Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays!

The funny thing about the holiday season is that it is so easy to get caught up in the details and forget everybody just wants to enjoy each other's company.  Nothing else really matters.
I am sure you have heard or read this before, but it's not a bad thing to reread during the holidays just as a reminder.
Happy Holidays!
“IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER" by Erma Bombeck 
I would have talked less and listened more. 

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. 
I would have eaten the popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. 
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth. 
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. 
I would have burned the pink candle sculped like a rose before it melted 
in storage. 
I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. 
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more 
while watching life. 
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day. 
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. 
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment, realising that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. 
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." 
There would have been more "I love you's" and more "I'm sorry's" 
. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . . 
look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.” 

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Lesson I Learned from Laryngitis

Before I got married, I remember dating a guy I thought was terrific.  I met him on vacation and, of course, we talked a great deal at the beginning.  But, after a day or so, I started to get laryngitis.  We continued to spend time together and it seemed as if he liked me more and more.  Because I couldn’t talk, I started to spend a lot of time nodding and smiling.  He seemed to like that and I didn’t have much choice at the time, so I went with it.
When I finally got my voice back and I started talking (and definitely having opinions), he seemed shocked and not thrilled that I was someone different than he had thought.
It was sort of a surprise to both of us.  He hadn’t realized what my personality was really like and I hadn’t realized he was the kind of guy that didn’t like my personality.
The reason I bring this up is that sitting there unable to talk, I lost a little of my confidence.  It seemed sometimes as if I became what the situation called for, not necessarily my true self.  
I really like this description of confidence that I read on the blog, Puttylike:
Confidence is having absolute assurance in yourself. It’s trusting that your character will carry you through situations, and it’s the belief that you have the personal power necessary to change your life and the world.
Conversely, a lack of confidence means a lack of power. When you’re feeling insecure, you feel helpless, weak, unsure of yourself. You also become reliant on external validation. Other people’s opinions mean a lot. Behaviorally, this means that you take fewer risks, you don’t express yourself, you take up the minimum amount of physical space, follow others, and so on.
Your confidence fluctuates throughout the day, depending on what you’re doing, where you are, and who you’re around. If you happen to be around someone who makes you uncomfortable (either because they themselves lack confidence and are judging you, or because you simply perceive them to be judging you), there’s a good chance that your confidence will wane.
And when your confidence wanes, you begin to take on the traits of an insecure person. You begin to embody passivity and powerlessness. You get silent and become disconnected from your needs, thoughts and emotions. You may hear other people’s voices and opinions in your head, but it’s hard to distinguish those from your own.”
I may have just lost my voice on that vacation, but I began to lose my identity and become less than who I was.  It’s tempting sometimes to not allow your full self to come through as it can make relationships easier, but I have found that those relationships where you cannot be yourself are not worth being in no matter what part of life they reside.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I Like Being the Age That I Am

Recently, I attended an event called “Girls in Tech”.  Four women in their mid-twenties talked about how they had each started their businesses which have all been quite successful.  They had created “start-ups” from the very beginning and had worked extremely hard over the last few years.  There was no question these were very successful women in the world of business.
Though I was in awe of their accomplishments, there was a little something that bothered me. There was this pervasive feeling among these women that other women had abandoned them.  Most of these entrepreneurs had graduated from Harvard or Stanford Business school and they were lamenting how their female peers from business school had stopped working or were working on a more low key level to have a more balanced life with their families.
One of the women was basically disgusted and suggested that she would never give up what she is doing or lessen her duties for her potential spouse or children.  She KNEW what she was going to do and how she was going to do it.  Oddly enough, there was no talk of how difficult it can be for women these days to find flexibility and balance in their juggling of work and family.
A decade ago, her comments would have really annoyed me.  I would have stood up and told her not to judge other women for their choices when she has no idea what they are dealing with and that she has no idea what is ahead for her.  
But, I am a little older now and, believe it or not, calmer.
What I heard from the dogmatic entrepreneur was “I know it all”.  What I know now is I know one thing for sure:  I don’t know it all.
What I feel comfortable saying from my “years” of experience living is that I was one of those women in my mid-twenties and now I am not.  I knew it all or thought I did. Now, I know that many things happen in life that you don’t expect and you didn’t plan for and that you learn to deal with them.  I know that other people have that happen as well, so you can’t really judge other people’s decisions because you have no idea what is behind those decisions, not to mention, those choices are theirs and not yours.
What was fascinating to me was hearing the tech women speak with such certainty about how they will live their lives and how others “should” be.  It was also very freeing to know that you really don’t know what is ahead and living your own life less dogmatically and also judging others less harshly feels a lot more peaceful. 
In the end, I am very happy to be the age that I am and to know that I have learned some important lessons along the way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Art of Learning

I am obsessively drawn to insatiably, curious people.  I love people who are always learning new things.  They enhance my life and make me feel incredibly young.
As I look for new directions for myself, careerwise and other, I find that these types of people give me hope and energy.  They are all ages and both genders.  When you find someone who is crazy curious about life and learning new things, I say, “Grab them!”.  
Grab them, watch them, spend time with them, and learn from them.
The more I am with people like this, the more I believe that learning new things and being open to learning new things are the keys to staying mentally young.
I love this article, “The Art of Learning”, from the Think Simple Now blog.  Here is a snippet. You can read the full article online.

“In the 20 minutes of witnessing learning in full effect at the Apple Store, I felt deeply inspired. The man, although had 50 years on me, carried the energetic spirit of an 18-year-old.
Perhaps we take for granted the opportunity to learn, to evolve with change, to expand & grow, and to challenge ourselves to see the details of life with new wonderment.
Maybe we miss an empowering conversation in the grocery story line because we are too busy thinking about the next three errands ahead.
Or we miss the chance to reframe a current, frustrating situation with a friend’s refreshing perspective because keeping-in-touch hasn’t been a priority.
Or we miss the opportunity to deepen our compassion for a family member who needs us because we haven’t picked up the phone in months—simply to ask, “Hey, how’ve you been? What’s new?
Or the book, the class, the certification, the travel adventure we’ve decided to put off until tomorrow because it’s easier to delay than to take action.
When we decide to put off events, conversations, and the opportunity to life-learn, we also take for granted the amazing people, teachers, and lessons available in our expansive world, ready to arm us with more vibrant, meaningful experiences.
Today, we can choose to open our thoughts, perspective, and time to create space for growth—our own growth.”


Monday, October 03, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

I want to be more patient NOW!  I am so envious of patient people.  When I get really excited about something, I don’t like waiting.  Patient people seem calmer and able to take things more in stride.
In the following article, “How to Be More Patient”*, the author analyzes what’s behind being impatient.  I like his take on it because it helped me change my view of life, not just learn how to wait for things to happen.
As he describes below, if you truly feel as if you can handle whatever comes your way, you lose the angst that comes with impatience.
I would add to the article that not clinging to expectations of what “should” happen is very helpful as well. If you are not attached to any particular outcome, whatever happens, works.  
None of this is easy because many times we are changing life long tendencies; but, it’s never too late to start.

“If you know the root cause behind the issue or problem, you can target it and rather than just quiet the problem, completely destroy it.
Patience is clearly linked to someone’s level of confidence. Impatience usually appears when one feels let down, when you don't feel in control, or perhaps feel that your hands are tied. You want something to happen now, but you cannot seem to do anything to speed things up. A person with plentiful levels of confidence will accept the situation as it is; they will not fight it or rail against it. Rather, they will work with it.
Patience gives you confidence and confidence allows a person to see a situation clearly and to look for different options.
As you begin to think you can do something, you find a way to do it. When you think you cannot do something, you do not even look for those options and opportunities; this leads to frustration and frequent waves of impatience.
If you want to actually become more patient, you must become more confident about who you are, and believe that even if things go wrong, you will be ready to tackle the problems head on."
*I have taken the liberty of editing this article.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Complain to Win—Not to Feel Worse

I have been known to complain...yes, it has happened.  As I was reading the article that is linked below, I was struck by the simplicity of the comment, "The first step to effective complaining is deciding if you truly want a concrete result or if you just need emotional validation".  I never thought about how important that concept is.  
Below is a short part of this excellent article from Psychology Today called "The Art of Influence".  If you get the chance to read the whole article, I highly suggest it.  I have highlighted the part on the "art of proper complaining", but the other sections on "motivating others", and "how to be a great leader" are very helpful as well.
Kvetch, Bitcher, Debbie Downer: No one likes a chronic complainer, and we've got multiple derogatory terms to prove it. But if you master the art of effective complaining, you'll get what you want while carping less often, says Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem.
Complaining at inappropriate times (when other people are in the spotlight, for example, or when they are focused on issues bigger than yours) can make you look selfish and could further prevent you from being heard. And complaining excessively about one situation can snowball into rumination—anxious and repetitive thoughts that trigger depression.
The first step to effective complaining, then, is deciding if you truly want a concrete result or if you just need emotional validation. The former calls for a complaint; the latter, a vent. Ideally, your interlocutor should know that as well, since trying to "fix" a problem someone else just wants to cry about can cause a meta-argument worse than the original annoyance.
If you decide you want to lodge a complaint, make a plan, says Winch. First, determine exactly what you want to achieve (don't let someone else pick a reparation). Then, figure out who has the ability to provide what you want, and finally, ascertain the best way to get that person to give it to you. Though it's all very logical, in the heat of frustration people usually lash out at the first body in sight. Winch recommends moving from the easiest complaint to the hardest when working on problem-solving skills.
When people receive a grievance, they naturally grow defensive. They might even throw the issue back at you, further dialing up your emotions. That's why you need to be extra nice, against your instincts. "This is the existential dilemma of the complaint," Winch says. "Do you want to be right, or do you want to get a good result?"
One way to avert the downward spiral of defensiveness is to make what Winch calls a "complaint sandwich." The top slice of bread—the first thing you should write in a letter or say to a person—is the "ear-opener," which prevents the target of your complaint from feeling attacked. The "meat" of the sandwich is the specific complaint or request for redress, and the bottom slice is the "digestive," or a positive, grateful statement reinforcing the idea that you are a reasonable person worthy of help.
After suffering through months of loud construction from a building site near his apartment, Winch delivered a complaint sandwich to his landlord. He started off by saying how much he loves the building and appreciates the great job the management company does. Then he asked for a decrease in his rent, in order to make up for the blow to his productivity as a writer, caused by the incessant noise. Finally, he added that he understood that the noise was in no way the landlord's fault, but thought he would be concerned about its effect on his tenants. The result? A rent reduction for six months.

Monday, September 05, 2011

How to Avoid Procrastinating

I would love to say I do not procrastinate, but I do.  Not all the time, but enough to cause me to want to change this part of myself.  
Here is a clever piece from Leo Babauta who writes the insightful blog, Zen Habits, and is also the author of The Little Guide to Un-Procrastination.
Oh, by the way, I am writing this post to avoid having to do something I know I should be doing.
Happy Labor Day!
‘Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.’ ~William James
Your first thought as you look at this article will be, “I’ll read this later.”
But don’t. Let the urge to switch to a new task pass. Read this now.
It’ll take you two minutes. It’ll save you countless hours.
I’ve written the book on ending procrastination, but I’ve since come up with a very simple technique for beating everyone’s favorite nemesis. It is incredibly easy, but as with anything, it takes a little practice.
Try it now:
Identify the most important thing you have to do today.

Decide to do just the first little part of it — just the first minute, or even 30 seconds of it. Getting started is the only thing in the world that matters.
Clear away distractions. Turn everything off. Close all programs. There should just be you, and your task.
Sit there, and focus on getting started. Not doing the whole task, just starting.
Pay attention to your mind, as it starts to have urges to switch to another task. You will have urges to check email or Facebook or Twitter or your favorite website. You will want to play a game or make a call or do another task. Notice these urges.
But don’t move. Notice the urges, but sit still, and let them pass. Urges build up in intensity, then pass, like a wave. Let each one pass.
Notice also your mind trying to justify not doing the task. Also let these self-rationalizing thoughts pass.
Now just take one small action to get started. As tiny a step as possible.
Get started, and the rest will flow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Geometry and the "Whats" and the "Hows"

When I was in high school, I was a pretty good math student.  Unfortunately, I need my calculator to figure out the tip now, but anyway....I used to be an “A” student in this area.
I particularly loved Geometry because the answers seemed to fit so neatly in place if you could just figure out the right “formula” to use.  Once you found the right formula, you just plugged things in and it worked.  I loved the simplicity of it.
I had a very patient Geometry teacher who would put up with my daily ritual at the end of each class.  With no syllabus as in college, I asked the same question every day at the end of class, “what are we doing next, Mr. Saito?”
He would smile and, I guess because I was a good student (and I offered to be one of the only girls in the math club...mostly so I could make cookies for our math meets), he would tell me what was next.
I needed to know what was next....every day.  Now that’s a control freak, but it’s how I made things work.  The “what” was my goal of getting a good grade in the class.  The “how” was knowing what was next so I could read ahead and not be surprised by anything.  I never wanted to be caught off guard.
So, I read this piece that I have summarized below and it made me realize that in life, you might know the “what”, that is, your dream or vision or goal.  Most of the time, you don’t know the “how”.  You may think you do, but things always seem to surprise us. 
In a way, if you know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s not much fun.  It’s more secure, but it’s not real and it’s not living or growing.
Life is not Geometry and though that can make me very anxious sometimes, riding the waves, if you let yourself, can be a much more wonderful experience.

As Tara writes below, if you spend too much time worrying about the “how”, you may never get to the “what”.

The Whats and The Hows

Goals have "what-questions" and "how-questions." "What-questions" are questions like these: What is my dream? What do I want? What would be fulfilling, amazing, thrilling? Who do I want to be?
"How-questions" include questions like these: How will I get there? What is my strategy? How long will it take? How much money will I need? What resources, skills, or partners will I need?

In short, the what is about what you want to create. The how is about how you'll get there.

Here's what happens to many of us: the minute we start thinking about "the what" we get attacked by thoughts about "the how." That lovely, inspiring idea or dream strikes. We start thinking about it, painting the picture in our mind, basking in it, enjoying it. Then, the how thoughts descend--often in a fearful tone--and overwhelm us.

Put The Hows on Hold
Early on, "the how" is opaque, confusing. It is absolutely an unknown. Contrary to what we think, we need to tread into how-territory carefully and consciously, in order to protect our vision and inspiration.

Whatever how-questions showed up with your goals, try putting them on hold for a while. Just spend time with your vision.
For most of us, how-thinking, done too early, kills vision and inspiration. Baby dreams have a gestation period, and how-thinking is a toxic substance for them.

 When Is It Time to Move On to the How?

You'll know. It's time to approach the hows when you feel really connected to the what. When you do introduce how thinking, ask yourself two questions:
1.  Am I inviting in how-thinking or is it attacking me?
2.  What's the tone of my how thinking? How-thinking can be done with fear and worry, or it can be done from a place of commitment and creativity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to Move Beyond Fear

I think fear is one of the most difficult things to deal with and prevents us from making important changes in our lives.
The author below, Jonathan Mead from the Illuminated Mind blog, does an excellent job of discussing ways to rethink fear.
Sometimes I think about what I would do if fear wasn’t getting in my way. And the way I would be living terrifies me.
Throughout the evolution of my life and Illuminated Mind, I realize that when I was doing great things, I was nearly always scared.
Doing things beyond your known powers creates a deep sense of uncertainty. What if it doesn’t work? is usually the dominant thought circling through my brain. In fact, I can’t remember a time where this hasn’t been the case.
Sometimes I would let the fear keep me from doing what I wanted. But in most cases, I took action anyway. And somewhere along the way I realized that most of my fears weren’t based on reality, or even trepidation based on what I’d experienced in the past.
I started to learn that I wasn’t very good at predicting when something bad would happen.
With all fears, we think there are potential negative repercussions. If we take action or move forward, something bad might happen. So we stall, or make up all sorts of reasons why we can’t do it now. There’s always someday, right? (It seems that we act as if we’ll live forever.)
You can always wait until you have more resources, more confidence, more certainty.
But what if none of those things are getting in your way? What if you could do what you want, right now and nothing bad happened?
It’s hard to consider that thought seriously.
Every time I’ve taken a leap of faith, a net appeared. These days, I try to remember that I’m not very good at predicting what will happen, so I try to just wait and see.
The “smart” part of me wants to analyze the best course of action and come up with lots of reasons why I should wait, plan, or stall. Sometimes I listen. But most of the time I try to listen to the foolish beginner in me that doesn’t know what is or isn’t possible. He seems naive and dense, but he figures it out as he goes along, and everything turns out okay.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sports and Life's Lessons

I am surrounded by sports.  My sons live and breathe sports.  Sometimes, it drives me crazy, but I love them, so I have to love sports. 
The truth is sports, in many ways, are much like the game of life. 
With that in mind, I just watched a great interview with Andrew Luck, the quarterback for Stanford.  He is a very mature man with great poise and wisdom beyond his years.
He was talking about being a leader and the type of person you have to be and the kind of actions you must display.
I think this quote is an excellent way to live your life.
Luck said that he tried to lead with this thought in mind, “What you do is so loud, I can’t hear what you say”.
It really is true.  No matter what comes out of a person’s mouth, it is their actions that tell all.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The No. 1 Contributor to Happiness

This passage is from the Bouncing Back blog by Karen Salmansohn.  The full article can be found on the Psychology Today site.  
“Guess what's been reported to be the number one contributor to happiness?
Money? No. Good looks? Nope. Popularity? Still nope. A hot sex life? Guess again!
According to a report by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, all these mentioned life goodies were topped by the biggest life goodie of them all: "autonomy" - defined as"the feeling that your life - its activities and habits -- are self-chosen and self-endorsed."
This makes sense, when you take a moment to contemplate how lovely autonomy can make you feel - and how miserable its absence can make you. In fact, when you're upset about something in your life - a love break up, a job problem, your weight - it's usually because you're feeling as if you're no longer in control of this area your life and bigtime lacking autonomy. Indeed, much of what creates sadness, anger, regret, disappointment - all these bad boy emotions - is having a feeling of being "autonomy-challenged"!
Researcher Angus Campbell emphatically endorses the perks of autonomy. "Having a strong sense of controlling one's life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered," says Campbell.
A University of Michigan nationwide survey also sings the praises of autonomy - reporting how the 15% of Americans who claimed they felt "in control of their lives" also raved about having "extraordinarily positive feelings of happiness."
All of this reminds me of that now famous study on on those mice who researchers either gave cheese or electric shocks - no matter what these mice did. Purposefully these researchers created no logic to when the mice would be rewarded with cheese or punished with electric shocks. After a while, these mice eventually learned that their actions had no effect on their environment, and they lapsed into a state of passive listlessness and depression. Even when the experiment changed over, and the mice were given autonomy to avoid the electric shocks or gain more cheese, the mice were so depressed, they just lay there, choosing not to do anything at all!
Luckily, unlike a mouse, you as a human have that terrific homo sapien perk called "consciousness." Meaning? You know better not to give up, even after your autonomy has been temporarily challenged. You know after a difficult time, you can take back the control you have over your life!
How to begin? Psychologists suggest if you want to resiliently bounce back after a sideswiping, that you slowly increase your "internal locus of control" - the power you have to make easy, small changes. Studies even show that all you have to do is take control of a few small actions - and you'll be on your way to feeling like the master of your destiny once again.”
Happy 4th of July!