Tag Archives: Positive

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Here we are again, another year has gone by and a new one is set to begin. Amazing how fast time seems to go by anymore – feels like I was just enjoying my July girls’ weekend in Cape May only last week. But alas, it is the end of December and I am staring 2017 in the face.

It’s the time of year when most of us, intentionally or not, spend some amount of time reflecting on this past year. What all we did. What all we did not do, but wanted to.  The good stuff and the bad stuff.  The happy stuff and the sad stuff.  It is also the time when we tend to make promises to ourselves about how next year will be different.  We may even go so far as to make some New Year’s Resolutions surrounding the really big things we want to accomplish in the year to come.  This is all common enough – reflection and goal setting are both admirable activities, but how many of us take it to the next level?  How many of us actually follow through on the realizations from our reflection time and/or on the promises we make for the coming year?  I think we all know the answer to those questions – not many of us at all.

For years I was guilty of that too. If I even bothered to reflect on a previous year or dared to suggest a goal for the coming year, it pretty much ended with those thoughts. In many cases those thoughts never even made it into the new year.  I’d get up the first day of the new year and go about life as I always had.  New Year’s Resolutions?  What New Year’s Resolutions?  And for those few times when I did take my New Year’s Resolutions “seriously”, by 2-3 weeks into January they had fallen by the wayside and it was back to the same old same old.

This pattern held true for me until a few years ago when I began to do things differently. Rather than haphazardly reflect and make a mental goal for myself, I actually sat down and intentionally set 4 pretty significant goals for myself in 2014 and then proceeded to break those goals down into small parts and gave myself benchmarks throughout the year to meet. And every Sunday evening I would take 5-10 minutes to review my progress on those goals.  And so by the time December, 2014 rolled around I was delighted to see the growth and progress I had made with those 4 goals.  I had completely achieved 3 of the 4 goals and was well on my way with the fourth one.  That never happened before, ever.  Before employing this technique I couldn’t even bring one simple goal to fruition.  And happily I have continued to build on that success the past 2 years using this same format.

As I prepare to do my intentional reflection and goal setting for 2017, I share these tips with you in the hopes that you can also help yourself to make 2017 your most successful, productive year yet, personally or professionally…

Step 1 – Take the time (even if it is just 5-10 minutes) to reflect on the previous year

Give this task your undivided attention – you may be amazed at what you can learn. Here are some questions to consider asking yourself as a part of that reflection:

  • What went well this past year?
  • What didn’t go as planned?
  • What made you happy?
  • What made you sad?
  • What would you do differently if given the chance?
  • What were the obstacles that got in your way?
  • How were you your own obstacle?

Step 2 – Choose 3-5 goals for yourself (personally and/or professionally)

These are the things that you absolutely love the idea of…the things that make you light up…the things that will make you feel the way you want to feel and help you to live the life you have always wanted to live. They can be as big or small as you want, but don’t sell yourself short – dream big! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want from the new year.

Step 3 – Establish benchmarks for each goal throughout the year

Work backwards from the end point and break your goals down into their smaller parts. (Whatever ½ way for a goal is should be done by the end of June.) Make them realistic but yet also push yourself a little as well.  These can be realigned at any time (especially in light of major life circumstances that cannot be predicted), so don’t be afraid to push yourself on these.

Step 4 – Set time aside to check in on your progress toward each goal

Ideally you should do this once a week. You may not be able to do something related to each goal every week, but checking in helps you to keep track of your progress and to notice areas you are falling behind in. This time should be non-negotiable – the moment you start skipping this step you will have started down a path that will very likely lead to unmet goals in December.

Step 5 – Set yourself up for success

Make sure you have the resources gathered to help you achieve your goals. Those resources might be other people, time, money, or physical resources like books or other materials. Know your own strengths and weaknesses and go from there.  Whatever you will need to ensure forward progress on your goals, make sure you have it at the ready.

Step 6 – Remove the obstacles, including yourself, from the equation

If you want to be successful at achieving your goals you have to be honest about the obstacles that stand in your way (and that includes yourself and your old habits). The best way to identify them is through the very first step above (end of the year reflection) as well as through the daily checks mentioned in #4 above. Call your obstacles what they are and give yourself permission to let them go, change them, remove them, whatever you need to do so they are no longer an obstacle for you.

Step 7 – Be honest with yourself throughout the whole process

Anything less will not net you’re the results you are looking for.

There are many resources out there that share best practices and tips for planning a successful new year. The things I share here are what have worked unequivocally for me. Using these tools I have accomplished more big goals in the past 3 years than I have in all of the rest of my adult life prior to using this technique.  It is amazing.  It is powerful.  And if any of these tips speak to you, please give them a try and set yourself up for an amazing 2017!

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. – Tony Robbins

Say It Softly

As humans, we want and need feedback…suggestions…criticism – call it whatever you want, we ask for it continually.  We crave it yet we cringe or run away when we receive it. We are dying to know what people think of us, our work, our outfit, our hairstyle…you name it, we want to know what people think. But the moment that feedback comes, we often want to curl up in a ball and die because it isn’t exactly what we were hoping for, or worse yet, it is downright mean.  And yet we only grow as people if we face the feedback for what it is. Such a strange relationship we have with feedback.  So convoluted.  So confusing.  So frustrating.

Here’s a recent personal example to further illustrate my point: I asked for feedback on short workshop I recently did and I received quite a bit of feedback from the group of people with whom I worked to put together the event (as I had hoped I would – since we all had worked to put it together I was anxious to hear their thoughts on the final product, delivery, etc.). Most of the feedback was the typical niceties (good job, I think it went well, etc.). Some people mentioned the sound issues we had (while completely valid and quite frustrating, that was unfortunately beyond our immediate control…but helpful feedback nonetheless).  But there one piece of feedback that had an edge to it.  It seemed to be a list of complaints with no acknowledgement for the work that went into it.  It was as if there was nothing good about the whole event.  I wanted to run from that feedback when it came through in my email.  It came across such that it triggered that oh so familiar ego voice in my head which began questioning if I was good enough, if I knew what I was doing, etc..  It was the kind of thing that allowed the ego mind go to town.  And unfortunately I don’t know the person who delivered the feedback well enough to know their true intention, but nevertheless that email got my mind rolling down a dangerous and unhealthy path.

And on some level I also found myself feeling some anger about it. Who was this person to do nothing but complain. They didn’t have to make all the contacts to set all this up.  They didn’t have to deal with old equipment that didn’t work right.  They hadn’t spent hours preparing and practicing.  My mind got stuck cycling between the anger and insecurity I was feeling after reading that email.  I had to force myself to close my email and walk away for a few hours.  Okay…until the next day actually.  I needed to let it go, to give myself time to put it into perspective.  So I went home and meditated on it a bit  (after my mind seemed to fixate on it for a while though).  I needed to distance myself from the content, reflect on what were valid concerns (like the sound issues), what was perhaps an issue of someone not reading previous emails and then complaining that they didn’t know something, and what were areas where we truly could work on and improve.  That time away to reflect, rather than immediately responding to the email, was essential I believe so I could respond in a more loving way.  I needed to do that so I could loving accept the person and the feedback and move forward in a more positive way.

And now, after processing it, I realized one additional thing – I really just want people to say whatever they have to say with a little love. I would prefer they land the plane softly. Otherwise it feels like people assume we intentionally screwed something up, like we went out of my way to do something they didn’t like – which of course is not usually the intention or case.  In reality I believe it’s a communication thing, which is a good thing because that is something that’s fixable moving forward.  It is a learning moment.  But I also realize my desire for people to say it a bit more softly is likely a pipe dream and that in reality I need to hone my skills in the area of personal development so that when I do receive difficult feedback it doesn’t make me want to run and hide.  Perhaps by modeling that which I wish to see others do I will influence some portion of the population to be more gentle and loving with their words.

And so to close today’s blog, I offer a few words of encouragement to those giving feedback – don’t operate from a viewpoint that someone intentionally did it “wrong”, but instead offer suggestions from the heart with the intention that everyone benefits. And to those receiving the feedback – don’t respond to difficult feedback right away, rather give yourself time to process it properly and find a way to respond (if a response is even necessary) that is productive and of service to all involved.

Surrendering

I just wanted to scream. You know, the kind of scream that originates in your toes and flows all the way up through your body. The kind of scream that hurts to the point of feeling good.  That kind of scream.  Yes, that is what I felt compelled to do.  Just let it all out with one giant scream.    Wait.  I wanted to curl up into a ball and pretend like no one could see me.  That none of this was real.  That this was all just a bad dream.  A really bad dream.  Yes, that was what I wanted to do.  Disappear.  Pretend it wasn’t happening.

Ever feel that way? I am sure you have. In fact, I am sure we all have at one time or another.  And I am also fairly certain we have all experienced those feelings repeatedly.  My most recent rendezvous with those feelings just happened to be this past week.  I had to throw up the flag.  I had to admit it can’t all be done, that I can’t do it all, and then I had to come to peace with that realization (something my perfectionist self did not like at all).

What it came down to was this – there were simply not enough physical hours this past week to get everything done that needed to be done at work, so work bled over into my personal time. That meant a lot of my personal stuff got dropped, rescheduled, etc. Sleep was lost, activities had to be cancelled, my meditation practice and my morning routine got skipped most days, my In Box was overflowing, and my weekly blog didn’t get published for the first time since I started it over a year and a half ago.  I was feeling exhausted and out of control.  I started to feel like a failure for not getting to everything, for having to cancel things, for not being good enough in general, for dropping the ball on my meditation practice, for not getting my weekly blog published, etc.  It was a vicious, unproductive, ego-based cycle that was not serving me.  Arrgghh!!  I had to hit the “make it stop now” button.  I had to pause, breathe, and get re-centered.  I needed to figure out why things felt so out of whack.  And so after spending some time chatting with a good friend and refocusing on what was really important, I had what I needed in order to understand the problem and let go of it.

The problem, as it turned out, is that I stopped honoring the boundaries I set for myself and for my daily life. I got lax with them and the net result was a state of unrest and imbalance that thoroughly wrecked my world for the better part of a week. Truth be told it will take the better part of this current week to fully rebound, but rebound I will because the alternative is not only unpleasant, but it doesn’t serve me or anyone in my life.

So my big lesson this past week was all about learning to surrender (okay I should really say it was remembering to surrender). Surrendering to the knowledge that I will occasionally neglect the boundaries I set for myself (it just happens on occasion). Surrendering to the fact that my ego-mind will sometimes win a few of the battles.  Surrendering to the idea of asking for and accepting help from my friends and colleagues.  Surrendering to what I cannot control and to the fact that I am human.  It really, truly is exhausting trying to hold on to all of it.  Hard as it can seem sometimes, surrendering it really is the better choice.

Special Places

There are places in this world that just seem to resonate with us in ways we may not always be able to explain. These are the places that help us “find ourselves”. We usually refer to them as our “happy places”.  They are the places that often “feel like home” to us in ways that nowhere else does.  Time in those places help us to refocus, to remember what’s important in life, to reconnect with ourselves, and to relax.  We can’t wait to be in these places, and we absolutely hate to leave them, doing so usually while kicking and screaming (either literally or at the very least mentally).  We all have such a place.  It may be a physical address or building, or it may be some place more general like a tropical island or the mountains, but either way, we all have such a place.  Just pause for a moment, right now, close your eyes, and picture that place in your mind.  Recall how it makes you feel.  Just breathe it in for a moment.  Allow those feelings to come back to you in this moment of reflection.  It feels so good, doesn’t it?

For me, that special place is the beach. Any beach really, so long as it is warm. The feeling of the sand between my toes, the rhythmic sound of the ocean, the relaxing feel of the breeze on my face…these are some of the things about the beach that call to me.  Time there helps me to refocus my life, to remember what’s most important, to reconnect with myself and my dreams, to relax, and to re-establish that sense of calm in my life which I appreciate so much.

It is in these places and at these times when life gets a bit clearer and we start to see the areas of our life that could use a little adjustment. We can sit back, away from the normal daily chaos in our lives, and reflect on things like:

  1. What about my life is working right now? What about it do I really like?
  2. What about my life is not working right now? What about it do I not like so much?
  3. What am I willing to commit to in order to have more of what is working in my life/less of what is not working in my life?
  4. How do I keep this clarity about my life when I go back?
  5. What can I do differently in my daily life to maintain this feeling?

Maintaining the feelings, the clarity, and/or the calm that you experience in your special place can be accomplished after you leave that place, though a conscious effort is needed on your part. Taking the time to ask the questions listed above is a great place to start, but that is only the beginning. You have to actively work to make the changes you committed to once you return home.  You have to take the steps you identified when answering the 5 questions above in order to maintain the life you identified as desirable when you did that reflection.  With practice and perseverance, living that way will become your new habit, but until then you have to become aware of the times when you slip back into your old habits and then work diligently to pull yourself out of them.

Reflection for the purpose of awareness is the first step. Taking consistent action is the second step. Together you can create a life anywhere that resembles the one you have when you are in your special place.

Thinking vs. Feeling Your Feelings

I was recently talking with a friend about the topic of feeling your feelings vs. thinking your feelings. Then I began seeing things on social media these past few weeks on this topic as well. Clearly it is time to write a little something about it.

This is certainly something most, if not all, of us are guilty of doing. I know I have become a super star in the field of thinking my feelings instead of feeling them. I think in many ways we are trained by society to do this…to think our feelings rather than actually feeling them.  First of all, there is no time to stop and feel anything.  There are too many things to do and never enough hours in the day (both personally and professionally), so merely thinking our feelings is much more efficient and fits better with our lifestyle in today’s world.  Plus, to actually feel feelings usually gets translated into you being weak (a common perception we ascribe to people who take the time to feel their feelings).

Thinking your feelings vs actually feeling them is easier, neater, cleaner, and nicer for everyone involved in the process. We just think about them and move on – it is that simple. Feeling them, on the other hand, requires that we get messy and deeply experience emotions we don’t like (pain, loss, sorrow, regret, etc.).  Feeling our feelings can take time and can uncover more things for you to address too.  It just is not convenient or efficient by today’s standards.

In addition to thinking our feelings, we are also quite good at talking about them rather than feeling them. Many people think because they have talked about them they have processed them (and therefore felt them), but that is not necessarily the case. If the talking about the feelings is more of a venting or complaining session then you are not processing/feeling them.  Granted, talking about your feelings may be more of a step toward feeling them than just thinking them is, but you still haven’t felt them in most cases if you are just talking about them.  Talking about them can even help you push them farther away making it harder to be able to feel them.

Feeling them takes time and can be inconvenient in this fast paced, modern world. We are expected to handle things gracefully and not show emotion in many avenues of life. There are such high expectations for all of us (real, imagined,s or self-imposed).  The question to ask is are you just finding ways to cope with your feelings or are you actually allowing yourself to feel them?  Are you getting by without feeling them?  Are you burying them and moving on?  If you are doing any of those things, they are still there.  They haven’t gone away, though we tell ourselves that they have.

“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” – Jim Morrison

We have to learn to address them for good. If you don’t feel them they get buried deep inside of you and can manifest inside you in the form of an illness or it can negatively impact your life externally via your relationships, etc. We need to feel and process them so they dissipate, otherwise they build up and get worse.

Let them out, express them, feel them, own them, and above all take action. Do something active with your emotions so you can truly feel them and work through them – journal, cry, draw, punch a pillow, etc. Find ways that work for you, but by all means take the time to really, truly feel your feelings.

It may get darker before it gets lighter but real growth and transformation can only come through allowing yourself to feel those feelings inside of you. True light only can come if you let yourself feel your feelings and you work through your stuff.

Closing One Chapter, Starting A New One

Normally I only blog once a week, but I just really felt moved to share my experience today as I brought closure to one chapter in my life. This might be the most open and vulnerable piece I have written so far…maybe it isn’t, but it sure feels like it as I am sitting here writing this because I’m “deep in the weeds” with all these emotions at the moment.

What a bittersweet day! It was the final day in my house. I sold it and tomorrow is settlement so today was my last day at the house.  Before it was my house it was my grandparents’ house.  I grew up there – every Sunday evening and every holiday we would gather there for family dinner.  After it was my grandparents’ house it became the house my ex-husband and I shared for several years before our divorce, and then it became just my house.   There are lots and lots of memories in that house, so it is hard to say goodbye.

What an intense mix of emotions I felt as I walked through the now empty house one final time. Sad but exciting. Happy but heart-wrenching.  Cathartic but depressing.  It is hard to fathom that any single event can evoke so many contrasting and powerful emotions.  I took time to walk around the property and take some photos, to sit in each room, to remember, to feel, and to acknowledge my emotions and how I was feeling.  The final thing I did before I walked out the front door for the last time was to reclaim my energy and to send blessings to the home and new owners.  It was a type of prayer-like ritual I did because it felt like the right thing to do – to take back my energy from the space, to make it clean/pure for the new owners and send them blessings to them and the life they will have in that wonderful space.

It was hard to leave, but it is a necessary step for me to reach the exciting goals I have for my newly imagined, post-divorce self.  It is time for me to move on from here, while it is simultaneously time for someone else to begin making new memories here. And so it is.

“Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season.“ – Henry Cloud

One additional thought to share on this topic – a great resource on this topic actually. As some of you may already know, I enjoy listening to numerous podcasts, but one of my absolute favorites is The RobCast hosted by Rob Bell. In one of his most recent podcasts he talked about the seasons of our lives.  It was very well done and it came at the perfect time for me, just one week before moving day.  If this topic of closing one chapter of your life to start a new one (the changing seasons in your life as Rob Bell describes it), then I highly recommend you check out that episode here – it is that good.

Boundaries

By definition they are dividing lines, and while not all boundaries are literal lines they all do certainly denote a division of some sort. There are many kinds of boundaries, but the kind I am talking about today are the healthy, personal ones – the ones we have (or at least should have) in our own lives that help us take care of our own selves.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.“ ― Brené Brown

We need to have personal boundaries for many reasons…to maintain our personal space, to uphold our personal beliefs and morals, as well as to take proper care of ourselves. Healthy boundaries allow us to not only take care of ourselves, but to take better care of others around us as well. And we set a good example to others when you have these healthy boundaries for ourselves.  By setting clear boundaries in our own lives we lead others in the arena of self-care by example.

“You best teach others about healthy boundaries by enforcing yours.” ― Bryant McGill

I am sure you have all heard the airplane oxygen mask analogy – secure your own mask before assisting others with theirs. Why? Because if you don’t it is very likely neither of you will end up with an oxygen mask on.  And there is also the old adage of “nothing pours from an empty pitcher”.  If you are drained, if you don’t care for yourself first and foremost, you will having nothing to give to others no matter how much you might wish to give or be of service to them.  The bottom line is that you can’t help others if not honoring your own needs first.  It really is that simple.

“Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring (just) because I don’t do things your way. I care about me, too.” ― Christine Morgan

But suddenly having boundaries where there were none before can be problematic, let’s be honest. If you allow your friend to always be late and then suddenly want to hold them accountable to their promised arrival time, or if you always cook or clean or do laundry without assistance despite what your day or week at work has been like and then suddenly expect your spouse or children to help, or if you always allow someone to speak down to you and then suddenly stand up for yourself…you can imagine it isn’t going to go over well. So how to we make that change?  How do we set boundaries with the people in our lives if we have gone for so long without them?  The answer is actually quite simple – you tell them your expectations and boundaries.  That’s right, it comes down to good old fashioned communication.  You honestly explain how you have allowed this for so long but are no longer okay with it being that way, and you tell them why it is no longer okay with you.  When explained gently most people will respect your desire for new boundaries and will work hard to try and meet them.  It’s when we just introduce them without warning or explanation that we often experience difficult resistance.  So as with all things in any relationship, just make sure you communicate it clearly.

“We can say what we need to say. We can gently, but assertively, speak our mind. We do not need to be judgmental, tactless, blaming or cruel when we speak our truths.” ― Melody Beattie

Boundaries give you permission to live and do things you enjoy while also not giving away all of your power to others. As Gerard Manley Hopkins once said, “Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices.” Think for a moment about your boundaries with different groups of people – spouse/significant other, children, parents, siblings, neighbors, boss, colleagues, etc.  What do you allow or tolerate that you really aren’t okay with?  What do you wish would change?  Where do you need to do some work on your boundaries?  Where do you need to create boundaries?

Here’s a quick summary of the process that I have personally found helpful for setting boundaries and for sharing them with others:

  1. Think of areas in your life where you currently feel stressed mistreated, etc.. Of those areas, are there any where you would feel better if you set boundaries? For example, if you said no more often or if you stood up for your personal needs or beliefs?
  2. Once you identify the ways in which you can add boundaries, then begin to add those new boundaries into your life. Introducing them one at a time helps both you and those around acclimate to this change.
  3. Explain your new boundaries to the people in your life who will be impacted by them. Use gentle words and be sure to make the explanation about your needs, not about them personally or about something they have done wrong. Making it about your needs helps them understand and in most cases people will respect and support your wishes, while making it about them will put them on the defensive.
  4. Reassess your boundaries often because they will need to change as you and your life change.

Let go of the voices in your head and all the conditioning from childhood that tells you to continually sacrifice everything for others regardless of the impact it has on you. Set boundaries for your life and hold to them. Not only will you feel better as a result of doing so, you will be able to show up in your life and in the lives of others in a more meaningful and impactful way.

“Speak in your own voice about the things that matter to you.” ― Marty Rubin