Friday, March 9, 2018

How to Get Shit Done

Nagging Tasks.  They are tasks that you "should" do, but aren't urgent so you keep putting them off because it just seems like soooo much effort to just do it.  I woudl wager that most of the things on our long "To Do" list are nagging tasks.

Things like fixing the caulk around your sink, changing that burnt out light bulb (or light bulbs) or the air filter, finally putting your kids' school pictures in the frame, and dare I say actually hang them on the wall?  It's things like sewing that button back on your favorite shirt (oh, heck with it, it's been five years), cleaning up the pictures on your phone and creating a nice family photo album, or making those recipes you've been saving on Pinterest.  Nagging tasks also could be all those projects that you started and have yet to actually finish.

I have a whole lot of these nagging tasks.  That is the short list I just named, and I can add about 20-100 more things to it.  Nagging tasks are like these annoying gnats swirling around my brain.  I walk by the burnt out light bulb.  The gnat buzzes to the front, and I swat it back as I continue to walk past.  More and more pile up, multiplying.  I swat them away barely acknowledging them because they are small things, and I have more pressing tasks, yet they continuously annoy me on this low grade frequency.  Not like a screaming baby that needs attention now, but rather this constant background noise that builds and builds.

It might seem like theses nagging tasks don't drain you of energy, but every time you walk by that unchanged lightbulb, sigh and think, "I really ought to change that", I am convinced it sucks a little of my life away. Not to mention the guilt that often accompanies all those things you aren't doin but "should" be doing.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that she had a frustrating day, so she was taking her frustrations out by cleaning the leaves out of her pool (qualifies as a nagging task in my book).  I thought, "Wow, what an idea? I take my frustrations out on a Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Ghirardelli Square (or two or three or more - don't judge me!) or some Thin Mints, or even by snapping at a loved one, but not on a nagging task.

Yet, I have to say on those rare occasions when I actually push procrastination aside and "just do it", I get a boost of energy from the accomplishment that usually outweighs the effort it took to get off my butt and do it.  And, it usually doesn't take as much time as I made it out to be in my head.

So, I got a little brave today, and did a brain dump of all the nagging tasks that I have swirling around in the back of my mind, and I wrote them all down (Step 1). 

I walked from room to room taking note of all the little things that needed to be done.  The loose screws in the door knobs that needed to be tightened.  The kids craft shelves that needed to be sorted.  The pictures that we bought on our honeymoon that we still haven't framed. Let's just say, it's a lot of that kind of stuff.  I also captured all the commitments or social things I felt I needed to do, learn, be.  Anything sort of hanging over my head, got written down on the list.

I thought I would be overwhelmed when I wrote it all down, like I can't believe there is so much stuff! Where are those Ghirardelli Chocolates? However, what came with it was more peace of mind.  Like there it really was, in all of it's three page glory.  Know where it wasn't anymore? Swirling around in my mind, taking up valuable real estate and energy.

Next, I divided my list into "Bucket" or "F*ck it" (Step 2)

The "F*ck It" list.   It is a little scary, but it is the most crucial step of all. It's the stuff that I am finally ready to admit that I'm just not going to do.

Here's the hard, cold truth.  You can't do it all.  You might be able to fake it for a while, but it will be at the expense of your sanity, and it's not worth it people.  So, you have to choose what's most important to you, a life or perfection. 

Look, I wish I was the Mom who made homemade, nut-less, dairy free granola bars for my child's soccer team, while looking fabulously pulled together with my perfect hair, right before I rush off to drive little Johnny to his piano lessons in between volunteering to knit socks for the homeless,  make 800 die cuts for my daughter's 3rd grade class, take my soufflĂ© out of the oven and have a martini waiting for my man when he walks through the door, but it ain't going to happen.  I'll settle for washing my hair this week, driving my kids to the one after school activity they really want to do, and pouring myself a glass of wine when I get home while I throw together a salad from a bag and throw some chicken nuggets on top.  Some days that's a win. Not stressing yourself is a win for everyone.

Bucket list items are the those things you actually want or need to get done.  Take a look at these tasks and decide which of these things you would be better served delegating.  For example, cleaning carpets - outsource/delegate.  Cleaning out the garbage can - delegate to my kids.  Hey, I know that's a gross job, but so is washing their underwear, and I still do it!

I encourage you to revisit your list often and ask yourself, is this really the best use of my limited time and energy? Does it get me closer to my goals? If the answer is "no", add it to the F*ck It list, and as you cross it off, say OUTLOUD, "F*CK It".  You will feel like a badass.

Now I'm left with the stuff I am actually going to do.  I make a quick little time estimate of the things on my list.  I also do a quick gut check and ask myself why am I not doing some of these things already (in other words, why am I procrastinating?).  

Is it that I think it will take too much time, like in the case of the family photo album? Can I dedicate 15 minutes a day a couple of days of week to it? Yes, I can manage to do that.

Some of my other reasons for procrastination are just silly.  Like in the case of the light bulb.  I don't mind getting the ladder out and changing the light bulb, but I HATE putting the ladder back.  Does this make logical sense? No, but it is what it is, so I put the ladder against the wall, and kindly ask my husband to put it away while I get dinner ready. I notice that if I say I have something else to do instead, he is much more likely to help.  Actual science backs this up.  Try it yourself, and you will see.  Like, I'm folding laundry, can you give the dogs their medicine? See, some tasks you can do portion of and delegate share the rest with a loved one.

Another strategy to stop procrastinating is to find someone you can be accountable to by enlisting the help of a friend. 

For example, I am going to have to finally paint our hallway.  It is the only wall not painted since we re-painted everything else.  I call it the hallway of shame.  We did a major remodel last year, and you can plainly see where we ran out of energy.  Since it is an upstairs hallway that only we see, I keep putting it off.  It would probably only take me a weekend to do it.  So, one nagging task is to get the paint one week, and then block off some time to paint it.  I will plan to actually do it when my Mom comes to visit.  One, because she will help me.  Two, she doesn't really let me procrastinate. So, once I pull the trigger and mention that I want to do this, she will be all "Let's do it" and it'll get done.

So, if you have an errand to run, make a date with a friend to hit the stores together, or, grab your computer and spend the afternoon together putting those photos into an online scrapbook or go old school and actually scrapbook.  Whatever works for you.  Plus as a bonus, social contact raises your level of happiness so you will feel good on two levels.

After I cross off, delegate, and get a handle on the things standing in my way, I am ready to take that list of remaining tasks and commit to knocking one out a week (or a month or whatever works for you).

If there is a busy week or you just don't feel like doing something big, knock out a 5 minute one, like tightening the screws on the doorknob, (but leave the screwdriver for someone else to put away.)  If you don't have a 5 to 10 minute task, then do your 15 minutes toward the bigger picture. Some of the other tasks might call for more time and planning, maybe a trip to the store or something.  So, maybe I spend 5 minutes deciding how I can break this bigger tasks up into 15 minutes parts.

Even if you do nothing else but write all your nagging tasks down, I promise you, you will feel at least 5 pounds lighter (and who doesn't want that?) At the very least, you will be too busy writing to stuff another caramel square or Thin Mint into your face.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

3 Types of Happiness

Happiness ......we spend so much time pursuing it, talking about it, asking "Am I happy?", justifying our decisions under the "I just want to be happy" banner, but how many of us actually can define it?  It is usually not given a lot of thought beyond, "I'll just know it when I see it."

Well, this lack of defining leads to a lack of planning, which leads to wasting a lot of time spinning your wheels, not getting any happier, or bemoaning your circumstances.  Last week we went over why your circumstances aren't likely the source of your unhappiness (How Your Circumstances Influence Your Happiness. )

It's really hard to find something if you don't know what it looks like.  Once you know what it looks like, then you really do know it when you see it, and you have a better shot at finding it.

So what is happiness?

Of course for each person, the stuff that makes up happiness, the ingredients if you will, will look different.  "Experts" (people who study happiness for a living) general agree that there are three levels of happiness.

Level one, simple pleasures or gratification.  

This is the weekly massage, indulging in a Netflix binge, eating the warm gooey chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven, the awesome spa vacation, falling in love, or whatever else brings you pleasure.  Anything that makes life pleasurable, enjoyable, worth living.

The problems is, as humans we are very adaptable.  Obviously this is a good thing as it helps ensure survival of the human race, but it also means that we get used to the things that give us pleasure relatively quickly, so we are constantly in search of that next high, and this can lead to addictive type behavior if we are not careful.  That one cookie turns into 24.  That glass of wine turns into the bottle every night.  We fall in love with falling in love and that maybe leads us to some not so healthy relationships.  Or sometimes we go the other way, and get so busy and so into our routines that we no longer notice the beauty and wonder that surrounds us and could bring us pleasure.

Ways to combat this habituation is to practice mindfulness, really savoring the moment, and practicing gratitude.  So, when you are at your child's school event, put down the phone every once in a while and really notice the details, and savor this fleeting moment.  What are they wearing? Notice the range of emotions that flicker across their face.  How do they interact with their peers? What is their favorite part of the moment? Take it ALL in, not just what fits on your iphone screen. Likewise, if you are going to have the chocolate, relish slowly peeling the foil back.  Smell it.  Let it slowly dissolve on your tongue and enjoy every. single. second. of that delicious experience.

So - level one definitely has it's place.  It is part of what makes life enjoyable.  Find ways to include more pleasures into your life, drink your coffee out of your special cup, take a different route to work, read the trashy novel or the literary masterpiece if that's what makes you happy.  Also, shake things up so you don't fall into a rut even if it is a simple as taking a different route to work or going to a new Starbucks instead of your usual.  Make time to really enjoy a moment and practice turning ordinary moments into extraordinary moments (this also exercises your creativity which will also boost your happiness.) . Notice I said "practice".  You will need to practice to get good at this.

Level Two, the Good Life.  

This is where you are using your strengths and virtues as often as possible.  This could be in your job or it could be a hobby that challenges you, but ideally it is both.  You won't necessarily feel a surge of happiness while you are engaging in the activity.  In fact, you aren't likely to be thinking about anything because you are so engaged and lost in the moment that you are not thinking at all.  This is called a state of flow.  It is when you become so absorbed in a project or activity that you forget yourself.  You have just solved a thorny issue or negotiated a critical deal. Maybe it is a hobby that really calls for your whole concentration like song writing or composing, playing a chess with a worthy opponent, or running. Maybe it is using your excellent organization skills to bring working order to a bookshelf or closet. It is you doing your thing to the best of your ability.  It is whatever calls for complete concentration, but not so hard it is frustrating (because that would be distracting).

That's the good life and it helps protect you from "bad" moments, builds your confidence in yourself and helps you express your uniqueness.

If you are curious to know what your top 5 strengths are, visit this website: (Under "Questionnaires", choose "VIA Survey of Character Strengths"). You can take a quiz that will tell you out of 24 defined virtues or strengths, what your top 5 are.  Then you find thing that allow you to use your top 5 as much as possible.  There is also one for kids, but I recommend that your child be at least 8 before taking it.

Level Three, the Meaningful Life.  

Using your signature strengths in the service of something greater than yourself is the meaningful life.  Some people find this outside of their normal work through volunteer organizations, furthering a cause you are passionate about, or mission work through church, but it is also possible to find this at work, if you can connect using our skillset to something much bigger than yourself.

And with a little creative thinking, you can tell a meaningful story about what you do.  For example, I had a client who was the manager a large non-profit.  He told every person who worked for him that their job, their mission was the fulfillment of the nonprofits's mission which is feeding hungry people.  You aren't "just" the web designer for the volunteer staff web page.  You help make sure that $70,0000 meals make it to hungry kids this week because your web page works, and is easy to use helping ensure that you get enough volunteers to make those meals for those kids.  Your "job" isn't to keep a web page up and running.  Your job is to make sure kids don't go hungry.

Likewise, you aren't "just" a mom.  You are raising the next generation of good citizens with the skills needed to continue changing the world, and you are doing it by using your strengths.

You aren't "just" a hairdresser, you have the ability to listen to a client and bring out the best in them.  Really, when you have a great haircut, don't you feel like you can change the world?  It is connecting what you are good at and using it to contribute to something bigger than you.

The Pleasant life + the Good Life + the Meaningful Life = a Full life

A life of only pleasure seeking usually leads to an empty life.  A life solely lived working for the greater good typically leads to burnout and missing out on other important things and relationships as well.

Keep in mind not everything that makes you happy in the long run is easy or pleasant or makes you feel happy in that moment.  Sharing the last donut this weekend with my kids knowing I could have hidden in the pantry and eaten it alone (savoring it of course), didn't make me feel happy in that moment.  But the look on their face when they discovered that there was in fact one donut left, and watching them split it without bickering made me happier in the long run than eating that donut alone would have. 

All three levels matter, and all three are choices.  Choices about how you spend your time, how you view what you do, the story you tell yourself.

So what will choose to savor and what story will you choose to tell yourself today?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Setting Specific Measurable Goals Could Be Holding You Back and What to Do Instead

As an HR professional and performance coach, a large part of my career centers around helping people, teams and companies improve their performance and achieve success, and a crucial component of success is setting good goals. 

So how do we typically set goals?  We start with a statement that usually starts with "I want to....." (lose weight, quit smoking, simplify my life, grow my business, etc."

Then if we are really on our game we set SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time oriented (They have a due date.) This is not revolutionary.

To take it up another notch, an even more powerful way to state goals is to speak about your goals as if you have already achieved them. "I eat right, exercise 5 times a week and turn heads wearing this killer dress." "I am a non-smoker." "I am the top seller in my firm with 25 customers and a portfolio value of 2 million."

Once we set those goals, we damn sure want to achieve them, especially when we make them "SMART", so we go a little conservative in our goal setting.  We cut ourselves some slack for things like cheat days, and just in case we really can't figure out how to increase our customer base, or in case another project coms up that takes up some of our time and attention.  It makes sense.  After all, at work during your year end review no one wants to sit down with the boss and go through each goal saying, "No, I didn't achieve that, but almost."  It doesn't tend to fly or at least it didn't' where I worked.  You set the goal and you are held accountable to it.  To not achieve it means you are a failure, and no one likes to fail. 

It works, this methodical way of making incremental change.   I am a huge proponent for baby steps to change.  When you keep plugging away, making constant tiny changes, you will eventually get to where you are going. 

Then I stumbled across this one simple question that really got me thinking that maybe there was a flaw in this whole theory.  The question was, "What did you do this year and fail at?"  

I couldn't think of an answer.  Not because this year was full of success after success and all my dreams were realized.  I had a good year.  But.....I also didn't have anything I felt worthy enough to brag about.  I didn't launch a car into space or anything. Nothing that I put a full press heart and soul effort into.  That sort of left me a little deflated. 

I think the flaw in this SMART goal theory centers around the fear of failure.  The "A" for "Achievable" part of the SMART goal.  If you really are craving a change, if you really have this secret dream goal you want to meet, then you don't make that goal achievable, you make it audacious, so audacious that there is a 90% chance you are not going to make it.  

That's right.  Strive to fail.  Counterintuitive, right?  Bear with me....

Great, transformative changes do not happen without failure.  Without failure, there is no real growth. if you design your life where you don't fail, where you don't stumble, then you aren't improving at the rate you could. 

When you go to the gym, you exercise to failure, right?  If you don't push the muscle to it's limit, then rest, your muscle slacks off, and you stay the same.  Growth happens when you push until you fail.  Failing is the goal, then you rest, regroup and then repeat.

The Wright brothers had this idea that was so preposterous at the time that no one for one second believed they would be successful.  There was no SMART goal tied to their dream of flying.  They weren't going for "Well, it would be nice to fly a little, by Christmas, so we could say we did it.  On second thought, maybe we should just go for gliding, so we don't fail to meet our stated goal".  They failed over and over again trying to achieve this crazy dream of flying. 

Martin Luther King, Jr didn't start with a SMART goal, he started with a dream. 

Don't get me wrong, SMART goals have a place.  You have to set measurable milestones.  However, we often confuse the SMART Goal with the purpose, the dream, then end result, and as a result, we sell ourselves short at the expense of real change.  It is when you push and miss your goal, rest/regroup, and think about why you missed that you learn and adjust and make real change happen.  If you succeed fast and often, you lull yourself into a sense of complacency and you don't become as good as you could be.  You become "good enough".  Imagine if Oprah achieved moderate success as a news anchor and didn't get fired?

I am a huge proponent of "Good enough" for 80% of what you do on a daily basis.  Laundry, dusting, dinner, paperwork, emails.......good enough.  Good enough exists for you to spend time not being "Good enough" on the one or two things that matter the most to you.  That's where the achievable comes in.  You pick one or two things, not everything, and you make that one thing so big and so bold and so audacious that you will fail.... in the short term. 

You will fail in the short term.  Maybe that's today, maybe this year, maybe 5 years, but eventually you will fly.  But, no matter where you land in the short term while you figure out how to fly, you will have traveled farther than you ever believed you could. 

So next year when you ask yourself the question, "What did you do this year and fail at?" have an awesome story to tell and tell it proudly.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Know When It's Time to Let Go of a Relationship

Someone years ago shared this poem with me, and it has really stuck with me through the years.  The author is unknown.  I have heard that it has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but who knows?

The poem says that there are people that come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  

A reason relationship is when you need something at that moment in your life and in walks this person.  Then for what ever reason they don't hang around long, just long enough to teach you or give you what you need in that moment.  Sometimes these relationships come into your life in a positive way, and sometimes the lesson sucks, but it's something you need to learn.  The free-spirit party girl I hung out with one summer who got me out of my shell after a rough breakup.  The childhood friend I met at church who gave me the courage to finally conquer my fear of diving.  The mean nun I had for a year in middle school who made me mad enough that I finally found the courage to speak up for myself (at times admittedly taking that lesson a little too far.)

The season relationship.  Wow, these are the toughest, I think.  Sometimes you confuse the season with the lifetime.  The season relationship may be one of the happiest of your life, yet it has a shelf life.  Maybe it's your college roommate who you went through thick and thin with, but slowly grew apart over the years as your lives took different paths.  Maybe it's your first "real" boyfriend who taught you what you did (or didn't want) in a relationship.  Maybe it's a mentor like my college professor who introduced me to my grad program, which introduced me to a wonderful career that I didn't even know existed, which led me to meeting my husband.  Sometime it is a job or career that you have outgrown or a group that you belong to that you have outgrown or no longer identify with.

Don't resist, fight, or deny the lesson the season relationship is trying to teach you, otherwise the season lasts too long if you catch my drift.  Don't waist your time being bitter or hanging in there.  Acknowledge the lesson, learn from it, adapt and move on.

Then there are lifetime relationships.  They are rare, they are beautiful, and they grow with you.  My lifetime friends have kids, and don't have kids, are married and not married.  We are totally different, yet weirdly the same.  Those friendships sometimes defy explanation, yet that doesn't matter because they don't need explaining. Those relationships teach you lessons that help you navigate all the other relationships.   They come with unconditional acceptance of who you are as a person.  Not a mother, not wife, not your common career, or what walk of life you are in, but you.    No matter how much time passes, when you speak again, time just falls away.

It is my lifetime friends who helped me through the break-up with the crazy, free-spirited reason friend when she started turning a little Single white female, psycho.  It is the lifetime friends you lean on when the season relationships come to an end and help you process those lessons, and  remind you of those lessons the next time around should you forget for a moment (remember the last bad by you dated that you were going to reform....)

Sometimes lifetime relationships are not easy, welcome, nor do they bring you joy.  Sometimes they are necessary for the greater good, like a relationship you maintain with an ex or your mother-in-law for the sake of the kids.  There is a lesson there as well to learn (and keep learning), be it patience, empathy, setting boundaries, swallowing your pride or standing up for yourself yet maintaining the relationship.  Those are lessons that serve you well in all your other relationships.

Here's the thing to remember.... You need them all.  They all serve a purpose.  The key is figuring out which one it is, learning all you can from it (whether you are the teacher or the student), AND knowing when you have outgrown the relationship.

It's great to hang in there and try to make things work, but it is equally important if not more important to know when to walk away from something that is no longer serving you or helping you grow.

No doubt about it, sometimes growing hurts. Hey, it's not called growing pains for nothing.  Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon?  That doesn't look too comfortable.  It looks hard and painful, and it takes FOREVER, but looks what comes out.  Do you know if you help the butterfly speed up the process, you actually make it weaker?  It's that struggle that gives it the strength to survive what's ahead. 

Live the lesson, extract what you need, adapt, and move on when necessary.  That's not simply growing, that's transforming, and true transformation can't be undone.

So no matter what you are going through right now, know that you are growing your beautiful wings, and real soon you are going to unfurl them and fly.

Monday, February 12, 2018

How Your Circumstances Influence Your Happiness

Often when people are unhappy, they start trying to change their circumstances, or they lament how they can't change their circumstances so they are destined to stay unhappy.  The truth is, there are some things that we can't change or can't change easily.  We can't easily change our annual income, where we live, our health circumstances, or our upbringing. We can't change our age, race, or gender.  So how do these factors really influence our happiness? What can we change to increase our happiness? Read on for more information about what you can control, what you can't control and what doesn't really matter.

Money: How many times have you thought, if I only had more money, then I would be happier?  Research shows that money doesn't really contribute to your happiness unless you are really, really poor.  As long as you earn enough to feel secure, your level of happiness is not tied to your money. Now, when you look at what your neighbors have or your Facebook friends, then you may feel like more money will mean more fun things, but this isn't about money, it's about your perception of what you feel you are missing out on.

Consider this, in the US, France and Japan, purchasing power is higher than it has ever been, but life satisfaction is the same or lower and suicide is on the rise.  Powerball winners report levels of happiness skyrocketing at the time of the win, but return to previous levels of happiness within a few months.

If you value money over the achievement of other goals, then you tend to be less satisfied with your life as a whole.  Think about being trapped in a job you hate, but the money is good.  Those people are usually pretty miserable.  It's not called the golden handcuffs for nothing. Warren Buffet, Oprah, Richard Branson, they do what they love to do.  I am sure they love the money too, but it's the thrill of accomplishment, or having a purpose or passion, that really drives them.  So live to work, and if that doesn't work for you, work to live - meaning your job needs to allow you the time to do the things that do bring you enjoyment. Take a trip the park with a loved one. Free. Enjoyable.

Age:  If you are worried about your age, here is something to look forward to, life satisfaction tends to increase with age and emotional roller coasters tend to even out.

Health: Your perception of how healthy you are has more of an effect than your actual illness, unless your illness is severe and long lasting, then it can certainly bring you down.  Most people will adjust to their new "normal" and likewise will return to pre-happiness levels.  This has occurred even in those who have lost limbs or have become paralyzed.

Age, Climate, Race and Gender: very slight effect for age, none for climate, none for race (although rates of depression tend to be greater in caucasians).  For gender, women tend to have higher highs and lower lows, but it averages out to about the same.

Negative Events:  Happy people have as many bad times as unhappy people.

Circumstances that do make a difference: 

Religion: People with strong religious beliefs tend to be happier and weather down times better.  Researchers think it is because religion instills in one a hope for the future, and creates meaning in life.

Social Life: Very happy people tend to have a rich social life for some that is quality and for some quantity.  The bottom line is those that feel alone are unhappier than those that feel connected to a few close friends or a group of friends.  Now, the question is do happier people tend to attract more friends or are they happier because of their social life?  No one can say for sure yet, so to be on the safe side, schedule a coffee or lunch date with a friend today whether you feel happy or not.

Marriage:  Marriage is robustly related to happiness.  Married people report being happier, unless you are in a bad relationship, then this tanks your happiness probably more than any other factor mentioned.  If you are in a toxic relationship, it is killing your happiness and that probably goes for friendships as well as romantic relationships.  And if you are the toxic friend or partner, maybe make a plan to be less so.( Are You the Toxic Friend? Five Ways to Change It.).  It will increase your happiness.

Internal Factors:

Internal factors are how you think of your past, present and future and they all influence your happiness.  In other words, you have the most impact on your own happiness.

I have some articles planned for increasing happiness in the present and future coming up, but I want to talk about the past a little bit.

Past: How your think and interpret your past influences the emotion that follows in the future.  So if you didn't have the greatest childhood, how you interpret those events affects you today because you have an emotional reaction to it now.  If you dwell, rant and rave, and wishing that things were different, then that actually leads to more "bad" feelings (and literally heart disease, btw).

In fact childhood events (barring anything super traumatic, or long lasting) actually have little affect on your adult personality.  Your past does not determine your future.  

I have to say, as a parent, this is a huge relief.  Missing their dance recital occasionally, getting a divorce, these things will not screw up your kids, unless they are ruminators, then still it's their ruminating, not event itself that causes the unhappiness. If this is your kid, check out this article with tips on how you can change this. (It's probably good for your too.) WHAT IF YOU COULD ENSURE YOUR CHILD'S SUCCESS IN LIFE?

Two ways to deal with the past is to appreciate what went right, savoring and appreciating the good events more, instead of lamenting over the things that weren't good.  Secondly, practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a hard thing, and a post of its own, which I definitely will write soon.  Often, we don't want to forgive because we still feel that what the person did was unforgivable and forgiving them is letting them off the hook and saying it's okay.  Not true.  What they did may never be okay.  You don't forgive for them.  You forgive for you.  Love yourself enough to allow yourself to move on.  You can't live in the present, let alone move into the future while you are holding of to a grudge in the past.  How are you really hurting the person you are choosing not to forgive? Chances are, you aren't.  They may wish things were different, they may not even know you hate them, but I'll bet they are moving on with their life while you are stuck in the past in yours.  I'll research some of the paths to forgiveness and write about it soon, in the meantime, start getting mentally warmed up to the idea.

So in the meantime:  

  1. Quite blaming outside factors for your current mental state. Stop worrying about what you can't control and start thinking about what you can control.
  2. Indulge in a daydream in which in the distant future you are happy.  What is making you happy? 
  3. Make a date with a friend for coffee, lunch, or a cocktail this week (my calendar is currently wide open).
  4. Spend less time with toxic friends and/or work on being less toxic. Consider what a current bad relationship is costing you.
  5. Start thinking about what holding onto a grudge is costing you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

8 Seconds That Could Change Your Life

I have tried meditation numerous times.  I just cant' seem to make it part of my regular routine.  However, I have learned to do it 8 second intervals, and it has been life changing.


I stumbled across something that really resonated with me as I was reading (yet) another book or article on meditation.  Each breath is an opportunity to start over.

The context of the statement was don't worry about wandering thoughts when you meditate.  Just observe them without attachment, let them go, and refocus on your breath.  Even if you have to do this a million times during your meditation session, remember each breath is an opportunity to start over.

Wait, what?? Each breath is an opportunity to start over? So, if I mess up, screw up or things have just gone wrong and not according to plan, if I am still capable of drawing in a breath, then I have an opportunity to start again?  

Whoa. Mind blown.

Think about how powerful that is for a minute.  You aren't stuck with that mistake or circumstance forever.  It doesn't define you or hold you hostage because that next breath is a new opportunity to begin again, to move forward.  

One big breath in takes 4 seconds and letting that breath out slowly takes another 4. That 8 seconds separates your dark past from your bright and shiny new future.

So, let's say, hypothetically speaking of course, I eat an entire batch of cherry chocolate chip cookies instead of just the one I promised myself I would stick to, I take a deep breath, throw the empty bag away, and start over.

I snapped at my kids or that annoying co-worker? Take a deep breath, and start over (and apologize.)

What if the screw up was a long time ago, like a rift between an old friend, or family member? Words were exchanged that you now regret, but so much time has passed. If you can draw a breath, then you have an opportunity to start over. It's not too late.

That breath is life. If you have life you have an opportunity to move forward and begin again no matter how many new beginnings it takes.

The breathing and the beginning again are equally important. If you are just breathing and not moving forward, then you are basically in a coma. Don't voluntarily live in a coma.

Beginning again is a form of moving forward.  Here's the thing though.  You can't truly move forward if you are holding onto the past.  

Learn from it, take one big breath in, then let "IT" go . "It" being the breath and whatever real or perceived transgression you committed.  If you don't let "IT" go, "IT" will keep pulling you back.

That's why you throw away the empty cookie bag or apologize for snapping.  Then you figure out what led you down that road, and begin again armed with your new information to make your new beginning more successful be it the 2nd try or the 1,332nd try.

So remember this today.  When you mess up, or things don't go as planned, ask yourself, "Can I till breath?"  (Hint: if you were able to ask the question then the answer is yes).

One big breath in, let it go.  Now begin again.

Here's Why You Rock and  Other Inspirational Tidbits

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Baby It's Cold Outside. Ideas to Up the Cozy Factor

One of the ingredients in a happy life is creating positive emotion, and savoring and being grateful.  On a cold, rainy/snowing/sleeting day is a great time to hunker down and get cozy.  Here are a few of my favorite and simple ways of creating a cozy atmosphere.

Turn on the fireplace if you have one.  If you don't have a fireplace, light a candle.

I love this candle from Wax & Wick.  It's 100% soy (clean burning), has a wood wick, so it crackles like a fire as it burns.  They have multiple scents and sizes.  The smell is light and not too much.  I like Forest and Black Amber.

Cozy Blanket and Pillow is a must for your spot in your favorite cozy chair or sofa.

This Relive Prose Amsterdam Nacht reversible blanket is mink velvet on one side and berber sherpa on the other, and it's washable!! A must if you cuddle with animals (two or four legged ones). I love the colors in this gray and white one.

This one is from Target (and on sale now for $18.74!) It comes in blue and tan and if you click on the Target add somewhere on this page, you get free shipping on orders over $35.00.  

A Hot Drink and a Cool Mug

Hot Chocolate is always good, but have you tried heating up Apple Cider with a couple of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, and a dash of nutmeg?  Yum.  
This tea from Harney & Sons is deliciousness in a cup.  This is the Paris blend - vanilla, caramel with a slight hint of bergamot. Plus, the tin is so cute.  I have one holding my pens on my desk. 

The Vanilla Comoro is really good too if the Paris blend doesn't sound like your cup of tea (see what I did there ;-)) . This brand has many different flavors, from English, to Fruity flavors like Black Currant, to Cinnamon Spice.  You can't go wrong.  

And tell me this teapot by Jusalpha isn't cute and Tiffany like?  Plus there is just something that makes me feel so sophisticated about drinking out of a cup with a saucer.  It makes me feel like a grown-up.  

Don't forget some music and a good book.

Book tastes vary, so I have a hard time recommending without knowing what you may like, but if you are looking for some suggestions, go to  You can look up any book and see what others thought about it before committing.  There are also lists in every conceivable genre so you will never be without a suggestion again.  If you like reading from a Kindle (or other e-reader), consider www.Bookbub.  They send me a list of books in the genres I have chosen on sale mostly between free and $1.99, but never more than $3.99.  I have gotten some really great books that were on my "To read" list.  There are some stinkers in there for sure, so I always head to Goodreads first to check it out before clicking on the buy option.  

So, today, I'm curled up on my sofa in front of the fire (and a candle) reading while my Alexa plays whatever I ask her to, nature or ocean sounds, classical, Louis Armstrong.  If only my children were as responsive.........

Stay warm and cozy today!