Archive for the ‘Empowering Women’ category

GUEST BLOG: Remember How Good It Felt to Swing?

May 15th, 2012

By Guest Blogger Kyle Ruffin

It felt like you were flying.  There was something about the simple movement of swinging back and forth, somewhat out of control, that brought about amazing joy when you were a kid.  So much so that writing about it is bringing back a little of that sensation.

One day recently, while going about my humdrum routine of tasks and obligations, I walked by a watercolor painting of kids crowded onto one of those 4-person swings.  They had so much joy painted on their faces.  I thought, wow, I remember feeling that way.  A bunch of friends, or maybe even strange kids I didn’t really know, not caring that we were touching and sharing germs as we enjoyed in the simple act of swinging.  It was before all our phobias had kicked in.  Before Dr. Oz showed us how many germs are on the average kid’s toy.  Or before we became obsessed with engaging only in things that would grow our bank accounts.  Before we became afraid of embarrassing ourselves or looking silly.  Before we started experiencing life vicariously through our kids.  It’s just not the same thing.

All the while, we wonder “Where’d the joy go?  Why don’t I get the same excitement out of simple things in life?”   The kids are having all the fun and we’re feeling empty.   I find my excitement these days is pretty limited to sharing a bottle of wine, a meal and good conversation with my friends and family.  I do love that, but it’s time to diversify the things from which I derive pleasure.  All my physical activity is focused on getting or staying fit – not the joy of movement for it’s own sake.

There’s a lot to be gained by engaging the body in fun stuff.  It’s actually good for our precious mind.  It shakes loose all those cobwebs and gets the blood flowing to parts that haven’t seen blood in a while.   It’s hard not to be present and fully in the moment when you’re throwing your body around.  Not to mention how good those endorphins feel.

I applaud you if you’re one of those people Electric Sliding or Chicken Dancing on the wedding reception dance floor?  Or if you ski — wind in your face, moving at a speed that’s just out of control enough to feel exhilarating but not dangerous.   Okay…maybe a little dangerous.   Time for me to join you!

I’m heading down to the playground to see if that swing set my association dues paid for will hold my weight.  If not, I’ll track down a hoola-hoop to throw my body into.   Some simple fun.  I consider it my reward for all the time I’ve focused on my bank account.

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Guest Blog: Five Tips to Manage Overwhelm

February 29th, 2012

Linda Siniscal

By Linda Siniscal

Does it seem like you need to accomplish more in less time than ever before?  Just about every small business owner I know is overwhelmed with everything they need to do.  Many factors are contributing to this feeling:  new technologies, increased government regulation, a need to market harder, and less access to capital are just a few examples.

Is there truly a way to find an extra hour each day?  Yes, there is, and here are five tips you can put in place to reduce the feeling of overwhelm, free up time, and feel more in control of your business.

1.    Get stuff done off prime time. 

Most people drive to work between 7 and 9 and come home between 4 and 6.  Save yourself 15-30 minutes per day or more by coming in before or after the rush.

Apply this same idea to your weekly errands or times when you need to stand in line.  Go to a restaurant a little early (or late) to avoid the busiest times.   Go to the grocery store during the week instead of on Saturday.

Doing this for 10-12 errands per week will save an hour a week or more.  Combine that with the time you’ll save in rush hour, and you could save as much as three hours a week using this idea.  Even if you can apply this idea to only one or two days a week, you’ll still be ahead of the game.

2.    Delegate clerical or personal tasks.

Make a list of all the tasks you are doing that a minimum wage earner could do, and hire a college student for a few hours a week.  You’ll benefit from systematizing the tasks you delegate – they will get done more efficiently – and you will have freed up a few hours a week once your worker is trained.

3.    Practice Power Hour.

Carve out one hour a day to complete the most profitable task for your business.  This might be making sales calls, meeting with a power partner, or designing a new service or product to offer clients.  It’s best if it’s the first hour in your day.  In any case, the time should be sacred, with no checking email, no answering the phone, and no texting.

Your business will really accelerate when you make Power Hour a regular practice.

4.    Check email and social media less often.

Turn off automatic send and receive in your Outlook or email application.  Instead, close (yes, close!) your email application for most of the day.  Check it only at 8am, noon, and 4pm. When you can break the addictive cycle, you will have fewer interruptions, be able to focus, and do higher quality work.

Likewise, if you need to spend time on social media, set a timer before you start.  When the bell rings, that’s it! Get back to work.

5.    Nail your time wasters. 

The only real way to determine where your primary time drains are is to track your time, minute by minute for a couple of days.  When you review the log, you’ll be able to see what’s going on and what you can do to prevent time from slipping through your fingers.

When you can use your time wisely, you’ll not only get more done, you’ll get the things done that matter to you.

Linda Siniscal, Certified Bookkeeper and owner of Third Hand Bookkeeping Services offers virtual bookkeeping services to small businesses since 1994. Subscribe to our bi-monthly eNewsletter VirtualConnections™, providing tips and resources to make your work life easier. You can subscribe by visiting www.yourextrahand.com.

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Asking for Feedback Raises Expectations

February 21st, 2012

In the mind of the giver, your request for feedback signals a desire to learn about the impact of your actions and make improvements.  While it is absolutely true that you always have the right to act on the feedback you receive or ignore it completely, you also have to be aware that those who muster up the courage and energy to give you honest feedback, particularly developmental FeedForward, hold an expectation that you will use the information and make changes.

This point really came to life for me recently.  I was collecting feedforward – constructive suggestions for improvement – for a senior executive of a major corporation.  I spoke with a number of people – his boss, peers and direct reports.  A number of them had provided him with feedback previously, and they were less than enthusiastic about giving him feedback again.  Why?  Because, in their words, “He hasn’t changed.  He didn’t listen the last time, so I’m not sure this time will be different.”  Point made and understood!

That point prompted me to offer the following coaching, for your consideration:

For the giver:  When you give feedback, give it and let it go.  Give in the true sense – give without expectation.  Give the gift of your perspective, with honesty and compassion AND respect the recipient’s right to do with the feedback whatever she chooses.  If she makes changes you recognize wonderful.  Acknowledge what you see and congratulate her.  If she does nothing as a result of your input, let that be fine too.  Respect the person’s right to do as she chooses, including living with the positive or negative consequence of her decision.

For the recipient:  When you ask for and receive feedback, especially developmental feedback, know that your request is sending a signal others are likely to read as, “I want to make some changes and improvements.  Help me see where I should focus my efforts for greatest effect.”  Having others do work on your behalf – give you feedback – and then for you to do nothing with it will not likely predispose the giver to trust future requests or to give again.

Always choose one or two items to implement.  Then, tell a few people around you, those who can easily witness you engaging in the new behavior, “I received some feedback that suggested I allow people to finish their sentences before I speak.  Beginning today, I’m going to work on that.  Would you be willing to help me by pointing out when you notice me allowing, or not allowing, others to finish their statements?   In the moment, you can clear your throat, cough, or simply say something like, “Lucy, I don’t think John finished his statement.”

Look for and acknowledge small changes in yourself and others.  Sometimes, you, and others, change.  The effort is real and sincere.  The change may be small and almost imperceptible, even though it feels BIG inside the one rendering the effort.  No one verbally acknowledges the change.  Feeling frustrated, reversion to old behavior occurs easily.  What can you do?  Verbally acknowledge baby steps, leaps and everything in between.

When a person does something well consistently, or simply better than they have in the past, let them know it.  Compliment them on the spot, grab them after the meeting, call, email, text; just be sure to tell them.  Hearing, “I noticed how well you handled the group’s questions today.  You restated each question and tested to be sure you understood the intention behind it; made eye contact with everyone, including the person who asked the question, as you responded; and your tone of voice and word choices were respectful.”  Your acknowledgment – to yourself and others – fuels continuous improvement.

Whether based on feedback or self-reflection, when you try to make a change, it sometimes takes a while before you feel comfortable with the new behavior and before others notice the change, or trust that it is real and not just an aberration.  That’s why change takes commitment and is not for the faint of heart.

Definitely, ask for appreciative feedback and developmental feedforward, but only when you intend to apply its lessons and make changes that help you be even more effective.

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The Best Way to Make Feedback Constructive: Practice FeedForward

February 15th, 2012

What do you do when you care about a person?  You find ways to support their happiness and success, particularly when they’re motivated and moving in that direction.

What’s a good way to get behind someone you care about and help them increase their effectiveness and propel themselves forward?  Give them high quality feedback.

Feedback is nourishment for all who are committed to growth and development.  In”Want to Grow and Flourish? Seek Out the Gift of Feedback” and “Does Giving Feedback Scare You? You’re Not Alone,” you get a sense of my thoughts on feedback and its value.  I offered techniques for asking for it, as well as receiving and giving it.  Here I’m offering a few stem statements that you can use that will help you give appreciative and developmental feedback with greater ease and honesty.

  • Appreciative feedback is information about behavior that is effective and enables you to create desired results.  It’s the stuff you do that works well.
  • Developmental feedback is information about behavior you exhibit – something you’re doing, or not doing – which detracts from your effectiveness.

Both types of feedback are valuable and, when delivered skillfully, can be experienced as positive and constructive.

Each of the following stem statements is offered with an eye toward what to do versus what not to do or what is not working.

When giving Appreciative Feedback begin your comments with statements like these:

  • I like/admire the way you…  Keep it up!
  • You’re effective when you…
  • The way you____seems to work well.  Keep doing that.
  • I value your ability to…
  • I experience your strengths as…
  • You’re very good at…
  • You have a particular talent for…
  • Continue to…  You’re effective when you do that.

Try these statements when giving Developmental Feedback:

  • Consider…
  • As you move ahead, you might be more successful if you…
  • One suggestion for the future is…
  • Start to…  I think that would be helpful.
  • For the future, I would appreciate it if you would…  It would help me (or the team) to…
  • I’ve seen several people increase their effectiveness by…   Maybe that’s an idea you might try.
  • From now on, …
  • Going forward, …

The intention behind each of these stem statements is to encourage the giver to make an affirmative statement – a statement that points to preferred or suggested behavior to continue or begin.  It takes your comments out of the realm of focusing on the past and criticizing what the person has done.  Instead, you’re focused on what the person already does that works and making suggestions about future actions that may be more effective.

This technique was popularized by Marshall Goldsmith, author of many great books, and founder of a coaching process in which I’m certified.  Marshall calls the process FeedForward.  If you’d like to read more about Feedforward, click here.

Practicing FeedForward can help you make the feedback process more positive and constructive, even when you have to address sensitive, difficult issues.

Remember:

  • Be committed to being honest and communicating your message positively and constructively.
  • Ask for time to think about what you want to say and the best way to say it.  Doing so, you’re more likely to develop and deliver your message successfully.  Simply say, “Let me give your request some thought and I’ll get back to you later today.”  Think about it.  Get your framing right:  honest, compassionate and respectful. With that, you’re ready to deliver your message.
  • Feedback is not a dialogue or conversation.  In its purest form, it’s a description of behavior exhibited that works well, or a suggestion about behavior that might be more effective.
  • Close with, “Thanks for asking.  Let me know if I can be of help, going forward.” This simple statement lets the person know you’re willing to continue to be supportive of their efforts to be their best.

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Want to Grow and Flourish? Seek Out the Gift of Feedback.

January 31st, 2012

As I wrote last week’s post, “A Challenging Boss Can Be Good For You,” I started thinking about another key workplace challenge – the challenge of getting good feedback. It’s a big hurdle for most people.

You may have reservations about making yourself vulnerable when you ask for feedback. “Do I really want to hear what they have to say? Is this going to make me feel bad? Will I be embarrassed or humiliated by what they say to me?”

You may have questions about whether you can trust what the person says? “Are they being honest with me? Are they telling me the whole truth or have they sugarcoated the message, dumbed it down or softened it to the point that it’s meaningless?” Or, you may wonder, “Did they have to bludgeon me? I could have gotten the message if they had been just a little less painfully critical.” Despite all of these concerns, feedback is what you need to help you grow and flourish.

I divide feedback into two major categories: appreciative and developmental. Appreciative feedback is a message about what you’re doing that works well and makes you effective. Literally, it’s what others appreciate and value about you. Developmental feedback contains a message about something you’re doing — or not doing – that leads others to judge your behavior as less than effective. Both types of feedback are necessary and very valuable. Appreciative feedback lets you know what you are doing that you should continue doing. Developmental feedback gives you an opportunity to consider behavioral changes that could result in increased effectiveness.

Here’s the problem I see all too often: people don’t get good feedback. In this case, good means honest and truthful feedback, whether it’s appreciative or developmental. Most often, people don’t get good feedback because their managers and supervisors don’t give it. They tend not to give it because it’s hard to do and they’re often uncertain about how the message will be received. They may be asking themselves, “Will this be more work than it’s worth?”

To grow and flourish, you need accurate information about how your behavior impacts others – how you’re perceived and experienced by those with whom you live and work. You need to understand how you impact others because, with great regularity, there is a gap between your good intentions and the way your behavior looks and feels when it lands in the world of others. Armed with good quality information, you can make wise, informed decisions about repeating behaviors that support your success and choosing new behaviors where change is warranted.

So, here’s a strategy…ask your manager/supervisor for feedback. Ask to set aside some time on their calendar for a conversation about your performance. Scheduling time to talk will make it less likely you’ll be interrupted.

Here are a couple of questions that are open-ended and work well:

  1. What do you see me doing that works well and helps me to be effective? (Appreciative feedback)
  2. What are a couple of things you would suggest I do differently, to be even more effective? (Developmental feedback)

Now, here’s the hard part. After you ask question #1, be quiet and listen. Make notes of what the person says. Do NOT debate with them or explain yourself, or agree or disagree. Listen, note key words and phrases, and say, “Thank you.”

Then, go to question #2. Ask the question, then be quiet and listen. Don’t debate, agree, disagree, or make excuses or give explanations for why you do what you do. Just listen and take in what the person says. Make it easy for them to share their truth with you. Be sure to note the suggestions they provide and to thank them for being forthright and helpful.

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind:

  1. Breathe deeply to stay relaxed and present.
  2. Remember, this is NOT a conversation. Don’t dialogue back and forth. It’s a data gathering session. Ask your questions. Listen well. Take good notes.
  3. If you are unclear about a point, ask, “Would you mind clarifying that for me so that I fully understand.” Be sure to use a tone of voice and non-verbals that convey openness.
  4. End the meeting with, “Thank you!” It takes a lot for people to give feedback, even when it’s their job. A certain amount of personal courage is required and framing feedback so it’s clear also takes mental and emotional energy. Accept whatever the person has offered as a generous gift.

Here’s an important fact to remember: you can do with feedback whatever you want. You decide. You can use it or you can ignore. The choice is yours, as is the consequence of your choice. The giver will be watching. If you use the information constructively, you predispose the giver to be open with you the next time you ask, or the next time they hear something said about you or your work that they think you ought to know.

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How to Journal Your Truth and Inspire Others

January 17th, 2012

Since LIES That Limit hit the market, many of you have asked, “What other products do you have available?”

Well, we heard you.  Today, I’m happy to announce that in addition to the executive coaching, keynote addresses and customized workshops that comprise the core Spirit of Purpose®  offerings, we now have two new products:

“Journal Your Truth” and Transform Your Life

Journaling will help you to get to know your deeper Self better, solve your toughest problems, strengthen your intuition and creativity, and document your story.  Journaling is a great way to clear your mind, reduce stress, sort through the issues and conflicts in your life, and develop a solid plan of action for moving forward.

The Journal Your Truth notebook will help you align your head and your heart.  When your thoughts, feelings, energy and intentions are aligned, you become a powerhouse.  Consciously aligning energy and intentions makes the “Law of Attraction” work for you.  Journaling clears away the energetic drag of doubt, fear, worry, anxiety and negativity.

If you’ve read LIES That Limit, you know that at the end of each chapter there is a section called, “Journal Your Truth.”  It contains questions designed to help you apply the content of the chapter to your life.  This journal is the perfect place to document your Self-exploration and its a safe place to bare your soul and bear witness to YOUR truth.   Sometimes, you even hide the truth from yourself.

Use this tool as little as 10 minutes a day to practice the art of intentional reflection, and you’ll find yourself making better, more empowered decisions.  Intentional reflection enables conscious choice and conscious choice will transform your life.

Inspire Your Circle of Friends and Family With Spirit of Purpose® Notecards

The next tine you reach for a notecard to send someone – celebrating an accomplishment, acknowledging a milestone, emboldening their courage, helping them get back on track, supporting their decision – send a Spirit of Purpose® notecard. Each package contains 10 beautifully designed notecards with one of 5 life-affirming messages from the book LIES That Limit.  Inside each card is beautiful white space waiting for the special, personal message you want to share.

Special Limited Time Offer:  Book Club Bundle

For a limited time, we’re offering a FREE journal or set of notecards with any purchase of 10 or more copies of LIES That Limit: Uncover The Truth Of Who You Really Are.  Put LIES That Limit on your 2012 Book Club list.  It will stimulate life-changing discussion, and give you and your entire group real, simple and  attainable tools to Live Better Now.

LIES That Limit also makes a great gift for family, friends and co-workers who are in transition, or who need to examine the things that are standing in the way of a happy, fulfilling and exhilarating life.

Welcome to a new year of positive change in your life and the lives of the people you care so much about!  

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Are You “Where You Came From” or “Where You’re Going?”

November 8th, 2011

When guest-blogger Kyle Ruffin sent this submission, I read it, riveted to every word she wrote.  Everything in me was shouting, “Amen!” Her message, aligned with the message LIES That Limit, is one I had to share with you. Have a read and let me hear how her words and energy impact you.

I work a lot with people who’ve devoted their lives to helping residents of Camden, NJ overcome their trials and tribulations. Since 1997, I’ve been on boards, committees and even employed by organizations with a mission of bringing self-sufficiency to a city of people dependent on others to survive.

After so many years, I find myself asking whether we’re truly fighting poverty, under-education, substance abuse, illiteracy and all other social ills, or are we really fighting a deeply in-grained mindset. Is it a set of beliefs held not only by the people who live in Camden – one of the poorest cities in the country – but by the people working to save them? When you ask caring members of the human service community to ask the people in Camden to contribute money to their cause or volunteer for their organization, often they’ll answer that people in Camden don’t do that. Which is true, but is that because they’re not expected to do it or is it because their lives are so overburdened with problems that volunteering is more of a luxury than the duty some of us feel to help our fellow man.

I myself am often sidelined by things that happened to me in the past. My history holds convenient excuses that I can use when rationalizing about not pushing myself. In my head I hear the litany of reasons “I can’t, because” or “I didn’t, because.” These are LIES I have at the ready in case someone challenges me. And deceptively, they make me feel better about sitting on my hands, rather than pushing through a fear that’s masking my truth. Often, my truth has nothing to do with what happened in my past. My truth is something I can still make happen every day.

My husband brought home a mug recently that caught his eye. He hasn’t figured how who he’ll give it to, but it certainly resonated with me. It said “This is your life. Shape it or someone else will.”

I offer a modified “or something else will” – your past! One of the biggest LIES that many of us live with is giving “where we came from” more importance than it deserves. There are probably lots of examples we can draw on that prove we’ve grown beyond our past, yet in so many ways it holds us like someone pulling at the back of our shirt as we try to forge ahead.

Kyle Ruffin

I’m not a huge fan of those inspirational rags-to-riches tales of people who rose from poverty to make it huge! Oprah. Tyler Perry. Every NBA or NFL star ever. The list goes on and on. For me, it’s easy to discount those folks when I’m looking for inspiration for my less than “Time Magazine Woman of the Year” life. I’m not trying to become a media mogul. I’m not trying to change the world or even save a life. I’m just trying to get through this life with more smiles than frowns. But I must say that those larger than life superstars have an important lesson for everyone struggling to see their future as something they control. These icons have managed to shed their woe-is-me, I-came-from-_____-so-feel-sorry-for-me frame of mind. Somehow, they didn’t think reaching great heights was beyond them because no one they knew had ever done it before. They just put on their “I can do it” blinders and went for it. What ever “handouts” they got, they didn’t look at them as entitlements. They took advantage of the opportunities they were presented with and parlayed them into something much greater than the original gift.

Sometimes our minds get stuck in the past – focused on a history that we can’t change or affect. Sometimes people we love unwittingly keep us moonwalking over the same history – one that says this is all we can ever amount to. We can always amount to more – until the day we die!

There are entire cities – even countries – of people who base their perception of what they can accomplish on what they or others before them didn’t achieve. That script in their collective psyche is more powerful than anything anyone else can say or do to them. No matter how much money, education or inspiration one throws at it them, nothing will change until it is unmasked, brought to the surface and obliterated.

How?  The suggestion box is open!

 

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Are You A Spirit of Purpose?

October 25th, 2011

Have you uncovered the deepest truth of who you really are and what you’re here to experience and contribute? If you’re like most people, you’re searching for the answer to those questions.

John said, “I want to know who I am and why I’m here. And, I don’t want to know. “

“Why not?,” I asked.

“It’s simple. If I know I’ll have to do something about it. I might have to change. I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”

Like John, you may not know the answer to these questions…not with consistent certainty. You do alotto avoid criticism and scrutiny.  Perhaps you’ve habitually distorted your desires and contorted your actions to conform and gain others’ acceptance and approval.  Now, you find yourself equivocating; questioning your right to dream a different dream; fearing your truth; resisting saying, “YES!” to the call that comes from deep within.  You doubt your ability to connect with your inner guidance and hear what this part of you has to say about who you are and why you’re here. You do the approach-avoidance dance and disconnect from the real you.

You ARE a Spirit of Purpose™!

Spirit, a spark of the divine universal life force, is the energy that animates your mind and body. You’re here to make a specific and unique contribution – to fill a need that no one else but you can satisfy.  Your Spirit and Purpose have been calling to you – loudly or softly – all of your life.  It will never be silenced.

How do you connect with your Spirit of Purpose™?  That’s the question we’ll continue to explore because Spirit of Purpose™ is who and what you are, and it’s an organization with an evolving and growing community.  The intent of Spirit of Purpose, LLC is to support you on your journey to remembering the deeper truth of who you really are and why you’re here.

Through our work, be it LIES That Limit, future books and articles, this blog (which will soon be renamed The Spirit of Purpose™ Blog), workshops, speaking engagements, as well as one-on-one and group coaching sessions, Spirit of Purpose, LLC is dedicated to providing content that will enable you to live a better life — one directed and driven by your authentic self.  The journey begins when you identify and let go of all the ways you have been trained, tricked and coerced into living LIES That Limit.

LIES That Limit was written to help you undo the damage of the labels, illusions, excuses and stories that sabotage your success, narrow your range of choices and limit the fulfillment of your deepest, most noble desires. Doing the work described in LIES That Limit is the first step on the path to living fully as the Spirit of Purpose™ you are.

Living and leading with the Spirit of Purpose™ you are is about reclaiming your real brilliance, power, majesty, creativity and calling. When you reconnect with that truth, you will have a better life – the one you were born to have.

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Guest Blog: Does A Better Life Mean More?

October 4th, 2011

Guest Blogger Kyle Ruffin gives us a little Yoga for the mind to help get us back on track and focused on the things that matter most.

Many days, I sit with an invisible struggle that has plagued me a lot since I traded my frantic corporate life for a somewhat less frantic business of my own. The question I tussle with often is, “does a better life mean more?” While working today, I stumbled on this article at Psychology Today that shed some light on the battle being waged in my head and heart. It declares that Life Is Series of Trade-offs. It’s a great article that I highly recommend reading after you’re done here.

As Americans, we’re trained to believe that if we don’t have all the trappings of success, we can’t possibly be happy. Great job. Perfect kids who will eventually become president. Fit bodies adorned with thick, beautiful hair. Vacations that make all our friends jealous. Social lives that belong on the pages of magazines.

Today, I’ve concluded that it’s all LIES driven by the titans of consumerism. Which I imagine comes as no surprise to anyone.

I’m not poo-poo-ing consumerism. I myself am a serial consumer. What I am trying to do is bring awareness – mine and anyone who’ll read this – to the fact that we judge ourselves based on factors determined by forces that don’t have our best interest at heart. The trade-off is that we shortchange the things that actually do make us happy – if we even know how to recognize them anymore.

As I sit here among my trappings, I still feeling like something huge is missing. If you feel the same way, I urge you to try this on for size.

Get to know what truly makes you happy. You’ll recognize it when you’re experiencing it. Your heart will feel like it’s glowing when you’re engaged in it. Maybe you feel the glow when watching your child achieve something. Maybe it’s when you’re with friends and family. That’s what does it for me. Maybe you get off on being in the spotlight. Or when you’ve accomplished something you thought was beyond you, or when you’re taking on a new challenge.

Kyle Ruffin

Once you identify a source of your glow, take it in. Be present in the experience. For most of us that’s a foreign concept, but I offer this instruction. While there, don’t send your mind ahead to the next task. Honor this moment by looking around you. Breathe in the experience and smell your surroundings.  To help quiet your mind, take at least 5 deep breaths that fill your entire torso.  Close your eyes and listen to the place that makes you happy. Feel the air on your skin and your body making contact with it’s surroundings. Acknowledge that glowing feeling in your chest without judging it. Do this and you’ll be meditating on the moment – your moment and no one else’s.

So I say a better life does mean more – more moments that make you feel like that. Money in the bank, a roof over your head and kids you can be proud of are definitely important, and we will always make trade-offs to secure those things. But genuine happiness lies in trading less of your glow for more “stuff” that we’re brainwashed into believing will serve the same purpose.

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A Food Fight In A Nursing Home?

September 13th, 2011

Lessons about limiting LIES are everywhere. Here’s a story about being attached to a definition – a labels that defines what a thing is for.

My Lovely Mother Cora Moore

Did you know you’re never too old for a food fight? No, I don’t mean the kind you remember from junior high. The food fight I’m referencing occurred between my mother, one of the wonderful caregivers where she lives, and me.

Recently, I showed up during breakfast. Rachel was in Mom’s room. I stood outside the door listening, learning, and trying to not interfere with their routine and relationship. Mom and Rachel get along well.

“Mrs. Moore, time for breakfast. Ready to eat?” I hear no response from my mother.

Rachel tries again, “Are you going to eat for me today, Mrs. Moore.”

This time, Mom responds. “No.”

“Please Mrs. Moore, just a little.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

“But it’s breakfast. You need breakfast so you’ll have a good start to your day.”

I heard Mom say, “I don’t want any.”

I stepped through the door as Rachel continued the negotiation. This time, she divided the food on the plate and pointed to the smallest of the piles, “Okay, Mrs. Moore, eat just this much.”

Mom looked at me and said, “I don’t know why she’s trying to get me to eat. I told her, I don’t feel like eating.”

I smiled empathically and wondered about Mom’s continued loss of interest in food. What did it mean? Did she not want to eat? Was it too early in the day for her to feel hungry? Did she not want what they were serving? This had become an ongoing problem. Several staff members had mentioned Mom’s lack of interest in food. A slight weight loss underscored the story.

I decided to give her a try. “Mom, this oatmeal looks good and it’s still hot. I can add the raisins and honey. Want to try some?”

“No.” Then she made a characteristic move: she changed the subject. “How’s Bill?” Since I was a kid, I’ve known a change in subject means Mom is finished with the topic and any further conversation is a waste of breath. Today, I decided to persevere.

I thought about the contrast between the kinds of foods Mom enjoyed before her illness and the relatively bland diet she now eats. Deciding to test her interest in food versus her interest in the food presented, I reached into my bag, grabbed the small snack baggie I had packed earlier that morning.

“I have some peanuts, Mom. Would you like some?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile.

Got her! Success! On her tray, I spread out a napkin and poured a nice-sized serving of peanuts. She began eating with apparent, deep pleasure. Rachel walked in.

“Are those peanuts, Mrs. Moore?” She spoke Mom’s name but her eyes were on me. Mom didn’t answer; she kept eating, one peanut at a time, eyes straight ahead.

I spoke up, “Yes, they’re peanuts.”

Rachel said, “That’s not breakfast food. Peanuts are a snack.”

“Not traditionally. But, she’s eating and enjoying them. Plus, they’re nutritious.”

“But, peanuts aren’t a real breakfast,” Rachel insisted.

It’s funny, the way we conceive of everyday things, and the labels [link] we apply, seem so real and defining until they become confining and limiting. Rachel’s response to me giving Mom peanuts for breakfast stayed with me; I was struck by it. I thought of the number of times I, and a lot of others I know, have had peanut butter on toast for breakfast. It’s both delicious and nutritious. Certainly, in this case, I was happy to find something Mom was willing to eat.

Getting back to my conversation with Rachel. In responding to her, I used a lesson I learned from my dear mother: I smiled and changed the subject. She and I talked a bit longer while Mom ate the rest of her peanuts and drank all of her orange juice. Then, Mom announced, “I’m full. That was soooo good.” With that, she put her head on the pillow and dozed off.

Limiting labels aside – “That’s not breakfast food. Peanuts are a snack,” – the food fight was over.

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