Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Recipe for Unhappiness

If you want to be unhappy, it’s easy. Complain about what you have. Get frustrated over what you don’t have. Compare yourself to people who have more. If you weren’t before, now you’re probably unhappy.

Unhappy people don’t appreciate what they have. A nice late model car, in good condition, is never as good as a BMW. A cozy 3-bedroom home isn’t nearly as nice as the 5-bedroom down the street. The 32-inch TV was good, until you saw the 50-inch. The relentless pursuit of bigger, better and more, more, more is a long frustrating road to unhappiness.

Unhappy people obsess over what other people have. The lives of others always look good. They have more money. They have better relationships. They have well-behaved kids. They have great jobs. They have it all … and we don’t. It’s exhausting being that exasperated!

So many people postpone happiness for another time. They’ll be happy … when they get married (or when they get divorced) … when they graduate … when they lose weight … when they get a new job or a raise … when they have a baby … when the kids are grown. Yet when those times come, guess what? They aren’t any happier.

Happiness has to happen now.

Happiness can happen now.

There is no other time for happiness.

Happiness starts with appreciating what you have right now. Money might not be flowing but you have great friends and family … so be happy now. You might still be single, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your solo time or nights out with the friends … so be happy now. You might not have the car or the job of your dreams … but you have the transportation to take you where you want to go and a job to tide to over until you find something better. In the meantime, enjoy your health, your family, your friends, your hobbies … so be happy now.

Someday will probably never come. What we have is today. Make today a good day by making the choice to be happy now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everyone is Confident!

As a coach, I like to check out and listen to other coaches. One of my favorites is Christine Pembleton, a dating and relationship coach ( She released a short video on what women can do to attract men and a lot of it boiled down to one word: confidence. It made sense to me immediately, but the next thing she said really blew my mind. She said that we are all confident ... it's just that some times we are often confident in the wrong things.

I connected with that statement easily. For years, from my teens through my early 30's, I suffered from low confidence about my appearance. However, when it came to my work, my confidence was high (almost too high! LOL!!!!). So what was the difference?

The difference was exactly what Coach Christine had said. In the area of my appearance, my confidence was misplaced. When it came to my work and professionalism, it was right on target.

At work, I am confident. I know the following three statements to be true.
  • I am a talented writer and I can turn around a writing project quickly.
  • As a trainer, I have the ability to connect with my students and a knack for breaking down concepts in a way that makes it easy for them to understand.
  • I invest in my learning and am confident in what I've learned so far and I am always learning more.
In my personal life, when it came to my appearance, I knew the following three statements to be true.
  • There are lots and lots of women who look better than me and those are the women men are interested in.
  • My butt is too big, my hips are too wide, my thighs are chunky, my complexion is too dark, my hair is too short and my toes are just bizarre.
  • Basically, men do not find me attractive.
My confidence is/was high in both sets of statements. So, would it surprise you to learn that I've had infinitely more professional success than person (dating) success?

We all have confidence but it has to be the right confidence. It has to be confidence that is based in a positive truth. It should be a confidence that propels us forward and lifts us up. There are plenty forces out there willing to drag us down. Those forces should not exist within ourselves.

So, it's taken some work but I'm changing (you don't change decades of behavior overnight) the ideas around my appearance, and my confidence is growing. Now, I know ...
  • There are women that look better than me but I am attractive too.
  • I'm losing weight but no matter what they scale says, I'll always be a curvy, bootylicious girl and that doesn't have to be a source of shame or embarrassment. It can be a good thing!
  • Not every man will find me attractive, but some men will.
I can be confident in those statements. For one, they are true. Secondly, they are realistic. I'm not confident that I'm the second coming of Halle Berry or that every man I meet will fall to my feet suddenly blinded by my stunning beauty. LOL! Those statements aren't realistic to me therefore I could never believe and be confident in them. Confidence has to be grounded in reality.

What areas you can use a confidence make-over?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Listening is an Art

It's interesting that most communication classes focus on speaking and presentation. However, speaking is only half of the communication equation, the other half is listening. If you have ever had a conversation with someone who was distracted or who was determined to hear what they wanted to hear and not what you said, you know that listening is just as important as speaking.

Listen to the Words. What is the other person saying? Listen to the whole thing. A lot of time we hear the first part of a person's statement and then we start mentally crafting our responses while the other person is still talking and guess what? We miss the rest of what they are saying.

Acknowledge the Speaker. This is especially important if someone is sharing something important or heartfelt with you. Paraphrase what they are saying back to them so they know that you are listening. Give listening fillers "Uh-huh," "Okay," "I see." If you are face-to-face, maintain eye contact or occasionally nod.

Listen Beyond the Word. If face-to-face, review the body language. Look at the facial expressions. Listen for inflection, tone and the emotion beyond the words. Something as simple as "Fine," can be completely different based on tone, inflection and body language.

Focus. In our multi-tasking world, it's easy to want to talk, text, return emails all at once. Respect the speaker by giving them your attention. If you must take a call or respond to a text, apologize for the interruption, do it quickly and re-focus on the person and the conversation.

Don't Assume: You know what happens when you assume. Ask if you have concerns or if you need clarification. I have a friend who literally has her own definitions for a lot of words. Her definitions many times have nothing to do with the actual definition. We used to argue all the time because I didn't understand how she was defining a word. Now I ask her for her definition before assuming that we're both using the Webster's definition.

Good communication has to include good listening. And remember, good listeners aren't always born that way, many of us have to learn how to listen well!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ladies Who Lunch

Ladies Who Lunch is a term that originated in a Broadway musical to describe well-off women who have time for long, leisurely lunches. As a professional with a busy schedule, you probably wouldn't consider yourself a lady who lunches, but you should, sort of. I'm not advocating taking a two-hour, three martini lunch in the middle of the workday but I am advocating using your lunch time and taking your breaks.

Did you know, according to a 2010 survey by Right Management and Linked In, only 47% of American workers take a lunch away from their desks? Twenty percent eat at their desk, and 13% seldom or never take a lunch break at all.

Many employers even frown on taking a lunch. It looks like you are being more productive if you are tethered to your desk all day long. But guess what? Taking a lunch and maybe even a mid-morning or afternoon break actually makes you more productive. Your body and your mind need that breather. It needs the time away for physical nourishment and mental regeneration.

I too have been victim to task master bosses who equate lunch with slacking off but I also know that I feel better and my work is better if I take a breather. On nice days, I might eat at my desk while working, but I do it so I can take a short brisk walk afterwards.My methods may be unconventional but my results can't be denied.

Even if it's just 15 minutes, make a effort to get up and have a real lunch away from your desk. For those precious few moments: enjoy your food, chat with a co-worker, read a book, thumb through a magazine, play a game on your phone or take a short walk. Do something but do it away from your desk and make sure it's not work.

Be a lady (or gentleman) who lunches!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Balancing Act

There is a lot of talk about balance. Juggling responsibilities, making time for work, family, friends, social obligation and, of course, self. But what does balance look like?

Well, I don't know. But, I'll tell you this much. It isn't perfect. Many people view balance as a pie with perfectly equal slices. Or a scale with both sides in perfect balance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My definition of balance is making some time for the things that matter most. Sure you might like a weekly date night with the spouse or a monthly girls'(or guys') night out. It would be great to have hours a day to spend with the kids but the truth of the matter is that life will often prohibit that from happening.

Work demands, long commutes, errands, chores and the business of life encroach on our time. So to me balance is more about quality than quantity.

You might not be able to have date night every week but you can have some down time to talk at the end of the night or even have some nice conversations on the cell phone in traffic. You might not have hours a day with the kids but you can make the time you have count. You might love to curl up on an afternoon with a book but that's a luxury you cannot afford.

True balance is recognizing the ebb and flow of life. There will be times when work demands or family concerns are increased and you have to cut back in other areas. That's okay. Do what you can with what you have. When the crunch passes increase the amount of time for other tasks.

The key to balance isn't perfect symmetry and alignment. It's finding a way to incorporate the things that matter into your life in a way that gives you a little happiness and peace.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Helping Hand

As the recession lingers on for many of us, it's easy to find ourselves wrapped in a cocoon of worry and despair. We feel helpless. We feel hopeless. We don't know what to do or where to turn. It's when we are in these lowest moments that it is even more important to reach out to others, to look outside of ourselves.

I was out of work for almost a year. About two months into my unemployment, I started to get depressed. I was at home alone all of the time, looking for work and wondering what would happen to me if I didn't find work. It was too much. With no husband, boyfriend, children or even roommate, I was alone all of the time. I got a good idea of what solitary confinement might be like and I didn't like it!

One night, I called a good friend in tears. She told me what I already knew ... I had to get out. But where and how? I had tons of time and no money. She suggested I volunteer. I found an organization and it literally changed everything.

Ironically, I worked with a local job readiness training program. It put me in touch with people. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning. It allowed me to do something I truly love (training). Most importantly, I met people who had similar struggles to mine ... and I met people who were a lot worse off. It gave me a much-needed sense of perspective. It also gave me a sense of pride because I was able to do something for these people. I looked forward to seeing them everyday and I know that many of them looked forward to seeing me.

I was struggling and could barely do for myself but here, it was different. I could make a difference. While I looked for work, I helped others find and keep work. I helped them develop their skills. I helped them see things in themselves they had never considered. I loved it.

A client even recommended that I apply for an open position at her old company. I did and I got it. So volunteering helped me find my current job!

As I approach the one year anniversary on my job, I still keep in touch with the people I volunteered with and I volunteer and visit when I can. I'm hooked. I think Jacob's Ladder will always play a role in my life. It's that important.

If you want to volunteer, there are many organizations that could use your help: schools, churches, community centers. If you don't know where to go or what you want to do, start here: You can find organizations in your area and based on your interest.

Be the change you want to see. : )

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You Have My Permission

Now, he's got the right idea!
You have my permission to do absolutely nothing. Go ahead ... veg out in front of the TV, take a long nap, have a cup of coffee and people watch, mediate, listen to some good music, go to a movie, take a drive, indulge in a little retail therapy.

For a moment, be the anti-Nike: Just Don't Do It. Put the work down. Forget about the chores. Just for one day, rip up the task list.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is nothing. Give yourself the time and space to rest, rejuvenate and recharge. Stop doing and spend a moment being. If you are like most of us, all you do is go, go, go; but there is no prize for all that non-stop activity. In fact, working so much eventually makes you less effective, more stressed, more susustible to colds, headaches and nagging illnesses.

So take a few deep breaths and do something you enjoy or just do nothing. A little down time will actually make you a better parent, employee, employer, friend and partner. Don't wait until you can take a vacation or until there is a holiday (that brings with it stressors of its own). Do something now. Make it something small and something easy. I guarantee it will make a big difference.