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!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank You For Being a Friend

One of my best friends is celebrating her birthday today. In the spirit of her special day, I just wanted to take a moment and talk about the power of friendship.

“You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.” I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to choose to be friends with some truly extraordinary people. They’re not extraordinary in terms of fame or wealth, but extraordinary where it counts in the depths of their generosity, heart and capacity to love, accept and empathize.

As an adult, I’ve lived in six different states, from Ohio to Iowa, Arizona to Maryland, California to North Carolina. Yet I’ve made truly good friends everywhere I’ve been — friends who see the best in me and want the best for me; friends who will be honest with me without being brutal, friends who celebrate with me when things go right and help me figure it out when they don’t

Friendship is truly a blessing and I have been blessed over and over again. I can only hope that I’ve been as good a friend to my friends as they have been to me.
Happy Birthday T!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Either You Do or You Don't ... Just Don't Make Excuses!

About a year ago, I self-published a book called Get It Together Girl. It’s all about getting organized and getting rid of clutter in just 15 minutes a day. Since then, I’ve become a bit of an expert on quick tips for getting organized. I’ve done speeches on the topic and even being quoted in several magazines.

It never fails, however, after a presentation, there are two types of people who approach me. The first are the ones who are really interested in the subject. We talk about which of my tips will work for them and they even share some of their tips with me. These women are motivated and on occasion, I’ve even received emails from some of them on the success that they have had getting it together.

The other type is curious to me. They come up to me and tell me why none of my tips would ever work for them. They don’t have 5 or 10 minutes to spare in their busy days, not to mention 15 whole minutes. They have small children. They have husbands. If they were single and childless like me (which usually comes across as a backhanded compliment), then they would have all the time in the world too.

These women want me to confirm and validate their decision to do nothing. They want me to let them off the hook. I don’t. I let them see that the decision not to act is still a decision and it’s their decision. Accept it. Live with it; just don’t expect me to condone it.

I normally respond with, “You know that’s funny because before I published the book, I tested it with some very busy women. Executives with toddlers and young children, busy professional women with teenagers to shuttle back and forth and stay-at-home moms with young children and babies and they all found the book very helpful and doable. But, then again, getting organized and saving time isn’t a priority for everyone.”

My point is this. You make the decision to act or not act. It’s easy to find every reason in the world not to do something. A lot of people spend a lot of time justifying their behavior and the truth of the matter is that they just don’t want to change. If it’s important to you, you will make the time. You will find a reason why and not an excuse why not.

If you are looking for excuses, you will find them, but recognize that excuses do not lead to change. It’s easy to find reasons why you can’t exercise or save money. You can always justify your smoking habit or continued decision to make unhealthy food choices. You can find reasons to stay in your unhappy relationship or with a job that no longer meets your needs.

And, if this is you, my advice is to just accept it. Accept your weight. Accept your financial state. Accept your bad relationship or your unfulfilling career.

If you want change, you have to change. Stop excusing and start strategizing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Favorite Quotes

I love quotes. I have a large collection of them. My training materials and presentations are peppered with them. I feature a quote at the end of my monthly newsletter. I have a white board at my desk where I feature a new quote every week. Heck, I have a white board at home in my office that I use for quotes.

Here are a few of my favorites

"My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me, or I can be lost in a maze. My choice, my responsibility, win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny."
~ Elaine Maxwell

"Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."
~ Zora Neale Hurston

"The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles."
~ Gandhi

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels."
~ Faith Whittlesey

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."
~ Sam Ewing

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong."
~ Ella Fitzgerald
"I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That's were the fun is.”
~ Donald Trump
"Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you're going to do about it."
~ Kathleen Casey Theisen

"Happiness is not easily won; it is hard to find it in ourselves, and impossible to find it elsewhere."
~ Nicolas Chamfort

"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you."
~ Rita Mae Brown

Monday, August 16, 2010

Competence and Confidence

A friend of mine recently started a new job. She loves her job and has been working successfully in her field for over a decade. This job is a bit of a challenge although she’s done the work before, she’s never had this particular title.

As a result, she has the competence to do the job, but her confidence isn’t there. As she told me the other day, “I realize with each passing day that I know a lot more than I’ve given myself credit for. I definitely have the skill set and the expertise to do this job. I just wish I had more than just that.”

I said curiously, “What else do you need beside skill set and experience?”

She responded, “I wish I had more formal knowledge, if not a degree at least a certification. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned on the job.”

The fact that she’s learned what she’s learned on several jobs, in diverse situations and garnered great reviews and respect from her peers did little to bolster her confidence.

The irony is that her predecessor was the opposite. Apparently, she was all confidence but not much competence. My friend says that everyday she is undoing the work of this woman. Her predecessor had the staff doing time intensive workarounds because she didn’t know how to use the software correctly. She made the people under her subscribe to complex standards and routines that, according to my friend, served no purpose other than to make her look like she had a lot of knowledge.

In fact, even though some of those old methodologies and tactics have been proven wrong, people are still convinced that this woman was a competent, knowledgeable professional – a true testament to how strong her confidence level was.

Luckily, my friend’s confidence is growing with each passing day.

Competence and confidence is a formula for unstoppable success.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Broadcast News Method

In the movie Broadcast News, Holly Hunter plays a frantic television news producer. Every morning, before she starts her day, she takes five minutes to … cry. There is always something to cry about, so she cries, gets it out of the way and gets on with her day. That might sound crazy, but then again, it a crazy way, it makes sense. She took time to express her emotions and get it out of her system instead of bottling it up.

Buried and suppressed emotions eventually bubble up to the surface, often with unexpected and disastrous consequences. Finding a way to manage your emotions (as much as emotions can be managed) makes sense. While making time for tears each morning might not work for you, think of something that will.

How can you productively express your emotions? I'll give you some techniques that work for me.

I vent. When I’m frustrated at work, on the way home, I call a girlfriend of mine and I vent. I get it all off of my chest. The key is I never do it in front of co-workers and I don’t vent to a co-worker. My friend lives out of state.

I make a date with depression. After a particularly jarring setback, I called my dad and my closest friends and told them I would be unreachable over the weekend. I had a date with depression. I sat at home and gave completely into my frustration and discouragement. I cried. I ate ice cream. I watched ridiculous movies on cable. I made a playlist of depressing songs and sang along as I played them over and over. I wrote incessantly in my journal. By Monday morning, I was so tired of being depressed that I was actually ready to move on!

I write letters. Yes, letters, not emails. I write letters with no intention of sending them (it’s way too easy to accidentally send an email). Sometimes, the people I’m angry at or harboring resentment towards are not in the picture and writing them wouldn’t do any good (a recently departed ex-boyfriend for example). Other times, writing lets me get everything off my chest, so when I do confront this person, I will be able to do so without a lot of extra emotion getting in the way.

What are some constructive ways you handle your emotions. I’ve shared mine. Now it’s your turn!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who You Are Speaks Loudly!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when people think about you? Are you the reliable one, the one people call when they are in a bind? Are you the funny one, known for your quick wit and funny stories? Maybe you are the good listener or the shoulder to cry on.

Or, are you the resident sad sack, always there with a sad story to top the one someone else just shared? Could you be the chronic complainer, the one who is just never satisfied? Maybe you are quick to anger or a drama queen (or king).

How you appear to others matters. It makes a big difference.

If you want to be promoted at work, you need to take a look at the image you are portraying. Does your name immediately come up when the boss is looking for hard workers? If not, ask yourself why, or more importantly, what images do come up when your name is mentioned.

I have several single girlfriends that I wouldn’t hesitate to fix up if I ran into a nice guy. However, there are one or two that I definitely wouldn’t recommend for a blind date or a double date. Frankly, their attitudes and demeanors would reflect negatively on me and I work too hard to let someone else make me look bad.

Everyone talks incessantly about networking, in person or on the Internet. We want to network to get a job, find a mate, and meet new friends, but no amount of networking will help you if the image and energy you are sending out is negative, or the opposite of what you are trying to convey.

You might never set foot on a stage but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t performing in front of an audience. As soon as you leave your home, you are ‘on.’ If you have kids, it’s as soon as you get up!

People are watching you. They notice your attitude, your work ethic, your appearance, and your demeanor. Even if they never say anything to you, they are watching you and making judgments accordingly. Now, that might not seem right or fair but it doesn’t make it any less true.

There is a funny but, oh-so-true saying, “Who you are is speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.”

Who are you and what is it that you are saying to others?

Your words matter but who you are and what you do say more about you than words ever can.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Case for QWERTY

There is a common saying, often found on t-shirts and bumper stickers, it says, “S**t happens.” Yes, that does happen but so does something else that people regard in much the same way. Change. “Change happens.”

People are creatures of habit. Children thrive when they have some sort of structure or routine. Many of us enjoy structure at work or in our relationships. We like what we like and we know what we know. Goodness forbid, if we have to do something else.

We’d rather work harder at the same old thing, than climb the learning curve that will ultimately make us more effective, more productive or even happier. This is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson said, in the Declaration of Independence, “Experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” In other words, we’d rather suffer than take a chance and abolish that which makes us suffer. Why? Because we’d rather have the devil we know than the devil we don’t.

This doesn’t change the fact that change happens. Kids grow up, seasons change, friends grow apart, job responsibilities shift, marriages evolve, new models of cell phones and cars come out while other models are retired. Change happens, that much is sure. Unfortunately, the other ‘sure thing’ is that most people will fight that change tooth and nail.

We like what we like. We know what we know. Alternately, we don’t like what we don’t like and we don’t know what we don’t know … and not knowing, as well as the possibility of not liking, is scary.

Do me a favor. If you are reading this on your computer or a cell phone with a full keyboard, take a look at that keyboard. I can practically guarantee that you are looking at a Qwerty keyboard. The first six letters of the upper row on the left of your keyboard are Q-W-E-R-T-Y. It’s the computer (and typewriter) keyboard we’ve loved and known for decades.

Did you know, though, that there was another keyboard, invented in 1936, called the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. Dvorak based his keyboard on what letters were used most and was supposed to make typing faster because the most commonly used keys were easier to reach and typing was evenly dispersed between right and left hands.

Dvorak was faster and easier. So what was the problem? Though cumbersome, people liked Qwerty. They knew Qwerty. So, even though there was a faster and quicker alternative, they rejected it because, as with most change, it represented something different, something that would take time to learn and master. It represented the devil they didn’t know.

The resistance to change is part of what makes it so difficult. If we would stop fighting it and give it a chance, we might find out that what we fear and what we don’t know isn’t half as bad as we thought it would be.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get Going!

You know about the Law of Attraction. It’s simple. What we think about, we bring about. It’s simple, almost deceptively so. In the first place, it’s not as easy as it seems to focus on what we want (over what we don’t want). In the second place, thinking alone doesn’t always make it so.

That is where the Law of Action comes in. It’s also simple. It says, if you want it, you have to take an action to get it and then once you have taken action, you have to follow-through.

Attraction + Action = Transformation

Like many people, I read and watched The Secret. I was excited by the prospect of using my mind to create my reality. Since I am a computer girl, I created my vision board in PowerPoint. I had slides for everything that I wanted for myself: my house (got it), my car (got it), my husband (still waiting on that one) and money, lots of money.

I made the PowerPoint into my screen saver and set it up so that it came on often. I also printed it out and placed all of the slides on my bathroom door and in my kitchen. About a month after I had completed the vision board, I was rushing home from work. I had a lot of little things I needed to do (return emails, write blogs, work on my newsletter). Not wanting to be distracted, I decided to do it without the television in the background. Yet, something told me to turn it one.

I followed my intuition and tuned into Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It was midway through the episode, during a commercial break, they announced they were coming to my town to conduct auditions. Immediately, I went to the site and got the details. The next day at work, I told my boss I’d be late that day because I was going to audition for the show.

A friend of mine said she would audition to. I was excited! The day before the auditions, my friend backed out. She just had too much work to do to take the time off. I understood but I was still up super early so I could get a good spot in line. I was #47, part of the first group. We completed our questionnaires and then were tested. We used SAT-like answer cards so they were graded quickly. Once we passed, they took our photos and we each spent a few minutes talking to a producer. I was back at work by 10:30 a.m.

A month later, I got the call to be on the show. To make this long story short, I won $100,00.

I tell you this story not to brag or boast (half of the money went to taxes and $50,000 doesn’t go as far as you think it would. I tell this story to show you how the Laws of Attraction and Action work.

I believe that the Law of Attraction brought the opportunity to audition to me. However, if it weren’t for the Law of Action, that opportunity would have passed me by. I had to act. I had to get the information. I had to take off of work. I had to get up and show up at the audition. Later, I had to figure out the cheapest way to get to New York for the taping.

As a result of that action, I got the house and furnished it; I got the car; and, I got my core coaching certification.

Attraction may start the process but it’s action that finishes it.