Monday, November 30, 2009

Karyn Cooks! Chicken and Pomegranate Salad

This recipe is courtesy of my cousin Donna. She made this for me once and I immediately fell in love. The mixture of flavors makes it just pop. It's healthy. It's tasty. And, it's perfect for the holidays. With the red pomegranates, it looks beautiful on a table. I've taken it several times as my contribution at a holiday potluck. It looks positively festive.

Now is the time to make it because pomegranates are in season now and will be out of season shortly after the holidays end.

Pomegranate Chicken Salad

2 Pomegranates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 pound cooked chicken breast meat, cut into 1" chunks
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 chopped apple
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder (optional, but I use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, raisins, chicken, almonds, apple, celery, parsley, green onion, and curry powder.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Pour into the chicken mixture, and mix well.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you want to save time, you can sometimes find the pomegranate already seeded in the produce section.

This recipe was originally on the POM Wonderful site. They currently have an updated version of it on this site but this was the original.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Day for Giving Thanks!

Like the name says, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. And today, as you enjoy your fabulous feast surrounded by family and friends, you will probably agree that we have a lot to be thankful for. It’s easy to be thankful on Thanksgiving. However, we have to find a way to take that gratitude into the other 364.25 days of the year.

There is always something to be thankful for. It’s so easy to focus on things that are not going right or on the things that we don’t have. Even though it’s harder, we have to make the effort in those times, to remember that there are a significant amount of things that are going right (often more than is going wrong). And for those things, we should be thankful.

I talked to a young man the other day who really and truly thought that every single problem he had, and would ever have, would be cured by money. There are so many things that young man could have been grateful for but the only thing he could see was all the money he didn’t have.

He couldn’t see that he had his health, a sound mind, supportive friends and family. He had his youth; he had a future ahead of him. He had nice clothes on his back and a home to return to at the end of the day.

When I mentioned these things to him, he just brushed them off. The clothes weren’t the ones he wanted. His home was still with his family and he was tired of them. He thought having health and a sound mind were laughable. Besides, he didn’t have a car; he had to ride the bus.

Most of us do the same thing. We don’t appreciate what we have because it’s not exactly what we want. We live in a state of perpetual covetness and longing. We wonder why she got the job. We agonize over why he seems to ‘get all of the breaks.’ We look at the happy couple on their wedding day and think, “Why isn’t that me?” What a way to live!

Gratitude isn’t settling for less. You need to continue to work towards your dreams and your goals but enjoy where you are and what you have right now. Gratitude is the key that will release you from a number of stressors and frustrations. That same key also unlocks a secret source of happiness and contentment. When you lose the frustrations and the complaints, you lift a weight off of your chest that makes room for more gratitude and all of the goodness that comes with it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mythbusters: The Myth of Positive Thinking

As a coach and a trainer, I truly believe that a positive attitude is the key to success. It's the strong foundation to which sustainable success is built on. We have to be positive thinkers. But when we talk about positive thinking, I think it helps to clarify what is and isn't positive.

Delusional thinking is not positive thinking. Positive thinkers looks at the facts and the issues and take it all into account as they devise a plan for overcoming obstacles. Delusional thinking ignores the reality and the facts and insist on keeping everything rosy when it is not.

When a positive thinker encounters a major obstacle like cancer, they belief they will beat it. However, they also investigate traditional and experimental treatments. They look at the research, they get other professional opinions and they proceed accordingly.

A delusional thinker thinks that the cancer will just magically disappear. If they can believe enough, it just might work. After all, they are being positive!

Positive thinking will not prevent problems. It is not a guarantee for an effortless cake walk. A lot of people assume that if they are positive enough, things will just magically fall in the place. They visualize their positive thoughts going before them and make the rocky roads smooth, filling the potholes along the way. Not true.

Positive thinkers have problems. What is difference is the approach. They don't assume the position of helplessness, apathy or frustration. They respond proactively, looking for other options, possibilities and opportunities. Positive thinkers are human. They have bad days and bad moods. But they don't dwell in those moments. They are able to move on and up quickly. They rebound.

Finally, Positive thinking means absolutely nothing if it is not followed by positive action. You can think all you want about a yummy Chinese Chicken Salad but if you want to eat that salad, you will have to make it, go get it or get someone else to make it or go get it. You have to act. Thinking about it alone will not make it so and it doesn't matter how positive your thoughts are.

Positive Thinking - Proactive Action = Dreaming
Go ahead and be a Positive Thinker!
But be more than positive.
Be real!
Be proactive!
And take action!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A for Attitude

Recently, I started volunteering for a job readiness program. I’ve been dealing with a lot of my own struggles and I felt it was time that I got out of my own box and out of my own head and did something for someone else.

On my first day, I observed the first session for a new class full of job seekers. One of the first things the instructor said was that if they were going to be successful, they’d have to have the right attitude. And that attitude was one of professionalism and a willingness to do the work.

A man sitting next to me balked. “Attitude?” he said. “What does attitude have to do with anything?”

The instructor responded, “Attitude is everything. Your attitude determines your behavior. And your behaviors determine what you do.”

A positive attitude is critical to any real or lasting success. Your attitude is the canvas that your life is painted on.

So exactly what is attitude? Well, it’s more than emotion or a feeling. It’s more than positive thinking.

Your attitude is your overall outlook. It’s how you view a situation. It deals with how you see yourself and how you perceive others. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean that you are always happy but a positive attitude does mean that you will get back up sooner than later after falling down. A positive attitude is one where you accept that you — and not a partner, job, economic downturn, political party or society — has the ultimate control over your life.

A positive attitude doesn’t come from a place of helplessness. When it encounters obstacles it doesn’t throw up its hands and declare defeat. Instead it puts its head down and gets to work, finding another way, looking for other options and sometimes even creating opportunities.

Attitude fuels belief. Consider this. You can’t have a positive attitude and negative beliefs. It just doesn’t work. You can’t have a positive attitude that says ‘anything is possible and then believe that ‘nothing good will ever happen’ for you. If yours is a negative attitude then it will be difficult to have positive beliefs come from it.

Beliefs fuel action. If you believe in persistence, then if one door closes, you will continue to push forward because you believe that you will eventually get that open door. If you believe that nothing good can happen for you, then as soon as that door closes, you will take that as proof of your negative belief. And chances are you will not find that open door.

It all starts with attitude. And you, … not anyone else has the power to create your attitude and the power to control it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Revving Up for the Holidays!

We are less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving. There is a lot to look forward to: big, yummy holiday dinners, parties, shopping for gifts, decorating, seasonal music and the list goes on. But for many people, the holidays bring just as much stress as they do satisfaction. So, it might be a good time, before we get caught up in the midst of things, to take a moment and prepare for the not-so-nice aspects of the holidays.

We are technically out of the recession, but for a sizable number of people that fact hasn't caught up to our realities. In the midst of tight belts and tighter budgets, it is inevitable that some changes to traditional holiday spending might be in order.

Scale Back: Does everyone on your list need a gift? This especially applies to all of those acquaintance gifts. Little things can add up to a lot. When it comes to adult family members, consider skipping gift exchanges all together or possibly doing a Secret Santa with a spending limit.

Lower Expectations: When it comes to teens and older children, you might want to explain that Christmas might be a little different this year. It might not be possible to get everything on a long list but ask them what they would like the most or in a specific monetary range.

For many this is either the best part of Christmas or the worst. The key here is to have a clear plan for those relatives that might try your patience or push your buttons.

Make It a Team Effort: Pair up with a sibling, cousin or friend that will be attending the same family function and lean on each other for support. Things immediately seem better when you realize that you aren't in it alone.

Set Boundaries: Who says you have to stay at the dinner all-day and well into the night? If you aren't hosting dinner, plan on leaving a little early. Let people know what is off-limits before hand, if possible. If you are dealing with unemployment or a recent divorce, let several supportive family members know that you would rather not talk about it. In fact, engage members of your team to help you out if those touchy subjects come up.

The key is to have a plan - whether it is a spending plan, a plan for handling family or for not eating too much at the company party - if you think it through in advance you will be able to avoid a lot of sticky or stressful situations, or at least get through them with less drama and damage.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Be a Giver

We’ve all heard that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But we live in a world where many are ruled by their wants and desires. When that adage comes up people think, “Yeah right, I’d much rather receive a flat-screen plasma television set than to give one away.” But there is some truth to this. There is a lot of truth to this.

Back in September, I lost my day job. It was completely unexpected. While I didn’t miss the job itself, I did miss my co-workers and I missed my paycheck. I get unemployment but it is not nearly as much as I had been making. Plus, I bought my first-house last year.

The first few weeks were fine but then the fear, the frustration and the anxiety set in. Add to that the admonishments from both friends and family that I, as a life coach, I should be beyond feelings of fear, frustration and anxiety.

But I pride myself on being honest and, honestly, I was scared and I felt like a fraud for being scared. Maybe they were right. If I were any kind of coach wouldn’t I be able to snap my fingers and banish these emotions in an instant? Shouldn’t I be able to be 100% positive all the time?

To make matters worse, I was alone. I live alone and that’s fine but with no job to go to, I was alone all day every day, all day. It was maddening. It was like being in solitary confinement. I had full days to dwell on my problems, my situation and myself. I would spend days operating on little to no sleep. I knew I needed to do something but I wasn’t sure what.

I reached out to a friend and she suggested that I find volunteer. It would get me out of the house and, if I found an organization that was a good fit, it would give me an opportunity to use some of my skills. “You can’t let your talents go to waste sitting at home,” she reasoned.

I didn’t hesitate. That night, I went online to Volunteer Match and I did a search on local non-profits. Jacob’s Ladder, a local job readiness training program, came up. It sounded perfect. I called the next day. I met with them later that week and started volunteering that next Monday.

I’ve been able to use my training expertise, my life coaching skills and what I know about job searching and interviewing. I have helped people with applications, resumes, getting professional clothes and interviewing. I have been able to help the students in the class become more proactive, develop workable goals and see things from a variety of different perspectives.

I have been giving of myself, my skills and my talents. It is, and continues to be, an amazing experience. While I have been giving, I’ve been receiving so much more. My outlook immediately improved. I began sleeping again. For the first time in weeks, I felt like myself again.

I also came to realize that feeling those feelings doesn’t make me any of a less effective coach. It makes me human. And now, I even believe that these kinds of experiences might even make me a better coach. I was down; but I didn’t stay there. I found a way to get up and I know that I can help others do the same.

However, my turn around started when I started to give.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gut Check

There is the heart, there is the head, and then there is the gut. When I make my best decisions, I’m usually going with my gut.

My head tries to be rational and logical. It’s like Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” When I’m using my head, I’m writing lists of pros and cons. I’m thinking about the consequences. My head loves a logical argument and can be persuaded by the bottom line. It likes it when things are clear and final and most of all, when they make sense.

My heart is sensitive and emotional. It easily gets swept away. Like a sailboat, it goes whichever way the emotional winds are blowing. I can be swept away with love or fear or resentment or any number of intense emotions. It all depends. My heart loves strong and passionate feeling. It likes it when the emotion is so high that it almost takes my breath away.

But my gut is that mysterious feeling in the pit of my stomach. Unlike the other two, I’m still not sure how to convince it. It knows what it knows. It feels what it feels. And it has an uncanny track record of being right almost all of the time.

Of course, ideally, the three arrive at the same conclusion. There is no certainty quite like the certainty that comes when head, heart and gut agree. But when they don’t, I’ve learned to go with the gut.

When my heart is head over heels, but my gut tells me to proceed with caution. I tread lightly.
When my head says that the cons far outweigh the pros, but my guts says there is still something wrong. I step back instead of just jumping in.
But when my gut says it feels right, even when it doesn’t seem logical or when it isn’t the sexy and passionate thing to do, I make my move.

Of course, it’s taken me a while to get to this point, the seductiveness of the heart and the precision of the head can be hard to resist but they just haven’t given me the same consistency and reliability of my gut (and I have the heartaches and missteps to prove it).

When in doubt, go with the gut check. You won’t be disappointed.

Today's image is courtesy of

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who’s the Boss? YOU Are!

If the events of the past year have taught us anything it’s that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to employment.

I’ve seen people who felt secure and thought that it couldn’t happen to them, have it happen. I’ve seen people stay in jobs that no longer suit them or meet their needs because they are scared to even try to find something else. I have seen people put their heads down (like ostriches) and refuse to even acknowledge the firings, layoffs and downsizing going on around them. Hope is the only weapon in their arsenal.

These people are thinking like employees and in the 21st century that sort of thinking is as outdated as it is detrimental. Even if you never want to own our own business, even if you enjoy the benefits, consistent paycheck and workday routines that come with working for someone, you still need to look at yourself as a business owner. Your business is the business of you.

At its most basic level, you are offering your services in exchange for pay and benefits. It’s just that simple. Your job is to make sure that your services are services that an employer wants. That’s what an interview is. A company is sampling a number of similar products (applicants) to see which one they like best and which will fit best in their company.

You need to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to set yourself apart … even if you are happy where you are and are not looking for a job. You don’t know when you will be looking, so you should always be honing your skills and recording your accomplishments. Besides, these are the same skills that will help you when it’s time for your annual review or when you are up for a promotion.

So what does this mean for your everyday life? What has to change? Probably not much. But keep these things in mind.

1. Write Your Wins: Try to do this as they happen. Think of how difficult it is to prepare for your annual review when you have to remember all of the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead, keep a little document in Word where you can list your accomplishments as you go. Got Employee of the Month? Jot it down. Did you exceed your sales goal for the quarter? Make a note of it. Did you take a record-setting number of calls in one month? Write it down. This will come in handy when preparing for a review or when you are updating your resume.

2. Become a Sponge: In training, a sponge is someone who is in class to absorb as much information as possible. Take every opportunity you can to learn. Take as many classes, seminars and workshops as possible. Definitely take advantage of any training you can get from your company. However, be open to investing in a class or two on your own if need be. Always keep your skills current.

3. Act Like a CEO: It’s not up to your company to take care of you. The only person who will act in your best interest is you. Place your loyalty and your dedication where they belong, with you and not with your company. Give your best at the job you are in; but do it because it’s in your best interest and not because that’s what the company wants. If you see a better opportunity, don’t be afraid to take it out of some misguided sense of company loyalty. If you need a better opportunity, don’t be afraid to look for one and make a move if you find it.

No go ahead and take your place in the big corner office of You, Inc.!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myth-Busters: Multi-Tasking

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” - Lord Chesterfield

Obviously, Lord Chesterfield didn’t live in the 21st Century! Americans love to multi-task. We have to because we are busy, busy, busy! We drive while putting on make-up and talking on the phone. At work, we reply to emails while on conference calls. We return phone calls while walking on the treadmill. With the aid of a little technology, we can do it all! But can we? Consider the following.

* A study by the University of London Institute of Psychiatry found “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.”

* Researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions in the workplace and found workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.

* And we’ve all encountered the multi-tasking driver who’s either wrapped up in his/her cell phone conversation or texting.

Times may have changed but our brains have not. The problem is the more you multitask the more difficult it is for your brain to switch between tasks. It takes time for your brain to make the switch … the same time you think you are saving. Your memory is also negatively affected by multitasking.

So what’s a busy person to do?

Do It Anyway: Multi-tasking works best when you are working when at least one of the tasks is inconsequential and doesn’t require too much thought. Checking voicemail or returning a call while walking the dog. You can write your to-do list while you are on the train. You should be able to use the treadmill while chatting on the cell phone. However, if the task is important or requires effort or attention, then it requires your focus…

Find Your Focus: Take small amounts of time to focus on a single task. Spend 10 minutes reading and returning emails. Devote 20 minutes to writing the proposal. You will be surprised that a dedicated focus will actually improve your productivity.

Tame the Technology Tiger: It is okay to temporarily turn your ringer off. Believe it or not, most calls aren’t urgent. Also close your email application so those annoying notifications don’t pop up every time you get an email. Instead, make a commitment to check your email at the top (and maybe bottom) of every hour or maybe after you finish each focused time period.