Friday, May 31, 2013

Will smiling make you happy?

I just read about a study the other day that showed when we smile, we actually can affect our happiness and contentment. I suppose it's that "fake it until you make it" concept.

If you smile and act as though you are happy, and keep that smile on your face, you will feel better. Conversely, if you wear a frown, you will not find nor create much joy in your day!

I have also heard that phone conversations go much better when you smile into the phone. Hmmm, that's worth a try if you have a cranky person on the other end of the line.

It may sound silly. But I can believe that it does make a difference. As Charles Gordy said, "A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks." Turns out, it's much more than that. I just found a website that lists 10 hidden benefits of smiling. It's packed with links to all manner of studies about smiling. Who knew?

One thing we do know, though. Smiles are contagious. Ever meet someone on the street or in a store who gave you a huge smile even though you didn't know them? Didn't it give you a pick-me-up? And did you pay it forward to the next person you met? Me, too.

Happiness really is a choice. If you've read my other blogs, you know I always qualify that by saying that I don't expect you to choose happiness when grief and sadness really are the appropriate place for you to dwell for a time. But if you haven't sustained a loss or if you don't suffer from severe depression, all else being equal, perhaps it's a good day to choose happiness. It might be time to try out a smile!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Make a choice to be positive

So much in life reminds me that it's definitely a "both/and" kind of world, not an "either/or" one. I also know we have the ability to make choices. Do you want to be positive? Or negative?

When I listen to the news, I hear stories out of Washington, D.C., that just exhaust me. I'm really tired of the fighting, of one side trying to make the other look bad and fail and vice versa. I'm tired of gridlock and all the partisan politics that get us nowhere. I'm tired of finger-pointing and whining. I wish I could send members of Congress to their rooms without any dinner! This is the United States at its worst, I think.

Then I hear the stories of people helping others, such as those who are assisting the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, following the tragic tornado deaths and property losses last week. And I think, Yes, this is the United States at its best. I hear stories of Americans spending time in other countries, lending a hand in recovery, relief and business start-ups. And I feel so good.

Corporately we are just like we are as individuals: both/and people. We sometimes are at our generous and loving best, and other times we are stingy and mean-spirited.

Although you and I are both/and, we can do something to be generous and loving more often. In the words of an old Cherokee legend, we can "feed the good wolf." Check out this story if you've not heard it before. It's one of my favorite reminders that I do have a choice about how I react and how I live in this world.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Plan for change

Are you facing any life changes? Perhaps you're wanting to make some sort of job transition or career change? Or maybe you really didn't want to, but you're being forced to do so. Are you moving? Facing a divorce or relationship change? Or perhaps you're like many of us, aware of your aging process and the fact that you can't do everything you used to be able to do so easily. You know some changes are necessary.

Change is just a constant part of life. Still, many people have a difficult time with it and fight it. How about you? Do you move easily with change—or do you tend to resist, living in denial and then fighting it once you've given up denial?

The important thing is to not beat up on yourself for doing that. It's a fairly human tendency. That said, stop and take stock right now. Are there major, or minor, changes in your life for which you could begin making an action plan? What do you need to do first? Is it too large to handle in a single bite? Then break it down into smaller actions. Whatever will help you move forward, that's the thing to do. And you're more likely to succeed if you take manageable chunks at a time. Make sure your goal is attainable and fits with your personality and style. Make sure it's also sustainable for you.

And if you would like some coaching to get you unstuck and help create an action plan, please contact me. I offer a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session that will help you see whether coaching can be of help to you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wake up. Pay attention.

Most of us live so focused on our to-do lists and those things that are right in front of our noses that we fail to see—really see—all the beauty that surrounds us.

Try this today: Take a walk around the rooms of your house, or outside your house or in your neighborhood. Try to notice five things you hadn't noticed before. Stop and really look at the beauty or uniqueness of each of those things. Savor them. What are you seeing? What do you especially enjoy about those objects?

I have a tree in my yard, right outside one of my bedroom windows, that I have really begun to notice this year. Why did I not notice its lovely white flowers other years? I don't know. But this year I am savoring its beauty each time I walk by my windows and each time I'm out in my front yard.

It's all about being awake and aware, isn't it? And it's about appreciating—savoring. It's a wonderful way to live. But it's so, so easy to get caught up in the dailiness and routines of life.

Sometimes you and I need reminders to stop and savor. Pay attention. Consider this your reminder for the day or the week!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Be the love for which you long

How often do we hear that those who are happiest in life are those who think of other people—those who reach out and serve others rather than simply focusing only on themselves? Studies have actually shown that those who serve and share are far happier and more content than those who don't.

So rather than worrying about how to get friends, how to attract a partner or mate, how to land a great job, how to make more money and meet your wants and needs, why not start with being love, peace, and abundance? Be what you want in your life.

Simply by shifting your focus to being what you want, you will feel more positive, open and joyful. And what so often happens is that you then begin to draw positive people to you. Think about those with whom you'd rather spend time—a person who's infatuated with himself or who can talk about nothing but herself? Or a person who is happy and content with life and who cares about what you have to say?

A website for which I've been invited to be a pioneer and test out its activities to learn how to be happier and how to savor life,, noted in one of its activities that when people used an amount of "found money" to buy things for others rather than for themselves, they were far happier and more content. That just makes sense to me.

Think of one thing you can do today that would make someone else happy. Then just do it. Doesn't it feel wonderful to make someone else's day? It also can take the focus off your stress.

Friday, May 24, 2013

There's more to fasting

Some people fast as a way of cleansing. Others fast as part of a weight-loss plan. Still others use fasting as a spiritual discipline. There are several ways to fast other than giving up eating for several hours or a day.

Sometimes when I have just had it with all the negative news I get from the media, I do a news fast. I simply don't turn on the TV news or read the newspaper when all the political in-fighting wears me down and stresses me out.

Or I fast from noise. When I used to commute a minimum of 45 minutes one way daily, I often had the radio on—sometimes to a news station and sometimes to music. As wonderful as even the music was when I struggled with angry drivers and a toll road that seemed more like a parking lot (not moving!) many days, sometimes I just needed quiet. I needed more "white space" in my life—just as we enjoy the white space on each page of a magazine as opposed to a page that's solid text from margin to margin.

You might want to fast from too much activity and plan for a string of stay-at-home evenings. Too much of a good thing can become a negative sometimes. You might want to fast from TV programs and just read books in the evening.

Whatever it is you need these days that will contribute to your happiness and health, choose that. And if it means fasting from something, I invite you to try it. Fasting includes so much more than food.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off

Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when you are thinking positive thoughts? When you're focusing on all you have rather than on what you don't have?

Try this little exercise. Say as many negative words as you can think of, very slowly. Let each one sink in. (These words will differ from one person to another, but you might try words such as attack, violence, robbery, cancer or fired.) Notice how your body feels after a minute or two of that. Did you find yourself clenching your fists, tightening up inside, frowning?

Take a few deep breaths as a transition. Now slowly say several positive words that make you happy: sunshine, relax, family, friends, healthy. How does your body feel now? More opened up and relaxed?

It doesn't take much to imagine what a difference our internal messages make to our stress levels and our overall health. Even when you have a long to-do list, it might be more helpful and you might be more productive if you give yourself a positive message such as, "All is well" rather than a negative one such as, "I'm dying here." When you fall in some way, just pick yourself up and try again. Look for the learnings in a negative situation—that can turn it into a positive for you.

Start by just noticing your internal messages. Check your outlook each time you get up from your desk or each time you make a phone call. Do you need to switch gears and reframe things so you can see the good side rather than the down side of an experience? Decide on a small step to start thinking positively. Add another small step. And another. Voila, you will feel happier and more open to life and all its possibilities!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are you a 1 or a 10?

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being tightly closed and 10 being very open), how open and flexible to you consider yourself? Are you open to new ideas and new ways of doing things? Are you a lifelong learner? Or do you like to stick with what you know and do things the way you've always done them?

Joan Chittister's book The Gift of Years, which I referenced in yesterday's blog, is divided into chapters by topic—topics such as dreams, loneliness, outreach, appreciation, legacy, fear, letting go and many more. Her chapter on "learning" talks about the inability to remember names, called anomia, saying it's common to anyone over 30. She mentions neurological research and says that as our brains age, they begin to sort and discard information that's "emotionally neutral." Perhaps that's like us cleaning our computer files from time to time so we'll have more memory on them. That's a good thing, right?

Chittister does say, however, that there are "two approaches to aging: passive aging and active aging." Passive aging is a sort of slow death rather than a time of living differently. And active aging "requires us to go on living life to the full no matter how differently," she says, citing a Harvard University longitudinal Study of Adult Development finding: "Lifelong learning makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy aging. It determines the degree to which life will be satisfying to us, as well as the degree to which we will be interesting, valuable, life-giving to others."

And in Chittister's words, "Ongoing learning saves the aging from becoming more fossilized than transformed. The problem with aging is not age, it is petrifaction, rigidity of soul, inflexibility."

I like the idea of lifelong learning, openness, flexibility, transformation, no matter what age I am. How about you? See where you are on the scale of 1 to 10—and then decide whether you want to make any changes to how you life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Open to new things

I had no idea of the blessings I would receive when I said "yes" to serving as a mentor to one of my congregation's confirmation students many months ago. The relationship with Rachel has enriched my life, and I know it will continue to do so as we stay connected.

This is a good reminder to me of the truth of something I just reread in Joan Chittister's book The Gift of Years. In it she says, "Life is not simply what happens to us—though in moments of surprise life waits, too—but life is also what we ourselves make happen.

"We become what we do. We become new inside when we urge ourselves to do new things. We become awake when we do not allow ourselves to simply sleep through life."

I take that to mean not just doing new things and saying "yes" to things we might not otherwise do—but also staying awake and aware enough to actually see the richness of those experiences. Sometimes, it's only after the fact that I realize how I have been changed by some experience. I want to raise my awareness level so that I can also savor things as I live them, not just afterward!

Reach out. Find ways to serve that fit your gifts and your lifestyle. Pay attention. Savor. Open yourself up to new things—and just see all the blessings you'll bring to others and you'll receive in your life. What a cycle of joy and happiness this sets up!

How has this been true in your life lately?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quit fighting

I've written a lot about expectations and how they get us into trouble. I discuss it often because it's something with which I struggle, and I hear from clients how it hooks them frequently, too. It's really tough to not hope things will go better this time you go out with your friends—or the next time your boss assigns you a project or you assign one to your supervisees. It's not easy to keep our expectations realistic and detach from outcomes.

A couple days ago I read an article in the April-May 2013 issue of AARP The Magazine about a woman dealing with her mother's dementia and her father's denial about it. She expected her father to take hold—and she expected her siblings to help more. However, in the end, in her words, she "embraced my own type A compulsiveness, quit complaining and did it myself."

She said, "I stopped expecting [Dad] to step up and fix it and stopped expecting myself to be infallible, all-knowing. It turned out that the fancy doctors, the expensive pills, the endless tests, my iron will, my reams of notes, my research, were all for naught. Dementia won.

"The only power I had left was to surround my mother with acceptance and kindness."

How powerful is that! It was a good reminder to me to stop fighting things that cannot be changed. Accept. Go with the flow. Things always go better when I can do that. So back to the Serenity Prayer again!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Change can be scary

"And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk to bloom." This quote by Anais Nin says so much. I don't know about you but I've experienced its reality more than once.

It's so easy to stay in a situation or relationship that's familiar, even if it's uncomfortable or even painful, because it's something we know. It's often pretty scary to venture out into unknown terrain. We stay tightly closed up and are afraid to open to something new. What if I don't like it? What if I fail? Just what will it be like? Will this turn out to be as bad as where I am now—or even worse? And what will I do then?

You and I have so many questions about the unknown. Change isn't easy.

Think about a time in your life when you were forced into some change. How did you handle it? Were you able, in time, to move on? Did it eventually have a good outcome? Did it lead to something life-giving and good?

I've been invited to be a pioneer for the website Happify, where I find daily activities and exercises that teach me life-changing habits and ways to savor my experiences. I'm enjoying my time on this website and find that it focuses me on the upside of my experiences. I'm cultivating happiness. A few days ago I was asked to think about the questions I raised for you above. It was a good exercise for me. I hope it is for you, too.

I'd love it if you are willing to share in the comment box below about a change you faced that turned into something good.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Happiness means serving

Are you at the stage of life where you're looking for places to volunteer your time? So many opportunities exist. It seems that more and more organizations depend on volunteer labor to get the job done. There's something for everyone's interest and passion too, it seems. We know our happiness increases when we serve and help others.

In the April/May 2013 issue of AARP The Magazine, I read an article titled "Coaches in the Classroom" about helping at-risk kids learn to read. If you love kids and/or reading and are looking for some way to give back, this just might be for you. The article said that the AARP Experience Corps trains older volunteers in 19 cities (soon it will be 20) from Oakland, Calif., to Revere, Mass. The idea is to help students from kindergarten to third grade improve reading skills.

A Washington University study of 23 schools "showed that kids tutored one-on-one by corps volunteers made 60 percent more progress on two major reading skills—decoding new words and understanding passages—than their classmates did." Imagine what a wonderful feeling you would have to know you have helped a student master something that will be important to the rest of their life!

The article said that the life skills of the volunteers is an additional bonus to the kids, building "an amazing bond of trust that makes the child willing to try." Volunteers gain benefits, too: A study showed that after a year of tutoring, "a majority reported increased strength and energy, no matter the state of their health at the start."

Talk about win-win!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making choices empowers you

Do you remember Marlo Thomas and her Free to Be ... You and Me album, book and TV special? It was more than 40 years ago when she and other writers, actors and musicians created the album to help kids rid themselves of old ways of thinking and dream in new, bigger and more positive, joyful ways. As she said in a recent AARP The Magazine article, "We wanted a pint-size revolution! And we got it."

Thomas said she has been surprised by the impact of that project for kids. "I am frequently approached by grownups who tell me how Free to Be helped them follow uncharted paths in their own lives. ... all of us involved in it saw something we wanted to change; our passion and deep belief in that change are what drove us. We all do this in smaller but no less significant ways every day—in the new jobs we choose to take, in the new challenges we choose to tackle. And whether those choices turn out exactly the way we planned them is almost immaterial. The fact that we make them is what's really important."

She's right, isn't she? When you and I follow our passion and believe deeply in our ability to change, we often make choices to follow "uncharted paths." And even if it doesn't turn out exactly as you and I envisioned, we feel so empowered. And most often, those changes become life-changing even when not exactly what we thought they'd be. And, as Thomas said, you and I do this in smaller ways every day, too.

Is there a crossroads of sorts that you're facing right now in which you could make a choice that would empower you? Are you scared to take that "uncharted path"? Feel the fear and do it anyway—if that seems what your heart is saying. And celebrate all those times you made a brave choice, whether it worked out or not.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Choices and changes

My May ezine was distributed two weeks ago, and the topic was "expectations". I generally address topics that I need to hear about myself—and topics that arise in my conversations with clients.

Expectations have long been an issue for me, and in the past few days I've been severely tested in that department! I often expect things that I hope will happen, hard as I try to be realistic or even to try set my expectations low so I'll be pleasantly surprised by reality. And I did it again in a couple situations recently.

Here's the thing, though: Both times, I realized more quickly than I used to that these expectations were going to bring me disappointment, if not real pain. Because of that, I could make a choice about how to respond. I determined that this time, I wasn't going to go to that place I've sometimes found myself before—feeling bummed out and down in the dumps because the longed-for outcome wasn't happening. I wasn't going to let my high hopes for a different outcome "steal my day" and take away the joy I felt otherwise.

And in one case, I determined that I would be with the sadness I felt about an outcome I honestly had not anticipated. I have determined that I'll stay with that feeling until I reach a point of acceptance and healing about something I cannot change but that feels like a big loss to me. I don't know how long that might take. But I'm not going to ignore the sadness. And it's too late to change the expectation I had. So it's time to go with the Serenity Prayer and know I cannot change the situation but must accept what is.

What's your experience with expectations?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Here's to women who birth ideas and dreams

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I have several friends who are not mothers. I also have known women who were trying to have a baby and who for one reason or another, were unable to do so. For many of these women, Mother's Day is an extremely painful day. Reminders of their childlessness are everywhere on that day. Some have chosen their state. Others have not. Even those who have chosen may still find it a sad day. It's good for us to be aware of that.

Knowing these women has widened my view of such holidays. I now see Mother's Day as a day to celebrate all women who nurture us. No doubt you have been nurtured and mentored by many women (and perhaps some men as well!) other than your birth mother. I have, too.

I also see that day as one to celebrate women everywhere who give birth to things other than children: ideas, dreams, books, artwork, music, organizations, projects and all manner of other things to which you and I give life.

Because of that, I have long sent Mother's Day cards to women other than my mother, who is no longer with me in any case. My practice has caught several of my friends off guard at first; but so far, I've gotten a positive and appreciative response.

Who has mentored, mothered or nurtured you? Find a way to thank them and to celebrate their gifts in your life. And next Mother's Day, you may want to even send a card.

I'd love to hear your comments below. Be sure to click on "select a profile" before you submit a comment. The "anonymous" profile is just fine! I'd love to get a conversation going on this website.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pay attention to your anger

Anger is a fascinating topic, isn't it? Have you ever noticed that men are encouraged by our society to show anger because it's a strong emotion and women are discouraged from doing so because it isn't feminine? Women get to cry. Men get to be angry.

Anger also is a very serious issue. When you feel angry about something, it's time to stop and pay attention. What is the anger about? How strongly are you feeling it? How are you expressing it? What type of anger is it? Indirect and passive? Directed at self? Rage?

Anger isn't bad. It simply is. But the way we handle it and express it makes a difference. As I said in a blog post from May 10, 2012, there's "gold" in anger. The gold is the energy it contains, which, when channeled properly, can propel you forward. It might move you toward resolution of a long-standing problem. It might push you to set boundaries you should have set long ago.

But you also need to know when to let it go. You don't want to carry it around for too long; it can be a virtual ball-and-chain dragging you down and making your life (and that of those around you) miserable.

Pay attention to your anger. Use it in positive ways when possible. And always, always, let it go as soon as you can. Learn its lessons. And let it go.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Food obsession: Two sides

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the MSNBC "Morning Joe" show, has just written a new book titled Obsessed: America's Food Addiction—and My Own. It was just released this week. I heard Brzezinski talk earlier this week, together with her co-author and friend Diane Smith, about our struggles with food issues in America—and about her own "disordered eating patterns," as she calls them. We women are especially prone to food issues since there's so much pressure on us to have slender, beautiful bodies.

Smith and Brzezinski talked about coming from different ends of the weight spectrum: Brzezinski has done awful things to her body to maintain low weight, and Smith had let her weight get away from her. After a particularly honest and raw conversation one day, they agreed to work together on their own weight and food issues—and to write a book in the process. Smith would lose 70 pounds (more as it turned out), and Brzezinski would gain 10 or more pounds and try to be OK with a larger dress size.

The book chronicles their journey to these goals and what they learned in the process. It is a reminder to me that there are two sides to a coin. When a person is thin, you and I should not assume they have no food or weight issues. And when someone is overweight, we also should not assume they are lazy and undisciplined. Here's where we can really encourage one another, no matter where we fall on the eating or weight continuum. Skinny women aren't the enemies of overweight ones. Or vice versa.

It's important to refrain from judgment, either toward ourselves or others. If you struggle with food and weight issues and want to make some changes, consider finding a friend to set goals with you. A year ago a friend and I joined Weight Watchers together. We've commiserated and also encouraged each other. As a result, we've each lost some 25 to 30 pounds. It helps to have that support!

And, as always, if you would like some coaching around this issue, please do contact me. Remember, I always offer a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session first.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bring light into the world

My friend Carol has long been a mentor and model for me. One of the things I love about her is that she is an encourager.

When I send out my monthly ezine (if you aren't on the mailing list to receive this once a month, sign up to the right of this blog), she often sends me an email telling me what resonated with her. That kind of feedback is so helpful! It's a reminder to me to tell others when I like or appreciate something they've done.

When I have been down in the dumps or am going through a stressful time, she sends cheery cards and notes; and she sometimes calls with a positive message. She's good about sending emails encouraging—or even commiserating!

Sometimes when my workplace became stressful or painful, she made me laugh by reminding me to wear my hard-hat and flak jacket to work! She often jokingly told me to duck under my desk when stuff started flying at work! Those images always helped me to take things more lightly than I tended to do. They made me laugh. But even more, they reminded me that someone was thinking about me and what I was experiencing. Someone cared that my day was difficult.

Carol's example through the years has led me to become an encourager, too. I love sending cards, notes or emails to people to brighten their day, whether it's for a specific occasion or "just because." I know how wonderful it is to be on the receiving end of those. I have also discovered how great I feel when I do this for others.

How can you brighten someone's day today? It's good to start each day by asking how you can bring more light into the world that day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Check that rear-view mirror

Even though I talk a good deal about living in the present—and also about following your passion and creating new dreams when old ones die, I still think an occasional look in the rear-view mirror is helpful.

Yesterday morning I did what I do from time to time: look back in old journals to see what was on my mind a year or two ago. It is always immensely informative. It's also encouraging to see how I've moved on in the intervening time. Sometimes I find things that I haven't changed yet but that still call out for my attention. It's really about listening to your life.

My early 2010 journal revealed that I was still grieving the loss of the workplace I'd had for 22 years. I was still hurt and angry about being Reduced In Force and having no choice or control over when I would leave a job where I still thought I had work to do.

Now, some three years later, however, I am so thankful to be in a new career—one that is filled with heart and passion for me. It's also one where I feel I can use some of the same skills I needed as a journalist when I interviewed people for the stories I wrote: I asked questions to get at the "nut" of a story and sifted through all the answers to find the gold, the important things that would go into my story. I wouldn't go back for any amount of money! I love what I'm doing now!

Whether you keep a journal or not, what would a look back a year or two (or five) reveal to you about yourself? About where you've been and how far you've come? About where you're going—and whether it's really where you want to go? Take some time to check that rear-view mirror. Celebrate how far you've come. Or make plans to change those things that no longer fit for you. Life is about becoming who and what you were created to be. Where are you on that journey?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Choices—check yours out

Yesterday I got hooked again. I gave in to an expectation that I know will not be met—and, big surprise, I was disappointed once again! Even when I think I'm paying attention to my own triggers and responses, to my expectations and reality, it still happens from time to time. 

Does that ever happen to you? You've worked hard to let go of an old internal message tape or some old behavior that didn't work any longer ... and, boom, there it is again. The good news is that we typically recognize it much more quickly now than we used to. And we can make some different choices. As soon as I realized what had happened, I changed my internal conversation and my attitude from negative to positive.

Choices. We Americans are so big on choices. And advertisers use that to hook us on all kinds of products. Ever hear the National Car Rental ads? "Choose any car in the aisle and go." It doesn't matter what you signed up to rent; you choose what you want.

I'm sure that's a wonderful option. But where I see choice as being extremely important is in how you and I choose to live our lives. Will we live in gratitude? In as positive and joyful a manner as possible? Will we face life with a can-do attitude and meet life events with as much grace and openness as possible? I have heard many true stories about people faced with chronic pain or illness who opted to face it in an open and positive way, searching for the good things that were still in their life. It made such a difference in the way they healed and the way they coped—to say nothing of their quality of life.

What choices are you facing right now? Would an attitude change help?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Balance, rhythm or groundedness?

Recently I heard a sermon about our attempts as Americans to find balance in our lives. If you see balance as the scales in each hand being even, it simply isn't possible. You cannot achieve perfect balance in all the aspects of your life: social, emotional, financial, physical, intellectual and vocational well-being. Yet, the pursuit of that is an endless preoccupation for many of us—and the failure to do so, the cause of much anxiety and stress.

Our pastor referenced Ecclesiastes 3 (made popular when Pete Seeger put it to music in 1959 in "Turn, Turn, Turn, to Everything There is a Season"), saying that you and I might be better served by thinking instead of moving with the rhythm of life. Both the Scripture text and the song speak of "a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up [ or reap] what is planted ... a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...." It's less about balance and more about being open to life's rhythms. In other words, go with the flow!

I've been thinking about that a lot since then. For a few years, I've preferred the idea of being grounded rather than the concept of balance. If I have my feet firmly planted on the solid ground of my beliefs and the knowledge of who I am and what is my best "operating system," I will be flexible and able to go with the flow of my life events. That requires me to really know myself well and know what sets me off, what sparks my passion for life, and what responses to fear and stressful life events work best for me. It requires me to be open to life's rhythms, to know when it's time to plant, when it's time to mourn, when things in my life need to die and be transformed.

When you and I are grounded, we are like the earthquake-proofed skyscrapers. We can flex with the winds of change. We can go with the flow and move with the rhythms of life. And that in turn makes our lives feel so much more in balance. So perhaps it's not either/or so much as both/and—as is true so much in life!

What do you think? I'd love to hear.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What do you expect?

Two days ago my monthly e-newsletter was distributed. The topic this month was expectations—and how they cause us stress.

Do you get easily thrown off balance when you have entered a situation or relationship with preconceived notions of how a person would act, what that person would say or what kind of outcome a situation should have? I suspect we all have that occur, some of us more often than others. Sometimes it's so bad that we almost have the entire event scripted and directed!

My ezine gave some ways to reduce, eliminate or make more realistic our expectations so as to relieve our stress. It is extremely stressful to be so attached to outcomes, and we often experience anxiety and frustration when we do. Seldom does any person or any experience live up to our full expectations. But there's no reason you and I have to continue living that way when, with some changes, we can detach from outcomes—or at least be more realistic about what might happen.

If you aren't on my ezine mailing list (that's all I send to you, and I don't share this list with anyone), you can sign up on any page of my website. Notice on the right hand side of my pages the artwork for the "three free gifts." Click on that. That allows you to sign up to get the once-a-month ezine, and you'll get the three free gifts, too.

I would really love to hear what topics you'd like to see addressed in those monthly ezines. Or on these blog pages. And as always, I really would like to see a conversation with your participation. Leave a comment on any blog that speaks to you and encourage your friends to read and share, too. We women are so good about sharing and learning from one another. You can make that happen here, too. I'm listening!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

To whine or not to whine

Ever catch yourself whining or complaining about absolutely unimportant things? Me, too! ... and that's even when I'm feeling pretty good about life. I don't know what it is about us as humans, but at times it's as though we just can't stand to be positive and happy. Are we afraid of being a Pollyanna? What's up with that?

Well, I really want to be more of a cup-half-full person these days. I want to tell more "river stories" than "rut stories" (from Dawna Markova's book I Will Not Die an Unlived Life).  I've mentioned her book in blogs before; she says we can tell the stories of our life either from the view of a victim, stuck in a rut, in which negative things keep happening to us—or we can tell them from a more life-giving stance where we see the possibilities in our circumstances. We can view our lives positively or negatively. We can see the cup half empty or half full.

So, recently a friend said she, too, catches herself whining about trivialities. She asked me to quietly say something to her when I heard her doing that. What a great idea, I thought! I asked her to do the same for me. This is a great service we can offer one another: a sort of whine-control mechanism. At some point, perhaps cup-half-full behavior will become the default!

Do you have someone who can notice when you say or do things you really want to quit—and can lovingly point that out to you? What a gift that can be. Ask someone for help today. Remember, it takes strength to help others. And it takes courage to ask others to help you.