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Posts Tagged ‘Choices’

Money & You and all personal development programs are obviously about change.  In coaching, we say that for a client to be able to change, they must first be aware.  Aware of their patterns, aware of their blocks, aware of their goals, vision and destination.

For some people, the desire to change, learn and grow is innate.  There’s an ever-present desire to improve.  For others, that desire doesn’t come until there’s enough pain or a big enough reason that creates a NEED to change…right…now.

The next step is to take stock of where you are right now.  If you want to become financially abundant, the first thing you need to know is what your current financial status is.  If you want to want to lose weight, you need to know what your current eating habits are…how many calories you typically eat in a day.  You get the idea.

Once you understand your starting point, it’s time to pick a destination, some milestones along the way, and chart a route.   Let’s say you want to be earning $100,000 a year, and your current income is $50,000.  Your milestones might be 60K and 75K.  Your route is the financial model you’ll use to get there.  What are your revenue streams?  What might you add?  What can you do to increase your income?  This is the time to not censor yourself and think creatively.

Now do your homework.  Decide what you need….what kind of support, funding, partners, resources, training, services?  This step is important regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight, change a habit, learn a language or make more money.

Finally, it’s time to take action.  Start with little steps.  Don’t get stuck in the trap of endless preparation. Stop trying to change. That won’t move you forward.  Take action, and then take another, and another.    As Jedi Master Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

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I was talking to my friend Natalie Tucker Miller and we talked about how summer was ending, meaning a return to “normal” after residing in a summer state of mind.  Here’s the thing though…we both work for ourselves.  We don’t have to work Monday-Friday, 9-5.  We can choose when, where and how we work.  We could have a summer state of mind all year!

What is a summer state of mind?

Well, at it’s most literal, it’s long days of daylight, barbecues and picnics, no school, and summer vacations.  But really it’s a mindset, I believe hearkening back to our own school days when summer meant freedom.  Pushing open those doors on that last day of school meant endless days of adventure, play and day-dreaming.

It’s no wonder that even when we’re all grown up, leading responsible lives, we still see summer as a time to slow down the pace and step up enjoyment of life.  So what’s to stop us from doing that all year long?

I’m thinking that we could learn a lot from children about how to live in a summer state of mind.  Every day would bring the opportunity to have an adventure, look at life with curiosity, discover new things, savor an ice cream cone–one slow lick at a time.  We’d look for every opportunity to laugh and tell silly stories and jokes.  Ask our friends to come out and play.  We’d try to catch the rain with our tongue, step into puddles to see them ripple, and dance barefoot in the grass. We’d live in the moment…reveling in the sun, watching the clouds, swinging in a hammock with no cares.  Most important, we’d view life with a “why not” attitude, believing all things were possible.

So come Labor Day in the U.S. I’m going to embrace being a grown-up and act like a child with a summer state of mind all year long.

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I find myself saying one thing over and over to people:  “don’t beat yourself up.”  Why is is that people are so determined to blame themselves for every little perceived failing?  We beat ourselves up when we deviate from our diet, forget to call someone, or don’t do something perfectly.

It’s counterproductive.  When you lay blame at your own doorstep, it’s de-motivating.  It’s what causes dieters to self-sabotage and end their healthy eating just because they had a donut, or a bad day.  It makes people stop pursuing a goal, just because they didn’t get it right the first time.  It leads to stress, unhappiness and a pandemic of low self-esteem.

So I am asking you, right now, to stop doing it.  Stop beating yourself up.

The very next time you find yourself in blame mode, stop and notice that’s what you’re doing.  Notice the voice speaking to you.  Is it your voice?  A voice from the past telling you you’re no good?  Recognize that whatever voice is it, it’s just not true.  It’s an old tape playing in your head, and you are due for a new one.

Instead of bemoaning that donut you shouldn’t have had, and chastising yourself for not having self-control, recognize how many GOOD choices you have made and congratulate yourself for that.  The one donut or the day of making less than stellar choices were a choice you made, and now you can start where you are and move forward making good choices.  And take the opportunity to learn what you need to do differently the next time.

Learn to accept yourself as you are.  If you begin by loving yourself exactly as you are this moment, you can move forward from there to achieiving the vision you set for yourself.  And when you hear that voice starting to berate you, recognize it as a voice from the past that no longer serves you, and tell it to “hush up.”

One of the things that can help is keeping an acknowledgement journal.  Each day, write down 3-5 things you appreciated about yourself today.  Some days it may be harder to come up with them, but even if you have to write “I got out of bed this morning when I didn’t want to” three times, do it.  Acknowledge yourself for actions, feelings, new thought patterns, breaking habits, good choices, everything you can think of.  If you don’t want to keep a journal, acknowledge yourself out loud instead. Tell yourself what a good job you just did, how nice you were to that colleague, or what a great choice you just made.  Keep doing it so it becomes a habit.

Stop living in the past.  Often, the self-blame relates to past mistakes…divorce, job issues, relationship issues.  Recognize that the past is over.  You can’t continue to dwell there.  Learn from the past, and forgive yourself.  Learn from little children…they make mistakes, fall down, pick themselves up and try again.  That’s how they learn.  They don’t blame themselves for not being perfect.

So the very next time you begin to slip, stop.  Tell yourself that you did the best you could under the circumstances (whatever they were) and decide to do better.  You are human. You’re not perfect.  You will do better the next time. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

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In Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes email this morning he quotes Dan Millman from Everyday Enlightenment:

“The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.”

Not surprisingly, I totally agree.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any actual problems…illness, financial problems, relationship problems are all very real.  What it does mean, is how we think about those problems, how we respond or react to them, will make all the difference in how happy or stressed we are and what actions we choose to take.

If we are open to the opportunities presented by life, we begin to view circumstances as neither positive nor negative, but as opportunities for change, learning and choice.  If we choose to embrace life’s occurrences rather than resist or move into a place of fear, we allow ourselves to “go with the flow” of life, thereby reducing stress, and gaining what Millman calls “everyday enlightenment.”

Case in point:  I had a client who called me one day to tell me that she’d just returned from a business trip to find that her home had just had a major fire.  Her family was fine, but the home was in an unlivable condition.  In that instant she had a choice…to bemoan her fate, or to embrace the opportunity that it presented.  And there was a very clear opportunity for her…she could move into her weekend home and arrange to telecommute to her job part of the time.  While the opportunity or learning from every situation is not always as immediately clear, the choice to embrace each one with a positive outlook is.

Often it’s not even situations that we resist, but change of any kind, whether positive or negative.  We resist change because not only does it upset the the status quo, it also plunges us into the scary unknown.  When faced with change (like your pediatrician retiring to open a toy store in Taos, NM) our first response is to think of how that will negatively impact us (oh no, I have to find or get used to a new doctor, will they be as good, are they taking new patients, will they accept my insurance, will my child like them?)  or how that change may add an extra layer of to-dos (I have to research good pediatricians, ask for people’s experiences with them, make appointments, interview them, get the records moved…)

If instead of resisting, we seek the opportunity and possibilities in each situation, we often find that not only is it far less stressful than resistance, but there is even a benefit (the new doctor’s office is closer, they are more up-to-date, etc.) to looking at things differently.

As with everything, you need to create a new habit to replace an old one.  To create the new habit of not resisting change, start by deliberately embracing change in small ways.  Change the route you take to work, change the way you deal with emails and call someone to respond to a question rather than emailing, hold your phone in your other hand, change the order you do things in the evening.  Once you’ve mastered the art of small changes, you’ll begin to find it easier to weigh your options when situations occur.  And you’re well on your way to “everyday enlightenment.”

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The world is a mess.  The economy hasn’t yet bottomed out.  People are losing jobs, or having hours, benefits and salaries cut. We’re stressed out, overwhelmed, and told it’s just going to get worse before it gets better.  It’s bad news after bad news.  So how can you be happy?

Happiness is a choice.  That’s right, you can choose whether or not you want to be happy despite what’s going on around you.  Some steps you can take to make that choice:

* Practice gratitude.  Whether you are feeling truly grateful or not, practicing gratitude will lift your spirits. Keep a gratitude journal where you list five things you are grateful for each day.  Start each day by mentally listing all the things you are grateful for, even if it’s just that you’ve awakened in a comfortable bed [and if you haven’t…it’s time for a new mattress 😉 ]  or that the sun is shining.

* Practice saying “thank you” to people in your life.  Call a teacher that made a difference in your life.  Let a friend know how much they mean to you. Acknowledge your spouse for all the ways you appreciate who they are and what they do for you.

* Plug into the universe.  Everyone will do this in their own way.  For some it’s relationship to God, for others relationship to nature. Music and dancing is the connection point for some, meditation and prayer for others, while a hike in the woods with all senses working is what works for others.  Find your connection. When you feel connected to spirit, to nature, to every live being in the world, it will change your perspective about the daily challenges we each face.

* Practice compassion.  We often judge people based on the stories we make up about why they are behaving in a certain way.  It’s possible that that “terrible waitress” has a sick child at home and could use a little compassion.

* Unplug from your negative thoughts and counter-productive beliefs.  Just because you have a thought or belief doesn’t mean it’s true or real!

You can choose happiness; the choice is yours.

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Over on Transformational Girlfriends, Susan wrote a post about surviving the holiday season with great suggestions on how to decrease the stress.

I find that for so many folks I work with, the pressure of the holidays (ho ho, oh no) is often about trying to create a fantasy holiday that no lesser human than Martha Stewart could pull off.  I gave that all up years ago.

I think there are just a few things you need to survive the holiday season (which nowadays starts two weeks before Halloween.)

First,  I think is vitally important is to get in touch with what you really want.   Is sending out 100 holiday cards soul-nurturing, or would you really be happier sending a hand written note to a dozen people who really mean something to you? Do you truly enjoy making handmade napkin rings, intricate holiday party invitations, and a five-course sit down dinner for twelve, or would you get more pleasure out of a casual “bring a dish” to brunch gathering? [And there’s no harm in making food that’s “almost homemade” or even pre-cooked. Seriously!]

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to attend every party you are invited to.  You will not be judged by the number of latkes you fry or cookies you bake (Susan, did you really cover an entire extended table with cookies?), nor by the hand-stamped, personalized gift-wrap you use.  If it’s fun….do it.  If it’s not…don’t.

The holidays should be about enjoyment.  Enjoying the music, the friends, the memories you’re creating with your children.  Every time you begin to feel that tightness in your chest, or the throbbing in your head — STOP!!  Look at what you’re doing, and ask yourself why??  And what you could do instead.  Come up with new traditions when the old ones no longer serve you.  Simpler ones.  Communal ones.

Don’t give up on things you value and priorities because “it’s the holidays.”  Too often I see people throw the budget out the window (and deeply regret it in January) because they have to buy expensive gifts (who said?); or they stop doing things that are important to them because of holiday obligations. Doesn’t make much sense.

Above all, keep your sense of humor.  In a season that’s supposed to be about the “ho ho ho”, I’m already seeing a lot of “bah humbug”.  When you come right down to it, what the holidays are all about are family, friends and good feelings.  If you can stay focused on those as your priorities, you’ll arrive at the New Year with your sanity intact.

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