Thursday, August 30, 2012

Changing Your Mind is Fine

It’s not just a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. It’s the prerogative of every thinking person to be able to change their mind. In fact, sometimes changing your mind is the only thing that makes sense!

You start with a plan. Of course, your plan is to follow your plan … but what if circumstances change? What if, while following your plan, you become privy to new information that compels you to go into another direction? What then?

Changing your mind gets a bad rap. It’s considered wishy-washy or inconsistent or silly to change your mind. Yet, changing your mind in light of new facts, or even a change in your feeling, is often the most mature, thoughtful and courageous thing you can do.

Stubbornly staying the course when you know a new course is in order is often born of insecurity or fear of what others may think. You don’t want to appear indecisive or wrong in the eyes of family and friends. You definitely don’t want to hear the dreaded “I told you so,” so you persevere even though you know you shouldn’t.

The reality is that other people can comment on your life and state their opinions, but what they can’t do is live your life – only you can do that. You are the only one living with the consequences of your decisions. Only you know the gravity of your situation. The truth is that even those closest to you spend less time thinking about you than you think. They’ve got their own problems to deal with and lives to live!

Still the critical comments of those closest to you can make you question your judgment. Have a few people in your corner to support you and encourage your decision. Going against expectations and risking the disappointment of family and friends is hard. It hurts. Having people close to you who understand your decision is essential.

Next, in light of new information, get calm and get clear. Look clearly and objectively at what you need to do. Does this new information mean a few new steps in your current plan or does it mean scrapping your plan all together and coming up with something entirely new?

Once you know your new plan, move forward with it. Keep your head held high. Move forward with the confidence of knowing that you are doing what is best for you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raise the Bar!

It’s not surprising that children told they will never amount to much become adults who often don’t amount to much.

There is a faulty school of thought that believes negativity can produce a positive result. In other words, calling someone fat or stupid will motivate them to lose weight or study harder. The problem is that it usually backfires. The person, or should I say more accurately, the victim, usually does the opposite. The overweight person eats more or the bad student becomes even more determined not to apply him or herself academically.

It’s bigger than this though. There are entire groups of people (based on race, economic status, …)that are consistently told they are not good enough or capable of accomplishing more. The bar is lowered because there is a subtle belief that these people can’t reach it if it is raised higher. The tragedy is that when the bar is lowered, along with expectations, the desire to do or be more is, time and again, lowered along with it. The very people who are told that they can’t, don’t.

The fact of the matter is that you can find the facts that support your belief in either direction. You can find facts that support the desire for lowered expectations. Test scores, employment rates, median household incomes can attest to the fact that some people have it harder than others. On the other hand, you can find always find people who have bucked the trend and succeeded against the odds.

If you want better, you have to push for better. Insist on it. Raise the bar and you will be surprised when people begin to strive to reach it. It might not happen right away but it is worth the time and the effort. Insistent on more and eventually, you’ll get it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Email and Texting Aren't Enough

In this day and age, it's easier than ever to keep in touch. There's text and emails and Facebook. Very soon, high school reunions will be a thing of the past. Who needs to get together once a decade when you can reconnect with your entire graduating class via Facebook. Yet sometimes when people matter, they deserve an extra little TLC, a telephone conversation or even a face-to-face meeting, when possible.

An email announcing 'girlfriends' day' and telling all of your girlfriends how much they matter to you, isn't that special when it's a forwarded email you didn't write sent to thirty of your 'closest' friends. A Facebook post, sent to 300 Facebook friends doesn't really strike me as intimate.

A one-to-one email or a phone call says much more. Reconnecting with a friend on an individual basis shows that you really are a friend and not just a passing acquaintance. It actually means something when you can ask how they have been and truly find out what they've been up to.

Also a lot is lost in translation with a text or email. Yes, there are eight million emoticons, but nothing is better than the inflections and tone of voice that are communicated in a verbal conversation. Plus, taking the time out of your day to talk to your friend shows your friend that they matter to you.

Want to make a real connection? Pick up the phone and make a call, schedule a lunch or go out for drinks. Reach out and touch someone!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Setback not Set Aside

When planning for success, we all have a plan. Follow those steps and we succeed, or so we think. Yet every plan has unforeseen events and obstacles. They affect our timeline. They alter our moods. They can shake us to the core and leave us in doubt and despair. When it gets really bad, we begin to question if we should still pursue our goal at all.

There is a difference between a setback and setting aside a goal all together. A setback is an obstacle  you can get around. It requires rethinking, regrouping and altering your plan. Setting aside your goal requires giving it up and making the decision not to pursue it at all, or to put it on hold for a while. Only you know how you can proceed because every situation is difficult.

The key is not to set it aside unnecessarily. Many times, people who don't share your vision will encourage you to set your goal aside. They will tell you it's not worth pursuing. I choose not to listen to people who never believed in me or my goal in the first place. Instead, I seek the advice of those who know me and what it is I'm trying to do. People who can be honest and balanced. Maybe the timing isn't right and I should put it aside for a minute. Maybe my approach was wrong. Regardless, I have to figure it out before I move on, if I decide to move on.

There are other times when setting a goal aside is the best approach. There have been times when a plan hasn't come together and I look at it and see the frustration, the challenges, the effort. In a couple of cases, I realized that I was doing what I thought I should do and my heart was never in it or that my actions were motivated by fear. In those cases, it is best to put the goal aside... permanently.

Other times, I have looked at my goal and realized that, right now, I didn't have the knowledge, the resources or the money to make it happen. In those cases, I might put my goal aside ... temporarily,  while I work through my issues. When I have gotten the knowledge, the resources and/or the money, I'll try again.

Setbacks are part of success. The key to overcoming a setback is to have the ability to bounce back. Surround  yourself with people who believe in you, read books and listen to music that encourages you and, for goodness sake, be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up or putting your mistakes on an endless loop never helps. Once you are over the initial disappointment and the waves of frustration begin to ebb, you can start planning your comeback.

If you decide to set your goal aside, realize that there will be a period of mourning. The death of a goal or dream is a death and should be treated as such. Give yourself time and don't immediately go out and try to replace the dream with another. Also, remember your decision to set your dream aside is your decision. It isn't your spouse's, your friend's, your business partner's but yours. Do not set your dream aside because someone else thinks you should. Do it because you think it is best for you. Once you let yourself mourn and come to peace with your decision, you can begin searching for a new dream. Most of the time, one will come to you.

Setback or set aside, it's up to you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In a Funk? Here's the Cure

If you are feeling down, the best and quickest way to pick yourself up is to help someone else.

When you are in a funk, the focus is on you ... what's going on, what you have done wrong, what someone has done to wrong you, .... Helping someone else takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else. You get a break from your own drama. You are thinking about and working with another person, which will give you a much needed break from your problems.

Plus, helping someone else gives you the ability to make a difference and get the kind of closure and completeness that might be lacking in your own situation. While I was unemployed and in danger of losing my home, I volunteered. Helping people write a resume or solve a problem was empowering. It gave me the opportunity to do something, something that yielded real and tangible results for the other person. It gave me a welcome respite from my own problems.

Finally, those people I helped were grateful and appreciative for the help I was able to give. The gratitude felt good! And I needed it! In helping someone else, I was able to help myself. Talk about a win-win!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hope and Change

I hope you aren't tired of political commercials yet. It's only August and before the first Tuesday in November it's going to get a lot worse! Regardless of your political affiliation, hope always sounds good and so does change, when it is a change for the better. However, I disagree with the president. I don't think hope and change starts at the top. I think it starts from within each and every one of us.

You cannot legislate hope and change just as you cannot legislate feelings or thoughts. Those things are firmly in our personal realm ... and firmly within our control.

Hope is an attitude and it is up to us to decide what kind of attitude we want to cultivate. Then, we must do the work to develop that attitude and it isn't easy. It requires tenacity and dedication. Our thoughts are often so close to us that they become second nature. It is hard to notice something so close to us, not to mention alter it.

No one can create hope for you. You have to do it on your own and for yourself.

Change is a little bit dicier. Most of us dread it. Business schools devote entire classes to managing it. Motivational speakers make a living telling people how to handle it. A lot of time we assume change is going to be bad. If nothing else, change promises to be different and, as creatures of comfort, we don't like different!

Even when it is good (getting a promotion, moving to a better house) or when the outcome will be great (losing weight, saving money), change is hard. Someone making us change makes change impossible. No one can force us to do it. Real and lasting change comes from within, once we find the reasons why we truly want to change. These are the reasons that give us the drive and the focus to overcome our inertia and really do something different.

So regardless of what happens in four months, we can have the hope and change we desire, if we decide that we want it.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Hoarders and Buried Alive are television programs that show extreme examples of hoarding. People with stacks of papers, clothes, magazines and all sorts of things. They literally have rooms they can't even enter because of all of their stuff. A lot of the time, these people are suffering from some sort of psychological disorder. While most of us shutter at the thought of living like hoarders, sometimes we too suffer from a more subtle version of hoarding.

I've worked with people who hoard their information. They call it job security. They feel as if they share what they know, they are more likely to lose their jobs. I've seen projects suffer and work grind to a halt because the information hoarder is on vacation or out on temporary disability. Yet, at the same time, I have seen these very people suffer from the very fate they fear. I've seen them lose their jobs.

I've also seen others who hoard their love and affection, afraid that if they show how they really feel, the other person will take them for granted or abuse their affections. They hold on to their feeling so tightly that the other person leaves anyway. 

 Physical hoarders are drowning in a sea of stuff. They fear losing even the smallest item, so they hold on tightly ... so tightly that they miss out on just about everything else. Information and love holders hold on so tightly that often their fears become their realities.

The truth of the matter is that holding on to what you know doesn't ensure your future, often times, it jeopardizes it. Holding on to your love almost guarantees that you'll lose the one you love. 

Instead of operating out of fear, take the brave step of sharing and letting go a bit. The results could be surprising.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make Excellence a Habit

One of my favorite quotes is from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” There is nothing like the Olympic games to illustrate his point.

These athletes have made a habit out of excellence. More specifically, they have made habits out of the very things that make excellence possible: a rigorous practice schedule, a coach who holds them to the highest of expectations - expectations that they also have for themselves. Their diets, their sleep schedules and all of the sacrifices they make in pursuit of their goals, makes excellence more than a possibility. For them, it's a reality. It's within their reach. The gold is theirs to grasp.

These athletes, at the top of their game have learned at a young age that there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work. You have to put in the effort. You have to have the focus. When you fall, you have to get back up and go at it again, and again and again.

Not everyone can be an Olympian, but we all can make excellence a habit. We can set higher goals for ourselves and then do what it takes to reach them. Think of what an Olympian like effort could do for you. Maybe you'd be a better parent, maybe you'd double your sales or get that promotion. You could finish writing that book or eradicate that credit card debt. You could finally lose that weight once and for all, maybe you'd conquer your fear of heights or public speaking.

Think of how much your life could improve if you made excellence, and the activities it takes to create it, a habit.

Now, what are you waiting for?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Look Good, Feel Better

I volunteer for a local job readiness program (I volunteered daily when I was out of work). Every month we'd get a new class. In addition to helping them with resume writing and interview skills, we'd outfit them with two sets of interview clothes. I was always amazed when young men with sagging pants who walked through our doors not even knowing what their actual pants size was when they'd return from the dressing room in a suit and tie. Most often their demeanor and expressions would be dramatically different. There was a confidence that wasn't there before. Remarkable!

I read once that one of the first thing women ask for when recovering from catastrophic illnesses is a tube of lipstick. As they begin to feel better, they want to look better too.

Looking your best makes you feel good. Now looking your best is not the same as looking trendy or fashionable or breaking the bank of $700 Louboutin shoes. It is looking good for you - wearing what makes you feel good. It's worth the effort.

Think about the boost you get when you look in the mirror and actually like what you see. You feel ready to take on the world. It boosts your confidence and improves your outlook. It works!

Looking good isn't the answer to any deep-seated issues but it could give you that extra little something when you need it.

So take out your favorite dress, your best jeans and that top you love. Wear it and where it with pride. Because when you look good, you'll feel even better!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

BOLD: Beyond Obstacles Limitations and Doubts

Every human being has obstacles to overcome, limitations to deal with and doubts that nag them. The trick is not letting those obstacles, limitations and doubts get the best of us. We have to find a way to get over, move around and overcome them. I call this being B.O.L.D.

Overcoming obstacles is essential and we all have them. You might have to overcome childhood issues, economic realities or you may even have a physical obstacle to overcome. Even those who appear to have perfect lives have to overcome mental and emotional obstacles of feeling not good enough or undeserving of success or love.

Weaknesses or limitations can be just as hard to overcome. We like to focus on our strengths (and I think that is where we should spend most of our time) but we also have to recognize our limits. Once recognized, we have to have a plan for dealing with those shortcomings. The answer could be to work on that weakness and strengthen it. You do this by asking for help, learning more (either through formal or informal means) and practicing your skill until it improves. However, maybe instead of strengthening your weakness, you involve someone for whom your weakness is their strength. Hire someone, barter, or just team up with someone for whose weakness is your strength and vice versa.

Doubts actually serve a useful purpose. Doubts call our attention to areas where we need more information or where there are holes in our plans. We need to listen to those doubts and address the concerns they raise. When you uncover a doubt that is based out of fear and not a legitimate precaution then you can see it as what it is, a doubt masquerading as fear.

When we are BOLD, we empower ourselves and own our reality. We take control of our lives. When we accept our obstacles, live with our limitations and are plagued by our doubts, we relinquish control and ultimately our hopes for happiness and success on our terms.

So go forward with confidence and be BOLD!