Posts Tagged ‘Self Improvement’

Control Overreaction At Work and Home

March 5th, 2013

Angry Biz WomanWhen it comes to pressure in the workplace or at home, which situations trigger feelings of overload, burden, overwhelm and stress?  How do you typically react?  Do you freeze up, get angry or cranky, gossip, feel frustrated, or stop working and start complaining?  Do you overreact?

The next time pressure and overload land in your world, shift your old pattern to a more constructive response.

Consciously choose your reaction. Begin by acknowledging to yourself that wave of despair, annoyance or overwhelm as it starts to surface.  Then, take a moment and identify your preferred response.  If you need the benefit of another perspective, speak with your manager or a trusted friend.  Discuss the necessity of a shift in priorities.  Seek out their advice about ways to proceed. You can also solicit suggestions from a colleague.  Or, if need be, take a brief walk to clear your head, release tension and get a fresh perspective.

The trick to handling pressure more effectively is interrupting your auto-pilot, patterned response. Consciously choose to replace overreaction with emotional intelligence and you’ll feel the change ripple through your life.

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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

February 13th, 2013

Get Beyond Your Comfort Zone“I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.” ~Ashton Kutcher 

Defensiveness is the biggest deterrent to learning, professional and personal growth and positive change.  Most of the time we don’t recognize when we’re standing in the way of our own progress.

Here’s the number one way you can tell if you’re stopping yourself from learning and becoming more.  When someone makes a suggestion, do you respond by explaining why you do what you do?  If you do, your internal mental Border Patrol, a concept I introduced in my book, LIES That Limit, is making an argument for your status quo.  Justifying your behavior is a sure way to stay stuck in old, outdated patterns.

Another way you thwart your own growth is when you tell others they don’t understand your situation or circumstances, you’re limiting your ability to make progress with your life.

If you’re at cause for lackluster progress in your life, stop justifying your behavior and start identifying more with your vision for your life.  Tell a new story.

For more information, pick up a copy of LIES That Limit on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.  Learn more about conquering your own Border Patrol by visiting TMGSpeaks.com and search “Border Patrol.”

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Obstacles or Opportunities: How to Respond With Emotional Intelligence

January 15th, 2013

stress and depression, broken pencil, isolated on black

Every day, opportunities are presented to us. They may be disguised as obstacles, problems or issues, but what they really are is a chance to demonstrate our ability to make a positive contribution to our lives or our company’s goals and objectives.

The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is by making conscious choices designed to get you closer to your personal and career goals.

Here are two simple steps that will help you act more mindfully in the face of a perceived obstacle.

  1. Slow down your actions and reactions. Take a few breaths and think before you speak, decide or act.
  2. Then, look out into future and imagine the potential consequences of your response. Determine if what you’re about to say or do supports or sabotages your intentions.

In all areas of life – at work and at home, conscious choice is a necessary component of behavioral change and goal achievement. Make a firm decision to accomplish your goals by breaking free of self-limiting patterns. Simply put, a quick “no” might close more doors than you realize at first, while a well-thought out “yes” signals others that you’re an engaged member of a team focused on success.

Remember:  stop, breathe and think.  Then, select the emotionally intelligent response that will move you closer to what you want.

To make your year more successful and satisfying, learn more about the powerful possibilities of conscious choice in LIES That Limit: Uncover The Truth Of Who You Really Are.

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Happy YOUR Year!

January 1st, 2013

2013 Going Forward ListLike every year in your life, 2013 is YOUR YEAR.  It’s sure to bring you multiple opportunities to live with a clear mind, a grateful heart, and look forward to the next steps on your journey with joy-filled anticipation.

The start of the new year is the perfect time for Intentional Reflection.  Purposefully look back on the year that has passed to set the stage for moving forward to the year ahead. Here are a few thoughts to guide your process.

Assess YOUR YEAR – 2012 – by making two lists:  a Grateful For and a Going Forward list

On your Grateful For list, note all the good you experienced, all the goals you accomplished; list everything for which you’re grateful.  Because we sometimes lose sight of how truly fortunate we are and how much good is ours, you very well may be surprised at the content and length of your list.  Your Grateful For list is a reminder of how wonder-full your life is everyday.

On your Going Forward list, include whatever you’re longing to experience; want to try your hand at, improve, strengthen or add to your repertoire and skill set.  Be honest with yourself.  Note only that which speaks to your heart’s desire and is calling for fulfillment.  Jot down one or two things you’re truly committed to adding to your Grateful For list, on or before December 31, 2013.  Let this year – your year – be the year you take steps to satisfy your deepest longings.  These longings are your Spirit and Purpose calling for attention and fulfillment.

As you move into your 2013, empower yourself with the knowledge that you are the creative and defining force in your life.  Through the beliefs you hold, the thoughts you think, the emotions and feelings you experience, and your daily behavior choices, you shape your life.  That being so, you have the uncontested ability and power to make your life more like you want it to be.

Intentional Reflection and Conscious Choice are tools that can help you identify self-limiting beliefs, release outdated patterns of behavior and make more effective choices – choices that result in greater self-awareness, personal power and success.  Intentional Reflection and Conscious Choice lead to Transformational Change that will help you live better, and more effectively interact with the people who look to you for trustworthy friendship and leadership

May your Grateful For list delight you.  May your Going Forward list honor the call of your Spirit and align with your Purpose.  May Intentional Reflection and Conscious Choice help you make your year one that touches your Spirit, speaks to your sense of Purpose and enhances your effectiveness in every area of your life.

You can learn more about the powerful possibilities of Intentional Reflection, Conscious Choice and Transformational Change in LIES That Limit:  Uncover the Truth of Who You Really Are.

Happy YOUR Year!

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Holiday Spirits Bright

December 11th, 2012

We tend to react to familiar situation in familiar ways.  That’s clearly true any time we find ourselves back in a familiar situation – like celebrating a holiday with our family of origin or our in-laws.

Without thinking, old ingrained patterns of behavior kick in.  When the pattern is constructive, the gathering tends to feel like the blessing and celebration of life it’s intended to be.  But, when there is stress and strain in relationships, what could be a joyful time is marred by negativity.

So, if you’re thinking about how you can avoid family dysfunction this holiday season, look no further.  Here are 5 tips for that will help you keep your holiday spirits bright.

1) Make conscious choices about how you react.  If your experience of holiday gatherings is less than peaceful and enjoyable, this year instead of interacting and responding like you usually do to the stressors, make a conscious choice to do all you can to make the gathering you’re part of a positive experience – for yourself and everyone else.

At every turn, when old, familiar negative thoughts and reactions well up, ready to burst forth, before you respond, take a deep breath and remember your decision – your conscious choice – to do all you can to add peace and enjoyment to the gathering.

 2) Set boundaries and share them.  Setting boundaries is not easy.   Your decision impacts others in the family or social group.  It’s helpful to tell them, in advance, that cousin Robin will not be with us this year.  Or what the new house rules are:  a no shoes policy, no smoking in the house or no gifts.  Giving your guests early notice about changes to traditions provides them an opportunity to get used to the idea or to decide they’d rather not join you this year.

When you set boundaries, the dynamics of the relationships may also change.  Be ready to hear and accept other’s reactions.  You don’t have to argue the point, agree, disagree or feel pressured to alter your decision.  Simply acknowledge that you hear and understand how they feel.   Then, be patient as everyone, including you, adjusts to the changes.

3) Remove yourself from caustic situations. If you experience the behavior of another as unkind, abusive or disrespectful, don’t hesitate to remove yourself from the environment.

Go to another room.  Take a walk.  Sit in your car.  Drive around the block.  If need be, excuse yourself from attending the gathering and find another time to connect with everyone.

 4) Wait 2 minutes before responding to anything that infuriates you.  This is a good practice in any situation.  Reflex responses are often defensive and tend to escalate tensions, anxiety or anger.  Take a few deep breaths.  Go get a drink of water. Stand outside.  Do something to clear your mind and allow your breathing to return to normal . . . a sign that you – the grown up, rational you – is back in control.

When you rejoin the setting, since the moment of tension has probably passed, no comment may be necessary.  But, if you feel compelled to say something, remember the conscious choice you made to do all you can to add peace and enjoyment to the gathering.  Respond with that in mind.

5) Use their actions as lessons on how NOT to be.  Family and loved ones offer us a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and the limits we place on our willingness and capacity to demonstrate compassion and love.

Accept your family and friends as they are.  Many holiday fights and frustrations come about because we want our loved ones to be different than they are.  We CANNOT control how others behave so don’t even try.

Remember, at the heart of every individual and family is a real need for love and acceptance.  This holiday season, and every day, consciously decide to bring love, peace, compassion, acceptance and enjoyment to life – yours and everyone around you.

Happy Holiday!

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What Will You Give This Holiday Season? Experiences or Things?

December 4th, 2012

This idea of giving experiences rather than things is evergreen, and especially relevant this time of year when so many of us honor the spirit of gift giving.

On a recent flight I sat next to an interesting, energetic woman, Sue Ann.  She and her husband were headed off to explore another location on their bucket list:  the beaches and vistas of St. Thomas.

“Seeing all of our beautiful country is a goal we set a long time ago,” she said.

Easy to talk with, we conversed the entire flight from Miami to St. Thomas.  Sue Ann told me about her early life growing up in rural Arkansas; her career as an ICU nurse; they way she and her husband partnered to build his business and financial security; the way they raised their son; the pleasure they take in their two grandchildren; and the way they spend their lives today, including the upcoming holiday.  She lit up when she told me the story of her family’s Christmas tradition.

She began by explaining, “We always gave Joe everything he needed – lots of love, a comfortable home where he could bring his friends, clothes, a few toys, a good education and our time and attention.  But, from the time he was little, at Christmas, on his birthday and other important occasions, we didn’t give him toys or more clothes, we tried to do things with him – things that would create memories and stories he could tell.  A lot of what we did didn’t even cost much.”

Sue Ann and her husband, Tom, gave Joe experiences instead of things.  They chose the longer lasting, more enduring option of shared time and involvement that makes memories that can last a lifetime.

She talked about trips to the city, the zoo, historical sites and museums.  Camping trips to beautiful locations.  Plays and concerts.  County fairs and carnivals.  Fishing trips.  Amusement parks.  Botanical gardens.  Skating, skiing, hiking.  Sporting events – community and professional.  Touring other cities.  Visiting national monuments.  As an added treat, on many occasions they allowed Joe to bring along friends.

Her family tradition fits perfectly with my belief that gifts of experiences are more memorable and impactful than things, particularly things that don’t fulfill a specific need.  I’ve written about this giving gifts vs. things before. I was even interviewed on TV about it.

This long-held view – that experiences are better than things – was validated by research published in a Psychology Today article that suggested we get greater satisfaction out of “experiences” than “things.”  It referred to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that said people have an easier time choosing between experiences than they do choosing from a variety of material items.

If giving experience is not a part of your holiday and birthday tradition, consider adding it.  You can give experiences instead of things or do both.  Experiences create shared memories and give people stories to tell.  They live longer in the minds and emotions of recipients than things do.

This is the season of love, hope, peace and generosity.  I hope yours is safe and joyous.

Enjoy!

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Hurricane Sandy: My Personal Pivot Point

November 13th, 2012

Me in post-Sandy cleanup mode.

When the bus pulled up to our lane, the kids yelled, “Oooh!  Look at your house.”

Looking out the window, we saw nothing but a curl of smoke where our house once stood.  Exiting the bus, mouths gaping in disbelief, tears streaming down our faces, my brother Lee and I ran, trembling, into the waiting arms of our Grandmother.  Our house burned to a pile of smoldering ash while he and I were at school and Granny, our guardian, was visiting her sister who lived a few miles away.  I was eight years old.  My brother was six.

About nine months before the fire, our mother and father left to “go up north to work.” Motivated by a vision of becoming landowners – sharecropper and housekeeper no longer – they left us in the care of our beloved Granny and sent “boxes” frequently.  Though they felt like special gifts – arriving by mail from our parents “up north.” In reality, they were just things we needed.  A winter coat.  A hat and gloves.  New underwear and socks.  A pair of shoes.  All necessities.  All consumed by the fire.

It’s good the fire occurred when no one was at home.  We had so little, it would have been tempting to dash in and save it.  But, by the time Granny and her sister, Aunt Mary, arrived to meet our school bus, there was nothing left – nothing but the four stacks of cinder blocks our ragged, frame house once sat on and a curl of smoke rising from still warm embers.

“Normal” was gone.  We were homeless.  No plates, no food, no table to sit at and eat.  Nothing to wear.  No place to bathe or sleep.

The community – a lot of whom were family members – gathered to help.  Even in that world of stark racial divide – South Carolina in the early 1960s – several whites came forward to assist.  Their concern and generosity were a surprise.  Mr. Rogan, owner of the general store, gave us food.  Mr. Fox and Mr. Joseph gave Granny, Lee and me clothing.  The tradition of the black–white racial divide vanished, for a moment.  The usual walls were replaced by compassion.

While I didn’t know it then, this scary, frighteningly sad moment was a pivot point – an experience that would change the course of my life.  Within days, our parents arrived and brought us back to Bristol, Pennsylvania where we made a new life.

Up north, in an integrated world, I developed a perspective and way of life that differed from the one I knew in our little rural, segregated southern town.   The house fire was the pivot point that redefined my life experience. It set up a change in environment and introduced experiences I wouldn’t have had if we remained in South Carolina.

That fire was the last time something happened to my home that I didn’t plan for, expect or want.  That is, until Sandy arrived on Monday, October 29th.

Wisely, my husband Bill and I evacuated the day before as directed by Governor Chris Christie.  I remember feeling very sad, heavy with grief, as we packed up select essentials and headed inland.

Finally, on November 2nd, we were permitted to return home.  Breathlessly, we drove down the main avenue surveying the homes and streets.  There was evidence of damage, but not bad.  We looked at each other and took a deep breath as Bill made the left turn onto our street.  It was filled with several inches of sand, dried seaweed and ocean debris.  But our house was standing.  No broken windows or missing shingles.  Amazing!

Walking around back, we found the door to the lower level wide open.  Busted, broken away from the frame, it collapsed under the pressure of surging seawater.  Powerful and insistent on having its way, the ocean entered the lower level and filled it with about four and a half feet of salty, sandy, corrosive seawater, setting heavy furniture and appliances afloat.

With a nervous glance, we walked up the steps to the next level.  It looked fine – just as we left it.  The next level was fine, too.  Hugging and feeling thankful, I cried with relief.  We had lost a level of living space, but our house still stood, intact and absolutely fixable, though quite a mess.  What a mess!  Ultimately, the vast majority of the lower-level contents had to be discarded, sheetrock and insulation removed, all mechanical and electrical systems and appliances replaced.

Doing what needs to be done to clear out the ruined, preserve whatever is salvageable and keep up with existing professional commitments, I’ve been overly busy and haven’t taken time to feel my feelings. I haven’t made space for my emotional reaction to this loss.  Someday soon, once all that was wet is dry and free of mold and mildew, I’ll sit down, breathe deeply several times and let my feelings flow.  Right now, I’m pressing and moving through – doing my best to mitigate the damage.

While I’m no where near homeless and enjoy many pleasures and creature comforts I could not have imagined back when my house burned down, I know this experience is a pivot point.  The particulars are not clear at this moment but intuitively, I’m confident this is yet another life-defining event.  How and in what way?  I don’t know.  How will the flood influence the next segment of my life?  I’m not sure.  What’s the lesson in this experience?  I invite it to reveal itself to me.  I’m open to learning and making the most of this important pivot point.

In the meantime, I’ll keep drying out, clearing out, cleaning up and making space for what comes next – lessons, insights, inspirations and changes.  All a natural part of life’s ebb and flow.

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Power Comes From Listening More and Talking Less

October 23rd, 2012

Listen more. Talk less.

Try this for just one day and notice the impact on you and on others.  Listen more.  Listen to understand.  Listen to learn.  Listen to empathize.  Listen to validate.

Don’t worry.  You won’t become invisible, powerless or less impactful.  In fact, you will become more visible because you’ll stand out as someone who cares in a world full of people who are busy pushing their agenda, selling their ideas, jockeying for position.

You may find these three techniques helpful to listen actively for far more effective communication.

Mirror the speaker’s message.  In other words, accurately restate the content and emotional tone of the speaker’s message by paraphrasing what you heard.  This is a good way to demonstrate that you understand what was said.  And, it allows the speaker to clarify important points, you may have missed or misunderstood.

Empathize with the speaker’s feelings or emotional state.  Let the speaker know that you hear how they are feeling about the topic of discussion.  Name the emotion you believe the speaker is experiencing.  Use phrases like you sound happy or sad, scared, angry, concerned, etc. Or, I image you’re feeling frustrated, joyful, etc.

Validate the speaker’s point of view.  Confirm that you understand the situation through her eyes and can appreciate why he or she feels the way they do, even if you don’t agree.  To practice validation, use phrases such as… “I can see why you say that…”  Or, “Given what you’ve said, I understand why you conclude…”

Talk less and listen more.  Then, notice how many people – at home and at work – will compliment you for being such a great listener, for caring or for affording them the opportunity to talk through something that was concerning them.

Emotionally intelligent people engage in active listening.  To power up your effectiveness as a communicator and your credibility as someone who genuinely cares, try it and watch your personal and/or executive presence emerge.

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Boost Trust in Your Relationships

October 16th, 2012

Are your relationships resting on a strong foundation of trust?  If so, you may be among the 49% of people in the US who say they have a high level of trust in others.

But, here’s the rub:  if 49% trust others that means 51% aren’t so trusting.  What’s that about?  While I can’t account for the whole story, I believe I have a useful perspective on part of it because trust is at the heart of what makes relationships work.

When trust is present in a relationship there is a sense of ease, reliability and predictability.  The presence of trust helps us to relax and feel safe.  We need trust in our relationships – at home, in the workplace, in our communities.  Trust is its own social capital and it’s value – priceless.

You may be in an important relationship where you want to strengthen trust.  It’s not bad, but it certainly could be better.  Or, perhaps you’re forming new relationships – in your love life, in a new or extended family, on in your professional life.  Or you may be facing the uphill challenge of needing to repair trust and credibility in a damaged or broken relationship.

When clients talk with me about their challenges with building or repairing trust, and ask how to proceed, my recommendation is often the same.  It’s a straightforward, simple suggestion:  going forward, keep your word.  Say what you mean.  Promise only what you intend to deliver.

Even when you’re uncomfortable saying “No,” don’t agree to anything you know you’re not going to do because you don’t want to, don’t have the authority to execute, or because of some other constraint you won’t or can’t follow-through.

Broken agreements are at the heart of most damaged and dysfunctional relationships, both in the workplace and at home.  If you’re not going to keep a commitment you made, tell the affected person or parties, as soon as possible.  Offer a sincere apology for not following through on what you said.

Keeping your word is an act of honor and accountability.  It makes you stand out as trust-worthy when people know they can count on you to keep the promises you make, and when you can’t, they know you’ll give them the respect of informing them directly and early.

Boost the trust level in your relationships.  The trust you earn by keeping your word will open doors and keep them open.

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You’re Busy, Busy, Busy! But How Productive Are You?

October 2nd, 2012

Are you among the many people for whom working long hours, multitasking and pressing to meet deadlines have become a way of life?

In the short-term, these are practical solutions.  But, research tells us that this pattern, over the long-term, increases stress levels and results in lower levels of productivity.  Eventually, even though you’re plenty busy, you begin to accomplish less.

To accomplish more, you have to find ways to leverage your time and resources more effectively.  Here are 3 quick and simple strategies that can help you accomplish more, with less stress.

Organize your work life – email, files, drawers and desktop.  Doing so will enable you to more readily find what it is you need, saving valuable minutes, as well as the cost – time and dollars of unnecessary redos and purchases.  Just as physical mail and papers can be placed in project folders, so can email.  That puts their access at the ready.

Tackle your most challenging tasks when you’re at your best.  For example, if you’re a morning person, take on important projects that require thought during those hours.

Activity logs can provide important insight into how you spend your time.  For one week, jot down how you use your time.  Each time you begin a new activity, make a note of what it is and how much time it required.  This will help you get a handle on whether you’re spending your time on high-value, high priority tasks or wasting more time than needed on low-priority meetings, interruptions or other distractions.

Good time management requires self-awareness and self-management.  The payback in productivity will be well worth the effort.

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