Multi Tasking Between Summer and Fall

Smell it in the air? The aroma of autumn. And with it, transition. We switch from summer activities to fall chores. From vacation mode to work mode. In the morning do you reach for your wool sweater, but by afternoon are you stripping to your tee shirt?  I’ve been hearing conversations that remark on the difficulties of bringing focus back. To changes begun in June and then stalled by July — before August vacations, summer pleasures, and houseguests being shown around town. Is this where you are too?

Honeycomb (2)

This reminded me of research being done on multi tasking and the brain. Turns out multi tasking is largely a myth. We are incapable of doing 2 things at once that require executive functions (the same part of the brain). But we are good at switching back and forth. When switching to a new task, we have to pause, then commit.

The pause is what the first weeks of September are about. This is your chance to use the breathing space between summer mode and the autumn seasonal shift to re-focus. To make the transition easier, follow these suggestions:

1. Take a moment and review your goals from spring. Are these still important to you? Are there any you want to let go of?

2. Where are your interests being drawn now?

3. What ‘energy drainers’ are you noticing? Have there been changes these last 8 months that need attending to?

4. What would you determine are your major challenges? Are you ready to tackle them?

September ushers in days of higher energy that can galvanize development. The distinct shift in the season can give you renewed purpose and focus. Opportunity awaits.

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This can’t be what abundance looks like

“I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.” Augustine (Og) Mandino

“Crap, the timing couldn’t be worse!”
That’s me talking. To my friend Monique.

I was dramatically sharing about events unfolding in July. It was dawning on me that I had major upheaval on my calendar, all of it invited by me, although not all of it within my control. Family, travel, moving, business expansion, major reorganization. All of it poised and scheduled to happen in the same two-week period in July. Screenshot 2015-07-01 20.39.04

As I was spilling ’the timing couldn’t be worse’ to my patient friend, I next blurted out, “I guess this is what abundance looks like!” Darn. Truth, Told.

Had I really expected that my life would unfold perfectly and exponentially? If I do this, then I do that, then my blessings multiply very neatly and orderly. Yes, I guess I had expected that. But this life is messier, AND more abundant than even my imagination could cook up. After the “I guess this is what abundance looks like” revelation, I more calmly realized that this was ALL GOOD.

There are few absolutes. Every blessing can have a dark side. Every negative can yield a positive. It depends on your perspective. I’m really good at helping my clients look at their strengths. We build bridges over what to them look like valleys of despair. While my present circumstance in no way describes a story of hardship, I had slipped into ‘negative thinking’. And that mindset had caused me stress for a full week. Then I flipped the story in my head. “I love the darkness for it shows me the stars.” Do you have a story that could use a different perspective? One that is causing you stress? I’ll bet you can tally up an affirmative side to your problem. That’s where you can begin to build something more useful to you than stress. Tweak this formula:

Your challenge (acknowledge here): _________________
Silver lining: (Think, then make a list) ________________
In this silver lining list, where do you see opportunity? _________________________
Plant your feet there.

If you need help looking at your silver linings, I’m here.

With love,
Deborah

Aid for the Confounded

So you want to take some action, but with so many variables  piling up, even the most dedicated mathematician would throw in the chalk. Like a restaurant menu with 300 entrees, you have too many choices,  which makes choosing impossible — ironic isn’t it? Then you figure, every choice has a consequence. And when you start calculating that out?  You’re tangled into knots, you cry, and then you quit. Back where you began.
Being stuck feels awful. Stuck in a job? Stuck in a relationship that makes you unhappy? Stuck in boredom? Stuck in a cycle of soul sucking hyperactivity. Should I marry that guy? Should I retire? Should I take that job across the country? Should I get a divorce?
Stymied. Stumped. Stuck. But thinking about the alternatives gives you hives.Screenshot 2015-06-24 16.11.32
Surprise! This type of itch is a good thing. Because noticing the ick of stuck is the message you have been waiting for. When things get really uncomfortable, the energy begins to shift from inertia to response. There is a tipping point. And you are now leaning in the positive column. Don’t just think about it or worry about it. Make a plan for how you’re going to deal with it. Then do something about it. What to do? Here are a few ideas:
1. Dedicate some extra time to thinking and planning. Take yourself off on sabbatical for the weekend. Start making notes of all the possibilities. Remove all the ‘shoulds’. Include all the ‘wants’. Then zero in on the ideas that make your heart sing.
2. Get some coaching so you get a shortcut to the most effective strategies. (Of course I would suggest this. But I suggest it because my clients tell me it works. I’m here to be of service.)
3. Read some books written by folks who have ‘been there’ or have practical advice. There are lots of self help books with proven track records. Google your topic, see what comes up. Ask your friends for suggestions. Do a Facebook poll.
4. If it’s a relationship problem, seek a mediator or counselor (if all parties in the relationship are agreeable). If it’s a financial issue, enlist a financial advisor. There are great resources out there that are free too. Getting help before it becomes a crisis relieves a lot of stress.
5. If it’s a career decision you want to make, think about people you could reach out to in your circle who would be helpful. By talking with people you trust and have perspective, you can gather more information to help you make good decisions.
Any of these ideas are good. Just do something. Being so indecisive feels awful. Recognizing “this is me stuck”, is seeing the road sign. Let ‘stuck’ direct you to the first step. Now, get going.

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A RADICAL IDEA

-Where there is love, there is life-  --As you read these words, I’m wondering how they will make you feel. Curious? Mystified? Uncomfortable? Nauseated? I love a good juicy coaching question, and this one is sure to provoke some response.

“What would love do now?”

I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is a lot of strife in the world. Some of it in our own backyard. This friction is all caused by ‘other people’. These ‘other people’ could be family members, close friends, bosses, co – workers, neighbors, any member of your community that you have to interact with. Relationships can be fraught with tension, disappointment, sadness, angst. Someone in your circle has wounded you with a snide comment. Or your boss just unleashed a bucket of ugliness on you. Has your teenage child disappointed you? A neighbor who is an irritant? Relationships are a messy business and we all have been involved in some kind of strained relationship. What do you do when emotions run high?

Step outside the tense space for a few moments and hit the pause button. Draw an imaginary circle around yourself. Breathe. The inside of this circle contains you and your experience. Extend compassion toward yourself.

1. Ask the question, “What would love do now?” Love in this case is an action word, a verb, and the first course of action is to love yourself. Go ahead. Even if it feels weird.  Would loving yourself be finding a new job? Would love be telling you to get some help to cope with that teenager? Would love direct you to take a compassionate stand for yourself? Get a massage?

2. Then, secondly, the most radical part of this action “what would love do now” is directing that action toward the person contributing to this stress or tension. Release the need to engage with this tension. Love would ask you to see that person as separate from you. Outside the container of your own experience. They have their own personal perspective that directs their behavior. They are not ‘doing to you’, but acting out of their own experience of the world, separate from your experience. Love might ask you to have a sit down talk with your boss, empathic, non judgmental, asking for their point of view. Love might ask you to send a card to your sister simply stating your warm wishes to her. You get the picture.

3. Then, release these loving actions. Because people respond from their own experience, and you are not in control of that. They may accept what you say or do, or push it away. That is not your business or about you. But because you are separate, you don’t have a need to control their response. There is tremendous freedom in this.

So pause and ask yourself “What would love do now?” And begin with yourself.

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Planting Happiness in the Mud

“Last November, I had been moving that bag of tulip bulbs for weeks, shifting them here, setting them there. They were giving me the evil eye.”
In our coaching conversations, I like to begin our time together with clients sharing “What went well” in the last couple of weeks — ‘What are your wins, victories or good news’. A paper bag glowing with the evil eye? I couldn’t wait to hear how that was good news!

“I had brought that bag of bulbs home with me a month ago, and it was dawning on me that they were not going to get planted, and what a waste that would be. I’d feel badly about a project that didn’t happen. The flower bulbs would rot. Shame would set in.

It was a dark, cold November night when I decided that would not be the case. I parked my car in the yard, turned on the lights, and planted 100 tulip bulbs. I didn’t know what wild haphazard

Garden Before
Garden Before

flower garden was going to appear in the spring. I was muddy and exhausted, and felt a little crazy when I finished. But in the morning, I felt victorious. And now, it’s May, and I get to look at this!” We looked admiringly at the pictures again. I asked a coaching question, “What did you learn from this
experience?”

She said, “The thing that puts me off a thing, is thinking it has to be perfect. Perfect conditions, perfect timing, perfect me. What I learned is, just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The ‘doing’ is enough. That, and delayed   gratification is wonderful,when it’s a long row of tulips in my yard.”

In sharing the story with me, I saw a shift in her, midway through the telling. She understood then, that this story was meaningful to her. It had a difference. An adventure and version of herself she doesn’t usually acknowledge. I think stories are powerful. The ones we tell to ourself and the ones we relate to others about ourself, they reveal our deepest beliefs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Garden After
Garden After

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Please. Stop Being an Adult

SPEND A few hours with children, and you’ll learn how to be a Grown Up

For all the training, education and professional development that we adults engage in, sometimes we forget the most essential lessons. I don’t have the privilege often enough of being in the company of kids. When I am, I am reminded of how difficult I make life for myself. Here is what I learned from hanging out with some spunky pre-schoolers.

1. Stop not being in the moment. 

I took a walk around the block with one of our little sweethearts. Moment by moment, his eyes and mind would capture interesting bumps in the sidewalk, a bumble bee hanging out with the begonias, a mysterious lock thrown into the bushes, and a hidden brick pathway. His delight and joy forced me to stop my own mind from racing into the future, worrying about problems that couldn’t be solved by thinking, creating mental to-do lists, manufacturing anxiety. This is what I learned: I spend too much time in unproductive worry. By letting go of that, I make room for contentment –which promotes a feeling of well being, which in turn is productive. A deeply philosophical education as taught by a 3 year old. So, take a moment, breathe in. What do you notice right here, right now?Screenshot 2015-05-04 15.01.25

2. Everyone just wants to be heard and understood.

Our little guy would get very sad and cry when his Dad would leave for work in the morning. Because he didn’t have the language for his feelings, emotion came out through tears. His tears said what he had no words for — my world is unpredictable and I’m having trouble dealing with it. I have those moments too, do you? When is the last time you encountered a cranky co-worker, cashier, or family member or random person in traffic and wondered, “What is up with her today!” or “Gosh he is such a jerk!” If you really stop to think about it, you have no idea what led to that outburst. We’re all human, we’ve all gone through difficult break ups, job loss, sickness — the world is an unpredictable, scary place.  Bottom line: Learning the language to communicate feelings is an important skill. Acknowledging those emotions makes us feel better, and helps us handle anything that comes our way. We’re all connected, every human deserving of compassion.

3. Watch out for dog poop!

Little kids have dog poop radar. Unfortunately, I forget to look out. I was jogging along in the grass while our little beauty rode her bike. By the time we got back to the house and kicked our shoes off, there was a powerful doggie odor coming from me, and the kids were the first to notice. I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was going and I’d walked right into it! I started to get irritated with the irresponsible pet owners in the neighborhood. But the kids started laughing, then showed me where the hose was, and laughed some more. Pretty soon I saw the joke too.

Screenshot 2015-05-04 15.06.12

My takeaway: Walking down the path of life, you’re going to step in a lot of doo doo. But don’t fret, just clean it up, and laugh it off.

4. Sometimes you need to let go of ‘THE PLAN’.

I’m a good one for coming up with ‘projects’, then getting frustrated when they don’t go according to prescription. Being with children is the best antidote to rigid thinking. Just try to plan out exactly how things should go with young ones.  We were making a birthday cake in the kitchen, each kid had a job. One would pour the milk in. One would wash the strawberries. I knew just how to do it. But pretty soon, the kids were getting ‘creative’ and next were eating strawberries behind my back. My first thought was ‘This cake is never going to get made!’ that thought was quickly followed by “We are having fun in the kitchen, making memories”.

I’ve had the same experience at large events with adults. I create an agenda, I know how everything should go, what experience everyone should have.  And then, people don’t behave according to my plan. I get upset and defeated. Everyone ends up cranky, complaining or quitting. This is what I have learned: When I lay out all the materials, design an open/safe/fun environment,  empower all participants, AND THEN LET GO, magic can happen. People need to be free to have their own experience.

Give yourself permission to be a kid sometimes. Full of wonder, full of surprises, full of laughter, full of curiosity. And magic can happen. 


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A Cup of Coffee with a Side of Self Sabotage

It was painful to listen to………..
As I sat working and sipping my coffee in a cafe, I overheard two people nearby. It was obvious immediately that there was a job interview going on. (Yep, poor manners for that manager to interview someone in a public place.) The woman being interviewed was asked what she would be bringing to the job. When she was unable to answer this question, my heart sank. I wanted to slip a note to her, “Call me. I can help you get in touch with your strengths so you nail the next interview.” 
I don’t know anything about this woman’s situation. Why she was unprepared for this interview. What prevented her from seeing her value and sharing that with this employer. But I am acquainted with self sabotaging behavior. And from the next table, that’s what this sounded like.
Self sabotage occurs when our conscious mind and our subconscious mind are in a struggle with each other. We don’t really have two minds, but we do have different aspects of our one mind. They each have a role to play. That’s why when we move toward something we want, our behavior doesn’t always follow along…….

“The conscious mind determines the actions, the unconscious mind determines the reactions; and the reactions are just as important as the actions.” ~E. Stanley Jones

Neuroscientists and Psychologists argue about the distinctions of ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious (unconscious) mind. This is my observation of human behavior over years of experience.
Our rational mind may say “I want to do x,y and z.”  So you begin to do x, y and z. However, x, y and z may be outside our comfort zone. All kinds of roadblocks begin to show up. This is our subconscious reacting to the ‘new’, saying, ‘Whoa! Danger! Slow Down! — or run in the other direction!” Whatever aspect of the ‘NEW’ triggers this response, the subconscious has a job to do. Keep the Status Quo. Security and safety. If you are making plans for change, but blocks keep appearing, the problem could be YOU. 
What to do? Awareness of our emotional life is key. Paying attention to how you are feeling as you step out into untried territory. So is acknowledging the roles of our conscious and subconscious mind that are in dynamic relationship with each other.  Asking yourself the questions, “What is this situation trying to tell me?” “Where do I feel fearful?” If you are curious about how all of this might relate to you, your hopes for change, and your blocks along the road, ask those questions here.
What I want for you is to keep going, to keep growing, to thrive!
Love,
Deborah

Tips to a New Mindset in 10 Seconds

Re-Framing the Picture: Spring Back to Optimism

The sun was gloriously spilling through my kitchen window this week, with the Vernal Equinox, the angle of light announced that winter was passing and spring was slipping in. I was sipping my morning coffee, drinking in the sunshine. Sitting with this glow, my eyes began to see all the new dirt that had accumulated. The blizzards left grit on the windows.The cobwebs I hadn’t been able to see in the gloom of winter. My good mood began to fade, and within seconds I had shifted my viewpoint from the hope of spring to ‘when am I going to find time to clean?’ From drinking in the sunshine to slipping down the muddy slope of anxiety and ill-humor. Yes, I am a human being, and that’s what I do. How about you?

This is a simple example, but it has larger implications. Because of this: It is what is at work underneath the slipping down (that’s how I envision it) that is important to reflect on. What are the beliefs you have hidden there (not immediately obvious to you)? Those hidden beliefs are what are at work, deflating your positive desires …….

A thought might come up in your mind, “I want to take that class that sounds so interesting.” Then, the next thought, “But I can’t, the kids need me to make dinner for them.” bursting the hope. ‘What’s underneath that? “No one else can do it, I’m the only one. I come last.”

OR

“It’s time I took that trip to Hawaii I’ve always wanted to take.” Next thought, “But I can’t, Mom’s going through some stuff, and may need care soon, I can’t leave now.” What’s underneath that? “I won’t be a responsible daughter if I take care of myself.” You get the picture. A slipping down, from hope to gloom in a swift moment.

Here is what you can do instead.
1. Pay attention — be aware of your thinking.
2. Ask yourself, ‘Is this really true?”
3. Dig deeper — what are my beliefs below the surface?
4. Give yourself permission to return to the positive — to honor your desires.
5. Know you are human, and give yourself credit.

Practice the process. And let love and joy slide in.

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Difficult Conversations at Work

How do you encourage an open and productive workplace, one where everyone can do their best work? How do you do that when you’re not in charge? How do you begin a conversation with your boss, when you’re feeling angry? Do you put up with ‘stuff’ at work, but you’re finding it has a big cost?

You can initiate change.

For example, your boss puts you on a committee without asking you first, and you’re already overwhelmed with a mountain of work. Or your boss is rude and verbally abusive — and feels free to express this side at will. You decide that you can no longer tolerate it. But what should you do?

 Why is it hard for people to respond in a pro-active way? The authors of “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” suggest that when faced with difficult situations where we feel we have no power, we begin operating in the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, the part we call on when we are in stress or our emotions are triggered. Which do you typically choose: ‘flight’, which looks like “I’ll suck it up because I can’t rock the boat” or “Fight”,  and your days will be numbered at work. Either way sets an unhealthy precedent.

There is an alternative.

Take positive action. Make a decision to talk with your boss. In preparation for this conversation, ask yourself these questions (Most people find it helpful to write out these thoughts)

  • What’s the issue?

  • Where are my choices?

  • What does my boss care about?

  • What do I care about?

  • Where is our common ground

  • What is my Plan B

When you are ready to speak to your supervisor, use the sandwich approach. State the issue, quote your common work interest, ask for what you want. If you don’t get what you want, follow through on your Plan B. It might look like this:

(For the scenario, your boss feels free to vent)

 “John, when you raise your voice with me, it makes me feel terrible and hurts my productivity. I know that your job is difficult, and that you want me to do a great job. Our shared goal is for our department to shine! It would help me to do that great job, if you stated what you want from me when you are not upset.”

 If you don’t get results from this conversation, employ your Plan B choice. Either way, You’ve gotten good information. And in the end, you will have empowered yourself to make your next move.

 Do you think this approach would work with personal relationships too? I’d love to hear your view!

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PANIC AND A PLAN

There was a note of panic in her voice in the telephone message. As she laid out the problems she was facing, I heard “but what if this happens, and what if……”  Two days in a row, I saw faces full of anxiety, heard words that lacked energy, people who appeared vulnerable and without power. Stories of sleepless nights, brought on by impossible expectations or the specter of trouble ahead. 

I heard a lot of ‘overwhelm’ stories this week after my last newsletter article  (“It’s Snowing Overwhelm”)  This is how it went………Small anxieties became large worries that became distress that spiraled into sleepless nights. Trouble fermented like a large pot of ugly stew.

When you were a kid and you went to the county fair, were you drawn to the cotton candy booth? The paper cone swirls around the vat, a few strands wind on, pink fluff begins to collect and by some magical force it creates a big ball of fleecy sweet. Worry and overwhelm spin out like that. Stress multiplies and snowballs. Only it’s not sweet. It’s toxic.

It’s time to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. If you begin to feel a sense of panic, stop, breathe, and make a plan. Here is the framework:

Analyze and ask yourself —

  • What is it I need to know?

  • What is the one essential thing that needs to be done first?

  • What is an action I can take that would help?

Panic makes us vulnerable to crisis. A plan gives you choice and is empowering. 

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