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Archive for Personal Growth

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.

 

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.

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!

 

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

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.

 

 

 

The Power of the Unspoken Word

One of my favorite parts of the movie “Hitch” is his explanation of nonverbal communication. Released in 2005, the movie follows the love life of several couples through the eyes of a male dating coach. The story takes place before dating coaches were popularized, and so Alex Hitchens does most of his work behind the scenes and without publicity.

Part of his job is to teach his male clients how to interact with women. Most of the film is about nonverbal communication and the different ways that men and women interpret the actions of others. In the movie, Hitch says, “60 percent of all communication is nonverbal, 30 percent is your tone. That means 90 percent of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

In other words, the people you’re talking to are reading more from what you aren’t saying than what you are saying. This means the power you want – in relationships, at your job, and with your children – isn’t coming from the words you’re using (although there IS power in the words!) – but instead from how you’re saying it.

Your nonverbal communication is communicating power while your words are communicating knowledge and feelings. What you say is as important as HOW you say it. Most of the time we don’t remember this. Especially in a time when quite a bit of communicating happens digitally.

Nearly every digital communication device has a way of adding facial expressions in order to let the recipient “read” body language. But this body language is chosen by the sender, where the body language you communicate during a face to face conversation is nearly always unconscious.

Most people learn to read body language as a child. It’s a process that humans and animals use. Dog whisperers and horse whisperers learn to read the body language of animals to understand actions and reactions. In order to gain greater power in your life, it’s important that you learn to read the subtle cues of others in your life, and learn to control your own body language.

At the end of the day, you’ll be judged by how others perceive you, and your knowledge by the results you produce. You do the same thing with your friends, family, boss and children. You know instinctively when your children are lying, your friends are hiding something and your boss is going to make a decision you don’t like. You know it because you’re reading body language. You might not be able to verbalize HOW you know it – but you know it.

Use It

At the same time you learn how to project power through body language, you’re learning how to read someone else’s language. And, you may recognize that while this subtle language seeks to project something about the other individual, you don’t HAVE to accept what that is.

In other words, just because the person sitting across from you is projecting power, you don’t have to accept they are powerful and continue along the path you desire. In some cases, they’ll back down and recognize you have more power than them. In other cases, they won’t. When and how you use this tactic is important. Use it against your boss, you could be packing up your desk and be on the street by evening.

Use it with your children or a friend, you may get what you want – but in either case you’ll pay a price.

There is a cost to be paid when you project power. The other person may be intimidated and back down, or they may rise to the occasion and challenge you. Both changes may be subtle, but both will affect the long-term results of the relationship. It might be the friend calls you less, or that your child feels more intimidated than loved – but either way there is a cost to be paid.

Learn It

There are several ways to learn the subtleties of body language. One of my favorites is to watch successful sales people. They have learned how to get you to do what they want – and it’s an art form. Tony Robbins comes to mind.

You don’t have to buy any of their products, you just have to spend time watching their videos.

Several years ago I was learning how to write sales copy – written and video sales letters. One of the things I did was to watch and study infomercials on television. These are masterfully written and produced 30 minutes of television designed to do one thing and one thing only – get you to pick up the phone/visit a website and pull out your wallet.

If I focused on studying the infomercial and taking notes, I was able to learn a few things. But, if I was a bit more informal and watched one while on the treadmill or elliptical trainer, I was more inclined to BUY the product instead of learn from the sales copy.

I tell this story because the videos of these sales people, who have body language down to an art form, are SELLING. Remember to pay attention to how they are saying it; the way their eyes meet the camera, how you feel about that person and their knowledge, their shoulders, hands, arms and feet. When you pay attention to HOW they do it, you’ll be less inclined to pull out your wallet to buy what they’re selling.

Action

In order to experience greater success, better relationships, improved business performance and get what you want, you have to take action. Knowing what is important and how to learn it, is only half the battle. The next steps are to actually DO IT. And have fun while you’re doing it – fun is the important part. Because when you are having fun, you’re more likely to learn it, use it and take action.

  • Watch some videos of people you admire, want to emulate or great sales people.
  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Practice in front of a camera.
  • Practice with friends.
  • Make it a part of your everyday routine.

All in that order!

 

Have fun!

Embracing the New Year As a Single Mom

Being a single mom has been one of the most challenging and most rewarding jobs I have ever undertaken. It’s likely the same for you too. While it isn’t a job I wanted or chose, it is one I choose to embrace as we move into a new year.

The past years have been some of the most difficult for me personally. But, they have also brought me closer to God and to a greater understanding of His sovereignty in my life.  And this alone has been worth the price of admission. It’s not something you can fully describe .  .  . like explaining the concept of cells without a microscope. It has been a gift I treasure and one I will lean on as we move into very uncertain times this next year.

But, realistically, all of life is uncertain. Tomorrow is only a promise and yesterday a memory.  So how can we embrace an uncertain future as chief cook and bottle washer and everything in between?

There is something about new beginnings and beginning again that is magical and wonderful, that holds promise and hope, and that each of us ultimately desires. Who wouldn’t want to erase the problems and mistakes of the past and start over?

That’s exactly what every new 24 hour day holds for you. Most of the time we hold out that hope for a new future or a magic moment until December 31. At some point near midnight we anticipate the goals and dreams we’ll write the next day – January 1st – on a piece of paper.  And, unfortunately, most of those dreams will be felled by February 1st by the business of everyday living.

The truth is that you can enjoy the rejuvenation of new beginnings on any day during the year. You can start fresh on your birthday, your half birthday, or on February 1st. It’s your choice. You can choose to embrace YOUR new year on March 31 at noon. All your choice.

But, since January 1st is just around the corner, let’s make the assumption you’ll be starting a new year of new plans, goals and achievements on January 1st.

This day holds the promise of something new, something better. Your very spirit yearns for something more, to have your thirst quenched. When I was young there was nothing more satisfying than coming inside from playing in the heat to pour a large glass of ice cold milk and chug it. Today, I wouldn’t think about chugging milk – but that’s another story.

You have your own glass of ice cold milk that you find deeply satisfying and uniquely filling. What calls you about a new year and new beginnings is uniquely human and can’t remain in yesterday. It’s more than a feeling. It is grounded in hope and promise that each of us believe we have a right to claim as our own.

And today, you can claim your new beginning, hope and promise because you have the tools to make a difference in your life and the lives of your children and your family. The question isn’t do you HAVE the tools – but rather will you USE them. In other words, are you willing to take the action you need to take in order to enjoy the successes you have only dreamed about?

There are many platitudes that end up on memes, images and in emails or coming from the mouths of friends and relatives. But although they are commonplace and commonly shared, there is more than a grain of truth to many of them. For instance, “Failure is an opportunity.” It is – failure gives you the opportunity to do it better, faster, greater, and with more panache the next time.

“Discouragement is a path to joy.” Yes, because when discouraged there is no way out but up – unless you choose to stay discouraged.

Your new beginning doesn’t have to be marked by a physical event – such as moving to a new home, having a new baby, or entering into a new relationship. Instead, your new beginning may be marked by making a new decision or choosing a new goal. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind as you begin again:

Stay open: Keep your mind open to new ideas, new ways to do things and new people in your life. Make smart decisions but don’t close doors to something just because you always did. Have a good reason for saying “no.”

Notice the small things: Not all your accomplishments come with fanfare and excitement. Sometimes it’s a smile on your youngest face, a note from your oldest child or a short “atta girl” from your boss. You may not get the big raise, but it’s important to celebrate the small victories in order to build to the big ones.

Stop editing: In any brainstorming meeting no thought or idea is discounted. You never know when a great idea is sparked from a crazy one. It’s also important to stop editing your thoughts and feelings. If you’re uncomfortable doing something new, then own it. Revel in the discomfort. You will get past it and you will accomplish your goals despite your discomfort. Then, the next time discomfort rears its ugly head you will be ready and waiting to crush it. Don’t edit your thoughts – but once you realize they aren’t productive, kick them to the curb.

Work, Work, PAUSE: You can’t stop time, but you can stop the madness in your own life occasionally. Clear your calendar and your schedule for a couple hours of reflection and planning for the next phase in your action plan. Without pausing to recharge your brain and body you may be operating on fumes, unable to achieve the goals you set for yourself and disappointed once again.

 

You CAN achieve your goals and desires this year. You need to do the research to determine your journey. Make a plan to take the journey. Take the steps on the journey and remember there are many others who have achieved these goals before you. This means you CAN do it. You may just need to find someone who has done it before you and follow their path.

Kick Negativity to the Curb

Negative thoughts can be as toxic to your health and your future as smoking cigarettes. Negativity breeds emotional, mental and physical changes.

Here’s an experiment that immediately demonstrates the power of what you think over your body.

This experiment takes two people. One person (person A) stands with their arms held out to their side at shoulder height. The second person (person B) stands to one side and tries to push one arm down while the person A resists.

Pay attention to how much strength you [person A] have to use to resist person B.

Now, out loud person A will say three times, “I am not good enough. I am not good enough. I am not good enough.” These words have to be said out loud.

Immediately, person A holds their arms out to the side and asks person B to use the same amount of force to push the arm down.

What did you experience?

If you are like the majority of people you’ll have found that the second time you [person A] were not able to hold your arm up as long as you did the first time. Or, said another way, it takes less energy from person B to push person A’s arm down.

This is because your brain hears what your mouth says and it becomes immediately integrated in your muscle and neurological system. This is more powerful than what you say in your head.

However, while saying something out loud is MORE powerful, your thoughts are just as powerful but over a longer period of time. For instance, you could experience immediate results in your strength by saying something out loud, but will experience the same results over a slightly longer period of time when you continue to think a certain way.

Isn’t that amazing? What you THINK and say to yourself (don’t even have to believe it!) has a definite effect on your physical body. NOTE: in this case you likely didn’t believe what you were saying but your body still responded negatively. Imagine how much power you lose each day when you BELIEVE what you’re thinking and saying out loud!

It’s time to believe that you can achieve your goals this next year and be the role model to your children you want to be.  Because, when you believe you can, the likelihood that you will goes up exponentially.

The Consequences

The results of consistently thinking negative thoughts are too many to list. Here are just a few that may motivate you to change your perspective and your habits this year.

  • What you think is what you value and influences the choices you make
  • The choices you make influence your results and success [or lack thereof]
  • Negative thoughts hurt your physical and mental performance, which affects your income and relationships
  • Negativity negatively affects your confidence and influences your decisions and performance
  • Negative thoughts increase your stress levels and reduces your ability to concentrate
  • Stress results from negative thoughts and this triggers hormonal imbalances, damages your immune system and reduces your cognitive abilities

The Strategies

You might think that you’ve always been this way and can’t change now. After all, changing is difficult and sometimes it’s just easier to keep going down the same path. But, when you look down the road three years and see yourself in the same place you are now with worse health – are you happy?

Do you want to be in a better place personally? At your job? In your relationships? Then you must make personal changes to experience different results. Your goal achievement is based on your own decisions and actions and not those of others. Here are several strategies that may help you reduce negative thoughts and improve the actions you take:

 

Make the punishment fit the crime.

In other words, seek proportionality in your personal punishments. You wouldn’t ground your child for 3 weeks if they forgot to clear their plate from the table after dinner – but you might be punishing yourself just like that.

Spend some time over the next couple of days to see how you react to disappointments or mistakes you make. You may be surprised by the things you say to yourself.

My youngest son spent nearly a year learning how to get out of his own head while he was playing basketball. Much of this sport is won and lost before the players even get on the court. If he missed a shot or two, let someone get through his defense or didn’t do exactly what the coach expected, his performance dropped drastically. This created more negativity and more negative thoughts, which in turn generated even poorer performance.

Remember, unless you’re performing brain surgery, you’ll have another chance to fix the issue. Take the chance to do a better job and resolve to continue to do a better job because you are CAPABLE.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiving others is foundational to living a better life. Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person, but it does create bitterness and a poor life for YOU.

It is important to remember that you also deserve and require your own forgiveness so you can move on from your mistakes. If you continue to beat yourself up and say negative things to yourself everyday you’ll reap the rewards your body and brain are wired to produce – poor health, poor decisions, depression and few friends.

Researchers trained 260 adults in forgiveness over six weeks. 70 percent reported a reduction in their feelings getting hurt and 27 percent experienced fewer physical symptoms. Forgiveness reduces YOUR stress and changes YOUR results.

 

Gratitude

As humans, we are wired to give thanks to God and be grateful for the gifts we have. When we practice gratitude, it alters the way we think and how we perceive our life. The situation doesn’t change. The consequences don’t change. But the way you react and act – and therefore the results of your actions – do change.

Learning how to practice gratitude in any situation you find yourself will help you move on and achieve greater success. Any negative situations will teach you something. These will bring you closer to God if you allow them. And He will work miracles through you.

 

Emotional Resilience

Having positive emotions – the opposite of being a negative person – helps your body and mind recover from challenges and obstacles that continue to happen throughout your life. Cultivating this positivity helps you become resilient in the face of stress.

Your resilience is like an industrial rubber band – when you pushed and pulled by negative events in your life, you have the ability to bounce back to your original state. You can build resilience even after being hit by negative events. This means that although you’ve experience bad things, you don’t automatically expect poor performance in your life or more negative results.

 

The Results

The results of IMPLEMENTING the strategies and taking action is a positive result. However, when you read the strategies, shake your head yes indicating you’ve read them before, but don’t DO anything – you can expect the same results – nothing!

 

In other words, the results you can expect from addressing the negativity in your life is completely up to you.

It’s Time to Say YES!

Last week you discovered if you say “No” to somethings you’ll enjoy greater love and joy in your life. However, life isn’t all about learning what to turn away FROM but also what to turn TOWARD.

In other words, what should you say YES to in order to experience greater joy? Your children will see what you don’t do – and they will mimic what you DO. Here are several things I’m going to say YES to more often this year.

Say yes to:

Discovering more about how to support your health

I might be just a little enthusiastic about my health. We have one body, one life and what we do with it will be our legacy after we’re gone. I think too many times we put our heads down to power through the day without thinking clearly about each little decision made. The pastry at 10am in the breakroom, extra dessert coffee at lunch, candy bar at 3pm and on to a grab and go dinner while driving your children to their events.

Suddenly, any idea of good nutrition has flown out the window.

Think about what you eat each day as if it were compound interest in your life. One donut won’t make a dent in your cardiovascular health, one donut three times a week will. But, the same is true in the other direction. Eating vegetables, getting plenty of fiber and significantly reducing your fructose intake each day will also improve your health over the years. One day of eating well won’t make much of a dent, days each week will.

Exercise every day

Exercise also pay compound interest and in multiple areas of your life – and often without much effort. For instance, walking 30 minutes each day (15 minutes after lunch and another after dinner) may be enough if you spend several hours a day on your feet and not in a chair behind your desk.

Exercise doesn’t mean you are training for the Olympics, just that you’re moving and active through the day. I was out walking with my new dog yesterday and stopped to talk with one of my neighbors. She’s about 55. She told me that she took on painting her home, from ceilings to baseboards. After a day of painting a room she thought she’d be sore. But she wasn’t. She slept great that night and felt the best she had in a while the next day.

Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. Think about walking with the kids. Get up out of your work chair every 15 minutes and stretch. Look for an exercise partner. Do whatever you have to do to get exercise every day so you can keep up with your children and you’re ready to enjoy the unexpected – like a surprise canoe trip, hiking with friends, biking with your children, or whatever else happens your way.

Positive, energetic friends who have achieved goals you want

We are what we hang around. In other words, you become like the friends you have. They don’t become like you. So, find friends who have achieved the goals you want to achieve so they can show you the path and encourage you on your journey.

I want to publish a new book this year. My plan is to find a group of authors in my area and join.

Activities that build your self-respect and self-esteem

I have a problem. Chocolate.

Chocolate is what I eat when I don’t feel good about myself or situation. Unfortunately, my comfort food makes me feel even worse about life. There is no comfort in overeating or eating foods with fructose or refined sugar. This is a lesson I have a LOT of trouble learning. I’m hoping I learn it this year.

Find the activities that build your self-respect and self-esteem. Volunteer work, patience, expressing your emotions, learning a new skill, helping others and expressing gratitude are just some of the ways you can boost your self-respect and self-esteem.

Strategies that move you toward your goals

OH MY GOSH! This is the one. This is what I have to concentrate on this year. This past year I have not done what I know would move me toward my goals and at the end of the year I’m paying the price.

I have a book that was written and 95 percent complete in MAY. It’s November and I’ve done nothing else to finish the project. Not only have I not finished the project but I also have not met my financial goals this year BECAUSE I didn’t finish the project.

I let life get in the way instead of getting in front.

This year I’m taking control and by year’s end I’ll be reaping the rewards.

Building a life you can be proud of

Not everything we do makes us proud of our actions. And, as a human it’s impossible to achieve that goal. But like all things, every small decision you make has long-term consequences. This means the MAJORITY of the decisions you make should work toward building a life that you can be proud of as you share those achievements and events with your children.

 

It has been a difficult, educational and unique year that builds on the work of past years. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made the decisions I had during the year. This coming year I’m going to make some tweaks to those decisions and hope to follow through so I can experience the rewards that come with greater, more positive and forward moving, action.

Start Saying NO To These Things and Watch Life Get Better

The day starts early, usually before sunrise. A few stretches, a warm shower and a quick cup of coffee, before the alarm is sounding in the children’s rooms and they emerge, sleepy-eyed and groggy. Showers, packed lunches, gathered school books and packed backpacks as you usher still drowsy children out to the bus. It’s a full day’s work and the sun has only just peeked above the horizon.

Friends need your advice, your boss needs that report, meeting must be attended and you’ll still try to make that yoga class while you chug down a 4-hour energy boost drink before picking up the children from their after school program. Then it’s home for dinner and back in the car for their sports activities, while they try to get their homework done as the car rockets down the road.

Sound familiar?

When all four of my children were home together I was driving in three directions all day, and arranging rides for the children I couldn’t logistically chauffeur. It really does take a village to raise a family of children. Paying attention to what I wanted my children to learn made me pay attention to what I was showing them every day.

It’s a bit like what I scream at my computer – “Do what I WANT you to do – not what I TOLD you to do!!!” Your children watch you carefully and no matter what you tell them . . . what you show them is far more powerful. As you begin to format the goals you want to accomplish this coming year, think about what you’re doing and teaching your children about living a healthy and productive life.

Here are a few things to say NO to this year. Next week I’ll share what I will say YES to next year!

SAY NO TO:

Anything that lowers your self-respect or challenges your integrity

Last week an opportunity presented that could have been lucrative but would have made sleeping difficult for me. While the money was good it went against my ethics and so I said no. It has taken years for me to learn that doing something that goes against what I believe is not worth the angst and bad feelings that come with it.

Several years ago I made another similar decision that didn’t involve money but it did cause me to do something I swore I wouldn’t.  To this day I wonder if what I did created another mess I’m living with.

The long of the short is that it is never good to make a decision that lowers your self-respect.

Anything that may risk your health

You have one body and one life – it’s important you live it well. Studies have shown people’s regrets at the end of life are about what they failed to try and not how they may have failed at something they DID try.

But, trying something that destroys your ability to enjoy the rest of your life is another regret. Your health is a bit like compound interest – the little things you do each day pay big dividends in the future. It’s like smoking. One cigarette won’t kill you and neither will two. But one pack a day for a couple of years and plan on wrinkled skin, difficulty breathing and a high risk of heart disease and cancer.

How well you care for your health is a reflection of how much you value your life.

Anything that turns you from your life mission

When you reach the end of your life and look back on what you’ve accomplished what will you think? Will you be happy?

Many of the little decisions you make each day without thinking often deter you from what you want to accomplish. When you can say no to vacuuming the rugs in order to finish your personal projects, you’ll remember the accomplishment in a year but not the vacuuming.

Things that rob your time

Time is a precious commodity. We each get 24 hours, no more and no less. However you spend this time, it is spent and you won’t get it back.

Things that rob your time include people you don’t want to be with, jobs that cause too much stress, attending events that are meaningless to you and the people you love and anything else that makes you wish you had those moments back.

Other people’s baggage

You carry enough of your own baggage – you don’t need anyone else’s.  Enough said?

This includes getting into new relationships with toxic people or abusive partners.

Toxic relationships and negative people

You probably can identify the people in your life who cause you stress or pain. These are the people who don’t support your dreams. They tell you that you aren’t good enough, strong enough, thin enough or smart enough. You dread sharing dreams or thoughts because you know exactly what they’ll say.  While constructive criticism is good these people usually just pass along negative comments.

Say no!

Self-pity because you aren’t where you want to be today

You are a strong single mother. Anything else is icing on the cake.

I know you’re strong because you are a single mom. And because you are strong you can accomplish exactly what you want. The problem may not be what you lack in ability but rather in resources- such as time, energy or network.

 

Leave self-pity in the garbage where it belongs. We all need a pity-party once in a while but it is vital you don’t live there.

 

9 Ways to Reduce Your Stress as a Single Mom

When I was first separated, I remember people talking about what a stress it would be to start parenting as a single mom. I couldn’t imagine it would be any different since my ex-husband hadn’t ever participated in the parenting duties.

But I was wrong. I had completely overlooked the support of having another adult human being in the home could be. However small his participation had been – he had participated in SOMETHING. Suddenly, while I had done most of the physical parenting labor in the past, I was now doing all of it AND responsible for keeping a roof over our heads.

While the circumstances may differ, nearly 25 percent of children in America live in single parent homes. It may have been the result of death, divorce, separation, or becoming a single parent by choice. Whatever the reason, the challenges are nearly the same.

There are at least nine things you can do to help reduce your stress level so you can parent your children and be productive at work without blowing your top every other minute. Even if you aren’t physically yelling and screaming, the stress you feel from frustration and irritation is also felt by your body and by the people around you who have become adept at reading body language.

My dog knows from my body language when I’m ready to take her for her afternoon walk. We don’t go at the same time each day but she invariably understands the slight shifts in my body at my desk chair, or the way I get up that indicates I’m not heading for a bathroom break, but rather for an afternoon walk with her.

Your children and your co-workers can also fairly easily read your body language and know when you’re stressed, even if you don’t say anything. When you minimize your stressors, you can bring peace and joy back into your life and your relationships with your children.

Finances

This is often a major stressor in your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have, the issue is a big one. You may not have enough for groceries next week, or may not know how to invest the coin you do have. One way or another, you need to get a handle on your current situation and make a logical and reasonable plan for the future. You’ll be amazed by how much just this knowledge and a plan can reduce your stress. By ignoring the issue altogether, it increases your stress as you may believe the situation is worse than it is. Even if it’s exactly how bad you imagined, it will not change until you face it first. And facing it will reduce your stress and help you develop a reasonable plan of action.

Set up a Daily Routine

A consistent routine for your daily activities helps your child feel more secure in his environment and helps reduce your own stress level over what should be done next. Dinner time, packing lunches, bed time, and naps should all be scheduled to help you plan the rest of your day.

Get Rid of Guilt

All single moms have rights. YOU have rights. You are a loved and blessed woman in God’s eyes and He wants you to believe that. It may be easy to feel guilty about time you may not spend with your children, how you reacted at dinner last night or that you don’t have enough to buy your child’s new favorite toy. But being a single mom is not about being easy – and in the end, feeling guilty is not easy at all. If you feel guilty about disruptions in your family life, like divorce or separation, get support from a local group. It is more important that you grow your relationship with your children and take care of your family, and guilt will keep you from that goal.

Kids Need to Be Kids

It’s important to remember that your children are children. They aren’t your local support group. They have problems and issues of their own. They need your support and structure to help them feel secure and loved. Children who are secure in their environment are better able to become strong, functioning adults. If you find that you rely on your children for emotional support, or sympathy, then it is time to seek out that support outside your home.</

Get Support

No matter how strong you may be, you shouldn’t take this journey alone. Find a trusted family member, therapist, counselor, pastor or good friend who can offer you the emotional support you need. No one is an island unto themselves and you WILL need someone because it’s just the way we are wired.

Answer Honestly

Where my family lives there are condominiums and apartments directly next to each other. The condominium section is gated and there’s a chain so the apartment community cannot drive through. The apartment community pays for garbage removal using dumpsters and the condominiums have individual pick up from a different company. There is one family in the condominiums that routinely sends their two girls with garbage to the dumpsters in the apartments.

It is very important to practice honesty when you talk to your children and answer their questions. Children are like little computers – they often remember everything. If you don’t answer honestly, what you tell them today will come back to haunt you later.

When those two little girls grow up and start hiding things from their parents, the parents may wonder where the girls learned this behavior. Some of it will likely be from their friends or just about being teens – but it’s a good bet that some of it will have been learned at home.

Consistency is Key

Children and adults thrive when they understand the expectations. You likely would quickly change jobs if your boss changed the rules every week. While you have the choice to leave an inconsistent environment, your children don’t. You might think that being lenient once in a while is just showing them you love them – but there is a difference between giving grace and being lenient.

There are always consequences for the actions you take. Whether it is the choices you make or the ones your children make – there are consequences. If you were to steal a gallon of milk from the store because your children were hungry, grace would be when the judge gives you community service for your actions while leniency would be when the judge doesn’t require any punishment at all. You could have gone to a food bank, asked a church for help or called a friend or family – there are always choices to make and consequences for those choices.

Grace is a wonderful thing that teaches your children to show others grace – leniency just teaches them they can get away with just about anything.

Set Written Rules

Again – consistency is key. When your children know exactly what your rules ARE, they can follow them or choose to disobey. Writing them down helps them to learn to read and to rely on written ideas and not memory. Make the rules global instead of specific so your list isn’t miles long. Instead of saying they must not hit their brother, make the rule that no violence will be tolerated.

Make Time for Yourself and Your Children

There are a limited number of hours in your day, and it’s likely you burn through them quickly every day. However, both you and your children need your attention. You need to pay attention to your emotional health doing the things that feed you – friends, workouts, music, walks, reading or whatever it is that recharges your batteries. Your children also need your time and energy. You don’t need to spend days together, but more than minutes each day.

You might feel like you don’t have time to spend individual time with your children, but think of it as an investment. The time you invest now pays off when they are teens and adults, in the time they invest back into you. Children don’t raise themselves well. Take time to listen to their daily struggles, pay attention to changes in their behavior and try to remain positive through the whole thing.

How to Get and Stay Motivated to Strength Train

Strength training is an important part of your overall health and fitness regimen. It increases natural growth hormone secretion, builds strong bones and improves your balance.

While you might be afraid you’ll end up looking like Mr. Universe, women don’t have the necessary amount of testosterone to growth that amount of muscle. Building strong muscles also helps you lose weight and maintain the loss, improves your posture and improves the way your clothes fit. Better body mechanics and a reduced risk of disease rounds out the incredible benefits of incorporating strength training into your workout routine.

BUT, getting motivated to do the work each week – and staying motivated to continue a program – may be more challenging than doing the workout! According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of Americans don’t get enough exercise.

Your Genes May Control Your Motivation to Exercise

It turns out that while some people enjoy sweating, others find just the thought of exercise to be painful. Researchers have now demonstrated there are genetically programmed reasons you may not like exercise – and there are ways to rewire your brain and enjoy cardiovascular and strength training.

Basically, your genes control your pleasure and reward from exercise, modulating dopamine in your brain.

BUT, while there is a genetic link, it has been established that exercise may change the expression of your DNA and potentially improve your satisfaction and motivation to exercise.

So, in other words, you might not like exercise, but the more you do it, the more you enjoy it and the greater your motivation to continue.

This follows the adage that once you’ve developed the habit of exercise, it’s more difficult to stop, than it is to exercise. You learn to enjoy the journey enough that the habit becomes a part of your everyday routine – and you enjoy the benefits as well.

Once you appreciate the functional changes to your life and your body, there is greater motivation to continue exercise than there is the desire to lay in bed another hour.

What’s Stopping You?

This is all a cycle – you have to start before you enjoy the benefits or experience the reward of changes to your DNA and subsequent release of dopamine in the brain that triggers your reward center.

The trick is to start the cycle, so you enjoy the benefits – which goes right back to how you get motivated to start strength training.

Let’s start with the mistakes many people make to try motivating themselves to strength train.

The biggest mistake is focusing on the extrinsic value of exercise, such as reducing disease potential, slowing the aging process, getting fit, or improving creativity and productivity.  These reasons that exist outside of who you are and your immediate experience are not strong motivating factors and won’t override the usual excuses that center on the discomfort you anticipate from the activity.

Some of the more common excuses for not exercising include:

Getting dirty
Sweating
Being uncomfortable
Feeling insecure at the gym
Not enough time
Getting out of breath
Too tired
It’s boring
Overwhelming to think about startin
Tried it and didn’t like it
Don’t like feeling out of shape
Nervous of getting hurt

How Do You Start a Positive Cycle?

Instead of focusing on extrinsic motivating factors, it’s important you identify your intrinsic factors, or those things you experience immediately. Extrinsic factors aren’t strong enough to get you out of bed in the morning or working out at a gym in front of others.

Many studies on the effect of motivation in the workplace demonstrates in work and recreational situation you are more motivated by intrinsic values. Many people anticipate how bad a workout will be, and most focus on the external reasons they should exercise – like better health, toned body and slowing the aging process.

This all means that the hardest part about getting motivated is getting started!

It also means that in the moment of exercising you may experience a boost in your emotions and mood, an increase in the release of hormones that affect your motivation and experience a powerful intrinsic value to exercise.

Before exercise you anticipate that you’ll feel bad – but DURING exercise people experience positive emotions. And, during a study from the University of Chicago, people stated they placed more value on what they felt during the exercise than on any benefits they would experience later.

The research indicates that your intrinsic incentives improve your experience during exercise and the biggest mistake you may make in motivating yourself to exercise is placing value on extrinsic incentives.

Just by putting exercise on your “to-do” list and just doing it is an important way of experiencing the mental and emotional boost that may help continue to motivate you over time. The memories of feeling good and having fun go a long way toward increasing your motivation.

Just Do It – And More

Here are several more strategies to help you include strength training in your routine, even when you don’t want to.
The important fact here is that there is NO easy button. You just have to do it – there are ways to make it easier – but no way to make it easy.

  1. Use motivational books, music and video

Inspirational stories may spark your short-term desire, music improves your mood, video may give you the boost you need to start strength training.

  1. Partner up

Like any other new activity or sport, it’s easier when you have a partner. A partner will help motivate you to continue during your workout and will be waiting for you at the gym to get started.

  1. Work within your limits

When your activity puts you over your anaerobic threshold (you can’t breathe fast enough to keep up with your oxygen needs) you don’t experience the feel good hormones as quickly. Stay within your limits and you’ll feel better, experience gains in your fitness faster and improve your motivation to continue.

  1. Stay positive

You can change how you feel about something when you change how you think about it. Psychologists have an equation – your thoughts create feelings, your feelings produce actions and your actions predict your results. When you can think positively about your workout, you will improve your motivation, increase the likelihood you workout and your actions will produce feel good hormones that continue to feed your motivation.

 

The last strategy is one you can use for any action you want to take. Whether you want a new job, have better relationships with you children or improve your financial situation – when you think positively about what you are capable of achieving it drives your actions. And RIGHT actions produce incredible results!

The Value in Your Vision

Here’s a thought . . . where you are today in your life, is a direct result of all the decisions you’ve made in the past years.

That should come as no real surprise to you. After all, you probably have experienced the consequences of your behavior and your decisions in the past. If you smoke, then you have a higher potential of developing cancer. If you spend all your money, you’ll be broke. If you eat too much, you’ll gain weight.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s Newton’s Third Law of physics that applies as much to your life as it does to the physical world. If you do a diligent job at work, it does NOT automatically mean you’ll be promoted – but if you do a bad job, it’s highly likely you’ll be let go.

Not every action has an opposite reaction we’d like to see.

If you work diligently you’ll likely be respected by your co-workers, others will notice the good job you’re doing – but your promotion will be dependent upon other factors as well.

So, in the grand scheme of things, how do you achieve the goals you want to achieve in the time frame you want to attain them.  Since you can’t turn back the clock and undo your previous decisions, what can you do today and tomorrow to make your next tomorrows better?

Your past is set in stone and can’t be undone. The path you took last year or the year before can’t be undone. A past relationship, a poor business decision, even an afternoon of watching movies instead of working on your new project can’t be undone.

But, a strategic vision and mission for your life will help you make better decisions in the future and change the results you experience.

Albert Einstein is credited with making the statement, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.”

The same holds true for your life. By doing the same thing over and over again, by making the same decisions day in and day out, you HAVE to expect the same results. If you want to expect and experience something different then you HAVE to do SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Start with developing a strategic vision for your life that will guide your decisions and help you develop a plan that works for you. Your vision is NOT a pie-in-the-sky dream for your life, nor does it belong on corporate letterhead. Instead, it should become a living, breathing document that changes over time as your circumstances change.

Here’s the journey . . . you develop a strategic vision that helps you make better decisions.

nov17decisionsBetter decisions change your circumstances.

At some point your changed circumstances will have grown YOU so much that it will require your vision grows and improves to keep up with your growth.

Your vision should include your goals, your desires and hope – but with realistic expectations of what you could accomplish in your life. It should be what you aspire to, and how your are inspired to achieve it.

Get specific and talk with your future self about what you want to achieve. BUT, don’t make 20 different goals for 15 different areas in your life. Instead, this is a global, overall vision of how you want to be living, or who you want to be in the next years.

Your vision is just a bit different from your goals. My vision statement might sound like: “In five years I’ll be living in Florida with my husband, minutes from the beach, retirement stable.”  At the moment, I’m not married, engaged or even dating, live in OH and my retirement plans are not yet stable.

Now, each time I make a business decision, a personal decision or financial decision, I must put it up against my vision for the next five or ten years to see if THIS decision will take me closer to, or further away, from that vision.

From my vision I develop goals, a plan of action and determine the type of help I need to get there.

But it all starts with a vision.

You can increase the potential you’ll follow that vision when you take more steps:

ONE: Make it Public

Visions, mission statements and goals that are hidden in a closet have a tendency to stay there. When you make them public you’re more likely to move on them as others are watching.

TWO: Write it Down

Dreams, visions, inspirations and aspirations remain in “the cloud” when they aren’t written down. There is something about writing down your vision, posting it where you can see it and referring to it each day. Your vision becomes real when you make it tangible.

THREE: Make it Scale-able

Is your vision attainable . . . and will it grow with you?  As you begin to live out your vision, is there a next logical step, or is this vision the end of the road?  You’re more likely to work toward completion and achievement if there continues to be something else you can grow into on the other side.

FOUR: Make it a Gift to Yourself

This is YOUR vision for YOUR life. Just as you shouldn’t live out your dreams through your children, you shouldn’t take on the burden of your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or best friend.

This must be YOUR vision for your life and it should be a gift you give yourself. This is your inspiration, aspiration and love affair all wrapped up into one special package. THIS is what you’re working toward, so it should be the best that you can believe for yourself.

FIVE: Your Vision Lights a Fire Under Younov17fire

It may sound redundant, but your vision should set you on fire. It is YOUR inspiration for your life.

 

If you don’t have a vision that jumps out at you immediately, ask God to lead you to that thing in life He wants you to achieve. Suddenly you’ll be on fire for a future you may not have even imagined several months ago.