Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Almost 2011!

My mom died when I was 15, so I must have been about 12 when we had a conversation that has stuck with me for years.

We were talking about driving. I was bursting at the seems to get behind the wheel of a car and four years seemed like an eternity.

My mom laughed and said, "You are in such a hurry. You want to drive. You want to go to graduate from high school and you aren't even there yet! You're already thinking about college. For you, time is moving too slowly; but trust me, once you get around 25, you will be surprised at how time will fly."

I looked at her, as I often did at that age, with a look that said, "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Yet, I often hear her words in my head. It seems like yesterday that we were scared of Y2K. Would the banks lose all of our money? Should we really be storing water and canned goods. Should we just party like it's 1999?

But here we are ... over a decade into "The New Millenium"

In 2011, we will commemorate the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I remember exactly where I was that day (working in DC from a building where I could see the Pentagon in the distance) and it doesn't seem like it was almost a decade ago.

Whether you make resolutions or not, I think we all need to resolve to savor a little bit more of life in the new year. It passes by too fast to just spend time working, worrying and waiting for something better to come along.

Laugh harder
Love deeper
Dream more
Enjoy more moments
Live fuller!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Handbook: What About Me?

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occasionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

The holidays are great. It's all about family and children and goodwill towards all ... but what about you. It's easy to be selfless during the holidays. There is so much to be done: gifts to buy, food to prepare, parties and gatherings to attend. There are the decorations, the gift wrapping and so much more. But now, it's time to take a breather.

It's time to take a moment for yourself and just relax. Give yourself one final gift and do something for you. Take a weekend, a day or an evening and indulge yourself. Don't know what to do? Here are some suggestions.
  1. Get a massage.
  2. Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure.
  3. Get your hair done.
  4. Have dinner at that new restaurant you've been dying to check out.
  5. Take a long drive and check out some of the Christmas lights (they'll be gone soon).
  6. Retreat into a dark theater and watch a movie (don't forget the popcorn).
  7. Have a romantic evening at home or go to a hotel for the night.
  8. Have a relaxing facial.
  9. Take advantage of some after-Christmas sales (if you aren't completely tired of shopping).
  10. Cuddle up with a good book.

If you want your me time to also be alone time, that's fine. But it doesn't have to be! Grab a girlfriend and take her to the spa with you. Take the hubs or wife out, I'm sure they'll appreciate a little R&R too.
It doesn't matter what you do or who you do it with, just make sure you do something to relax and unwind! Before you know it, it will be January and we'll all be back to work!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Karyn Cooks: Shrimp and Creamy Spinach Feta Rice

A big part of the holidays are all of the classic food traditions: turkey, stuffing, ham, Christmas cookies. Growing up, Christmas dinner was pretty much a repeat of Thanksgiving dinner. It was fine with me because those were the two times of the year, we were treated to use a sumptuous feast (where every item was a favorite).

However, after the holidays, it is time for something a little different ... and that's what this dish is. It's healthy. It's easy. It is a complete departure from most traditional holiday fare. So when you are tried of trying to find ways to work with turkey and ham leftovers, try this.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup julienne strips red bell pepper
1 6-ounce package fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound cooked, peeled, deveined medium shrimp, thawed if frozen
3 cups hot cooked medium or long grain white rice
1 cup crumbled feta cheese with basil & tomato (or plain)
Toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds (optional) *

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add raisins and bell pepper; sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, salt and pepper; toss until spinach is just wilted. Add shrimp; sauté 30 seconds. Add hot rice and feta cheese. Toss all ingredients until heated through and cheese is soft and creamy. Top with toasted nuts, if desired.

* Feta cheese comes in some tasty varieties, so if you are feeling adventurous, change up the cheese for a slightly different taste.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Something Old, Something New

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

One of the best part of the holidays are the traditions. The things that we love and remain the same year after year: grandma's pound cake, opening one gift at midnight, getting in the car with the family to view the Christmas lights.

Traditions create cohesion with the family. We need to encourage as much tradition as possible. I maintain that it's those fun family traditions that the kids will remember, much more than most of the gifts under the tree.

However, this is a good time to create new traditions, traditions that enforce the values you want to encourage.
  • How about taking the kids to buy gifts to donate to kids who are less fortunate?
  • How about having the family help distribute coats or gifts or meals?
  • What about having everyone read a passage from the Bible or the Torah to celebrate the true reason for the season?
  • What about making Christmas cookies or handmade holiday cards?
  • What about putting a gag gift or funny item into everyone's stocking?

Memories are made of this. : )

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Zap Your Tolerations

The great thing about going through coach training is that while you are learning how to help others develop themselves; there are tons of opportunities for you to work on your personal development.

One of the concepts we discussed was called tolerations. Simply put, tolerations are things that we tolerate but are not happy with. They can range from minor things like a stopped up drain to major things like an unfulfilling job or a bad relationship.

All of these things, from the very minor to the majorly major, should be dealt with. Why are tolerating these things that annoy, aggravate or just generally make us unhappy? Let’s start with the small things.

For example, I was tolerating a slow drain in the bathroom and a messy car. Neither were big deals but when the drain would back up while I was washing my face, it was annoying and it zapped away some of my positive energy. Likewise, every time I got into my car, I was confronted with a mess and every time, I would say to myself “I really need to clean this car out!” Again, it would zap away a little more of my positive energy.

Can you see how even a number of minor tolerations can create a mental and emotional drain on you?

In coach training, we did a revealing exercise called ‘zapping tolerations.’ It started with making a list of things we were tolerating. Between home life, work, kids, family and other obligations, it isn’t surprising to have a list of over 60 tolerations!

I’ll share with you a few of the items on my list.

1. Unclog the bathroom drain
2. Clean out the car
3. Lose 50 pounds
4. Reorganize the kitchen cabinets, countertops and pantry
5. Organize the book shelf
6. Get out of debt
7. Frame and hang my photographs
8. Schedule Marty’s annual vet appointment
9. Schedule my mammogram
10. Have someone come out and look at the washing machine

As you can see, my lists goes includes everything from the minor to a few major items. Writing your list is important because it puts all of these things on your radar. I knew I needed to unclog the drain but once I wrote it down, it became a priority, something I needed to handle. A few days later, I was about to run the dishwasher, and I noticed, I had a bottle of Liquid Plumber. Immediately, I used it to unclog the drain. The Liquid Plumber had been there all along but until I made unclogging the drain a priority, I looked right by it.

Some of the items on my list (mammogram, vet) can be handled with a phone call. Others just take a little time (bookshelf, kitchen organization, photographs). I’ve already handled the kitchen and the bookshelf and the car. I can tell you honestly, that it has made a difference. I don’t have that nagging feeling that I need to take care of something when I walk into the kitchen or get into the car and it feels good.

My full list includes tolerations around the home at work and even those involving relationships and people. Look at your entire life and you’ll be surprised at the tolerations you’ll find.

My challenge to you is to make a list of your tolerations and start taking care of them one at a time. Many won’t take a lot of time and others (losing weight, getting a new job, repairing a relationship) will take a lot of time. For those larger tolerations, you will be surprised at how good you feel when you sit down and map out a plan for achieving them.

Ready, set … ZAP!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Sit-Com or Drama

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

An author can take the same premise, let's say, a weekend at the beach, and turn it into a comedy, a drama or a tragedy. Maybe a woman brings her straight-laced fiance out to the beach cottage to meet her family of free-spirited eccentrics. Maybe a long-held family secret is revealed that will change the lives of everyone involved. Maybe someone drowns at the beach.
A writer has the amazing opportunity to create the story he wants to tell. He sets the mood and the tone. He controls the plot. He creates the characters. He even decides how and when it ends. As a screenwriter, I can tell you that the creative power is intoxicating.
However, I can't live my life behind the warm glow of a computer screen. At some point, I have to emerge and deal with life. I have no idea what plot twist lay ahead. I certainly didn't create my cast of characters and I have no idea how it will all end.
Yet, I can control somethings.
I can set my own tone and my own mood. I can choose to not approach a gathering with dread - replaying all the worse case scenarios and what-ifs in my mind. I can choose instead to focus on the family and friends whose company I enjoy and who I look forward to spending time with.
I can't create the cast of characters but I can determine how much screen time they get in my movie. My main characters are the ones who are postive, loving and fun. They are in almost every scene while the more toxic personalities are relegated to bit parts.
I can add a laugh track, just like they do on the sit-coms. When my aunt comes around with her negativity, I just smile and let it roll off my back, while I hear the laughter in my head. It's just not that serious!
I can't determine how it all ends but I can determine when I've had enough (which is harder to do if you are the host and you can't just leave!). I can set my own boundaries.
I might not have written this script, but make no mistake, I am the director who calls the shots and the star of my own film. This season, make your movie an award-winner!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Square Peg Phenomenon

My name is Karyn … not Karen but Karyn. As a kid, it was annoying because I could never find little key chains and other knick knacks with my name spelled correctly. Now, I love it. It’s different. It’s me.

Also, as a kid, I struggled with penmanship and I still do. I cringe to think what would be revealed about me if I ever submitted to a handwriting analysis! However, to the bane of my grade school teachers (Mr. Embrecia, Mr. Goodman and Ms. Brooks), I would not hold a pen the way they wanted me to. According to them, my grip was all wrong. They gave me guides and other ‘learning devices’ and I really did try, but it just wouldn’t work. It still doesn’t.

So what am I getting at? Here’s the moral of today’s story. Getting rid of little differences shouldn’t be a big deal. All of us have a little square peg within us that simply won’t fit into the prescribed round hole and that’s okay. That’s great!

As I was formulating the idea for this blog, I got a great email from one of my readers (wow, I love how that sounds). She wanted to share with me a list she worked on about the benefits of being left-handed (read it here).

Only 7 – 10% of Americans are lefties. Being a leftie in a rightie world can’t be easy. I’d imagine, at times, it’s downright frustrating but just like having a differently spelled name, it’s just one of those things that should be embraced … another square peg feature. I remember suffering through cursive writing with a leftie. She couldn’t be a rightie anymore than I could be a kid that held a pen correctly. It was just who we were!

Forcing a square peg into the round hole is a fruitless exercise. Think about all the energy and pain spent trying to cram that peg into that hole. The square peg isn’t the wrong peg, it’s a different peg.

Anyway, if all we had were round pegs and round holes the world would be a very boring place!

If you love trivia, the Leftie List is full of great info!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Handbook: The Why and Not The What

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find a way to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

This is an awesome time of year. For eight days, the Jews celebrate Hannukah, called The Festival of Light. It commenorates their victory over persecution and the rededication of the Holy Temple. Christians celebrate Christmas which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. While not based in religion, many African-Americans end the year celebrating Kwanzaa which focuses on making a strong connection to our African ancestors.

So, if you practice any of these traditions, there is a definite reason behind the season - and that reason - should feature prominently in your celebrations. Even if you aren't religious or even spiritual, the Holidays offer the opportunity to connect with family and friends.

Take some time this season to teach your children about why they are celebrating the Holidays. Let them know what it means to you. But, it's not just about the kids, take some time yourself, to reconnect with why you are celebrating. While gifts are great, they should never be the sum total of the holiday tradition.
I went out for my first Black Friday shopping event about 15 years ago. I was going to Wal-Mart. I didn't know at the time, I was supposed to get there several hours before the store was set to open. I arrived around ten minutes to 6:00 a.m. and was shocked to find the line wrapping around the store.
As I approached, I commented about the line to several other people who had just arrived. The three of us agreed, instead of walking all the way to the end of the line, we would stand across from the doors and wait until the store opened and everyone entered before going in.
Well, the shoppers in line assumed we were going to try to cut and they unleashed a torrent of threats, slurs and words that would have made Santa blush (and move them to the top of the naughty list).
When 6:00 arrived, pandemonium broke out as people sprinted from the end of the line up to the doors. Several people had carts and used them to try to ram their way into the store. The three of us were scared to move!
When we finally got into the store, I heard calls for security repeatedly over the loud speaker. I saw an old woman get cursed out because she accidentally bumped a woman with her cart. It was crazy. I got out of their as soon as possible. I was so traumatized that it was years before I ventured out on Black Friday again.
Those aggressive and angry shoppers made the holiday about the what; their behavior showed that they didn't understand the why - the real reason for the season.
By the way, the 'must-have' item that year was the Furby. All of that negative energy for a Furby. I wonder how long those kids played with it before they lost interest in their little furry friend. The what fades quickly from memory but the whys endure.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Face Time

I have friends who live on Facebook and Twitter. Their every thought and every move is chronicled online. I know people who routinely bid their ‘Facebook Family’, good morning and good night. When I was tweeting on a regular basis (or at least trying to), a man who was ‘following’ me would tell his followers daily what he had for breakfast and what he was contemplating for lunch. Really?

I just don’t have the patience for that. I will never forget the relief I felt when I went to a social media seminar and the speaker said you didn’t have to blog, facebook, tweet, get linked in and four square. She said to do what works for you … that day, I canceled my Twitter account and didn’t look back.

I ended up starting another Twitter account to promote my other blog (DivaSoulSista where I do movie and television news and reviews). Still, I don’t live and breathe social media. For those who do, here are a few tips.

Your Friends are Your Friends: I have a handful of good friends. I talk to them on the phone. We email. We visit each other when possible. I’m not an active Facebooker and even I have almost 250 friends! Some of these are friends but a lot of them are acquaintances. If you are using your Facebook to network, be careful about what some of your friends are posting.

There Is No Such Thing As Privacy: Potential employers and current employers are increasingly checking Facebook and other social media. Your drunken weekend, your rants against your ex, your opinions of your co-workers and company are all fair game. See tip number 1. Not all of your friends are your friends, it only takes one to copy and send your posts and pictures to someone else. Almost daily, you hear about people who have lost their jobs due to something they posted on a social media site.

Your Words Can Still Hurt: I recently ran across an article that talked about a friend who had given a gift to another friend. This ‘friend’ tweeted about how unhappy she was with the gift … not considering that the gift giver was a ‘friend’ of hers and could view all of her tweets and posts. And we are all becoming more and more familiar with the reality of cyber-bullying.

Be a Real Friend: I’ve reconnected with high school and college friends and many family members through Facebook and that’s great. But I encourage you to take those connections to the next level. An occasional call or personal ‘let’s catch up’ email can go a long way with making a true connection.

Facebook is great but face time is better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Money and Mayhem

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find ways to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.

Christmas morning is proof that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Anyone who has seen the look on a child's or loved one's face when they open that perfect gift knows that feeling. The memory is priceless. However, too many priceless presents add up. Come mid-January, when we open those credit card statements, we know exactly how much priceless really costs!

So, in a country still reeling in recession, the question becomes how can we create priceless moments without breaking the bank and maxing out the cards? Here are a few suggestions.

Make It an Event: Instead of spending a lot on friends and extended family, have a big night out at a favorite restaurant and make it a big celebration. Otherwise, have everyone over and have each person bring a dish or a game. The gift is the gift of togetherness and that is something you'll never want to exchange!

The Three Wise Men: I have a friend that has three boys. Her philosophy is simple, Jesus was the Son of God and he only got three gifts (one from each wise man), so why should each kid get more? I know that won't go over well in every home but if your kids are young, this could be a good tradition to start! LOL!

Exchange It: If you aren't doing it already, consider a gift exchange. Let all the adult siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins put their names in a hat, you are only required to get a gift for the person who's name you pull. It also helps if you set a price limit.

Go In Together: For parents or grandparents, pitch in and get one big gift from all of you (if you can decide on what to get).

Start Early: Sure it's too late to do this now but keep it in mind for next year. Start right after Christmas and take advantage of sales all year long. Put those perfect gifts up in a closet. This glut of gifts also comes in handy if you end up needing a last minute birthday or shower gift!

Save Up: If you bank with a credit union or certain banks, you might be able to start a Christmas fund. Put a little aside out of every check (do a direct deposit if possible) and by next year, you'll be in a position to have a great holiday shopping season.

List It: This is one you can do now and one I swear by. Make a list of who you are buying for, what you want to get them and how much you plan on spending. It also makes Christmas shopping a lot faster and easier if you add where you plan to get the gifts to your list.

Weekday Spree: If you can take a day off of work and do your Christmas shopping on a weekday morning. I take my list and I do the majority of my shopping on a Wednesday. No lines. No fuss!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Handbook: Not So Great Expectations

The holidays. At times, hectic. Hopefully not horrific. Possibly holy (if you are so inclined). Occassionally hilarious. And, if we are lucky, for the most part happy. Join me on Mondays as we find ways to navigate the Season with style and smarts, and, most importantly, without losing our sanity.
Thanksgiving is days away and it officially kicks off the Holiday Season. As we plan to stuff the turkey, glaze the ham and settle in for a day often filled with family and football, it's a good time to make sure we get real and set some realistic expectations.
Norman Rockwell makes some wonderful portraits of American families, especially at the holidays, but let's face it, he's never pictured evil in-laws, overly sensitive sisters, drunken uncles, prickly parents, bratty kids, noisy neighbors and the otherwise un-PC people who sit around your holiday table.
So here are some tips that can make the holiday more enjoyable than ever.
Spread It Out: If you are hosting dinner, give others a chance to participate. If your aunt makes a mean macaroni and cheese, then let her make it. If your sister knows how to buy a wonderful cake, let her do it. More than food, the holiday is about family and friends, give your self time to get out of the kitchen and enjoy them.
Have an Ally: I have an aunt, I love her dearly and I know she means well ... but what she calls 'honesty', the rest of us call inappropriate and rude, at best, and cruel and mean, at worst. So my cousins and I have each others back. I swoop in when she starts in on my cousin's divorce or my other cousin's employment issues. They swoop in when she starts on my weight gain and single status. We don't start an argument, we just try to change the subject and if that doesn't work, we make an excuse to get out of her presence for a minute. It works.
Make It Kid-Friendly: We all know about the kiddie table for dinner, but give the kids activities that keep them occupied and make them age-specific. Toddlers might appreciate coloring andwatching Jacks' Big Music Show but I doubt your teen would find that appealing.
Focus on Fun: A lot of times we make things worse by dreading them. Instead of focusing on the in-law from hell or the seemingly endless hours of football, focus on reconnecting with your favorite cousin or delving into that delicious peach cobbler.
Remember the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. I'm focusing on the acceptance part here. For example, I have the wisdom to know I can't change my aunt, so I have to work on accepting her. I can enjoy her company (while she's being good!) and excuse myself when she 'gets started.' You can't change people but you can change how you see them and how you react to them.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Plan with a Purpose

Long time readers of this blog (both of you! LOL!) know I'm big on planning and list making. I'm a huge believer that a little organization can go a long way to saving time, reducing stress and just generally making you more productive.

I was thrilled when I came across this video, courtesy of friend, fellow blogger and spiritual coach Diannia Baty. She does some really provocative work on her blog
Way Over the Rainbow. Recently, she posted a few videos from Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soup series. I loved this one minute clip on why a little planning the night before can make a big difference in your day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Helping Hands

Good and decent people believe in helping one another. We do it because we know what it’s like to need a helping hand. We do it because we hope, that if we were in need, someone would help us. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Last week, as I rushed from errand to errand, I ran out of gas. Ironically, my next stop was the gas station. As I waited for AAA several people stopped and asked me if I needed help. For many of us, helping is in our nature.

Recently a good friend of mine extended a helping hand to someone and he ended up getting that hand burned. He had made a casual acquaintance of a guy he’d see often at the track. Through their conversations, he learned that this guy, in his early 20’s needed a break. He was living with his girlfriend, who was expecting their child. Due to a few bad choices, he had a hard time finding a job and he really needed one.

My friend, who had been on his job for three years, recommended him for an open position. It wasn’t much but it was steady work. After one week on the job, he’d already been late twice. The second week, he was a no cal, no show. Both my friend and his manager talked to him and tried to impress on him the importance of showing up and being on time. The third week seemed to be better. However, it didn’t last. By week four he was back to his old way. And then, then a cell phone for one of the visiting executives came up missing. All signs pointed to the new guy as the thief. It turned out that he had stolen the phone and he was promptly fired.

My friend is embarrassed and angry. Embarrassed because the guy was hired in large part due to his recommendation and now he looks bad. Angry because this guy took advantage of his trust and made him look bad to his boss. My friend says he’ll think twice before he sticks his neck out again.

And he should … but I do hope that this experience doesn’t turn him off to helping people all together. The lesson here isn’t that sticking your neck out for someone is wrong. The lesson is to get to know the person a little bit better first.

Community is about people working together and I feel that compassion is a vital part of community and a part that is too often missing. I’ve heard it said that all that is necessary for evil to win is for good people to do nothing.

We must be willing to do something.

It’s funny but after AAA showed up, I made a bee line to the gas station. As I was getting out of my car, a woman asked me for $3. She was unemployed and having trouble making ends meet. Her mother had agreed to loan her some money and she was on her way to her mom’s house but she didn’t think she had enough gas to make it there. I smiled and told her I knew what she was going through and I gave her $5. Hopefully, she’ll do the same for someone else.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Be the Change

One of my favorite quotes is from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think a lot of times, we want to see the change first, in someone else, before we change. Needless to say, this doesn’t really work.

Case in point: I know a woman who is mean, condescending and downright rude to service people. Yet she is amazed that she has such a difficult time getting the help she ‘deserves.’ She laments to anyone who will listen how stupid and unprofessional most people are (and those are her words, not mine).

As someone who worked in customer service once upon a time, I always try to be kind and considerate to the person on the other end of the phone or the one who stands behind the cash register. Granted, I’ve had some rude customer service people but not nearly as many as this woman.

If she would just change her energy and her demeanor, she’d be surprised at the result.

It goes beyond customer service though. We want our kids to be honest, but we tell little white lies and half-truths in front of them and then get shocked when they lie. We want our spouse to listen to us but when he or she talks, they can barely get a sentence out.

Be the change you want to see.

If you want respect, give it.
If you want kindness, be kind.
If you want to be heard, listen.
If you crave courtesy, show it.

If for no other reason than to show the other person how they should act towards you. We learn a lot more through demonstration and action than we do through just words.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Your Own Best Friend

If your best friend suffered a major setback, what would you do?
Would you...

a) Be there with the Kleenex and a shoulder cry on?
b) Comfort her and let her know everything would be okay?
c) Sit down with him and help him map out next steps?

d) Call her stupid, ask her why she always messed up and tell her that things would never change?

Normally, we do a-c for a friend in trouble, and we reserve d for ourselves. We understand the need to be understanding and compassionate to others; but we reserve the meanness, criticism and outright cruelty for the person who matters most.

Sometimes, a little dose of 'tough love' might serve as motivation - a swift kick to get you up and moving. However, too much tough love becomes a paralyzing force. It immobilizes us and stops us from moving forward. It turns a failure from a temporary setback into a permanent fixture. Sometimes, we can shame ourselves so badly that we actually end up taking two steps backwards.

When it comes to your self-talk or inner monologue, talk to yourself as you would talk to a best friend. Be gentle. Be kind. Like you would with a true friend, you want to also be truthful, but there is a way to deliver that truth with grace and caring.

Be to yourself the kind of friend you would love to have, the kind of friend you already are to your friends!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting Up Gracefully

One of my most embarrassing moments (and there are many) occurred at IKEA. I was there with my boyfriend at the time. We were heading down the stairs. He was a few steps in front of me when the cute (but clunky) shoes I was wearing caused me to stumble and fall. I fell fabulously down several stairs before grabbing on to Shaun’s leg to break my fall. He turned and looked down at me, apparently unaware of the scene I had just caused.

By this point, people on the stairs had stopped. Some were concerned; others were holding their laughter until they knew I was okay. And, I was. I quickly jumped up, laughed it off and said something about “those darn shoes.”

A physical fall is relatively easy to overcome, but a real fall — a failed relationship, a firing, a divorce, a bankruptcy or foreclosure, an illness or a death can be devastating. Those are falls that can’t be laughed off with a throw-away comment or a quick regaining of composure.

So how do you get back up after taking a demoralizing fall?

First, you feel it. It is not cowardly or weak to cry or get angry or sulk around depressed. In fact, it’s the smartest and strongest thing you can do. Suppressing emotion is not the same as dealing with emotion. Refusing to acknowledge what you are feeling doesn’t make it go away or make you feel it any less. Burying emotion down deep inside of you makes them grow and fester. Eventually they erupt, usually in some unexpected and destructive way. As a coach friend of mine says, “The only way to get through it is to go through it.”

Once you begin to feel a little better, once the heart has had its say, turn it over to the head. That’s right, put on your thinking cap. Ask a few critical questions.
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What will I do differently the next time around?
If you learn something from the experience then it is just that — an experience — and not a failure. When people bring up your so-called failure, you can educate them with what you have learned. If you choose to address them at all, some people just aren’t worth the time and the aggravation. Keep your head up and keep moving.

Finally, recognize that you are in good company. The most successful people, from athletes to entrepreneurs to musicians, have all failed and in many times failed gloriously. It isn’t the failure that defines them but the success that came after those ‘learning experiences’.

They came back smarter, stronger and more sure of themselves. And you will too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

To Vote or Not to Vote

A little known fact about me. My bachelor’s is in broadcast journalism … but I have a minor in political science. So, I wanted to divert today’s post from the usual life coachy topics and talk about voting. Tomorrow is Election Day. Almost all American adults can exercise their right to vote, if they so choose. However, many of us don’t exercise this right and that’s fine with me.

I know at first glance that sounds positively heretical but hear me out. The right to vote is comes another ‘R’ – one no one likes to talk about – responsibility. You have the right to vote but you have the responsibility to make informed choices about who represents you. If you aren’t going to make an informed choice, I’d rather you not vote.

Voting because you recognize someone’s name or because he or she was a funny guest on a talk show is not an informed choice.

Case in point, in the spring, the democrats of South Carolina selected Alvin Greene, to run for the U.S. Senate against seasoned incumbent Jim DeMint. Greene is a man with no political background, and who did no campaigning prior to the election. Since he did no campaigning, no one knew who he was or where he stood on the issues. Sure he’s a democrat so you can assume you know his platform, but no one had heard the man actually speak.

Many people think he won because his name was first on the ballot or because his name sounded similar to 70’s soul singer Al Green. To their horror, when the actual Alvin Greene emerged, he could barely articulate his thoughts and had no real knowledge of the issues.

Voting matters and you should vote for people who represent your views and your interests. If you don’t know the views and interests of the people you are voting for, you are making some potentially bad decisions.

This is a midterm election and tomorrow, many people will not vote because, they say, “It’s just a bunch of local and state races and maybe a senator or congressmen. It’s not like we are electing the president.” However, in my estimation, midterm elections are just as important as presidential elections. Most of the issues that affect us the most are decided on the state or local level.

Unhappy with property taxes? It’s up to the city or the country to regulate those. They control the revaluations that determine your tax rate.

Tired of crime? It’s the local officials that run the police department and the local district attorney’s offices that prosecute criminals. And if it isn’t a federal offense, it’s up to the states to make sentencing laws.

Problems with the schools? School boards are always local and local and state governments play a much larger role than the federal government does in educating your kids.

Want more jobs? The states have the power to create the incentives and packages that will attract business and the tax rates that will pull them towards your state or drive them away.

Finally, you don’t have to vote in every single race. If you know whom you want to vote for in terms of congress people and city council members but you aren’t sure about the judges and other issues, then stick to voting in the races where you know what’s going on. There is no rule that says you have to vote in every race.

When it comes to voting take responsibility for exercising your right.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ghost, Monsters and Demons! Oh My!

Halloween is a strange holdiay to me - a celebration of death and fear. I know there is a long history of how and why it came to be, but to me, it's still strange. It's easy to put a life coachy spin on some of the other holidays, but Halloween was challenging for me. Then it hit me, while some choose to dress up as ghosts and monsters, many of us are plagued by our own ghosts and monsters all year round.

We are haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes and choices we didn't make or paths we didn't take. We think of what we could have or should have done. When we spend too much time back there, we let those choices affect our present and even the decisions we make regarding our future.

The ghosts of our pasts try to convince us that we are doomed to repeat those same actions over again. The ghosts of our pasts disguise themselves as 'proof' of what we can and can't accomplish.

We need to perform an exorcism of sorts. By looking at our past mistakes, we can pull out the lessons that only hindsight can provide and gain important information that can keep us from making those old mistakes again. Armed with our newfound knowledge, we can banish our ghost for good.

Monsters are another story. Like Frankenstein, we create most of our monsters. We create them and before we know it, they have taken on a life and power of their own, wielding destruction and mayhem everywhere they go.

Our monsters - fears - fueled by our vivid imaginations, grow bigger and stronger. We play the what if game which quickly becomes a series of progressively more outlandish impluasabilities. Or we see the worst-case scenario in our mind's eye - assuming our fears would end in humiliation, failure or embarassment.

Killing monsters always involves something specific - a wooden stake through the heart, or being shot by a silver bullet. So we need to be specific when it comes to killing our monsters - finding a way to dismantle our fears.

It could be using our imaginative powers for good and seeing ourselves emerging from our fears in victory and with success. It could involve addressing our fears head-on and figuring out what those fears are trying to tell us. It could also involve taking baby steps to overcome our fears.

When there are our personal demons, the things we do and indulge in that quickly go from blessing to curse. I used to shop to relieve stress. However, the shopping got to a point where it got out-of-hand and became another source of stress. Our personal demons can be addictions or bad habits or toxic relationaships or inappropriate emotional responses.

Making a firm decision to exorcise your demons is the first step to erradicating them.

Exorcising our ghost and killing our monsters and slaying your demons can free you from fear, so your personal Halloween can be more treat than trick.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Maybe Better, But Definitely Not Best

"Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," or so the saying goes. Basically, it means that you are better off dealing with the people or situations that you are familiar with, no matter how bad, because it's probably better than the unknown ... which is probably worse.

Assuming that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't makes a dangerous assumption. It assumes that the alternative, the unknown, would be worst.

The devil you know is what...
  • Keeps people stagnant in go-nowhwere jobs.
  • Makes women (or men) stay in an abusive or otherwise unsatisfying relationship.
  • Stops someone from breaking out of a limiting circle of negative and destructive friends.
You know him. You accept him. When he knocks at your door, you always let him in. He might frustrate you. He might disappoint you. He might ridicule and demean you. He might even hurt you, but you choose him. As bad as he is, you know him.

And he knows you.

He knows that you are scared to take a risk. He knows how humiliated you would be if you took a chance and failed. He knows how awkward it feels to move outside your comfort zone. He uses those fears and apprehensions to keep you firmly at his side. He know you won't leave.

There is an element of truth to what he says. It's possible that the Devil You Don't Know will actually be worse. It might lead to even more hurt or humiliation.

"Maybe he's right," you say to yourself.

But there is a strong possibility that he's wrong. The Devil You Don't Know might not be a Devil at all. You might find that stretching beyond your comfort zone could be the best thing for you. You could realize that you didn't fall when you took that step out into the dark unknown. Surprisingly, there was a hand there to guide you or an unexpected light to illuminate your path.

There's only one way to find out...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Be a Builder

Builders build. That's obvious. Yet all of us have the opportunity to build something truly incredible. We have the opportunity to build up ourselves and those around us. So be a builder!

Be a booster. Be someone who boosts spirits and focuses on the positive. Instead of complaining about problems, focus on finding solutions and overcoming obstacles instead of letting them stop you.

Use your Strengths. Spend your time on the things you do well and are passionate about. Seek out others whose strengths compliment your own.

Inspire and seek inspiration. Surround yourself with people and resources that inspire you: motivational books, inspirational music, people who encourage you to push yourself to do and be more.

Love. Even when you have to criticize or deliver bad news, always do it from a place of love and compassion. Deliver criticism with kindness and tact. Never relish in other people's setbacks.

Decide to Succeed. Commit to your success and the success of those around you. Your commitment will help you bounce back from setbacks and ensure that any failure you suffer will be temporary and not final. Be a builder and create something incredible for yourself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Easy!

While browsing at the library a few months ago, I stumbled across a book that piqued my interest. It was dog-earred and worn, so I knew it wasn't new. It's rugged exterior let me know that it had been read ... probably by more than a few people.

The book was Meditation Made Easy by Lorin Roche. Now, for me, meditation has never been easy. Clearing my mind of everything while sitting in an uncomfortable position and repeating some sound (that too me sounded and felt silly) just was never worth the trouble. Yet, I knew, I felt, that it would be good to be able to just quiet my frantic mind for a minute or two. Meditation could help.
I checked out the book and it made a huge difference. Roche starts by dispelling a lot of meditation myths.

1. You don't have to empty your mind.
2. You don't have to sit perfectly still or assume some yoga-looking position.
3. You don't have to chant.

Roche starts his medititation techniques right where you are - helping you develop your own methods and rituals.

Start by finding a place where you feel comfortable - you can sit, stand or even lay down. If you want play soothing music or just appreciate the silence.

His most basic technique involves doing nothing for about five minutes. All you do is sit quietly for five minutes. That's it. Let thoughts enter and exit your mind. Listen to the sounds around you. Observe your surroundings. Just be for five minutes.
Another technique is called the Salute to the Senses. Focus on one sense for 5 to 10 minutes.
Take your sight for example. Sit in a room and focus your eyes on something for roughly 30 seconds or so. Take in the color, the shape, look at the details and then shift your focus to another object. Do this for about five minutes.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: If you are a coffee (or tea) drinker, take a few moments to savor your coffee. Make it a meditative experience. Feel the warmth of the coffee in your hands, Take in the scent. Sip it slowly as you taste it and feel the sensations of taste and warmth.

Lorin Roache makes meditation easy by dispelling the myths and allowing you to take almost any experience and create a meditative moment.

This book did a create job of introducing me to meditation. So far, I've gone from 2-3 minutes to 15 minute sessions. I feel more focused and more relaxed. My routines might not work for everyone but they work for me.
Now I'm meditating and that's something I never thought I'd do!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Winning the Blame Game

I was watching TV and a commercial came on regarding an acne product. It said something to the effect of, “Don’t blame chocolate or fried foods, blame your hormones.” Another commercial, this one for a weight loss product, it said blatantly, “Your weight isn’t your fault”A search of news stories show we are looking to blame somebody for the economy, the recession and the oil spill. Of course, every day there are sports stories blaming some player for their team’s loss.

Outside of making us feel better, what purpose does it serve to stand around and point fingers? “It’s not my fault,” we exclaim. “He did it,” we say as we point an accusatory finger at a co-worker, family member, spouse or friend.

Accountability is part of responsibility and sometimes (the only time I can think of) blaming someone is a way to get them to be accountable for their behavior when they are trying to avoid owning their mistakes.

However, blame gives people an easy out. If it’s not your fault then it’s not in your control. If it’s not in your control then there is nothing you can do about it. If there is nothing you can do about it, then you don’t have any obligation or any need to try to change. If you can blame someone else, somehow, it lets you off of the hook.

It’s comforting to hear that it’s not your fault, but it’s also dangerous. People who have become adept at playing the blame game are people who usually aren’t getting the results they want. Who wants to be with someone who is constantly looking for a reason not to take action or an excuse not to act or for someone to blame. These people aren’t often the ones in line for promotion either.

In my mind, blame is linked with victimhood. A victim is powerless. They have given the power and control to another person or entity. Personal transformation and growth cannot happen if you are looking at the world through gray-tinted victimization glasses.

Instead of wasting precious time pointing fingers and placing blame, spend that time creating solutions and solving problems.

There is no winner when you play the blame game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Social Network

The movie The Social Network is all the rage right now (you can read my review of it over on my movie review blog here). It’s all about the founder of Facebook and the world’s youngest billionaire, Mark Zuckerman. Although his web site is all about friends, the movie shows how he lost some very good ones in his quest to create the perfect social network.

So how is your social network?

Like 500 million other people, I have a Facebook page. You can find me on it every once in a while but it’s far from an obsession. I have reconnected with old friends and it’s nice to be able to see photos of them and their families, but I crave more of a connection.

You can link in to co-workers, tweet your every thought and friend everyone you meet, but there is something to be said of a more intimate connection and by intimate I don’t mean a forwarded email sent to ten of your friends announcing that “It’s girlfriends day!”

A real connection involves some sort of connection – seeing someone’s eyes sparkle as they tell you a story or hearing the lilt in their voice when they talk about finally meeting the ‘one.’ The good thing about a real connection is that it doesn’t have to be a frequent connection.

As I crawled into bed after a wonderful birthday, my phone rang. It was an old friend from my high school days. We talk every two years or so. I got out of bed and we laughed and shared stories for the next 90 minutes. Anyone listening would have never known that two years had passed since we last spoke.

It was an intimate connection. It was a real connection with someone that I care about.

Now I do send well wishes and birthday greetings via Facebook or a funny e-greeting card. Some connection is better than none. But, picking up a phone or making a face-to-face visit when possible can never be replaced.

So while Facebook might be an important part of your social network, it should not represent your entire social network. Every once in a while, pick up a phone, go out for dinner and find a way to make a really connection and fully enjoy your social network.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Real Time Waster

I love quotes, the simpler the better. Attributed to President Eisenhower, this quote is short, simple and speaks a lot of truth. Eisenhower said, “Never waste a minute thinking about people you don't like."

Yet, many of us spend a lot of time thinking about people we don’t like. We think about what they must be thinking about us. We think about what we are going to say to them the next time they say something to us. We think about the last time we saw them and all the things they do that rub us the wrong way.

If you think about it, it really is time wasted. Chances are you won’t ever have the opportunity to use that witty comment you keep playing in your head. Of course, you can’t go back and redo the last argument or respond to the catty comment, so why keep thinking about it?

If you think about something with enough passion and feeling, you can recreate that experience. Seriously, if you think about something that upset you or infuriated you, you will find yourself getting upset or infuriated all over again. Your body will tense up. Your breath will get shorter and you will actually recreate the physiology of upset or anger. The mind is just that powerful! So use it for good.

If you must replay situations in your mind, think about the time you laughed until you cried with a friend or the feeling you had when your boss thanked you for a job well done or when your business finally started turning a profit.

Spending your time on people who enrich your life and experiences that enhance your life is never a waste of time.

Let people who don’t like you waste their time thinking about you. You’ve got better things to do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Grandpa

The most patient man I ever knew was my Grandpa. In 23 years, I never once heard him raise his voice. He was kind to everyone. He never had a negative word to say.

They say patience is a virtue. Frankly, it’s not a virtue that many of us possess (I know I don’t). In today’s fast-paced society, patience is even less of a virtue. In many instances, it’s an inconvenience. We don’t want to wait. We want what we want when we want it. In fact, we normally want it faster than now.

Not Grandpa though. He could wait. In fact, he knew how to just be. Grandpa could just sit. Sometimes we’d sit together. We’d talk a little, but basically we’d just sit. He loved to ‘listen to the ballgame.’ He’d come over and he’d want to listen to the game, not watch it. He grew up on radio and he said he enjoyed it more when he could imagine the plays himself. He didn’t need a television to see it. He could see it on his own.

I think it’s from Grandpa that I learned to enjoy simple pleasures: a nice glass of ice water, a Fillet-o-Fish sandwich (a favorite for both of us), sitting in front of the fan on a hot summer day, or listening to stories about the ‘olden days.’ With Grandpa, it didn’t matter what we did, it was always a good time.

Patient, kind and true, my Grandpa was love in action.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Failure Focus

There is a trend among parents and educators to lavish praise on children for every little thing. Everybody wins! The winning team gets trophies but the losing team does too. Just showing up is often all that is required to get a certificate or ribbon. No one wants to leave any child behind or make them feel left out.

The only problem is when everybody wins, everybody loses.

Arguably, we learn more from failure than we do from success. Failure creates the opportunity to acknowledge and learn from mistakes – allowing time for reassessment and figuring out what went wrong.

Without failure, a dangerous sense of entitlement and an unrealistic worldview is created. People feel they deserve to win whether or not they put in the effort, if just showing up is good enough then why do more? And it’s not fair for those who do put in the extra effort to be lumped in with those who do just enough to get by. By rewarding everyone, we penalize those who truly excel.

A world where everybody wins would be nice but it’s not reality, not even close. You don’t get every job you apply for. The person you love doesn’t always love you back. And, many of us never earn what we feel we are worth. That’s not failure, that’s life. If you aren’t prepared to deal with the failures, roadblocks and obstacles then you really aren’t prepared for this life.

Failure teaches resilience. It teaches us to get back up and try again. You don’t learn the hard lessons when you move from success to success. You learn them when you go from success to failure and then back to success. Learning how to fail elegantly (without name-calling or whining) and smartly (learning what you can from the experience) ensures that a single defeat won’t become a final defeat.

Finally, knowing the agony of defeat, makes the sweet taste of success that much sweeter!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Little Goes a Long Way

If I told you I was writing a post about establishing routines, you’d probably yawn and keep surfing the net. But, what if I told you I was posting about how you could add more fun and spontaneity to your life? Maybe that would pique your interest.

Well, I’m writing about both.

Establishing a few little routines can save your precious time … thus giving you more time to do the stuff you want to do (not just what you have to do).

I’m not talking about long-drawn out boring routines. I’m talking about little things you can do to stop wasting time looking for lost items and frantically rushing from place to place.

1. Put It In Its Place. Things like keys, cell phones, eye glasses, purses and wallets should have a logical place to go. I have a little stand with a drawer that stands next to my front door. Two things go there: the dog’s leash and my keys. As soon as I walk through the door, that’s where the keys go. Think simple, think logical.

2. Take 10. At the end of the day, take five minutes to plan for the next day. Figure out what you are going to wear, put the water and the coffee in the coffee maker, if you take your lunch, make it the night before.

3. Make a 5 minute sweep. Go through your house for five minutes and just straighten up. Put items back where they belong. Set a timer and make it a family event. Make it a fun game, see how much you can put away.

4. Take My Mom’s Advice. She said, if you don’t make a mess, there is no mess to clean up. Put clothes in the hamper when you take them off. Wash that pot as soon as you are finished using it. My Mom’s Advice plus a daily five minute sweep will keep you house pretty neat!

When you aren’t looking for lost keys, when you aren’t rushing so quickly through the morning that you start your day in a huff, when you aren’t spending hours cleaning and straightening, you’ll find you have more time and less stress.

Now go and have some fun!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Doctor, Doctor!

We talk a lot about self-care as it relates to balance, setting boundaries and taking time for self. Of course, all of that is not just important but essential, but self-care is also about taking care of yourself physically. You can eat right, you can exercise, but you still need to go to the doctor … regularly.

A lot of us only think of the doctor or the dentist when there is a problem. Acute pain means it’s time to see a doctor. Strange fluids emanating from some orifice, call the doctor. Yet, regular office visits are essential.

An annual visit with blood work can reveal high cholesterol, high levels of blood sugar. Discussing symptoms and concerns with your doctor before they reach a crisis level can possibly prevent a crisis from occurring.

But we don’t need just an annual check-up. Ladies, we also need to visit the OB/GYN annually. And, if you are over 40 or have a family history of breast cancer, we need to make sure to schedule an annual mammogram.

Men, I’m not letting you off the hook because as unpleasant as it may be, you need to make your prostate health a priority and that means an annual prostate check-up if you are over 50 or earlier if you have a family history.

Likewise, cleaning at the dentist every six months can detect cavities, gum disease and other problems before they become emergencies.

Scheduling all of these appointments can be a pain especially if you are juggling them around your work schedule. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Start Early: Aim for the first appointment of the day. You can get in and out before the doctor has time to get backed up. Many dentist’s offices are open as early as 7:00, so you might be able to get in and out and not even be late for work!

Ask for Late Appointments: Some dentists and doctors have late days where they are in as late as 6:00 or 7:00, see if you can schedule an appointment then. Of course, if weekends are better, ask for those as well.

Spread Them Out: Don’t try to schedule all your appointments for around the same time. Spread them out throughout the year. Do this and missing some time from work won’t be as big a deal.

Use Reminders: When we change the time (springing forward or falling back), I know it’s time to schedule my doctor’s appointment. When it’s around my birthday (September), I schedule my annual check-up. OB/GYN and mammogram are scheduled around Mother’s Day.

Despite our recent health care debates, we still have some of the best health care in the world, so if you can, take advantage of it. Good health is essential to good self-care.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Tomorrow I will be 42.

I love my birthday and I celebrate it every year. I never go to work on my birthday and starting September 1st, I count it down. All of my friends know exactly how many shopping days are left until my favorite day of the year. At work the other day, a co-worker said, “You know, most women don’t make a big deal about their birthdays and they NEVER let people know how old they are.”

Well, I will be the happy exception. My mom was just three years older than me when she died of complications from diabetes. I watched her over the last few years of her life go from a vibrant, exciting woman to a woman who had lost her sight, needed dialysis several times a week and was often too weak to get out of bed. I was 15 when she passed.

So, yes, I celebrate my birthday because it’s another year above ground. I celebrate my birthday because I am blessed with health and surrounded by good and loving friends and family. In fact, I'll take it one step further. I celebrate every day that I am blessed to see a sunrise, a sunset or stars in the sky. I celebrate when I take a walk outside or dance around like a crazy person to a favorite song. Heck, I celebrate when I write this blog because writing is something I truly love to do.

My birthday is a cause for celebration and as long as I’m blessed with a birthday, I will celebrate it. However, I will celebrate the other 364 days of the year as well because I try to recognize on a daily basis the multitude of blessings that so many of us take for granted.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A.A. - Acknowledge and Appreciate

I used to have a boss and whenever she walked over to my desk, I’d cringe. Her desk-side visits meant one thing, I’d done something wrong. Her philosophy was when you got it right, you were just doing what you were supposed to do. She felt commendations and praise were too ‘touchy-feely’. Those efforts didn’t require desk-side visitation.

The morale of our team suffered because we never heard anything good from our manager and the overwhelming majority of the work we did was good. A little acknowledgement would have gone a long way.

Too many times, we fail to give credit where credit is due or even show a little appreciation to those closest around us. It doesn’t feel important. In my old boss’s view, criticism was a better motivator than praise. She was wrong. But she isn’t alone in her preference for criticism. People who receive excellent customer service tell, on average, three other people. If they receive poor service, however, they recount that experience to at least 11 people.

Think about how good you feel when you get an honest compliment or when someone values your hard work. Now, take that feeling and pay it forward.

Here are some ways to acknowledge and appreciate those around you.
  • Don’t keep quiet! Let people know about a job well done.
  • Remember birthdays. It’s a little thing but it shows that you cared enough to remember.
  • Smile.
  • Celebrate successes. Good grades, a promotion at work, losing a few pounds, all of these things take a lot of effort. Acknowledge the hard work.
  • Compliment honestly.
Acknowledgement and appreciation help us focus on the positive and the good that is always going on around us!

Monday, September 13, 2010


With aspirin, Tylenol and penicillin out there, it might be a bit of a stretch to say that “laughter is the best medicine.” But a good laugh is good for you.

Laughter has been proven to reduce levels of stressful hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine; while increasing the feel-good endorphins. It also boosts the production of disease-fighting antibodies and T-cells that can boost your immune system.

Like meditation and deep breathing, laughter is another great way to relax and release some tension. Laughter can also help to dull pain.

How to Laugh More
  1. Tune into comedies on TV and in Movies
  2. Surround yourself with funny friends
  3. Spend some time playing with kids (they always do or say something funny)
  4. Do soemthing you enjoy, something that puts a smile on your face
  5. Get away for a weekend, a day or even an afternoon
  6. Learn to the humor in small mundane frustrations whenever possible

People who laugh more tend to be more positive, more optimistic and more fun to be around. Laughter also helps you change your perspective and realize that things aren’t always as bad as they seem. Life is a little more bearable when you laugh.

A dose of laughter might not cure the common cold but it can help cure a bad day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Karyn's Coming Back

I don’t talk a lot about my life because that isn’t the focus of this blog. This has been a difficult year. Coaching is a very part-time endeavor for me and I lost my day job on September 11, 2009. For the first time since high school, I didn’t have a job which sent me into an emotional, financial and physical tailspin.

I did what I could taking action every day contacting temp agencies and head hunters, scouring job boards, networking, trying to drum up freelance writing assignments, and looking for paying coaching clients.

I also reached out to my support system, close friends and several family members, to help me stay focused and get me through the more difficult days. I also started volunteering which helped immensely. It got me out of the house and out of my funk. It got the focus off of me and allowed me to do what I love (training) while helping others. Ironically, I volunteered for a job readiness training program. I was helping others find work!

Despite these positive efforts, this had still been an exceedingly difficult year, the hardest of my adult life. I would love to be the perfect coach and tell you that I didn’t cry a lot and that I never worried or threw myself a few big ole pity parties but I’d be lying.

I did all of those things … a lot. I also stopped doing a lot of self-care. I snapped back into an old habit of emotional eating. My workouts became haphazard as my insomnia kicked in. I was depressed. I was upset. I was frustrated and it took its toll.

Fortunately, after almost 10 months, I found work. I started at the end of June. However, I quickly realized that having a job that I enjoyed (and a decent paycheck) was just the beginning. There was (and is) definitely a light at the end of this long tunnel but right now it’s still pretty far away.

I have nine months of extra debt to dig myself out of. And, right now, I’m emotionally exhausted. It is just about all I can do to keep my blogs and newsletter up and running. Being a Google Girl, I looked up remedies for emotional exhaustion and I didn’t like what I found. Everything reinforced the importance of ‘self-care’ – eating right, sleeping, moderate exercise and making time for relaxation. I couldn't find a quick and easy fix and that is what I was wanted!

So a couple of weeks ago, I got tired of being tired. I made my self-care a priority again. I started drinking my water, getting my fruits and vegetables in and making a good nights sleep a priority. I started back to daily exercise and even added in some time in the morning for prayer and mediation.

Here it is two weeks later and I have to tell you, I am feeling better. I am sleeping better. I'm looking better. And I’m not as tired as I was. I am writing this to tell you that self-care really does make a difference! It works!

I’m not out of the woods yet. I do find myself worrying some time and other times I feel completely overwhelmed, but those times are becoming fewer and further between. Slowly, but surely, I’m beginning to feel like I can do this. I’m feeling like myself again and that feels good.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Closer Together and Further Apart

It’s the 21st century. I use a Blackberry. I have an MP3 player and a gajillion cable channels, so I’d say I’m pretty current with the times. Lately, I’ve even started getting all my news through Google reader. Who needs a paper paper, when I can get my favorite sections of the paper delivered to my PC?

I get the top stories, local news and political sections. It’s really helped me keep abreast of current events. However, I have become practically addicted to reading the comments people leave regarding a story.

It’s fascinating to see how people’s minds work when they are posting anonymously, hidden behind a computer screen and a protective ‘screen name.’ No matter what they topic … crime, the school board, unemployment, even weather, it devolves quickly into political name calling and race-baiting.

A commentator at the paper recently posted a challenge to the usual posters. He asked them to say something nice about the opposition. In other words, he wanted pro-life people to say something nice about the pro-choice side and vice versa. Those on the left could have come up with a comment for the people on the right side of the aisle.

Do you know most couldn’t do it? And some just outright said they wouldn’t do it. I tend to be in the middle of most issues and even when I skew one way or the other, I can’t imagine going so far to one side that I couldn’t see anything at all good on the other side.

I think its easy for people to vilify ‘the other side.’ It’s easy to call them crazy or stupid or misguided if you stop seeing them as people. If you can say something nice about them it humanizes them and makes it harder to spew unadulterated mean-spiritedness and condescension.

I would have hoped a decade ago that the Internet would have helped us connect. Sites like Facebook that reunites friends and family help show us how small the world really is. Yet, the commenters on my local newspaper show us how wide the divide between us truly is and how much further we have to go.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Backburner

In three weeks (September 22nd to be exact), there will be just 100 days left in 2010. If you set goals for yourself this year, it’s time to get cracking. Labor Day is around the corner that means the unofficial end of summer. Basically, it’s time to get back to work!

If you are like a lot of people, you started with great goals and wonderful intentions, but a little something called life got in your way. You got busy. You got frazzled. You started putting out fires. You spooned even more on your already full plate. In the process, your goals got pushed aside. They got pushed back … all the way back.

And when we don’t see them, it’s like they don’t exist. Yet they do exist, even if it’s just as a nagging feeling that you should be doing something about them, they are there. Goals don’t shout, they whisper quietly and in the loudness of life, it’s easy to drown them out.

So, I want you to go up in your mind’s attic, find those goals and dust them off. Next, I want you to put them in front of you. Put them somewhere where you can see them: in your planner, in your Blackberry, on your iPod, on your refrigerator, place them where you can see them and for the remainder of the year, I want you to review them daily (weekly at the very least) and ask yourself what you can do today (and everyday) to reach that goal?

If you want to lose a few pounds,
Can you fit in a walk today?
Can you pack a healthy lunch or make a good choice when you go out to eat?
Can you make sure you drink your water or eat your veggies?

If you want to save money,
Can you bypass Starbucks and save that five dollars?
Can you take a moment and fill out that direct deposit form, so that money is going directly into your savings?
Can you make sure your checkbook is balanced?

You get the point. Get in the habit of asking yourself, every morning, what can you do during that day that will move you closer to your goals. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but little things done consistently can lead to big results!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Upside of Frustration

It’s good to be happy. There is no arguing that point. It’s good to feel contented. We work hard to achieve that state. Contentment isn’t perfection. To me, contentment is a state where you have some stress but not more than you can handle. You aren’t living a problem-free existence but you don’t have problems that completely overwhelm you either. The relationship is moving along. Work is good. The only ‘drama’ in your life comes from the television. Basically, you are in a good place.

Yet we know that there are many times when we are not content. There are areas in our lives where we are unhappy or dissatisfied. Those emotions can lead to a sense of frustration, but frustration isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is something good to be said about a state of frustration.

Frustration stems from having unfulfilled needs or unresolved issues. Frustration says to us, “You need to do something.” Something could be as simple as having a conversation and expressing yourself. It could mean something bigger … finding a new job or ending a relationship. It could start with owning up to a situation or facing a hard truth.

If you want to move from frustration to eventual contentment, you are going to have to do something … something proactive. What won’t work is doing something reactive. Lashing out in anger or hiding your feelings under a numbing cloak of food, sleep, shopping, drugs or alcohol will just make things worse. Just as bad as doing something reactive is doing nothing. Burying your head in the sand, refusing to acknowledge the reality of your situation or just trying to wish it away won’t work.

To act proactively, you have to do something that a) won’t make you feel worse b) moves you towards a real solution. Having an honest discussion, with a co-worker, boss or partner about your expectations would be proactive. Sitting down with all of your bills and expenses and figuring out exactly how much you owe would be proactive. Logging on to a job search site to see what else is available or brushing up your resume would be proactive.

Feeling frustrated? Take action!