Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Lure of Low Expectations

Successful people don’t start an endeavor, any endeavor, anticipating failure. They want to win. They prepare to win. They expect to win. In sports, it’s pretty black and white. There can only be one winner, but they don’t count themselves out. They press on. In life, winning is often not as clearly defined. Often, we can make our own definitions. We can decide what winning will look like for us. Yet, we still have to want, prepare and expect to win. And it all starts with the expectation.

It breaks my heart and boils my blood when people expect to fail. Part of the reason, I chose to call my business Lose the Excuses because all too often people use excuses to bolster their expectation of failure. I was having a discussion with a young man who accepted, as a foregone conclusion, that he was going to end up in jail at some point or another. He didn’t think there was anything he could do about it.

He had no expectation of a life that didn’t involve time in the penal system. As a result, he didn’t really want anything different. He was resigned and accepting of his fate. It was just a matter of time.

Low or no expectations become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Every setback, every discouragement, and every negative occurrence becomes proof. It serves as a confirmation that they ‘couldn’t do it anyway.’ Their definition of success includes a very dangerous word, easy. If it isn’t easy, it isn’t meant to be. People with low expectations see obstacles as permanent blockades too high, too deep and too wide to overcome.

Low expectations take people 'off the hook.' You don't have to do anything. There are little to no actions to take. There are no preparations to make. It is easy! Yet, the cost of that ease is high.

Those with higher expectations don’t have rose-colored glass naivete. They accept that there will be setbacks, discouragements and negative occurrences. The difference is that they see them as hurdles to be overcome. The word easy is not in their vocabulary.

More shocking still is how generational low expectations can be. They are passed down tragically from parent and child, resulting in entire communities that don’t have much of anything and don’t expect much more.

Breaking the cycle first involves being bold enough to expect something different, to want something more. The second step is to eliminate the notion of easy, accepting that change is difficult, but at the end of the day, worth it. Third, once the mindset is in place, prepare and plan for the change, including a plan for setbacks.

What does winning look like for you? What are you prepared to do to win?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Word Power: Always and Never

Although they are opposites, these two words form a powerful dynamic duo. They are actually two sides of the same extreme coin. Let me make my point.

“I always mess up.”
“I never get a lucky break.”
“I’ll never make what I’m worth.”
“I am always broke.”

There is nothing like a big dose of always and never to take a bad situation and make it worse. If you look a little closer at all of those statements, you will see that they are not true. There are times when you didn’t mess up. While you might not have won the lottery, you have gotten a lucky break or two if you really think about it. Unless you have a great psychic friend or an amazing crystal ball, you can’t look into the future to determine how much you will make in the future. Finally, there has been a time or two that you were flat broke (and if you have ever splurged on an outfit, a dinner or a movie, the cash came from somewhere).

Chronic use of always and never is often associated with something called catastrophizing. It’s when we take a bad situation and take it to its most extreme (and often ridiculous) conclusion. The boss didn’t like your presentation which means she must not like you. If she doesn’t like you, she’s going to find a reason to fire you. If you get fired, you won’t’ be able to get unemployment which will send your finances into a tailspin. Your spouse can’t support you by himself. You will lose the house. The stress will ruin your marriage. Now you are divorced with no home and have been forced to move, with the kids, back in with your parents. And all because your boss wasn’t crazy about your presentation!

Catastrophizing is like a snowball rolling down a hill, it starts off small but keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s easy to see how always and never can figure into that kind of self-talk. “My boss is always criticizing me. She never has anything good to say to me,” you grumble to yourself. “Hubby is never going to make the kind of money he needs to make. We are always going to be living from paycheck-to-paycheck,” you think as he comes through the front door.

When you hear yourself speaking in the absolutes of always and never, ask yourself a few questions. Challenge your assumptions. “Wait, aren’t there things that I do that are right? Did she really hate the presentation or did she just have some suggestions?”

Don’t give into the power of such absolute words. We don’t live in a black and white world, so we shouldn’t be using such harsh black and white terms.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finish Strong!

And now for something a little different...

I want to share with you one of my favorite motivational videos. It showcases some incredible winners and what they had to overcome - amputation, handicaps, and rallying back after incredible defeats. And the best part is that it's done to the theme of Rocky III, Eye of the Tiger. If this doesn't motivate you, nothing will!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Word Power: Victim

We talked about addiction and how that word implies that whatever you are addicted to (computer, potato chips, sex, drugs, iPod) has control over you. Being addicted renders you powerless. So does today’s word: victim. When you are a victim, you are at the mercy of the person, group or institution who has wronged you.

Legitimate victims of crime and abuse abound. Victims are not responsible for what has happened. The rape victim isn’t responsible for the rape, the child not responsible for the abuse, the wife isn’t responsible for the spousal abuse and so on. True victims must work hard to reclaim control. They have to rebuild their dignity and their power. They must work hard not to let the horror that has happened become the event that defines them. It’s hard work.

Yet, many of us like to claim victim status because again, it’s an out. It’s nice to not be responsible. You can be a victim of poverty. You might be a victim of racism. You could be a victim of a poor educational system. Nowadays, many feel as if they’ve been victimized by the economy.

There is no power in victimhood. As an rape or abuse survivor will tell you. The power comes in the strength and the power to move beyond victimhood and true victims desperately want to move beyond that.

When I was volunteering for the job readiness program, most were eager to do whatever it took to find gainful employment. They were open to what we had to say about their resumes, their job search plans and their interview skills. They soaked up the information we gave them like sponges.

Yet, there were a few that just didn’t get it. They were the victims. They couldn’t be expected to speak properly because they weren’t fortunate enough to learn that when they were younger. Their cover letters were littered with misspellings and grammatical errors because they were the victims of poor schooling. They had been dealt a bad hand. The deck was stacked against them. They were victims of poverty. They were victims of society.

Yet, sitting right next to them would be a woman who dropped out of high school when she got pregnant and who lived in a shelter with her child. She was getting her GED and keeping her head held high because she was going to succeed. It was a foregone conclusion for her. Failure was not an option. Across the room was a man who had worked for over 25 years when a botched drug test cost him his job. Sure, he was discouraged but he was there every day trying to figure out his next steps.

We’ve all been dealt bad hands at some point. Victims accept that and don’t attempt to go any further. The bad hand is the end game. It’s over for the victim. They aren’t in control of their lives and their destinies. They aren’t wrestling for control, they have given up. Is that you? If it is, then continue using that word.

If that isn’t you, if you are a fighter, if you see a better future and are working toward it, if you are willing to do what it takes to change your situation, then you aren’t a victim. You are a victor. Victory is in your future. It’s your destiny. Look around, you might not be where you want to be yet, but you are on your way.

Don’t let ‘victim’ ever be a way that you define or see yourself. You are in control. Erase that word from your personal dictionary.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crush the Rush

Once we get out of bed, in a rush to get dressed. It’s a mad dash to get to work and once you get there a lot of time you are running from meeting to meeting. At the end of the day, you rush home, blow through an errand or two, gulp down dinner, blaze through what’s left of your evening, and plop into bed exhausted, just so you can get up and do it all over again.

By Friday you are wondering where the week went. What’s really sad is that the weekend is no better. You find yourself Sunday evening asking where the weekend went!

Rushing has ruined many a day and a frantic morning can set the tone for the rest of your day. You know what they say, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of the cure. So here are a few of my favorite personal tips to help you crush the rush and get success over your stress!

Take five: I take five minutes (sometimes less) to lay out my clothes and accessories the night before. Get your kids in the habit of doing this as well.

Put It in Its Place: I make sure my keys are on the little high table near my door and that my purse is in the kitchen ready to go. Anything I need in the morning has a specific place and after I’ve gotten my clothes together, I make sure all of those items are where they should be. No frantic searching for misplaced items in the morning. If you have young kids make sure your places are high enough up that they can’t reach them.

Quick Fix: I love, love, love my Steamfresh veggies and side dishes. I throw a bag in the microwave and five minutes later, I have steamed broccoli or green beans or even nice little vegetable medleys. Mmm, mmm good! I’m loving them even more now that I can get rice, pastas and even potato dishes in Steamfresh too. When they go on sale, I make sure I stock up!

Eliminate Morning Emailing: I do not turn my computer on in the morning! Nothing sucks up your precious morning time like a ‘quick check ‘of your email. If you must, add another 20 minutes to the step below.

Ouch: This is going to sound ugly but get up 10 minutes earlier. I know, you are saying to yourself, “I’m not a morning person!” Neither am ! Just 10 extra minutes in the morning can give you just enough time to avoid the mad dash that can color our whole day if we let it.

Little changes can make a big difference to improve your mood and help you enjoy your day that much more!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Word Power: Addiction

In this five-part series, we'll be looking at the power that certain words have to color our realities and change our perceptions. Words matter! Choose them carefully.

The other day, while waiting to check out at the grocery store, I made small talk with the woman behind me. As she placed two 12-packs of Pepsi on the belt, she causally remarked that she was ‘addicted’ to Pepsi. I smiled. If pressed the issue, I don’t think she would have really meant that her Pepsi ‘problem’ was quite that extreme. I’m pretty positive she wouldn’t sell her hard-earned belongings or steal from trusted family members for a fix of that frothy carbonated confection. She probably wouldn’t put her job in jeopardy because of her need for a Pepsi fix.

Addiction is another one of those words we often just throw around without really thinking about its meaning. We are addicted to Pepsi, email, chocolate, video games, Facebook and even our favorite television shows. But I ask, is it really that serious?

There are habits and then there are addictions. Pepsi consumption might be an unhealthy habit but has it really reached addictive proportions? When we label something an addiction, we immediately make it that much harder to overcome.

And when it comes to overcoming, we don’t need to make anything more difficult than it already is. Addiction implies a lack of control. The object of our addiction has the control, we don’t. So, being addicted sort of lets us ‘off the hook.’ Addiction is bigger than us.

Some addictions are very real and of course, I’m not trying to belittle those, however, I am targeting the people who use the term casually – without much thought. When we do that, we do a disservice to the people who are really and legitimately are struggling with addiction.

If you have a habit, you have a choice. You can change it or you can accept it. It’s up to you. You are in control.

I had a bad ‘fast food’ habit. It was costing me money and costing me pounds. I decided to give it up for Lent. The first couple days were hard but after that, I was fine. I love television however, it doesn’t stop me from living my life or getting my work done. It’s a habit I can live with. It’s not, however, an addiction.

Watch your words! When it comes to habits and addictions, the question is a simple one. Who’s in control?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's Love Got to Do with It?

“Love conquers all.” It’s the ultimate romantic notion. If you have enough love, you can overcome any obstacle. Well, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy, I respectfully disagree. Love most certainly does not conquer all.

Love in and of itself is a powerful force, but its true potency occurs when it is combined with something else. Love and caring can set the foundation for a positive and healthy relationship. Love and trust can open hearts in a way that encourages interdependence and confidence Love combined with honesty and respect can make communication a lot smoother and easier. Love can be a motivating force; it can give you a reason to go on when you desperately need one.

Yet, there is a destructive side to love. Love combined with dishonesty is a breeding ground for deception. Love and exploitation is a recipe for emotional manipulation. Love and abuse can be a deadly combination.

Love can be the greatest gift (to be given and received) or the worst curse. The decisions surrounding who we love and how we want to be loved can make all of the difference. And, make no mistake, these are decisions. I’ve been told, you can’t help who you love and there is some truth to that. However, you can control how you act on that feeling.

If you feel that you are going to be tempted to do something you might regret, do something else. Don’t pick up the phone, don’t drive by the house, and don’t hang out where that person is going to be. I have an ex- and at times, I’d been tempted to call or email him even though I knew it was not a good idea. Instead I’d call one of my friends and she would remind me of all the reasons why I didn’t need to contact him. She’d talk me through it and I was better for it.

On an emotional level, I missed him. I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted to see him. On another level, I knew how difficult it was to get over him and that even a little contact would set me back in a big way. Acting on my feelings would not have been good.

We also need to decide how we want to be loved. I know men and women who tolerate emotional or verbal abuse in the name of love. They deal with mistrust, infidelity, intensely loud and sometimes physical arguments. Others, in quiet desperation, put up with neglect, disinterest and indifference. We need to be courageous in making our needs known so that we can make sure they are met.

You deserve to be loved in a way that makes you feel loved. The catch is that you have to know and love yourself well enough to insist on the love that you need.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Shameless Plug

The Lose the Excuses website has undergone a face lift. You may have noticed that the design of the blog changed a few weeks ago. I made that change to reflect some of the changes that were coming with the website.
With the new website you can:
  • Purchase several hand-picked products designed to help you save time, eat healthier, exercise or set goals.
  • Read the blog and the newsletters
  • Participate in the Lose the Excuses Community message board
In the fall, I'll be launching several email coaching programs in addition to my one-on-one coaching.
Check out the site! Lose the Excuses
Tell your friends! : )

Monday, April 5, 2010

Word Power: Dysfunction

In this five-part series, we'll be looking at the power that certain words have to color our realities and change our perceptions. Words matter! Choose them carefully.

Question: What is a functional family? I ask because it seems as if every family is dysfunctional. There are some legitimately dysfunctional families: families with histories of abuse (emotional, sexual, physical), families dealing with addiction, and families dealing with extreme traumas and tragedies. However, I also think that this is one of those words that is overused.

Families are made of people and people are not perfect. Mistakes will be made. There will be bad decisions. There will be a number of regrets and hindsight will make clear all of the things that we could have, would have and should have done differently. But does that make us all dysfunctional?

From the Cleavers to the Cosbys and beyond, we have set some seriously high and absolutely unrealistic definitions of family. How can real life families complete with fictional families whose every problem could be wrapped up in a half hour (or an hour for the occasional ‘very special’ episode).

I choose to believe that mine was a functional family. I was raised by two imperfect people who raised an imperfect daughter and my childhood reflected that. Yet, it was functional. There was more laughter than tears and there was much more that went right than went wrong. Could things have been done differently? Yes. Were mistakes made? Certainly. If I had a family of my own, I would make mistakes, have regrets and wish for a ton of do-overs. However, I think I would still be functional.
If you and your family don't see eye to eye, if you have different opinions about the direction your life should take, if your family is just prone to run-of-the-mill selfishness, shortsightedness and/or awkwardness, but otherwise, you came out of there more or less unscatched, then you have a family. You have a real family, made up of real people with real flaws and not some televised fiction.
The point of this series is to show you the power that words have. I started the paragraph before last with the words, “I choose to believe…” and I did that on purpose. I made a choice. I could look back and focus on the imperfections and mistakes or I could focus on what went well. It’s a choice.

I’m not advocating that we whitewash our own personal histories but to see them in a new context. Don’t ignore the reality but recognize who is in control of the perception and the definition.

Find a way to look at your past that leaves you feeling inspired or content or, at worst, leaves you feeling neutral or at least not caught in a mire of dysfunction and victimhood.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Best Salmon Ever

I had lunch yesterday at a cafeteria tucked away in an office building. It shouldn’t have been a remarkable event but it was. The selection of food was great and they had a number of healthy choices available. I saw some fresh salmon and immediately I had to have it.

It was what happened next that blew me away.

Teresa was one of the cooks. I was standing in line behind a gentleman who had a good looking burger smothered in mushrooms and Swiss cheese. It looked like something out of a commercial.

When it was time for her to take my order, she was filled with the same enthusiasm and showed me the same bright smile as she had the gentleman before me. When I told her I wanted the salmon, she was thrilled. She slapped it on the grill, threw some marinade on top of it and then did the same for my friend. When she was done, she took the lemon and delicately cut it and adorned the top of the salmon with it. She added the broccoli, which she also threw on the grill for a second to make sure it was hot, and the potatoes and she was done.

She handed me her creation with pride. I couldn’t wait to get to the table to see if this cafeteria salmon tasted as good as it looked. It did.

Teresa is a woman who has a passion for food. She genuinely loves what she does. According to my friend, she’s like that every day. Daily, she’s putting a smile on the face of those who stop in for lunch. I guarantee, she’s not getting paid a fortune. She doesn’t even get tips. But that doesn’t stop her from enjoying what she does and passing that enjoyment on to her patrons. She’s infectious. And, that’s a good thing.

How amazing would it be if we all took Teresa’s approach to our work? What would it be like if we all approached our work with enthusiasm and passion? How much happier would we be if we truly enjoyed what we did and considered our work a privilege and not just a chore? What would it be like if we went out of our way to share a smile with someone else?

Thank you Teresa for making my day and an amazing salmon lunch to boot! I will most definitely be back!