Monday, December 31, 2012

Ready for adventure? Fasten your seat belt.

What's ahead for you in the new year? We always have lots of unknowns and surprises, of course. We can make our plans as best we're able—and then fasten our seat belts and be ready for the ride, knowing there's much that isn't in our control. Sometimes life can be a roller-coaster ride, in fact. Ever experienced that?

Knowing that, it's good to at least enter a new year with an open stance. Even with a sense of adventure and curiosity, if you're able to pull that off!

Change is one of the few constants in life. And some of your best growth can come as you transition through change in an awake-and-aware stance. Transformation is possible on the other side of change, even on the far side of things that at the time seem devastating.

Have you signed up for my monthly e-newsletter? If not, you can do so on the upper right of this blog page or on any other page on my website. The next ezine, due out January 1, will give you ideas on an alternative to New Year's resolutions—ideas that can help you approach 2013 ready for whatever may come your way. Resolutions are too easy to make and break. There are other ways to make the best of those changes that inevitably will come your way in a new year.

Here's to a life savored and well-lived for you in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Be flexible. Improvise.

Most of us are reminded at holiday time of the gap that exists between expectation and reality. Many of us live at quite some distance from family members. We don't all get to be together with the people we love most. Perhaps we don't get to keep all the traditional parts of Christmas that we had so wanted to stay the same. We have to share. We have to be flexible about when we gather, where we gather, and even if we gather.

I learned the value of flexibility again this year. My youngest son, daughter-in-law and two youngest grandchildren live in the Phoenix area. They were unable to spend Christmas back in the Chicago area where I live. So we put our creative minds—and our technology—to work.

After my box of gifts arrived at their house, we set up a time to Skype. That way I got to watch them open their gifts. It wasn't quite like being together in the same room. But it was quite magical all the same. I loved seeing their faces when they opened each gift. For example, I really enjoyed seeing my 6-year-old granddaughter open up her artist's sketch pad and colors with a whoop of joy and a huge smile on her face. It was especially fun when she ripped off the cellophane and began drawing and coloring immediately. Something told me that gift was a hit!

Would we have loved to be in the same house and the same room sharing gifts? Of course. But it wasn't going to happen this year. Did we enjoy Skyping? You better believe we did. So being flexible and open to new ways of doing things worked. Change isn't all bad.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Be good to yourself. Now.

Christmas is over. The decorations may still be up, and some of the unwrapped gifts still sitting under the tree. But the parties are over and stores are offering huge sales to move merchandise at year-end.

And how are you doing? Do you feel a post-holiday slump? Do you love the hustle and bustle of December, the baking, the events with family and friends, the shopping and gift wrapping? And now you miss it?

Or are you just glad it's over? Now you can catch your breath and get back to your more regular routine. Whew! You survived.

Or is this a difficult season for you every year? Perhaps you dreaded it. But you've made it through another one.

For some this is not a happy time of year. Period. For others, it's fun but exhausting; and they're ready to get back to normal. And for still others of you, you miss the activities. Perhaps you especially miss those times with family and friends. It went too quickly. And you're bummed that it's already over.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum at this time of year, I hope you will take time to notice. Take your own emotional temperature. And then choose what you will do about it. Seek out a friend with whom you can spend time. Do something fun. Treat yourself to a nice meal, a bubble bath or curl up with a good book and cup of steaming hot tea. Exercise (that often gets the good juices moving).

The idea is to develop your awareness about how you feel—and to make choices that are good for you. Good self-care is always important. At this time of year, it's especially important.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The joy of giving

In a conversation last week with someone about holiday gift-buying, my friend said that next year she wanted her family to give up their gift-giving tradition. Instead she wanted them to spend a little of the money they would normally spend on gifts at holiday time to take a summer vacation together that would be a gift of time to each other. Then during the Christmas season she wanted her family to decide together on one charity, or perhaps two or three, where they could give some more substantial gift than usual. Perhaps it would be food for a family. Or a large donation to some local or global charity organization. Or it might be clothing or toys for several local families in need.

What a wonderful idea, I thought. Many of us have all we really need—and then some—and our children and grandchildren do, too. I love the idea of teaching the little ones in our lives how much joy can be found in giving—teaching them by involving them in doing it rather than just telling them!

When my older grandchildren were small, we took a collection when we all gathered for Christmas. Adults put in larger bills, and each child emptied out her or his piggy bank. The children looked through a Heifer International catalog of animals for people in different countries and they selected some as recipients of our money. They were so excited at the prospect of a family making a living if we sent them honey bees or a goat or whatever our money would buy!

Have you tried some new gift-giving traditions? What was the result? I'd love to hear about it. Joy comes in so many forms, but surely when we can share whatever bounty we have with others, our joy soars to new levels.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peace and joy to you

Today many of you are with family and friends (friends can be called "chosen family," you know!). If you are not, I hope you have some memories of times when you were. I hope for each one of you a deep and abiding sense of being loved and being imbued with good qualities—and I wish you peace and joy at this time of year and always.

For those of you who are feeling blue, I offer you something given to me years and years ago during a particularly tough time:

"In times of sorrow, JOY is a seed of hope. In times of loneliness, JOY is a single ray of light. In times of success, JOY is an avalanche of flowers, giggles, songs and hugs.... Its value is the same on the mountaintop or at the depths of the canyon."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Humility doesn't mean a bad self-image

No doubt all of us know someone who is extremely good at accepting blame and pointing out their flaws but who cannot accept praise or list any of their gifts or accomplishments. Maybe it's even you.

I certainly have experienced that in my life, too. When I was a younger woman, I recall being stymied when in workshops, I'd be asked to list 5 to 10 good things about myself. Are you kidding me? I would think. Ask me to list that same number of negatives, however, and I'd have that list done in record time.

Through the years, however, I've worked hard to recognize and appreciate the positive attributes I have—and the accomplishments. Many of us have to get past some of the early messages we received about being humble. "Pride goeth before a fall." If I heard that once, not just at home but in church and in the broader society, I heard it a thousand times. I began to see the way such messages set me up, and I set out to change my inner dialogue.

Having a good self-image isn't about undue pride. It's a healthy stance. If you do have a good self-image, that's wonderful. If you don't, however, and would like to work on that, please contact me. A healthy self-image is a good foundation for solid relationships and for career success. It's essential to a joy-filled life. Know that it is possible to change how you see yourself. Make 2013 the year you give yourself that gift, if you don't already feel good about who you are.

May contentment, joy and peace be among the gifts you receive this season. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Surprises in 2013

Many of my clients are working on career issues or some sort of transition through change. For that, a process of discernment is necessary.

Often when you and I experience dramatic changes in life, we attach some type of judgment to the change itself and/or to the outcomes. We attach judgment to the different paths we consider taking. And while it is useful in discernment to think about the pros and cons of the various paths we might take, it's extremely important to try keep an open mind.

If you are in the middle of change, transition and discernment, consider detaching from any judgments just so you can be as open as possible to new directions and outcomes. See if that doesn't open up more possibilities. Once you have laid out several possibilities, it is helpful to think about the positives and negatives of each. But it's important to not make judgments so early in the process that you limit yourself to the "same-old-same-old" options.

After all, who knows what's out there waiting for you?

When I lost my journalism job, I never imagined a career in life coaching. I was devastated. But as I opened my eyes, ears and heart to possibilities, coaching kept appearing in my sights. After lots of reflection and research, it just felt so right. And I remember that, when I signed up for my life coach training, my heart nearly burst with happiness. It just seemed as though so many parts of my life and so much of my experience came together into this just-right decision.

What will the new year bring for you? What surprises lie ahead? Try detaching from pre-judgments and stay open to the surprises!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas and carnage

As it should be, this week much of the media focus is on the terrible event in Newtown, Conn. We all grieve with and for the families of those killed, injured and in any way affected by the tragic carnage in that community.

This morning I read a comment from author Joan Chittister in which she said, "Maybe Christmas is really about learning to appreciate the basics of life for what they are: the arenas in which we learn to distinguish early what is really important in life from what are merely its frills."

I cannot tell you how many times this week I've heard someone say, "This week I'm holding my children [grandchildren, nieces, nephews or any beloved children in their lives] close and telling them often how much I love them." It's a natural reaction. And it's something we should do all the time.

Whom do you need to hold close this week? What do you need to appreciate that perhaps you've taken for granted? What basic in your life can you appreciate anew during this time?

And of what do you need to let go because it's really one of life's frills? Or even less than a frill?

All of these are good questions to ask ourselves anytime. But perhaps the juxtaposition of this season with the awful events in Connecticut makes this a good time in which to reflect on those questions and more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday distress

During this season of the year, I'm mindful that your emotions, thoughts, feelings and expectations can run the gamut from excited to depressed. Some of you absolutely love this season and enjoy all the holiday preparations and activities. And some of you positively dread this time of year. So much depends on expectations and past experiences, to say nothing of your current reality.

Because the pastors in my congregation know this, too, they lead a Blue Christmas worship service every year at this time. It will be held this Thursday evening. I'm glad they do this because I know what a difficult time of year this can be for many. We all need to be sensitive to that when we are in groups and talk about our anticipation and excitement. It doesn't mean we can't show our excitement. We just need to be aware that not everyone shares it.

If you are having trouble with this season, please talk with someone. Know you aren't alone. Know, too, that it doesn't mean something is wrong with you. You don't have to go through this alone.

If you experience the joy and anticipation of this season, that's wonderful. Perhaps you, like so many of us, are somewhere in the middle of those—and enjoy the season even though you might be disappointed that some of your expectations (and old traditions) aren't fulfilled.

No matter where on the continuum you fall, may you find a deep sense of peace in these days and weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In need of hope

I'm still heart-sick over last Friday's events in Connecticut. How does one even move on from such travesty and terror? My heart just aches for the families of those whose lives were so senselessly taken. And I think of all those whose job it is to deal with what happened—how they, too, must have nightmares for a very long time afterward.

What we all need right now is comfort, healing and some sense of hope. And because words seem so very inadequate, as they always do in the face of such events, I'm not going to write much today.

I'm just leaving some white space so you can fill in with your own thoughts, prayers, reflections and whatever brings you hope. Hold your children, grandchildren and any other children in your lives close. Tell them often that you love them. Better yet, show them. Do the same for the adults in your life ... because, in the end, that's what we all long for so desperately. To love and be loved. It's such a precious gift. Life is a precious gift. Live each day fully and lovingly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doing cocoon-time

Last week at a pre-Christmas women's event, I heard an inspirational speaker: a woman who became blind at age 15 and who now through books and presentations shares her story and her transition from self-pity to a life of joy. She speaks of the illness that caused her blindness as "a difficult gift."

Whether you call it a gift or not, are there things in your life that have been especially difficult challenges and which now mark a real turning point for you? Do you have a story (or two or three) of transformation in your life? I consider the divorce I went through years ago one of those moments. I have also had two huge job disappointments and been Reduced In Force. I don't necessarily want to experience any of those things again. But I see now that each of those experiences and the growth and transformation produced by them has contributed to who and what I am today. I am grateful for the lessons learned, difficult as they were.

I think of the lowly caterpillar crawling along on its belly every day, never imagining that some day it could soar as a beautiful butterfly. It can't do so, however, without doing some serious cocoon-time!

You and I have cocoon-times, too, when we need to go quiet and process what's just happened to us—so we are ready for the transformation that can come.

If you would like help making your way from here to there—transitioning through just such a difficult time, please contact me. We can begin with a complimentary, absolutely no-obligation strategy session.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Two wolves tale revisited

Some stories bear repeating. My May 4 blog was about a fight going on inside us. In another source today I read about that same Cherokee tale, and its point struck the mark once again. It never gets old for me.

This particular telling of the story had a few different twists to it, but the story is essentially the same as what I've read and heard in other places. The crux of it is a conversation between a Cherokee chief and his grandson. When the grandson relates a story about kids fighting at school, the chief tells him that we all have a battle of two wolves going on inside us.

"What?" said the grandson. "Yes," the grandfather said. "We each have two warring wolves inside. One wolf represents anger, envy, jealousy, greed, self-pity, resentment, false pride and ego. The other wolf represents joy, peace, love, hope, generosity, serenity, humility, kindness and faith."

The grandson's eyes grew big, and he asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

"The one you feed," his grandfather wisely responded.

Each time I hear this tale, it reminds me to reconsider which wolf I'm feeding lately. If I'm really honest with myself, when I'm rushing around and when I'm not getting enough sleep, it's easier for the bad wolf to make inroads in my life. So I need to tend to all those self-care practices, and I need to focus on the positive (knowing that whatever I focus on grows larger, too).

Do you need to shift your focus today?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Give yourself a break today

I'm going to pat myself on the back for this one! I actually am cutting myself some slack this season.

When my three sons were small, I used to make most of our Christmas gifts, do a ton of holiday baking, hand address all our Christmas cards with personal notes in each, play organ and direct the church choir (with all the music prep for multiple services that implies), and also host a few parties and open houses. After Christmas I was ready to fall apart. Whew!

This year I made a fairly belated decision to create some special photo and text memory book gifts for seven of my nine grandchildren (two are still young enough that theirs will get done when they're older). Each book takes a long time, and I know there's no way I will finish them all before Christmas. At first I pushed myself hard in an attempt to get them done in time. Then one day I realized that my grandchildren are old enough to understand the concept of a deferred gift! They will enjoy these special books just as much in early January as they would during their busy Christmas season. And I'll have more fun creating each one if I don't have to rush through it. They'll find something wrapped under the tree that announces the gift to come!

What a relief! This is a change for me, and I'm celebrating it. In what ways are you giving yourself a break during this busy holiday time? What changes have you made through the years so you can enjoy the days rather than racing through them with no joy or pleasure at all?

If you haven't given yourself some breaks or cut yourself some slack, it's still not too late. What can you do today? I invite you to choose even one or two things that can lighten your load and enhance your holiday experience. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Open to change

Some friends and I were discussing our plans for Christmas. Some of us are single and with or without children, some in blended families, some married with children, some with grandchildren.

One of the common threads I heard throughout our discussion was flexibility. I sensed a real struggle to hold onto some holiday traditions amid the changing times in which we live. But I heard a real desire to flex with those changes even if it meant creating some new traditions, a "new normal," to use an oft-used term today. We talked a lot about how our expectations can get in the way. We still have a Norman Rockwell vision in our minds, one that's reinforced by cards, songs and ads throughout the season. We want that perfect family experience.

Many of us grew up within miles of our extended family. And we did the same thing year after year for holidays. Perhaps we saw one side of the family on Christmas Eve and the other side on Christmas Day. Or we had Thanksgiving with one and Christmas with the other.

Now families are spread out across the country, sometimes across the globe. It isn't "through the woods and over the hill to grandmother's house we go" anymore. At least, for most of us it's not that way now. And we have to be open to change. Some families I know defer a family get-together until summer, when it's easier to travel and less hectic all around.

What have you done to flex with the times? Do you have any sage wisdom to give the rest of us? I'd love to hear it in the comment box below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December's crazy dance

How does your December calendar look? Is it completely marked up and filled in? Do you dance a frenzied tarantella when you'd rather do a slow waltz?

It may be too late for you this year if your calendar is already completely filled. But if you really don't like the chaos of holiday preparations, too many parties and gift-giving that's gotten out of hand (and beyond your budget), begin thinking now of changes you can make for next year.

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle, you don't need to change a thing—unless you want to do some tweaking. However, if you long for more calm and a better focus during the holiday season, try this:

First, think about what your holidays are like right now. Close your eyes and paint a picture (or write it out, if you prefer) of what the month of December is or will be like this year. Include sights, smells and other sensory information. Paint it with as much detail as possible. Then when that image is fixed firmly in your mind, let it go. Now paint a picture of how you would like your December to look. Again, fill it in with sensory detail and all "wants" you have.

Once you know where you are now and where you want to be, you'll have an easier time of building a bridge to get from one place to another. Want to spend less time and money in shopping malls—but still want to give unique and special ones to those you love? Get creative. Buy tickets for two (or more) to a concert or event you can enjoy together. Make something simple, whether baked or sewn, that will be so appreciated by the recipient because it was done with love. Are you afraid of gaining too much weight during December? Cut way back on the cookies and other goodies you bake. Decide which ones are special for you and those you love and eliminate all others. You'll save time, money and calories.

You get to decide what type of dance you'll do this month. Your choice: What will it be?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The autumn of life

I am really enchanted by older women who embrace their wisdom years, who wear the mantle of age with pride and acceptance. I have so much to learn from them about aging gratefully and gracefully—about the transformation from one season of our life to the next.

Some time ago I saw a quote from Taylor Caldwell's book Bright Flows the River in which she spoke of the autumn years of our lives:

"It is autumn, appearing dead ... but in reality this is the busiest time of year for nature, who is laying down seeds to protect them against the winter and to fertilize them.

"Perhaps that is also true of the autumn of our life: In the last years of our lives we are burying the seeds of the spring of our resurrections, the ripened seeds of our experiences and our knowledge."

I like that a lot. It reminds me of a late fall drive I once took from Chicago to Minneapolis. The route passes by several fabulous stands of trees, and they were no longer dressed in their bright early fall colors but now stood proudly with their muted rust tones and bronzed outfits. I was struck at how I used to disdain these more muted colors in favor of the joyful, bright oranges, reds and yellows earlier in the season. But somehow on this trip—perhaps thinking about my own aging process—I saw the beauty of the rust and bronze leaves. I saw the heartiness, too. These leaves were still hanging on despite strong fall winds which took many of their more colorful brother and sister leaves!

Let's celebrate our aging process and see the beauty and the wisdom that accompany it. Here's to muted rust-colored leaves still clinging to trees—even now as winter approaches!

Friday, December 7, 2012

6 Steps to boost self-esteem

Self-esteem issues can keep us from becoming all we were created to be. Our unconscious negative beliefs and assumptions block our self-worth. So many of us as women deal with these issues for so much of our lives. Men confront them, too. But it seems to be nearly epidemic for women.

I recall after my divorce trying so hard to weed out the negative messages and thoughts that were so debilitating. I put up a virtual stop sign in my head when I heard negative messages. I learned to replace those with most positive assumptions and beliefs. Did I reach perfection? No. Am I in a far better place than I was all those years ago? Definitely.

In the book Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry, I discovered six actions to elevate your self-esteem:

1) Search out negative self-beliefs.
2) Give the negative voices a name. (Whose voice is it?)
3) Stop self-deprecating remarks.
4) Ask others to "call you" on self-deprecating comments.
5) Refuse to accept put-downs.
6) Elicit praise. (It's OK to ask for it.)

Believe in yourself. Know you are that beautiful butterfly who's just ready to take flight! Do what it takes to let go of negative messages and take hold of the positive ones.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I haven't been accountable

Yesterday I talked about the idea of a "thimble list" and shared some things on mine. This past Monday I talked about accountability.

Today I need to combine those two because I haven't done so well in the accountability department. I created my thimble list several months ago and tucked it away, forgetting about it until I came across the electronic file on my computer recently. Clearly, I haven't put it out where it's visible (like the task chart I used to put on the refrigerator when my sons were small) so I can remember that these are the things I want to do regularly to savor life.

So ... I just printed out a copy on a beautiful piece of paper that is now posted on the wall next to my glider in my meditation space. Now I will be able to see what I've written and remember, if not daily, at least on a more regular basis to do those things that bring more joy into my life—and, therefore, into the lives of others around me as well. ... because isn't joy infectious and don't its ripples go way beyond the space we fill?

I no longer remember what product was being advertised but one TV ad I always liked (and I'm not a fan of TV ads) showed a person doing a kind deed for someone and that person in turn doing a random act of kindness for someone she or he came across ... and on and on the kindness went, each person passing it along.

When I savor and enjoy my life, I'm much more generous-hearted and open to all those who cross my path regularly. Isn't that worth it? I just needed to pay attention to what I encouraged you to do!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Buckets or thimbles?

Since the Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie, you all know what a "bucket list" is. Perhaps several of you have a list of those biggies you want to be sure to experience or accomplish while you're still alive.

But have you heard of a "thimble list"? A friend of mine told me that she has a list of smaller items that she wants to be sure to do regularly to savor life. I like that idea about as much as (maybe more than) a bucket list. After all, it's the daily experiences or the more regular ones that really define our lives—and bring joy to us and others.

After my friend told me about this idea, I made a thimble list. As that was several months ago, perhaps I need to update and tweak it a bit. I'll share a couple things from my original list in the hope that it might motivate you to think of your own thimble list. What would help you pay attention each day? Be more grateful? Savor life and suck out as much juice from it as you can? Give more juice and joy to others?

A sampling of my list:
• Slowly sip my morning (flavored!) coffee without thinking about all I have to do.
• Give at least one compliment each day to someone.
• Take a nap occasionally—without guilt.
• Do things that are totally play for me.
• Do spontaneous things with my female friends. And with my fiance.

What would you put on your list? I'd love to hear. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Daily soul-feeding

You and I require food and water on a daily basis. Typically, this isn't something we're likely to forget to do. Eating is a well-established habit.

I don't know about you, but I also require inspiration on a daily basis—soul feeding. My spirit is fed when I read inspirational readings and observe my quiet time each day. Sometimes those readings are from a book, and sometimes they come in the form of online blogs. Often I accompany that time with entries into one of my journals so I can process and reflect on what I've read. I've nourished this practice for many years and it's become habit.

I sometimes sign up for blogs or inspirational writings to be sent to my email inbox. Other times I need to bookmark a website that I want to visit regularly for my care and feeding. If I don't bookmark the website, it's easy to forget it's there.

If you like the blogs you read each weekday on my website, I encourage you to bookmark my blog page. I don't email these to you because I think your inbox might fill up rapidly enough without yet another blog. (I do email my once-a-month ezine, however, so if you want to receive that, please sign up from any page of my website. I don't sell my email list, and I send you nothing but my monthly e-newsletter.)

Because I don't push out my blogs to your inbox, I would be delighted if you take five minutes from your day to read them online. I would be especially happy if you leave a comment from time to time in the box below so we can enjoy the synergy of good women's conversation. Again, let me assure you that your email address won't show up, and it won't get used in any way. You may sign your name or sign in as "anonymous." Your voice is important, so please join the conversation. And don't forget to bookmark my blog page.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Accountability for adults

When my sons were young, they each had assigned duties appropriate to their age. I made a weekly chart that hung on our refrigerator listing the duties each son had, and I included a box for each duty each day so I could check off when they had performed the task. Peter, Joel and Aaron knew that the marks would show how accountable they had been for what they needed to do to earn their weekly allowance.

We adults aren't really so different. Being accountable to someone helps motivate us, too. It's one of the principles I learned in my life coach training program.

My coaching clients set their own agendas. When they come to me, they know what issue(s) they want to work on (or if they don't, they soon identify it in initial conversations). In early conversations, we learn where they are now—and where they want to be. The task then becomes establishing goals at each coaching session to get my client where she wants to be. The goals are hers to choose and hers to carry out. But each week I ask what happened on each goal she set the previous week. We celebrate goals reached—and we look at those that weren't reached to see why. Perhaps it wasn't a workable goal. Perhaps it needed to be broken down into smaller, more attainable goals. Or maybe it was a goal for later; the time just wasn't right.

Over and over, I've heard from my clients that the accountability piece is so important in our coaching sessions. That's true in my life, too. I may have outgrown many things from my childhood. You have, too. However, the value of accountability isn't one of them.

Please contact me if you want to explore coaching sessions. I'm happy to provide an absolutely no-obligation, complimentary strategy session before you even decide to proceed.