was okay and you have given them the green light to do it again ... and again ... and again.

You've permitted it, you better believe you'll get more of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Zooming Out of the Zone!

I just returned from a fabulous cruise. It was my first and I had a blast. I think part of the reason my trip was so amazing was that I made the conscious decision to do some different things and go boldly outside of my comfort zone.

Normally, on a vacation, I rest, shop, maybe go out to a nightclub and do some sightseeing. Since this was my first cruise, I decided to make it a cruise of ‘first’ – or close to firsts. I am not afraid of heights but I’m not a big fan of them either. Nor, as a life-long non-swimmer, am I a big fan of water, but when looking at a list of activities to do in Key West, parasailing sounded like fun.

Another excursion that caught my eye was horseback riding. Now, I have ridden before, but not since summer day camp in the 3rd grade, so I counted that as a ‘first’ too – my first time on a horse as an adult!

The parasailing was an adventure. Out of all the people on the boat, only six of us signed up for it. And, all of us were women! There were two pairs of friends and Doris, another solo sailor. She and I paired up. When we got to the boat, there were six other people from another cruise ship that had docked. And our daring dozen set off.

It started with a beautiful and relaxing boat ride. Our guides were two handsome and charming men. They took us up two at a time. I won’t lie, watching people go from the end of the boat straight into the air with legs dangling, gave me a few moments of pause. Before we knew it, it was time for Doris and me to head up. With lifejacket on and harness secured, we were off!

Up in the air, it was truly magnificent – the water, the sky. It was quiet. There was a gentle breeze. And, any fear I had evaporated almost immediately. Doris and I agreed that it was definitely worth the cost of the excursion and then some. Our brief 10 minutes went by quickly and on the way down, they ‘dunked’ us in the water before they brought us in. Amazing!

The next day, it was horseback riding. Talk about fun. I convinced my sister and her friend, my step-mother, and my aunt and her husband to come with me. We were all outside of our comfort zones! My Aunt Linda - known for her impeccable make-up and hair, and flawless nails - had never ridden before, but she was up to the challenge. We rode for about two hours in the heat – laughing and joking as we listened to stories about the Mayans. It was truly a memorable experience.

Oh, and it wasn’t a first but I karaoked. Okay, I have done that before (twice actually) but it was the first time I’d ever sung anything in front of my family, outside of grade school choir. I sang on the first night and actually made it into the Talent Showcase we had on our last night aboard.

My trip was so much richer and so much more memorable because I took a few chances. I don’t think I’ll ever do a vacation, the ‘old’ way again. Now that I’ve gone outside of my normal zone, I’ll be looking for other opportunities to pull a Star Trek and boldly go where I haven’t gone before!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Relax, Relate, Release!

I am headed to Miami! I'm meeting up with family and we are taking a cruise. It will be my first. Some people who know me might think that I'll have one eye on my cell phone and one hand on a keyboard while I am gone. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I take a break, I really take a break. I will not be carrying my laptop and I will have my cell phone but it will be turned off 95% of the time.

Technology can be incredible. As a single woman, I like having a cell phone with me when I am driving at night or walking an isolated park trail. I enjoy staying in touch with people via email and the ease and convenience of the Internet.

BUT ... I have a theory that all this technology has an ulterior motive ... to keep us working all of the time. Think about it. I can check my work email at home. My co-workers know my cell number. I can even set up your computer to work from home. Blackberrys, IPhones, laptops, it never ends.

But it should. When I am on vacation, I am unavailable. It's that simple. I don't want to talk about work. I don't want to think about work. I want to cruise. I want to parasail. I want to walk on the beach. I want to take a horseback ride through the Mayan ruins. I want to dance. I want to eat good food. And guess what? That is exactly what I will do.

Work isn't going anywhere. The job, the blog, the business, the website, will all be waiting for me when I get back. And when I do get back, I'll be better than ever because I will be rested, relaxed and rejuvenated!

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

You know you love the rush! Careening downward on that rollercoaster or flying down the mountainside while skiing. It's truly an incredible and exhilariting feeling. But when you are careening down the path of disasterous thoughts and improbable what-ifs it doesn't feel quite so good. In fact, it's pretty nauseating.

You get called into the boss's office. There were some problems with the report you submitted. Thirty minutes later, after a number suggestions, revisions and criticisms, you leave with your tail between your legs.

"I'm skating on thin ice," you think as you gather your stuff and head home for the day.

"What if I get fired?"

As you pull out of the parking lot and start the drive home, you also start the mental free fall down. By the time you get home, you've lost your job, your house, your spouse and have developed a serious alcohol problem. All because you had a discussion with your boss. Visions of food stamps and homeless shelters dance in your head as you pull into the driveway.

But wait a minute! Is it really that bad? Of course not. It wasn't a great meeting; but you didn't get fired. In fact, you got some valuable information and feedback and you know what to do better next time.

When you find yourself perched at the top of that slope, stop yourself before you start by asking yourself how likely all of that terrible stuff is it to happen. How likely is it that you will be fired? If you are fired, what is the likelihood that you will not be able to find any work at all? What are the chances that you would become homeless or that your spouse would leave you? As you start challenging the assumptions, you will find that the likelihood of all that other stuff occurring decreases.

Another techique involves just asking yourself better questions. Instead of "Why Me?" ask, "What can I do differently next time?" Instead of asking "What if I lose my job?" ask "What can I learn from this?" Focus on the positive and proactive things you can do to change the situation for the better.

Save the slopes for skiing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Promise Keeping

Chances are, if you have a deadline to meet at work, you'll do whatever you have to do to meet it. Stay late, come in early, and put lesser projects on the back burner because there are consequences to be paid if you don't come through. If you promised your child you'd be at the big game or opening night of the play, you would find a way to make it happen. But what about the promises you make to yourself? Do you take those as seriously?

Probably not. Maybe because there is not another person involved. There is no one else relying on us. We are willing to endure extra pressure, stress and inconvenience when we have to answer to someone else.

When other people are involved, there are consequences. If you didn't complete that work assignment, you could be reprimanded, written up or even fired. And, no parent wants to be the cause of that look of disappointment in their child's eyes. But what are the consequences when you don't come through for yourself? Often there are none.

With no consequences, it's easy to not follow-through. For a long time, I promised that I would get up early and work out. But I didn't. It was easier to sleep in. The payoff of exercise was not immediate but the extra half hour of sleep sure was!

A lot of time, the things we promise ourselves aren't the fun things. I mean, look at the first three letters of diet. And doesn't exercise sound a lot like exorcism? Handling finances? Stopping smoking? None of these things has an immediate payoff.

So what can we do? We have to create a payoff. For me, it was a simple as writing down 'Exercise' in my planner. I'm crazy about my planner! If I write it down, I have to do it. I hate getting to the end of the day and not having everything on my list crossed off. And crossing exercise off my list felt good.

Another option that works for me when it comes to things I need to do but aren't crazy about is my kitchen timer. I set it for 15 minutes or 30 at the most. I'm not crazy about cleaning but I like the results. So when I really need to clean, I set my timer for 30 minutes. I can do just about anything for a half hour. At the end of a half hour, I give myself the option to stop or I can set the timer for the original time or less and keep going. Breaking it down into manageable chunks of time really helps when it comes to completing unpleasant tasks.

Whether it's exercise, saving money, smoking, losing weight or even finding a job, the results are usually immediate. So you have to find some way to create a payoff in the short term. Using a list, giving yourself a small reward, working with a friend who can act as an accountability partner are all ways of getting you over that first big hurdle.

Once you clear that first one, you will begin to see results - you'll start losing weight or inches, you'll start feeling better without the cigarette or you may see your savings begin to grow. When you see the results, the payoff, it's easier to stay motivated and stay the course.

But it all starts with finding a way to make those promises to yourself mean as much to you as the promises you make to everyone else.


"Hello. My name is Karyn and I'm a people-pleaser."

Well, I'm a recovering people-pleaser and conflict-avoider. From childhood through most of my 20's, it was really important for everyone to like me. I bit my tongue a lot. I often gave in just to keep the peace. I held on to people that I needed to let go of because being liked and not having tensions and hurt feelings was so important.

But making everyone happy was exhausting. I was stretched too thin and stressed to my limit. That's when I realized that many of the people I was so intent on pleasing were not concerned with pleasing me. While I was busy trying to meet, and even exceed their needs, it wasn't being reciprocated. My needs were not being met. And I didn't even like some of these yahoos!

I finally asked myself : "What if everyone didn't like me?" Would my world fall apart? Would I suffer? Would I be alone and friendless? Would I become a modern-day Eleanor Rigby? What if I said, "No, I can't do that right now?" What if I said, "Sorry. I can't. I have some other things I have to take care of?" How bad could it be?

So I started saying no. I started setting boundaries. I decided what was acceptable for me and what was not. And you know what, it wasn't so bad. It wasn't bad at all. Truth be told, it felt good.

I'm not saying that I just walk around randomly saying no just to say no and to be difficult but if what's being asked of me is too expensive, too time-consuming, too difficult for me to manage or will put too much on my plate then I say no. I don't mind pleasing others as long as I'm pleasing myself as well.

Sure I can loan you $50 if I have it but if all I have until payday is $55, then the answer is no. Sure, I can babysit your kids at the last minute, but not if it involves changing plans I made months ago and am looking forward to.

I also started speaking up for myself. Since I still am not a big fan of conflict, I learned how to do it in a way that was tactful and respectful and not full of hostility and emotion. "No, it is not okay for you to raise your voice at me." "No, I don't appreciate you cancelling out on me at the last minute." Or in the case of my chronically late friends, "I don't like waiting over an hour and a half for you to get ready!" (and if you are reading this blog, you know who you are!)

The best part was that I didn't lose any of the people that I wanted in my life and the ones I did lose needed to get lost anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fear Questions

It's been said that 95% of the things we fear never happen. Yet, many of us let fear stop us from doing 95% of the things we want to do.

We fear what others will think: Will they laugh? Will I lose their love or their support? Will they try to sabotage me?

We fear failure: Will I look stupid? Will I lose money? What if I can't find enough business?

We fear success: What if I get so much business that I can't keep up? How will I handle the accounting and the taxes? What if I outgrow this space before the lease is up?

I think when we ask the right questions we can change fear from something that imprisons us to something that can empower us. One of the scariest experiences of my life occured while I was at work on day. I was sitting in my cubicle chatting with my boyfriend about our plans for the evening. After I hung up the phone, I had a thought that literally sent chills down my spine.

You know that you can be in this exact same position next year at this time. Same job (no promotion), same boyfriend (not fiance or husband), same car, same apartment (not a house of my own).

My fear was the fear of an unsatisfying status quo. What if things didn't change? What if I didn't do something different? What if nothing changed?

Six months later, I had left my job and moved to Los Anglees to pursue my screenwriting.
It's been four and a half years since I had that thought. Since then, I've had some wonderful experiences, met some amazing people and done some incredible things. Using that fear to make that major change made all of the difference.

Fear is real and it's natural. The key is to turn it from a fiend into a friend.