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Author Archive for Gail

Change Your Life Using Just One Strategy

Sometimes we get stuck and it feels like there is just no way out of the rut/sadness/depression/life circumstances we find ourselves in.

The interesting thing about that statement is the rut you’re in is often [not always!] the result of decisions that you’ve made. To make better decisions you have to have a better perspective. To have a better perspective you have to get out of the rut!

It’s a cycle. To experience a change you MUST get off the Merry-Go-Round.

Unfortunately, getting around, over or through your challenges isn’t as simple as making a couple of statements and changing your circumstances.

BUT, what it is easy – if you choose to see it that way – is to change what you say to yourself and others, change your attitude about your circumstances and then your circumstances change.

My middle son is a sweet, sweet child who has a temper the likes of which rivals mine when I was his age. Although I’ve since learned how to control my anger – MOST of the time! – he is just 21 years old and nowhere near ready to admit that his mother may actually know something that he doesn’t.

He seems to be traveling the path that psychologists laughingly refer to when they discuss a child’s perspective about their parents. In the early years mom and dad know everything – and I mean everything. As the child grows up they start to distance themselves from their parents and the beliefs that were drummed into their little heads. They start to develop their own boundaries and belief systems.

And then adolescence begins. Suddenly their parents are the dumbest rocks in the rock pile. Of course their parents couldn’t know anything because they are ANCIENT. When their parents were growing up there weren’t smartphones and high speed Internet. Of course they weren’t around when the kids were little either, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Etiquette, manners, job interviews, dress codes, dating and thank you notes are just not done the way that parents think they are. Things are DIFFERENT now and parents are just not with the program.

Interestingly, as the adolescent brain matures and develops the parents suddenly know more than they remember or could have imagined. And, before you know it, the children are calling the parents for advice again.

But, my youngest son hasn’t achieved that particular milestone . . . yet!

One of the ways that parents can get through those angst ridden adolescent years, the bad days at work, the lonely nights or the overwhelming weight-of-the-world-on-your-shoulders burden is to consciously choose WHAT you think.

Research backs the theory that what you think and tell yourself has specific mental and physical health benefits. Specifically, practicing gratitude.

1. Being grateful opens the door to new relationships in your life. Showing it to your friends increases the likelihood that they will continue to seek you out as a friend.

2. According to a study published in 2012, people who practice gratefulness will experience better health and fewer aches and pains throughout the day. Interestingly, people who practice gratefulness also take better care of their health, nutrition and fitness.

3. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research scientists found that practicing gratitude also improved sleep quality. Good sleep quality reduces the potential for suffering from cardiovascular disease, dementia, high blood pressure and diabetes. In fact, there is research to suggest quality sleep is just as important as good nutrition and exercise to your long term health.

4. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry, practicing gratitude will also increase your overall feelings of well-being.

5. Research supports gratitude reduces stress, rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and improves mental resiliency. Even during the worst times in life, when you can find something to be grateful for, you improve your mental toughness and ability to withstand challenges.

So if gratitude is so great, how do you incorporate it into your day and your life WITHOUT picking up a journal and writing every day?

Let’s face it. Not everyone enjoys journaling. In fact, as much content as I write on a daily basis, the thought of keeping a journal feels like one more thing on my plate – and the plate is full enough, thank you very much!

Most of my friends have very full plates also. And, I’m guessing, so do you. So what are some more creative ways of practicing gratefulness every day so we can enjoy the benefits without feeling like it’s another task that must be finished each day before finally resting at night?

After all, I’d appreciate better sleep, better health, more friends and less stress.

Here are some of the ways that I practice gratefulness and thankfulness and other creative ways I discovered from friends and research. Pick and choose the ones you like and you can comfortably incorporate in your day, and watch the changes start to happen in your life.

 

 

1. Say “Thank You” at least four times a day. Whether you talk to a store clerk, a friend, your family or have to pick up the phone to call someone – say thank you four times every day.

2. At the end of every day tell yourself, out loud, at least one thing you are grateful to yourself for. It may sound a bit weird, but it helps to ‘hear’ what you’ve done right that day in your own eyes. We spend so much time berating ourselves for the things we think we’ve done wrong. Start with one thing each evening and work it up to four things as you get better at remembering the things you do right every day. It’s important to say it out loud as your brain registers what it hears differently than when you say it to yourself internally or if you write it down.

3. Before your feet hit the floor in the morning and you’re racing off to accomplish an ever-growing list of “things-to-do,” tell God three things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as being grateful for waking up that morning, the roof over your head, hot running water in the bathroom or indoor plumbing. Sometimes we forget the small things in life that make every day easier.

4. Write a thank you note to someone that you’ve never really properly thanked for something they did for you. Not a physical gift, but a recognition of an act of kindness they did. It could be someone from your childhood, or someone you met just last week.

5. Acknowledge your friends who have been with you through thick and thin and tell them you are grateful for them. You feel good and it gives them a gift as well.

6. Donate time to charity that you believe in. You might not have a great deal of time, but maybe you can spare an hour or two once a month. If you can’t find a charity, call the local nursing home and see if you can play cards with their residents once a month.

7. Remember the hardships in your life. Think about what they’ve taught you and what you’ve learned going through them. Be grateful for the lessons that have made you stronger and better able to tackle the challenges today.

8. Are you more digitally oriented? Try Happify where you’ll find loads of ideas to improve your happiness quotient, even in the face of adversity.

9. Want to do something with your children? Try a gratitude jar! Let the children decorate a large jar. When you or the children experience something during the day that are grateful for, write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. You’ll all find yourself looking for things that you can write and put in the gratitude jar. This also works well if you just want to practice it yourself. At the end of each month, pull out the slips of paper and read about all the good things that happened and you likely already forgot!

It’s important not to take gratitude for granted.

It is easy to overlook the small and large things in life that are really great when there are challenges that seem overwhelming.

Lee is a friend of mine whose life has seemingly taken a wrong turn. She confessed in earlier years she had been angry, irritable and consistently frustrated with her life. But today she has an open and happy personality and a ready smile for all who meet her. In fact, she recently got a job just because her new boss loved her smile and the way she treated others.

What was it that changed in her life?

She told me that she watched the movie “The Secret” and from that movie she learned that she could change her life by how she reacted to her circumstances. She recognized that her circumstances didn’t immediately change, but her perception of her life DID change and over the months that followed so did the opportunities and options that opened up in her life.

Lee didn’t change overnight, but today she smiles when she says that the day she learned to smile and be grateful for what she had, was the day that her whole life changed. On the outside her life appeared the same, but Lee was different and over time her life is also becoming different.

We all have choices in life to make each day. A wise man once told me that every choice we make, no matter how small, has consequences. When we decide to thank the barista, the clerk at the department store or the postman for delivering the mail, we are making small decisions that have consequences over time.

And the opposite is also true.

Today is the day that YOU decide to use two or three ways to practice gratefulness and watch the changes that happen in your life from day to day.

7 Steps to Grow Your Children Intentionally

It was only 10 years ago when I first heard the term ‘intentional’ used to in relation to what was done in their life.

The exact quote was about living ‘authentically, transparently and intentionally.’ Each of these are things I aspire to become, because in the journey to reaching authenticity, transparency and intentionality I become the best version of myself. And, the best version of me will be the best business woman, the best parent, the best friend and will be someone I enjoy spending time alone with.

Unfortunately, too many times relationships with children are convenient and not intentional. They become a fixture in your life, and, like with spousal relationships, you can start to take them for granted.

But, children are like fledgling businesses, the more intentionally you grow them, the better the potential for success.

This is not to say that every business, or every child, you spend time and energy on will be successful. However, WITHOUT time and energy they are both destined to fail.

In the reality of being mother, father, breadwinner, housekeeper and chief cook and bottle-washer, how do you find the time and energy to do anything with intentionality? Children require time, patience, energy, love, understanding, compassion, knowledge, and the understanding that you will make mistakes and you will have to be humble for the next several decades in your life.

In fact, my oldest who have long since left the protection of my home continue to humble me. Being a parent doesn’t end when they spread their wings and leave home. It doesn’t end when they start their own family.

In fact, it never ends.

And your responsibility to continue to engage them intentionally doesn’t end either. When they move 12 hours away, when they don’t respond to your text messages or answer your calls, when they make bad decisions or do things you don’t agree with, when they become someone you never intended . . . you are still their mother and you must still be intentional.

You entered into an agreement with them when they were born. They didn’t ask to become a person, you made that choice for them. So, when they were born you agreed to do anything and everything to keep them safe and raise them well – whether you know you made that agreement or not.

Somedays are better than others – but at the end of every day the question remains – did you do your best?

Did you intentionally interact and give your best – to your children? To your job? To your friends?

Whether intentionality means tough love or it means continuing to stay in touch when you’re so angry and hurt you just want to turn your back . . . your responsibility as a mother is to be intentional.

So, whatever decision you make, be sure it’s intentional. Don’t allow life to take over. YOU take over.

Back to the original question . . . where do you find the time and energy to intentionally grow these little ones?

It may be time to take a long hard look your life, make hard decisions and create an environment both you and your children can live with. One of the greatest things about relationships with your children is that it’s never too late to start being intentional. It may take longer to make up ground you may have lost, but you will make up that ground with persistence and consistency.

This was a concept my ex-husband couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. Although his own father modeled intentionality – spending time and energy with his children – my children’s father found it foreign, and he wasn’t willing to learn how.

You might be in the same shoes. It may be a foreign concept to you – these are after all small people who don’t act or react in the same way your adult friends do. But, if you CHOOSE to learn, discover and invest yourself in them, you’ll reap rewards far beyond your dreams.

Your children need time to understand that the changes they’ll see are permanent and that you’ll continue to be there to support them. So, again I say . . . be persistent and consistent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 

 

1. Take a strong look at the WAY you spend your time and then get creative. TIME is the one factor that you can’t buy or barter more of. You get 24 hours each day, whether you want more or less. How you spend that time will determine your results – at work, at home, with your children or any other aspect of your life.
Keep a calendar for a week and write it all down. Find the things you can do without, you can stop doing or you can outsource. Whether your children start doing more housework, you pay someone to do your errands or you hire a cleaning service . . .whatever you can do, or afford to do, to free up a bit more time in your schedule – do it.

2. Direction, purpose and plan. Now it’s time to put in place a plan that you create from the purpose of growing your children intentionally, which you develop from the direction you want them to take in their life.

There are specific daily factors that increase your potential for success – but if you don’t know the direction you want to take, you’ll never know if you reached success. First determine what you want for your children and then make your plan.

Do you want them to be independent thinkers? Creative? Respectful? Athletic? Educated? Relational?

Whatever you want for your children, be sure it fits with THEIR natural talents. If they don’t like chess they won’t be a chess champion. If they are a great basketball player but don’t have the desire to play in college, they’ll never get there. Your direction for them depends on THEIR talents, drives, desires and temperament.

3. Include Essential Daily Rituals and be present. Your children depend on daily rituals to stabilize their lives, so develop daily rituals for your own family. These are things your children can depend on each day – dinner around the table with everyone present, homework time, special individual time (#5), Sunday lunches and whatever else works for your family.

Each of us love rituals. Whether it’s a special way of celebrating Christmas or the way you mow your lawn. For the most part, we do the repeated things in our life the same way, each week. Your children are not different. Except, for your children, these rituals give them stability in their life.

Be PRESENT during these events. Don’t let your mind wander. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. This will give you clues as to what they really mean.

4. Quality time incorporates INTO quantity time. You’ve heard that quality time is more important that quantity of time. I argue that both are important. You won’t get your child to open up and talk with you about the important things in life if you spend 1 hour a week with them over Sunday lunch.

Relationships need time and energy to build. Your children have a LOT going on in their heads. If you want to know what it is, so you can have an impact on how they grow up, then it’s time to spend quality AND quantity time with them.

Find the time when your child likes to open up and talk. For my children, it’s always been after 10pm when I want to get to sleep. Sleep has occasionally been in short supply, but when the children start talking at 11pm, it’s time to start listening.

5. Weekly or monthly dates. You want to spend time with your children when they want it, but you also want to schedule time with your children. Make a date to do some of the things they enjoy and then keep the date. Stay present during the time you’re together and enjoy yourself!

6. Be straight with your children, at their developmental level. Never lie to your children, unless you expect them to lie to you. Children appreciate when you’re straight with them, at a level they can understand. If you can’t take your five-year-old to the park, then tell them why. If your teen wants a new phone and you can’t afford it, then tell them and come up with a plan to help them pay for it.

Your children may not like the answer, but they’ll appreciate your honesty and will come to expect that from you.

7. Practice humility, integrity and compassion because you want to and because they’re watching. When you’re wrong, say so. Own up to doing the things you shouldn’t have. This will help you stop the behavior and help your children respect you. When your children respect you, you’ll find they listen to what you say and determine to follow your advice. Do you follow the advice of people you don’t respect?

Neither do they.

Integrity, compassion, honesty, truth, humility and every other character trait you want to instill in your children starts with you. And it all starts with humility.

Until you recognize the times you’re wrong, or the times you fall short, you won’t be able to help your children. They’ll only see someone who is hypocritical . . .

BE the person you want THEM to become.

Make Failure Work for You

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . “

 

What if you could make a reasonable prediction about your life?

Would you want to know what it was?

When Anne was born in 1866 the world was a much different place than it is now. Women didn’t have the opportunities, nor the support, which Anne might have had today.

Her parents had moved to the U.S. from Ireland during the Great Famine. But life in the U.S. was not easy. The family lived in poverty and Anne developed an eye infection at the age of five that plagued her for the rest of her life, eventually blinding her.

Her mother died when she was 8. Her father was impatient and abusive. Eventually he abandoned Anne and her younger brother, Jimmie, and they went to live at a home for the poor. Jimmie died just months later, leaving Anne alone in the world at a dirty, rundown and overcrowded facility.

When members of a special commission were visiting the home, Anne worked up the nerve to ask if she could attend a special school for the blind.

Around 1879, at a time when children were “seen but not heard,” Anne stepped out of the shadows and asked for the privilege of attending school.

She had no family to encourage her. She had no siblings to care for. She was alone, in a dirty home at the age of 13.

She found her inspiration and desire to be more in life than what seemed to be planned. She struggled through surgeries to repair her sight, through an education for which she had no foundation and eventually graduated valedictorian of her class.

She told the students, “duty bids us go forth into active life. Let us go cheerfully, hopefully, and earnestly, and set ourselves to find our special part.”

When she arrived at the school she couldn’t read or write, had never owned a nightgown or a hair brush.  In other words, she was pretty backwards, even for 1879!

But that didn’t stop Anne. In her early years at school her memories were of others making fun of her and humiliating her.

But Anne pressed on.

Then, at the ripe old age of 21 Anne Sullivan met Helen Keller and the world was changed. Would you have predicted Anne’s fame and success based on her start in life?

How does failure look in your life?

In point of fact, failure is just another name for deferred success. Without failure we wouldn’t learn lessons – and lessons learned from failures are the best lessons. Unless we learn from failure, it’s a point of pain.

There is an incredible distinction between people who achieve great success in life and those who struggle, even when that successful person is struggling against overwhelming odds.

Women who are successful see failure as an opportunity.  That’s right . . . failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and do it right the next time.

Unfortunately, from the time we’ve been in preschool failure has meant a big fat red “F” on our report card. It has meant feeling defeated and unsuccessful. And those feelings have been ingrained over decades.

In school you either got it right the first time or got an “F” on your report card. In the business world there is an expression – “Fail fast and often” – which means it’s important to fail fast, learn from those mistakes, get up and do it again – BETTER.  But by the time we graduate from high school, we’ve learned that you get it right the first time or you have FAILED.

In other words, our school systems gradually teach all of us the undercurrent of fear of failure that runs through our lives.

Does this mean because fear has been ingrained for nearly 12 years we are hopeless?  Of course not! If you look around at people who have found success in relationships, business, finance and entrepreneurship, you’ll notice that at some point they “unlearned” this learned behavior.  To gain greater success in life, it’s time to see failure for what it really is.

Failing is nothing more than falling forward. If you fall and never get up again, ONLY THEN you have failed.

Presidential Failure

In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned against then President Herbert Hoover for the Presidency of the United States. He said as little as possible about what he would do if elected and allowed the downward spiraling economy speak for itself. On the heels of his election came the Great Depression. During his first inaugural speech, President Roosevelt said something that has been passed down and incorporated into other speeches, motivational works and conversations between parents and their children.

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . “

 

But those are only a few words in the actual quote which reads:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

~President Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 4, 1933

In those final words of that sentence, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,”  Roosevelt speaks volumes about the kind of fear that we should be afraid of.

There are specific physical obstacles that should generate a fear response. Being attacked by a bear, falling off a cliff or facing a gunman all SHOULD evoke fear. But, what we more often face are fears that are not based in reality.

Fear is real. But, the thing you fear may not be.

The feeling of fear is powerful, real and sometimes debilitating. But, the thing you fear may not exist. Left unchecked, fear can deflate your confidence and destroy your dreams.

Psychologically, there is an emotional toll when you try something new and it doesn’t work out. But that has more to do with our own personal fear than any measurable loss.  Something that doesn’t end up working out the way you planned is just a step in the process of success.  Innumerable successful people have that same understanding of fear.

The loss we experience when something is not a success is only measured in how much we learn.

But, if you fall, get up, brush yourself off and try again you have done nothing more than to learn from your mistakes.

If you are trying to ride a horse, you’ll likely fall off at some point. Falling off won’t discourage you from getting back on again. But you will learn from your mistake.

Several years ago I was in the middle of a riding lesson at a local stable. During one of the exercises in the rink, the girth on the saddle snapped (the leather that goes under the belly of the horse and holds the saddle to the horses back). We were cantering around the indoor ring and I was enjoying the ride – without stirrups.

Well, the saddle went one way and I went the other. Smack down on my back. Thankfully it was in a large pile of newly spread sawdust.  Although I had the breath knocked out of me, I got back up, re-saddled the horse with a different saddle and continued to ride.

BUT, I also learned to thoroughly inspect the equipment before using it.  I fell, but didn’t stop riding.

We all fall at some point – whether it’s in business, relationships, health or finances. The question isn’t WILL you fall – but what will you do AFTER you fall?

Will you get up, learn from the experience and do it better next time? Or will you stay down?

 

Life is all about falling forward, learning, getting up, changing and doing it again – BETTER.

 

Life is Your Journey – Step Away From Loneliness

We are all on a journey. During the journey we pick up a few friends, lose a family member, get married, stay single, have children .  .  .

Each journey is just a little different. But, one common thread winding its way through the lives of single women raising children, is loneliness.

This is more than being alone – it’s about feeling disconnected and unsupported.

You may not be lonely right now, but you probably remember a time when you were. AND you may experience those feelings again. One of the best ways to avoid them is to be prepared!

Loneliness is worse when you’re in a relationship you expect will fill that need, but doesn’t. Loneliness seems just a bit easier when you really are alone. There’s a certain poetry to life and loneliness is just one of the stanzas.

So, before the next bout happens on your journey, let’s get ready to squash it!

Loneliness is a feeling and not a fact.

We all have feelings. We also have control over our feelings. It may not feel that way. In fact, sometimes it probably feels like quite the opposite – our feelings control us!

But, the reality is that feelings are not alive. They are a function of our thoughts and control our actions which predict the results we experience in life.

Let’s back that up just a bit and start from the beginning.

  • Thoughts create feelings.
  • Feelings drive actions.
  • Actions predict results.
  • YOU control your thoughts.
  • Therefore – you also control your feelings.

Try this experiment. Think of a person in your life you love and are not angry with at this time. Close your eyes and picture that person in your mind.

Now, open your eyes and pretend to be mad at them. Speak out loud about how they treated you badly the last time you were together. Tell yourself that they have lied to you for years about how they feel. Say things like, “I am so mad at XXX right now! She had no business putting her nose in my business!”

Talk out loud like this for about 3 minutes. Don’t say these things in your head. Neurologically, it will be easier to demonstrate this concept if your brain ‘hears’ the words coming out of your mouth.

Be real about what you are saying. Don’t just give this exercise lip service.

After 3 minutes, check in with how you’re feeling about this person. The likelihood is that you are mad and may not know exactly why!

Feelings are generated by our thoughts and are NOT FACT.

This means that . . .  you can change how you feel when you change how you think!

Unfortunately, many times we aren’t in touch with what we ARE thinking, so changing it may be a challenge.

In order to change what you’re thinking you’ll want to do something very simple. In fact, it’s so simple that you might overlook it thinking that it isn’t important.

Don’t confuse simple with unimportant or easy.

Take inventory of your life.

It’s simple to do, but when you’re feeling bad it can be difficult. Although there may be quite a lot of things in your life that are going RIGHT, when you feel bad it’s hard to remember what they are or acknowledge the importance they have in your life.

Whether in midst of a bout of loneliness or not, take stock of the things in life for which you are grateful. If you have a gratefulness journal, read it. If you don’t have one, start thinking about what you have to be grateful for in life.

Read each entry in your journal, or write a list, and take the time to visualize what it was that you were grateful for. If it was the smile on your daughter’s face, then visualize that smile. If it was the joy in your son’s eyes, then visualize that joy. If it was your car starting without a problem, then hear the car’s engine purring. If it was the sun shining after 2 days of rain, then remember how it looked and felt.

What you think will determine how you feel.

 

Reach out to a good friend.

Loneliness and sadness can be debilitating. It can cover us with a dark cloud that feels impossible to get out from under.

It’s almost as if all the responsibilities in life come crashing down on our shoulders, without anyone to share them with. It can be overwhelming – and it makes the loneliness even worse.

Suddenly we aren’t just lonely because we want someone in our lives, but we are lonely because we also want a shoulder to lean on.

Your friends can’t take the place of a life partner, but they can help to ease the burden of what you’re feeling. Loneliness can take us down a long, dark tunnel in which other feelings of being an outcast, unworthy, unlovable and a host of other “un” words live.

Share your feelings with your friends and ask them to help you out of your funk. You don’t want to wallow in your loneliness – you want out!

 

Keep track of what you’re thinking.

It’s a great habit to write down 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for each day. The journal is helpful in troubled times in your life and it helps you to track your journey through life.

Another habit that will help you steer clear of loneliness and sadness is to keep track of your thoughts and what you think throughout the day.

Each time you find yourself thinking that you are lonely, don’t have the benefits in life that others do or other negative thoughts – replace it with a positive thought.

It is almost impossible to just stop thinking about something. If you were told to stop thinking about a purple elephant, you’d be thinking about the purple elephant.

But if you were told to think about a yellow tiger each time you started thinking about a purple elephant, you’d be much more successful.

Our brain can replace a thought with another thought, but it’s much more difficult to just stop thinking about something.

Choose a positive thought that makes you smile and then when you start thinking something negative, replace it with that positive thought. It might be about a past event or situation, it could be your favorite place to sit and think .  .  . it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is positive.

 

Focus on something or someone outside of yourself.

One of the greatest gifts we have in life is to give ourselves to others. When you’re lonely you’d like that person to be your partner. However, you can still give the gift of your special presence to others and receive even more in return.

Being a single mom usually means you do not have oodles of spare time each day. You might wonder how in the world you could spend one more minute doing something for one more person.

The idea is to step outside of who you are as a mother, and into who you are as a single PERSON.

Try doing something inside of a time you already have scheduled. For instance, you may go to church every Sunday morning. Consider doing volunteer work at the church during service. The children are already in Sunday School and you have a free hour to serve in the coffee ministry or at the information desk, helping and talking with other adults.

Or, you and the children might bake a batch of cookies once a week to take to different neighbors you don’t know. Everyone enjoys a surprise plate of cookies and you’ll meet more people than you might expect!

Take the children to a nursing home close by and read to the residents. You’ll be doing something for someone else, and teaching your children the gift of giving themselves to others.

 

There is no one answer to getting rid of loneliness in life. However, there are multiple answers – which is even better. Be prepared before you feel overwhelmed. Practice these four steps and the likelihood is that you won’t be facing the challenge of loneliness anytime in the near future.

Have You Mastered Success?

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. The shape and size of your success may be different than one I define.

You can read a book or three about how to become a success. You might attend several conferences, buy several DVD home study courses or even pay for the services of a life coach.

But ultimately, the potential for your success rests on your shoulders. And how you define your success is fundamentally up to you.

I’ve also discovered something no one ever told me.

Success is fluid.

It isn’t stable. Yes, it’s a journey; but no, you never arrive.

Success, however you define it, is achieved during the journey and your definition of what IS success will be fluid and change throughout life.

What you once thought of as a success when you were 20 may be completely different by the time you’re 40, and change again by the time you’re 70.

What Do You Do To Define Your Success?

Success happens in the moment but what you celebrate as success could more often be defined as mastery.

When you master a talent or craft . . . when you become the big fish in your pond . . . you’ve mastered a task or function, you ‘feel’ successful, when in fact you are experiencing mastery.

However, you can’t consistently be the master. Learning is a journey. Life is a journey.

You aren’t born being the best mom you could be. You didn’t start your first job as the CEO of the company. You weren’t the star basketball player on your team the first time you stepped on the court.

In other words, neither you nor anyone else was born successful. You have to work for it.

From the outside, it may appear that others have it easier than you do. But, you don’t know their struggles and challenges. And, while their challenges are different from yours, they still have obstacles they must overcome to achieve what they define as success.

Success is Driven by Failure

Not everything you do will be successful. However, by the same token, not everything is a failure.

In fact there are very few things you do that are totally one thing or the other. Each accomplishment has an element of failure and every time you fall down there is an element of success.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn from the failures and to find those kernels of success in everything you do.

Whether you want to be a successful author, entrepreneur, mother, missionary, business owner, or dog trainer . . . it’s important you learn from your failures and celebrate your successes no matter where you find them.

Dictionary.com defines success as the attainment of your goals, accomplishments or attaining wealth.

In order to reach those goals, you must find the successful moments in times of frustration or inadequacy. Maybe the training session with your dog went miserably, but you can find success in understanding why, so you don’t repeat the mistakes.

Every time you stumble as a mom, you have the potential to learn something very important about yourself and your children.

But. . . too often we hide inside PRIDE.

TV moms are either screaming and abusive, or have an abnormal amount of patience. We aspire to be the second and sometimes end up acting like the first.

The hard part comes when you have to humble yourself before your children and yourself to admit that you did something wrong. You must first admit you aren’t right all the time before you can learn from the mistakes and do a better job the next time.

The same is true in business.

Before 2008 my business was flying along. At the current rate of growth I could expect to break 100 K in the following year.

And then the recession hit. My business bottomed out at the same time that I took a huge emotional hit.

Instead of doing what was necessary, I buried myself in feelings of inadequacy and failure.  It was a very difficult time . . . financially, emotionally, relationally and every other way you can think of.

It took longer than I wanted but eventually I learned to look at what happened, learn from my mistakes and move on.

How I define success will be different from how you define it. What I celebrate will be different from what you celebrate.

But the journey to achieving success and mastery is paved with persistence, dedication, insight and a humble attitude. You must look at your failures square in the face and take responsibility for your part in the achievement – or lack thereof.

I didn’t and paid a high price for years. It wasn’t until I could look at the why and make changes to the way I was doing things did I begin to experience greater business success.

It wasn’t until I could hear and incorporate the constructive criticism of my family did I become a better parent.

And, it wasn’t until I could admit my ex-husband was treating me inappropriately could I understand that it was time to move on.

My definition of success has changed along the way. The dreams I had as a young woman are completely different than the ones I have today.

How I define it might be different, but how I arrive will be the same.

Definition, persistence, focus, dedication and a humble spirit to face the truth.

Banish Procrastination

Procrastination is a problem that affects me and almost everyone else I know.

In fact, I left home today to drive my daughter to a friends house. Then I headed to my home away from home, Starbucks, where I had every intention of sitting down and writing this article. Dealing with procrastination is something I believe certainly affects our ability to achieve success.

Unfortunately, instead of writing about it, I proceeded to engage in it. I plugged in my headset fully intending to listen to radio to drown out the conversation of the other people at the same table, when instead I opened up Netflix and spent the next two hours watching reruns of Bones.

Now don’t get me wrong, each of us needs a bit of a break once in awhile . . . and I had been insanely productive for the last couple of days. But, having procrastinated on writing this article ensured time with my daughter in the evening would be next to nothing.

Over the years, I found several strategies that I’ve used to successfully get past my inclination to procrastinate and therefore to enjoy greater productivity. Had I engaged those strategies today, I may have finished this article during the time I had allotted and not taken away from time with my daughter. But alas, we don’t always get done what we plan to do.

Psychology tells us that procrastination may be related to your inability or subconscious desire to avoid a challenge or a particularly unpleasant situation.

However it can also be the result of an overtaxed mind or body. If you think you have a problem with procrastination then you’ll want to first determine you’re getting enough sleep, enough nutrition and enough exercise to power your brain cells and keep them moving all day long. That’s right – exercise powers your brain and your muscles.

Without these three foundational pillars of health, your brain just doesn’t function as well as it should. So, your first strategy is to determining whether or not you’re really addressing procrastination or if you’re just overtired, overstressed, overworked, and underappreciated.

A secondary strategy you can consider to overcome procrastination is to use more technology in your life to achieve greater productivity. By this I mean I don’t mean installing a Facebook app so that you can surf Facebook all day long or post pictures to Instagram and Snapchat.

Instead, use technology by using voice activated text to speech in order to write your lists, write an article, write a report or otherwise jot down notes of things that you need to remember throughout the day. Use an app to shut off your email, and allow yourself just an hour or two a day to get through your email and not the hours you may spend each day checking each as it comes in.

Recently, I was faced with filling out many pages of paperwork in order to finalize a legal situation. I literally put this off for months. I would open up the folder take a look at what needed to be done and close it once more, absolutely convinced that it would take hours and hours of time in order to complete the task.

But today, I opened up the notebook and committed to finishing what needed to be done for the first step. Lo and behold it only took me an hour. It’s amazing what you can get finished with when you put your mind to it.

And realistically, that’s the underlying issue with procrastination. When your motivation and inspiration is great enough to overcome your lack of desire to complete a task, then you’ll pick up what needs to be done and finish it.

I remember watching my older son pick up things off the side of the road and spend an hour or two fixing them to turn around and resell them. But he hated to pick up his school work and spend more than 15 minutes at a time. Once completed, however, his feelings of achievement overcame his desire to procrastinate the next time, as long as the next time happened quickly after the first.

In essence, this is the definition of intrinsic motivation, which does an exceptional job of helping you to overcome procrastination.

Intrinsic motivation is an internal force that moves you forward.

Research has found people who dislike exercise do so because they don’t enjoy the anticipation of engaging in exercise. Whatever the reason – whether they don’t enjoy sweating, going to the gym, or working hard – anticipation is always worse than the actual event.

Knowing that exercise will reduce the risk for diabetes, help maintain weight, improve balance, and just make you feel better are not enough motivation to get most people out of bed.

These are extrinsic motivators.

Research has found that when people do exercise, they exercise more since they experience the intrinsic motivator – the feelings of euphoria that accompanies the release of feel good hormones that happen during exercise.

Intrinsic motivation just works.

And it works to help you overcome procrastination as well. When you complete a task, you feel good about yourself. You feel as if you accomplished something – and you DID.

By tapping into those feelings of accomplishment, achievement and growth, you can help reduce the amount of procrastination you practice, because procrastination takes practice.

Just like anything else you do in life – you do procrastination better the more you do it. It becomes easier the more you practice.

And, just like Nike advises you – JUST DO IT!

It’s easier said than done, but the reality is that most of what we accomplish in life is easier said than done.

Raising a child alone isn’t easy. Being mother, father, teacher, housekeeper, bookkeeper, banker, employee and employer – at one time – is not easy.

You are doing all that – now.

Choosing to get past procrastinating on a project or two is just one step in your life’s journey  . . .

 

. . . . and you CAN DO IT!

 

Start Aiming for the Path You Want Your Children to Take

There is such hope in a new baby, sleeping peacefully in their bed. They haven’t tried to put a fork in the wall outlet, or bit a child at daycare. This newborn has not yet torn up their crib mattress or smeared their sister with diaper cream. The hope lying in the face of new innocence hasn’t talked back to you, wrecked the car or come home with a new piercing.

There is hope. And with hope, there is a future.

Your parents had the same hope, and their parents before them. This hope is God given, because without it no one would have children!

At some point along the way adults have gotten tired and hope has been lost. At some point we began to expect our children to do their best or to do good enough – and nothing more. And then we began to expect it of ourselves as well.

Without expectations we all fall short – because we have no idea where the finish line is . . . and neither do our children.

Our kids are taking guns into schools. They are failing in math, writing, logical reasoning and history. They are expected to do just good enough in school so they can excel in athletics.

When did football replace math? Basketball replace reading?

I’m not usually thrilled with my youngest son’s focus on his future – he’s a perfectionist and it drives him crazy. No one is perfect – and while it’s important to STRIVE for perfection, it’s also critical to recognize our human failings and accept that failing means you’re one step closer to perfection.

There is a balance there – where “just good enough” is NOT acceptable, but 100% perfection is not attainable.

In some instances, perfection is necessary. You don’t want a heart or brain surgeon to do “just good enough,” you demand perfection. You don’t want your child to get the wrong medication from the nurse, or ordered the wrong test by a physician – you demand perfection.

And rightly so.

Outside of some professions, we’ve come to accept that just good enough is just good enough. And by accepting that 98% of the time the job is done, we are also accepting the cost to our children and to their future – and the future of this country.

If drivers are right 98% of the time, then people die. If airline pilots are right 98% of the time, then people die. If surgeons, computer coders, housekeeping and manufacturers are right 98% of the time – then people die.

And people ARE dying. Drivers, hospital patients, and airline passengers are dying.

Perfection may not be attainable ALL of the time – but it’s certainly not expected if you don’t try.

Perfection comes through practice, through trying, through paying attention every day to everything you do. And your children are watching!

You may expect perfection from them in their report cards, cleaning up at the end of the day, doing laundry, putting away their possessions – but what do you do? How do you practice perfection in your own life?

And are you afraid of failure?

 

 

 

This is something I came face to face with in the last six month. I am afraid of failure. And because of that fear, I haven’t moved forward, haven’t taken the next step and developed what I KNOW can be something really good for my family.

But fear has stood in the way – because I haven’t practiced perfection.

And without practice, how can you expect to produce anything close to perfection? When my sons and daughter have learned basketball, they practiced. Sometimes for hours and hours they practiced in order to get better. And by getting better they enjoyed the game even more.

When you practice perfection in the smaller things in life you learn to apply these principles to the larger things in life. But without practice, you are doomed to fail.

And failure is not fun!

Consider this – medical errors are now the 3rd leading cause of death in America. Each year 250,000 professionals probably thought they were doing their job “just good enough” and someone else paid a lethal price.

But failure is necessary – it’s a necessary stepping stone to achieving perfection. At some point we’ve dismissed our natural ability to accept failure and learn from it – and instead have embraced the idea that failure will screw up our self-esteem or cause us too much stress.

So we started to tell our children that it’s ok to give your best and to stop there. There’s no need to continue down a path that may not yield more or better results.

Perfection may not be attainable 100% of the time, but it won’t be attainable at all unless you try to get there in the first place.

Our school systems are giving awards to all the kids so they don’t have to confront the student who doesn’t put forth the effort or chooses less than what they can achieve.

In other words, we’re more comfortable rewarding the effort than the result.

The effort is important. The result is what counts. You won’t get results without effort – but you can put forth effort without achieving results.

In 2015, 20% of all graduating seniors in Dublin OH left school with the title Valedictorian. Two hundred and twenty two students were valedictorian that year. I can guarantee you, there wasn’t a tie between 222 students for top grades in three high schools!

Instead of top honors going to the student with the highest GPA, they awarded the honor to all students who graduated with a GPA higher than 4.0.  If 4.0 is the highest GPA you can achieve . . . how can you get higher than 4.0? And if you can get higher than 4.0 – where does it stop?

At this point the school is offering an equal outcome – when everyone rises despite results, then you have to wonder – how do you rise above the crowd? If you don’t have the potential to fail – then how do you reach your potential?

Failure is a motivating force when you harness it so you are willing to do what is difficult to achieve what is right.

 

When we seek perfection without fearing failure we will stop living in a world where we reap the rewards of “just good enough.”

Seven Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time

Productivity:

the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.

“workers boosted productivity by 20 percent” Synonym: efficiency

Did you ever play with those balsam wood airplanes? You know . . . the ones that were propelled by the force of a twisted rubber band?

I used to play with those planes all the time as a kid. I just knew that if I twisted that rubber band as tight as it would go that my plane would fly faster and farther than any of the other ones that my friends were playing with.

Well, friends might be an overstatement.

Essentially, faster and farther than the plane my sister was playing with.

I loved those planes. Even though they broke easily [sometimes when I was putting them together!] and the rubber bands lasted for 2 or sometimes 3 flights before snapping in two, I could spend the time, however brief, imagining that I was piloting that that little plane through the backyard.

The plane would gracefully float through the air, sometimes narrowly missing the tetherball pole planted squarely in the yard and crash land near the evergreen trees. If the rubber band didn’t snap, then one of the wings might on landing.

Although I played with those planes for several years as a child, I didn’t seem to generalize the knowledge that when stretched tightly, beyond capacity, the rubber band would snap in two.

Unfortunately, as an adult I also have to keep learning that same lesson over and over again. This time when the rubber band in my life snaps there are more dire consequences than when the little plane wouldn’t fly and my mother had run out of rubber bands that fit the plane.

Producing good work . . . at home, in the office, at school or with our children . . . requires so much more than just one rubber band. Those rubber bands stay flexible when we work efficiently, experience quality sleep, eat foods that feed our body and not only our palate and drink plenty of clear water.

Working efficiently means you’ll be as efficient as you can be without sacrificing your children, your home and your mental health. And, like all things in life there are tricks or secrets that efficiency experts have found will reduce the amount of time it takes us to accomplish specific tasks, get more done in less time and improve our productivity quotient.

I love to be productive. I get a real feeling of satisfaction when I finally lay down at night to know that I accomplished the goals I set for myself that day without stressing the children or sacrificing my own mental or emotional health.

But I have this huge flaw. Well, I think of it as something requiring change, while other members of my family tend to think of it as a major flaw. And, truth be told, it probably is a major flaw.

I overbook myself. I make too many plans. My list is longer than my arm. I NEVER finish my list for the day.

All things that industry experts tell you will make you crash and burn before you accomplish your goals.

Knowing this and realizing that there were other recommendations that would increase my productivity without sacrificing my end goals, I went on a hunt for the best tools and changes that I could make in my single mom life. These had to be realistic for my circumstances, work within my lifestyle and not require extra expense.

So, without further ado, here are the seven changes that I would recommend you make in the next few weeks. I have, and have seen some remarkable differences in what I get done and how much better I feel at the end of the day.

Sleep, Water and Nutrition.

You had to expect this – so I won’t spend a lot of time here. Sleep 8 hours a night. Drink enough water to stay hydrated (so your pee is a light straw color) and eat a well-balanced diet that is low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will increase the release of insulin in your body, increase the inflammatory response and cause dips in your blood sugar, which make you feel tired and sleepy. In order to be as productive as possible you have to keep both your mind and your body healthy.

Blocks of Time.

Productivity happens when you can complete tasks in a specific amount of time. That time period is one that you define. In order to be as productive as possible you’ll want to block out your time during the day for specific tasks. Create the habit of blocking your calendar to check email, write the report your boss needs, make dinner, doing homework with the kids and anything else that needs to be done during the day. Make sure you also include downtime each day. Without time to recover and recharge your batteries your productivity levels will plummet like a rock in water.

Balance everything.

You’ve heard it before, but you must balance your work and life together. Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? It’s also known as the 80/20 rule. It’s the theory that 80 percent of the results from a given situation is determined by 20 percent of your work. This means you must manage your time and not let your time manage you. Working in blocks of time, including down time and balancing your recreation, family and work is extremely important to improve your productivity.

Set Boundaries.

Can you say no? Most women have trouble saying no to their friends or when they’re asked to do something. But that’s not the only thing you have to say no to! You must also guard your blocks of time and set boundaries to what you will and won’t do. Don’t check emails, take phone calls or answer text messages when you are committed to a block of time to finish a project or work on homework with the children. Set your boundaries with your friends as well. If you have people who enjoy dropping by unannounced, it’s time to set new boundaries.

Let’s do double time.

Can you do two things at once? Although most women are great at multi-tasking, it’s not the best way to accomplish any task. It requires that you split your brain between two tasks and neither get your full attention. On the other hand, you can schedule a playdate with your children’s friends and spend time with the mother catching up and call it downtime. Or you can take your child to her playdate and sit at a local coffee shop and work on your computer. You’ll be without the distractions you usually have at home and can access any content that you save in the cloud, so you can work anywhere.

Focus on one thing and finish it.

As women, we often struggle with focusing on one task. There is a joke that talks about how a woman walks through the house. Her intention is to clean the bathroom. She picks up the dishes in the family room and delivers them to the kitchen. She loads the dishwasher and takes clothes out of the dryer. After folding the clothes and delivering them to her children’s room, she fixes their bed and dusts the bookshelves in their room. She empties the garbage can and ties up the kitchen garbage can. After taking out the garbage, she starts another load of laundry. While the machine is running, she walks into the bathroom and starts cleaning the mirror, which reminds her that the mirror in her bedroom is dirty and she heads in there to clean the glass. Once finished it’s time to start dinner, she hasn’t finished one project and she’s exhausted.

Focus on one thing and finish it. It doesn’t matter about the extraneous things. It doesn’t matter that there are clothes in the dryer or the kitchen is mess – if you need to clean the bathroom, write the report or organize your files – don’t leave until it’s done.

Use the tools you need.

There are several online tools that can help improve your productivity – whether it’s at home or at work.

Momentum: a Chrome extension that shows a beautiful picture and your to-do list each time you open a new tab in your browser.

Trello: Has both a free and paid version. You can develop projects with different lists and tasks associated with them. Share the project with your friends or virtual assistant.

Wunderlist: Has both a free and paid version. Develop project lists with tasks. You can share the list, email yourself information, set due dates, reminders, attach audio files and take notes. This is my favorite tool!

 

Take the time TODAY to make one change in your daily routine and work to make that change a habit. If you can make one change every two weeks, it won’t be long before you are productivity machine!

Consult Your Inner Child When You Make Decisions

Have you had the chance to watch a young child playing? Of course you have! They are amazing – children can find joy in the smallest things and be happy playing with a box.

Do you remember how that felt? The pure joy of feeling rain on your face or mud between your toes? Can you reproduce that feeling in what you do today?

Go back in time . . . what did you want to do when you were a child? What were your dreams? When I was a child there were two things I wanted to do – or be. Studying oceanography was first on the list. Studying dolphins, whales and sea lions appealed to me. Living near the ocean, being on a boat, diving and becoming familiar with sharks – it all sounded like heaven on earth.

Of course, I grew up in Illinois and the option of going to college on the coast – any coast – was completely out of the question.

The second dream was to become a writer. Books, articles, programs and screen writing were all possibilities.

Today, that’s exactly what I do. After practicing medicine for over 20 years and going through a number of different life experiences, the experiences have all come together to make this life work.

What did you want to be when you grow up? Can you remember?

Maybe you had a dream to be a doctor, cowboy or a ballerina. No matter how silly you might think these dreams are today, do you think your life is close to what you dreamed? In other words have your dreams met your reality?

You may not have become a doctor, but maybe you practice nursing, or veterinary medicine. Maybe you volunteer on medical missions or volunteer at a local clinic. Each of these activities fulfills the dream of helping others.

So while you might not have become a doctor, maybe you have realized your dream to help others. Too many times we listened to our parents and move toward a career or choice that seem to fit with their vision in life. And all too often we do the same thing to our own children.

My youngest son is a talented basketball player. He could have played a division II college – but his dream was to get a top-notch education, which didn’t include practicing for hours on end each day. While I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play college ball it wasn’t in his dreams.

Were your dreams thwarted by your parents or relatives? Sometimes even well-meaning friends can stifle a dream. BUT – nothing is wrong with any job – as long as you choose the job and as long as you are happy and satisfied with the choice.

The same is true for your children – you can’t live out your dreams through their actions and their actions will not complete you. I was happy with my choice of becoming a nurse – until I wasn’t. And when I wasn’t, I chose another route, a different path. A new path is not always smooth and easy and many times it’s so far from easy that you aren’t sure if you made a complete mistake by choosing it!

If you decide to do something and then your life plans fall apart, you won’t have been the only one. Events can conspire to push you toward choices you may not have otherwise made. But, those choices may leave you feeling as if your defaulted on a contract with yourself, leading you to feelings of depression, anxiety and lack of self-esteem.

No matter how well you perform your job, you may feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. . . unless you consciously change your choice and honestly enjoy what you’re currently doing. No one can make you do that or feel it. Even you can’t force yourself to feel a way that you don’t.

The great thing about feelings is they don’t have a life of their own. There is no life in your feelings. You give them life by meditating on them and believing them to be true – but that’s an entirely different conversation!

So what’s happening today to make you doubt your decisions?

It’s likely that something is – it’s possible that you want something different without fully appreciating that you want it.

Or

It could be you’re perfectly satisfied with your life and you would be a very blessed person.

Society and  advertisers prey on your desire to have more, be someone better, do something memorable. And, while these desires are not bad – they are not good if they tempt you to want more than you actually DO.

It’s okay to be satisfied and to enjoy who you are and what you have, but if you honestly don’t,  it may be time to start evaluating your choices and your options as you did when you were a child.

Without the addition of an adult filter, take a good look at your life, consider your options and decide if those choices are:

  • Smart
  • Considerate
  • Made from love
  • Won’t hurt anyone
  • Will help you and your family
  • Smart financial choices for your family’s health
  • You are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve those goals and enjoy the results

 

These are difficult questions  – and the right answers are those only you can provide for yourself and your family.

 

Learning to Live Outside Your Skin

Every year I choose to do only what’s expected and what I KNOW I can do, is another year I’ve wasted – it’s another year that passes without testing my limits or the boundaries of my comfort zone.

But, the only way to truly understand what I can do, and achieve my dreams, is to test my limits. I don’t want to just achieve my goals, but my dreams as well. I dream about:

  • Publish nonfiction books
  • Write a (small) collection of Christian-based books
  • Create a nationwide support system for single moms
  • Go down in a shark cage
  • Travel to Bora Bora
  • Ride a motorcycle across country
  • Go on a cattle drive

I’m afraid of scuba diving, so the shark tank is a real stretch!

The only way to achieve some of these dreams is to boost my income by ALOT. Bora Bora is definitely not cheap. In order to make these happen I have to step outside myself and do things I haven’t done yet.

Because, if I continue to do the same things, I can expect the same results.

I don’t want the same results. I’ve enjoyed the results I’ve experienced so far – but I know that there is more to me than what I’ve done so far. And there is more to you!

When you want to make a change in life and experience different results, of course you have to DO different things. You HAVE to learn to step outside your comfort zone, or outside you skin, and get it done.

The wonderful thing about being human is that we were made in the image of God. He made us. He gave us abilities, desires, and drive.  What we do with those things is completely up to us. In other words, . . .

We have free will.

The challenge with free will is that you don’t have to stretch it. You don’t have to do the difficult things. You can put your head down and work and work every day. But, one day you’ll look up and wonder how in the WORLD you got there. And, you’ll wonder if you could have gotten anywhere else if you had done things differently.

The blessing about free will is that you will get somewhere else if you do things differently. This is your chance to experience different results this year than you experienced last year.

An example is the #MeToo campaign that went viral in October 2017 after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet the hashtag used by activist Tarana Burke if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. Milano had suffered under the misconduct and assault of Harvey Weinstein of the studio that carried his name.

Milano stepped outside a comfort zone inhabited by women for centuries at the hand of abusive men and suddenly, after the first domino fell, more women followed suit. Men from around the world were outed for their abusive behavior that had been accepted as socially appropriate for years.

Some men were appalled by the extent of the problem. But, more were not. More men understand that the extent of the problem goes far beyond what’s been reported thus far and are hoping that no one speaks out against them.

Men in positions of power have always had the greatest ability to subjugate women, and many like Moira Donegan have lost their jobs when trying to warn women of the men they should steer clear of.

At no time in history has it been more obvious than now that it’s time for women to step outside their comfort zone and speak up – whether it is FOR or AGAINST.

And before you can take the second, third or fourth step, you must first take the first step.

Having the courage to skydive doesn’t start at the door of the plane, although you can turn back at any point until then, but it starts when you sign up for the classes, pay for the lesson, get hooked into the harness, go up in the plane and stand at the door of the plane, ready to take that last step.

Why you choose to speak up, do something differently, live outside your skin – then you are choosing to make the world a different place. It starts in your corner of the world, and like ripples in a pond – your choices have an effect on other people.

The choices you make at home have an effect on your children, and the way they raise their children.  However, it’s also important to remember that the choices you make are filtered through your children’s own lens or perspective. For instance, my mom, her sister and her brother were all raised by the same parents. The choices her parents made were based on their beliefs and abilities.

As they aged, each of the three children interpreted the information differently and became much different people. My aunt was open minded and loved to talk about sex, while my mom was unable to even say the word “sex.” And the differences continued.

The point being, each decision you make at home will have an impact on your children and on their children – like the ripples in a pond. The effect of those decisions become less powerful the further from the source they travel, but there continues to be an effect.

It is important that you learn to live outside of your comfort zone and make choices that change your future, but it’s also important that you filter those choices. Ask yourself:

  • Do you mean what you’re saying or will you change your mind later?
  • Are you moving in a positive direction for yourself and your family?
  • Can you defend your actions or choices?
  • Are you making changes or choices from the backbone of love?

 

Be able to answer “yes” to each of these questions and THRIVE!

 

Rules You Can Live By

Before becoming a parent, and then a single parent, I was a pediatric nurse and then a pediatric nurse practitioner. I spent years in child psychology classes, learning parenting skills and failing miserably at understanding the Freud, Jung, Adler and Erikson theories of child development.

I just couldn’t remember who believed what about how the brain developed. BUT I did remember Freud’s bizarre ideas about boys and their mothers. That’s a whole other conversation!

Only after I had my own precious four did I come to a great realization of child development, parenting skills and the resulting child behaviors. Two of the greatest things I learned after years of marriage counseling and counseling for the children after the divorce, was:

All Kids Are Different and They Have to Understand the Rules

My first two children are boy-girl twins. And they couldn’t be any more different if I had planned it that way!

When they were born I was still grappling with the ideas of nature or nurture. Did a child’s personality and outcome depend upon what they were born with or how they were nurtured?

So I set about my own experiment at home. The twins were nurtured the same. They had the same toys, played, slept and ate at the same time. They got the same punishments and enjoyed the same benefits.

All Kids are Different

It wasn’t long before you could see a heart of gold in my young boy and a backbone of steel in the little girl. She knew her mind and there was no giving in. He would give anyone the toys in his hand and the ones in his box.

Her toys were hers and no one else’s!

When they were growing up, if he got money for his birthday, he asked to be taken out to buy his sister a toy. If the kids on the playground wanted to pick on her brother, she would have beaten them up if the teacher let her.

He had a hard time making up his mind and she knew what she wanted within seconds. He’s a talented mechanic (self-taught) and she’s a musician with the voice of an angel (mom talking). She has a quick temper and he is laid back. She takes special care with clothes and her hair, he loves sweats and a t-shirt.  She was a focused student and he was happy just skating by.

The point being – they are different people. No matter how much I treated them the same, they turned out differently. The argument of nature vs. nurture can continue, but I’m convinced it’s a combination of both and not exclusively one or the other.

Which brings me to the second point . . .

Kids Have to Understand the Rules

Starting from a base that all children are different, will also mean they have a different understanding of the rules as well.

It might make sense to you that someone has to understand the rules before they can obey them, but if their understanding is slightly different from yours, it can distort the whole situation.

For instance, when I asked my daughter to clean her room she would pick up the clothes on the floor and fix the bed. Everything else remained the same. No matter how hard I tried to explain to her that this also meant she should pick up the clothing tags that had migrated under the bed, the gum wrappers near the garbage can or the bits of paper from her notebook that littered the floor, she just didn’t understand.

It was almost as if she didn’t see them.

But, when I picked them up, she noticed they were gone. They were, instead, a comfort to her. Those were her bits of garbage that made the room feel like home.

At that point I had a decision to make. How important was it that I disturb what she found comforting in order to have a room I found clean?

It wasn’t important, so I closed the door and called it even.

If kids are different but have to understand the rules in order to follow them, then wouldn’t it make sense to know what they are thinking?

This is the part where you balance your knowledge, expertise and desire against theirs.

Who Wins?

The objective is that neither of your wins and neither loses – but you come to an agreement about what’s important and you both respect each other.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!
~Aretha Franklin

 

Respect has to be the basis for developing rules they can live with and you can enforce. Without respect for both the rules and for you, chaos rules.

Here are a few tips from psychologists and moms who have walked this road and found relief in the rules.

 

  1. Spend time thinking about what’s important in your family before determining what the rules will be. Too often we look at the minutia of life and forget the big picture. If your daughter keeps her room spotless, will it teach her to be a better person? Forgiving? Charitable? Persistent? Forceful?  What do you want your children to learn before leaving home? Figure that out, and then work backwards.

 

  1. Think about the rules in light of what you are willing to enforce. If you can’t enforce the rules, then maybe you’re becoming a helicopter mom, hovering over all they do. As they grow you should be allowing them to make some of their own decisions so they can make the mistakes at home while you’re there to catch them as they fall.

 

  1. Use words and terms they understand. Think about how they are different from you and from each other before you try to explain what you expect. For instance, explaining how they can honor you will be different for a child of 5 and one of 15.

 

  1. Make gradual changes. Almost no one likes going cold turkey. It might be the best way to quit smoking or eating sugar, but it’s not easy. And, what isn’t easy for them will be more difficult for you. Remember, these are rules for the family and not just the children. If you expect them not to use curse words, then you’d better stop too. Children do what they see more often than what they’re told.

 

Many years ago my twins enjoyed Pop Tarts in the morning before school and gallons of ice cream throughout the week. That’s right – gallons with an “s.”

As I discovered better ways to take care of my own health, they were introduced to new ideas as well. First to go were the Pop Tarts! After weeks of crying, begging, moaning and negotiating they gave in and didn’t ask again. Many, many weeks later it was another treat or sweet they thought they couldn’t live without.

Gradually, over months, our diet changed and we began eating more real food and less processed foods. Today, they enjoy real food and steer clear of the ‘other stuff’ all on their own.

Life is a journey. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Prepare for the marathon and set your goals accordingly.

All I ask for is a little respect!
~ Aretha Franklin

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Too Late to Experience Change

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ~Edmund Burke

 

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman who lived in the mid-1700s. This quote is often repeated and more often ignored. Even in our own homes and lives, we often overlook the mistakes we made in past years, dooming ourselves to making the same mistakes again in the future.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time of transition when many people start to identify the hopes and dreams they want to see realized in the coming months.

We call these New Year’s Resolutions.

According to Forbes Magazine, an amazing 90 percent of these resolutions are never achieved and most are forgotten by February.

As I look back on this year I find I’ve accomplished a couple of the goals I’d hoped to achieve last January, but not nearly the number that I dreamed I could. I would guess that the same holds true for many single moms, who don’t have enough time in one day to meet all the demands of the family, much less make any additions.

But, realistically, the same is true of all people. We all tend to expand our universe to meet the furthest reaches of our influence. Not too many people carefully guard space in which they can relax and refresh themselves.

I remember walking into a new home my then-husband and I had just purchased. I looked with amazement at the cabinet space in the kitchen and declared there was NO WAY I had enough stuff to fill them – and would never have enough to fill those cabinets.

Within six months, even the cabinets at the top near the 9 foot ceilings were full of ‘stuff.”

We will fill our environment to capacity – whether it’s cabinets in a kitchen or time in our day.

As I look back on this year I have determined to learn from my past mistakes and do my best not to repeat them again next year.

Of course, I’ll slip, but the trick, I believe, is to get up from those slips, wipe yourself off and do it all over again. In the time between the fall and the rise is when character grows, making the next slip further down the road and the next rise a little easier.

 

An important piece of the puzzle is reflection. Being able to reflect back on the mistakes I made this last year, identify them, realize what triggered them, and put into place processes so those slips come further and further apart.

The way I use reflection is to ask questions. I find that sometimes it isn’t the answer that’s as important as the question itself. Sometimes there is more information to be learned from the question than the answer.

Here are 5 of the more important questions I ask myself at the end of the year, as I prepare for the next year.

  1. What are my life circumstances at Christmas this year as compared to Christmas last year?

    I use Christmas as my benchmark. You might use another date or time in the year. But pick a time, and ask yourself how “is life different now compared to then”? Our daily lives are filled with minutiae, lists of things to do and places to go. When we compare against something that is larger, it’s easier to see the bigger picture.

 

  1. What would I have done differently this past year?

    Identifying the mistakes or lack of success is as important as celebrating the successes in life. If you can identify what didn’t go so well, you can make a plan for it to go better.

 

  1. How many of last year’s goals were achieved or are in progress?

    If the percentage of your goals achieved is small compared to last year’s list, then maybe you made a list that was too long, or maybe you didn’t concentrate on achieving those goals. Or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t enough time in the day, no matter how hard you try.

 

  1. What can I give up or give away?

    The end of the year is a wonderful time to look forward to achieving more, but also a time to think about what you can purge from your life. What “things” can you leave behind and make your life lighter? Do you want to downsize your home? Can you give away some of your ‘stuff’? Do you need to put some of your goals on the shelf for the next year and concentrate fully on achieving one or two?

 

  1. What are the new goals or dreams I have for this year and do they fit into my life’s vision?

    When you put together goals for your life, do they fit into another overall vision for where you want to be in five or ten years? If your vision for your life is to be a millionaire then your goals this year should be pointed in the financial direction – and not just making money, but also learning about investments and growing money.

 

This concept of having a life vision is not common. More often we are like Queen Latifah in the movie The Last Holiday. In the movie, Georgia Byrd, played by Queen Latifah, works in a department store. She learns that she has a disease from which she is sure to die in several weeks.

In an effort to live all of life in just a few weeks she cashes in all her investments, takes all her money and flies to a luxury resort in Europe. In one scene she tells the people around the dinner table: “You know how it is. You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle. Then you look up one day and wonder, “How did I even get here?”

I’ve always thought that quote sums it all up quite nicely. Caught up in the everyday motions of going to work, taking care of children, being a friend, getting the groceries, making the dinner, cleaning the home, taking the children to their events and the myriad of other things that make up the day . . . most of us forget that when we get to a point when the children leave the nest, we will be alone.

We’ll be alone with our thoughts, dreams and goals – whether we have a spouse at that time or not. There will no longer be a long list of “things to do,” and suddenly we’ll wonder, “How did I even get here?”

That’s why, at the end of every year I also believe it’s necessary to look at the vision you have for your life. . . for your whole life.  And then determine if the goals you’re making this year are taking you toward or away from that vision.

Even goals that run parallel with the vision aren’t going to intersect at any point, so it’s important that you fit your goals to your vision and not the other way around.

The vision you hold for your life is what will drive you when you think you can’t keep moving forward.  Your vision is what you want your life to look like in 5, 10 or 15 years. Your vision is yours and no one else’s, so take care to develop your vision and dream for your life because . . .

 

“You have this one life. How do you wanna spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”  — Beardsley Jones

Teach Your Child About Bullies

Unfortunately, bullies are not just common in childhood. It seems that some people never grow up. Some adults think they can get their way by raising their voice, towering over you, staring you eye-to-eye, or threatening you with consequences that aren’t normally associated with the behavior.

The news has been filled with men who are losing their jobs and positions after reports of their behavior have been made public. Some are surprising and others appeared to be the worst kept Hollywood secret. But, the one that strikes me as the most preposterous is the man who lost his job after listening to another man talk about assaulting women, while the guy who did the talking was elected president.

But, I digress.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. All ages. Both genders. All colors. Some hide under a threat of retaliation while others don’t care who knows about their behavior. Your child likely knows a bully at school. They may have daily contact with that bully.

The school your child attends does not preclude this behavior. Christian schools, public, private and even homeschool programs are not immune from children whose behavior is likely the result of how they have been treated.

My children had a cousin who enjoyed pushing them around, bullying them and pulling out his father’s soft porn magazines. It was a fine line we walked between offending the family and keeping my children in public areas with him. Turns out his father treated him in the same way he treated those younger and smaller than he was.

My youngest daughter attends a Christian homeschool program where she’s been bullied by a young man who has threatened her over the phone. The threat was to spread vicious rumors about her.

My oldest daughter experienced interactions with young ladies at her first Christian college who were bullies.

It’s important to talk with your children about bullies, whether they have interactions with one or not. Sooner or later, at some point in their life, they will have a relationship with someone who threatens them with physical or emotional repercussions if the bully’s demands are not met. If your child knows how to react first, they’ll experience less emotional turmoil and may get out of the situation unscathed.

Give your children the tools they need to navigate this minefield.

 

They will feel afraid

Tell your children they will feel afraid. If they know upfront they’ll feel afraid and that fear is exactly what the bully wants, it may help them to deal with the situation. Teach them how to deal with their fear in the moment, so they can follow the plan and deal with the feelings after the situation has expired.

 

Showing fear increases a bully’s power

Most, if not all, bullies will recognize fear and continue their behavior when they recognize their actions are achieving results. If your child can learn to hide their fear or pretend they aren’t afraid, many bullies will back down with other strategies listed here. One way to hide your fear is to keep your mind occupied with another task. Count backwards from 100, spell a word backward or recite the periodic table or the U.S. states. It doesn’t matter what you do, keep your eyes on the environment and your mind on something else – no one will know how scared you are.

 

Try to prevent running into a bully

Teach your children not to give bullies a chance to interact with them. Your child can’t hide or skip class, but they can take different routes and pair up to walk with someone else. Make a plan to walk to school, take recess or walk to class with friends. Bullies are interested in dealing with one person at a time, so two or more children together may be just the deterrent that’s needed.

 

Stand up for yourself

When you’re scared of another person, you’re likely not feeling your bravest. BUT, sometimes just ACTing brave is enough to make a bully back down. Most bullies are not interested in engaging in a physical confrontation. You want to stand tall, but you don’t want to provoke a bully or try to bully them back by hitting, pushing or kicking.

 

Talk about it

Speech is one of the most powerful things we have. It’s why God taught the tongue is more powerful than anything man has at his disposal. The tongue can start a war, forgive a wrong and communicate ideas. And your child’s tongue can stop a bully.

Most bullies prefer their actions to remain private, in the dark and far from the light of day.  When your child talks to an adult about their problem it helps them to process through what’s happening and reduces the risk of depression.  And, between you, you’ll find a solution. So encourage your child to share with you.

Act With Power

Power is something many people seek, even before wealth since in many cases wealth will follow power. Having power in a relationship may increase your confidence and just make you feel powerful. And, while this can be a heady feeling, it may not produce the results you want.

For instance, in many cases abusive men are driven by their insecurity and lack of power in the rest of the world – or their perceived lack of power. Men who are abusive come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the underlying commonalities is how good they feel when they have power over another individual.

In this case, what the abuser is exhibiting isn’t actual power but rather a perversion of power. For instance, the pharisees were driven by their fear of Christ to have him crucified, believing His death would give them back the power they had with the Jewish people. What they did was a perversion of power.

Real power comes from inside YOU. It comes from a knowledge that YOU are capable, able and powerful and not from what you believe you can exert over others.

Body language is one of the ways that people who are truly powerful communicate their power and confidence.

If you consider the animal world, there are many male fights that are averted when one male is obviously more powerful than the other and exhibits recognizable signs indicating the other animal would not win the fight. That is power the other animal understands through body language.

Sometimes you may not FEEL powerful but can still show signs of power and then, by experiencing the results of power you eventually believe yourself to have that power.

In other cases you might accept the power given to your by others.

But the best kind of power is the kind that comes from your security in who you are, where you’re going and how much power you actually need or don’t need to succeed.

Let’s start with acting as if you have the power in order to control a conversation and end with understanding where your power comes from and how to tap into an unending source.

Having and enjoying the results of power in a conversation begins and ends with body language. But, although you may exhibit the body signs, you have to BELIEVE them in order that others perceive you to be powerful.

Eye Contact

People in control are not afraid of looking another person in the eye and holding eye contact. Of course, holding contact for long periods of time may make the other person uncomfortable, which is NOT the emotion you’re trying to arouse in someone who’s interviewing you for a job! On the other hand, consistently averting your eyes when looked at is a sign you aren’t sure of what you’re saying, how you’re feeling and even that you just want to get the heck out of Dodge.

The trick is to use eye contact appropriately without staring down an opponent or looking like a scared rabbit. There’s a middle ground where you will look, act and BE powerful in your demeanor and your attitude.

Think about it – anytime you have a conversation there will be an alpha (most powerful) and a beta (second in command). Even having a conversation with the barista behind the counter, one of you has more power. This line of power can fluctuate between two people when both have similar levels of power.

The next time you’re talking with someone, start to notice the natural give and take between your eye contact. If you’re the one constantly looking down, then you’re the submissive one. It is certainly good to know how to be and look humble, but it is perfectly acceptable to also be powerful. As a woman, you’ve likely been told – either in words or body language! – that power is not acceptable. There are some women who gracefully take on the mantle of power gracefully and others who stomp through life as if they are owed everything by everyone.

Examples? Oprah, likely one of – or maybe THE – most powerful woman alive today, is graceful in her power. Have you ever seen “The Devil Wears Prada”? The film was written for a former personal assistant of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, portraying Wintour as a tough, demanding, short-tempered, easily angered executive who wielded power in the fashion industry and who scared most who met her.

Two women, two different styles but with one thing in common – immense power.

 

Voice

When I was in high school I had a sweet friend who was “soft spoken.” At least that’s what it was called in those days. It was difficult to hear her speak, even when she was angry. She didn’t PROJECT her voice and it never got above a whisper.

Definitely NOT the way to project power.

On the other hand, I was just at the doctor’s office with my oldest son the other day. I could hear the doctor speaking in the hallway – normal tone, easy voice. The minute he came in the room he was practically yelling – all in an effort to gain power in the relationship. It was interesting since he was tall, the doctor and obviously the one in control in the room by default. But, he gave that up when he started acting like he’d lost his power.

Your voice can project power or you can completely lose the battle before it even starts when you are whispering or yelling.

Power comes from a strong voice that isn’t yelling or whispering. Instead, you goal is to project your voice to the back of the room without deafening the person directly in front of you. It can be done! The power in your voice comes from within your chest and the back of your throat. And it comes when you believe that what you’re saying is true, right and must be said.

Even conversations about the smallest things – like saying hello or offering help to someone in a parking lot. If you believe what you’re saying, you are paying attention and present during the conversation and you believe what you’re saying is right – you’ll speak with confidence and power. But, the moment someone asks a question you don’t have the answer to, or challenges what you’re saying, it may cause a meltdown.

Unless your power comes from deeper within you and not JUST your voice.

 

Leading

Powerful people lead a conversation and it’s done naturally – NOT by overpowering the other person.  Start the conversation with a positive statement to relay information you want. But don’t interrupt the other person or try to take over the conversation.

Power also comes with patience, quietness and submission. When you’re around people who are bullies, you won’t get the upper hand because they never relinquish it. However, you remain more powerful without becoming the bigger, better bully.

Your power may also be communicated well when you have expertise and passion about the subject matter. Your passion and knowledge of the topic has a way of lighting up your face and engaging others – just another form of power.

 

The Ultimate Power

Ultimately, your best source of power comes from the ultimate source of power. God will walk through a journey during which you attain and remain as powerful as He wants you to be. Mother Theresa may not have LOOKED powerful, but that tiny woman was held in His hand and wielded more power across the world than you may imagine.

 

 

Finding Where Honor Fits Into Parenting

Honor: to be regarded with great respect; high respect; esteem

Honor, respect, dignity . . . . these are words that appear to have lost meaning. It’s becoming easier to recognize someone who has served in the military because they look different from the rest. In many cases, these are people for whom honor and respect are more than words – they have great meaning and often steer decisions.

Not everyone in the military lives by these ethics – and not everyone who holds these concepts dear has served in a branch of the military.

Honor is one word my children learned early in life. I had five rules, and honoring me and their father was one of them. In the beginning it was a practical means of controlling behavior, and as they grew older it became part of the fabric in our lives. Today, if I’m contemplating breaking one of those rules I can count on one of the children to speak up and remind me that those rules exist for a reason, and thus far that reason has kept our family strong.

We don’t always do it right – and I don’t do it right more often than I’d like  – but we’ve built a solid foundation.

This the first commandment found in the Bible that comes with a promise. In Ephesians 6:2-3 the Bible says: “Honor thy father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Have you thought how your behavior reflects honor, or whether you are taking time to teach your children about honor? This takes intention, or thinking about how you will teach them what it is and how to live it. For instance, we may believe we want our children to “follow the rules,” but unless we talk about those rules and how they should be followed, it’s a conversation you hold in your head and your children are not privy to the information.

Honor is just such a concept. You might WANT your children to live with honor, but unless you are intentional about telling them, it’s likely they won’t get the idea.

Once you’ve decided to be intentional about honor, you have two ways of passing your knowledge along to your children. By talking about it and by modeling the behavior you want them to follow.

Have you ever seen ads on television where the parents are asking their children where they learned to drink, while they were holding a drink in their hand? Or complaining about their children taking drugs, while their medicine cabinet is chock full of pain medications.

Functionally, to treat others with honor means to treat them with respect, to do more than what is expected, and having a good attitude while doing it.

Practicing honor changes your life, the life of your children and the lives of those around you. Your children stand out from the rest – which is what is needed to find a partner with character, the best job they can find and to stand before God.

Honor is also like oil that lubricates a functioning and hard-working machine. Your works gets done with less friction and anger.

You can find time to talk about working honorably when you talk with your children about money, jobs, relationships, volunteering and school work.

It is not honorable to cheat, but it is to ask your teacher’s forgiveness when you didn’t get your homework done.

If you watch sitcoms on television you see the actors making a play on honor. One wants to cheat or cut corners, while another may want the character to make the “right” decision. Unfortunately, overtime, these television shows are leaning more toward the characters making the wrong decision because the outcome may “feel good,” or get the character “ahead.”

But ultimately, making a decision for the wrong reasons, the dishonorable reasons, results in achieving less than you could have and enjoying much less success than you could have.

Being a single mom is hard work. Remembering to teach the children all you want them to learn is difficult. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to live your life the way you want them to live theirs.

You don’t have to make compromises to give them more than you had because they don’t want more, they want you. Your children inherently know what’s right and wrong and they are watching you to see the path you want them to take.

I was reading an article a week ago about making goals in the New Year. Seems like there are thousands of articles this time of year about how to write goals, how to make a plan, how to follow the plan and measure the results. But this young woman had a different take on her goals for the New Year.

Instead of making a list of what she wanted to achieve, she began to concentrate on who she wanted to become. By becoming a person she could be proud of, she would then be capable of overcoming obstacles and conquering challenges that came her way in the coming year. By becoming a better person, she would be able to set bigger and better goals.

You don’t have to write a list of what you want your children to learn and know. Instead, concentrate on becoming the person you want them to become. Most children are wise beyond their years. They learn by watching your actions – what you say and do – and not necessarily what you say.

Sometimes, when I’m using a new piece of software and trying to get it to do something, I’ll start yelling at the computer – “Do what I WANT you to do! NOT what I’m telling you to do!”

Your children are the same. You can tell them not to lie to you until you’re blue in the face, but if they watch you lie to your friends or their siblings, they learn to lie too.

Remember, it is never too late to learn something new. Until someone is within minutes of death, it is just not too late. Consider taking the time this year to resolve to BECOME so you can watch your children grow into people you are proud of.