That Wise-Cracker May Not Be So Wise After All

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That Wise-Cracker May Not Be So Wise After All

Today, I read an article in this month’s issue of Psychology Today about cynicism and intelligence.

Across cultures, ages, and genders, people tend to believe that the more cynical or suspicious a person is, the more intelligent they are.

It’s a theme repeated throughout popular culture – the highly intelligent are often portrayed as highly cynical. (Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As it Gets, Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.)

But it's pure fiction.

In fact, study after study has proven that cynicism is linked to lower scores on intelligence tests, lower levels of education, and lower income.

While sufficient data explaining why does not yet exist, every hypothesis mentioned in the article predicted that a person’s level of intelligence is the catalyst creating a cynical attitude or not… i.e. smart people have it easier, so they become less cynical, or less intelligent people get taken advantage of, so they become more cynical.

It seems to me that the opposite is more likely the case, that it is actually the cynicism itself that impacts success in test taking, education, and income.

Perhaps mindset plays a key role here.

Cynicism, I think, is an indication of a fixed vs growth mindset. An “it is what it is” rather than a “what can I make of this” mentality.

Research has proven that the more fixed your mindset, the less likely you are to explore, or even notice, an opportunity outside of your own predictions.

And less opportunity equals, well… less opportunity.

This Week: 
Finding Opportunity in a Growth Mindset

Try this…

  1. Get MINDFUL. In order to change something, you need to be tuned in to it. In order to tune in to something, you need to be present with it. Take mini-breaks throughout the day to pause for a few deep breaths and bring yourself into the present moment.

  2. NOTICE where your mindset tends to be fixed. Fixed thinking comes through loud and clear when you’re paying attention to it. When you notice always/never thoughts creeping in, that is a definite sign that a shift needs to happen. Here are a few examples of fixed thinking:

    ● I’m not smart enough
    ● He always does that
    ● She’ll never change
    ● This will never work
    ● People are lazy, so of course it failed

  3. SHIFT to a growth mindset by exploring options beyond the always/never fixed thinking:

    ● I’m not smart enough BECOMES I’m always learning.
    ● He always does that BECOMES What are his strengths that we can play on here?
    ● She’ll never change BECOMES What’s getting in her way?
    ● This will never work BECOMES What are all the possibilities?
    ● People are lazy, so of course it failed BECOMES Let’s brainstorm new strategies.

  4. Be GENTLE with yourself and others. There is no right or wrong, only what does and does not serve us. The more often we operate with the mindset of service, the more efficient, productive, successful, and happy we become.

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From PANIC to PEACE

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From PANIC to PEACE

I know you’ve felt it. Everyone has.

I spend my life helping people shift their thoughts, behaviors and outcomes. I teach mindfulness. I meditate every day. I practice what I preach…

And it happened to me this week.

PANIC.

You can feel the heat rise from your toes straight up through your body.

It spreads across your chest – reaching up until your cheeks blaze with it and your ears are on fire.

Your stomach flips.

Your knees weaken.

The spit in your mouth dries up.

It all happens in about two seconds.

Anything can trigger it - actual danger or a gut feeling that something is unfamiliar, not right, or unsafe. But most often, it’s a simple thought that sets it off.

The all familiar uh oh. (Or if you’re me, “oh f*#%!”)

A thought that sets off a chain reaction in your body, and as you're well aware, can absolutely paralyze you.

With a little reverse engineering however, you can set it all right again and move on.

This Week: 
Using the PEACE tool to pivot out of panic.

Try this…

Pause

The pause is critical. It’s what takes you out of the default – which, when you’re panicking, is likely to be a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

It’s simple to do, simply tell yourself “this is panic.” That’s it, you’ve paused.

Exhale

Here’s where you’re tapping in to your physiology to get it working for you rather than against you.

Why do I say to exhale rather than just breathe? Because I can pretty much guarantee that you’re still holding your breath at this point.

So go ahead, let it all out. (A big old sigh will work well here too!)

Now that your lungs are empty, your body will automatically inhale. Take a few more nice, slow, deep breaths.

You’ve got your parasympathetic nervous system working for you now, helping to trigger the body’s relaxation response.

Ask

Ask yourself what you want to do next. Some helpful questions may be:

  • What do I want to have happen here?

  • What is the most useful thing I can do in this moment?

  • How do I want to show up?

Choose

This is responding rather than reacting.

There’s no right or wrong here. You’re making your best guess about what to do in this moment. And because you’re out of that default mode, because you’re intentionally choosing, you’ll be able to evaluate how it goes.

Evaluate

How did it go? What would you do the same in the future? What might you do differently?

The process of evaluating your responses regularly and without judgement, provides your brain with data which, over time, will make that particular panic less likely.

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Virtual Energy

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Virtual Energy

I was a late adopter of the whole social media thing.

Reluctantly, I joined FB in 2009 – which was pretty late to the party – and I’m just now sticking a toe into the Instagram waters. Admittedly, to this day I remain terrified of LinkedIn and am honestly so overwhelmed by Twitter that it makes my head spin.

I suppose it’s sort of weird that I feel this way. These are just new ways to talk to people (or, at least, they were new).

And God knows, I love talking to people.

But this method of talking seemed sort of hollow or artificial or something. It felt one-dimensional - like we had all become little magazines for one another to consume.

Initially, it really creeped me out.

Of course, I got used to it. I grew to appreciate the immediate re-connection with people I rarely see anymore, the ever-expanding circle of a like-minded tribe, and the ability to see into circles that are so different than my own.

Communicating and connecting has always been the main driver for me – trying to understand myself and others. I can’t turn it off.

In childhood, it made paying attention in school difficult because I was thinking about the teacher and the kids around me more than the subject on the board.

Now, my husband laughs at me at concerts because he watches the stage and I watch the audience.

To me, people are amazing.

At a concert, their energy is united. And when so many of them are in one place, simply loving the same thing together, the energy is palpable … and almost overwhelming. Everyone (not just the geek watching the audience) feels it.

There’s something to that. And I’m beginning to believe that social media creates that same kind of energy – an energy that permeates the glass and connects us – for better or for worse.

In truth, it's the intention we have in using social media that matters. The attention we pay to it, in the moment that we’re on it, that holds the power to electrify and connect us or deplete and divide us.

Think about those concert halls. If we were to look into the FB profiles of every person there, in the very moment where the energy is highest and visceral – we would discover a myriad of backgrounds, opinions, and (in today’s political climate,) polar opposites.

And yet, in that space and moment, they are connected. They are one. They are a community. They belong to each other, and it’s breathtaking.

No doubt creating that energy of connection is a bit more challenging in a virtual setting. People so easily become those little magazines – just a highlight reel of opinions that are like or unlike yours, of modern day Norman Rockwell scenes that trigger the reflex of social comparison, and of comments (whether edited or impulsive) that only offer a glimpse of a real conversation. But I believe we can truly tap into the connection available in social media - if we practice a mindful approach to it.

This Week: 
Use mindfulness to experience your world as fresh and new.

Try this…

  1. PAY ATTENTION: Notice your own energy as you scroll through the posts on your FB, IG, LinkedIn, or Twitter feed. 

    ● What sorts of posts build your energy in a productive and useful way? These don’t need to be things you agree with. Productive, useful energy inspires problem solving, creativity, connection, etc….

    ● What sorts of posts energetically drain you? What about them specifically shuts you down, makes you angry, frustrated or hopeless?

  1. RELEASE JUDGEMENT: Intentionally separate people from their actions. This may sound counter-intuitive. Fear not, you needn’t change your opinion about how they behave or what they believe. You may discover however that by separating the two, you can learn to protect your own energy from being drained and then use it in ways that build and add to the conversation.

    ● Choose one or two people whose posts or comments deflate or anger you and scroll through their profile.

    ● Make note of at least 3 things that you can relate to. (For example: They love their pets…)

    ● Notice where your own judgement gets in the way of your energy around problem solving, creativity, connection, etc….

  1. SHOW UP INTENTIONALLY: As you engage on social media ask yourself the following questions:

    ● How much of myself am I filtering for “the magazine?”

    ● Who are the insiders in my circle and how authentically do I communicate there? How can I deepen the conversation to be more like my non-virtual connections?

    ● How much of what I post elevates the overall energy?

    ● Which circles or people do I want to disengage myself from because the energy there is not productive.

When we show up as whole and real, when we can release enough judgement to respect every human on the other side of the screen (regardless of their beliefs), when we are intentional about the energy we’re putting out there, that is when we can and will build a community of creativity, of problem solvers, of innovations and ultimately of deep connection.

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Stuck? Maybe Not

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Stuck? Maybe Not

Have you ever had a day, or a week, or even a year when you just felt STUCK?

Of course you have – I've never met a person who hasn’t.

It’s actually a good thing.

Feelings like “stuck,” “frozen,” or “trapped” are your intuition’s way of getting your attention – of telling you that something about the current way you’re living your life isn’t quite right for you.

It’s really easy to misread the cue and start to blame yourself or others for the situation you find yourself in. But beating yourself up or pointing the finger only leads to further feelings of powerlessness.

When you’re stuck, it’s time to start trusting your gut. The longer you ignore it – the more stuck you’ll become.

Think about it.

You’re always one choice away from completely changing your life.

That’s a TON of power.

Does this mean that you should be making radical, life-altering choices every time you feel stuck?

Yes and no.

It all depends on what you define as life-altering. It’s not the size of the change or decision that really matters here. It’s the simple act of choosing to do something different that begins to move you forward.

Trust your gut and those choices will lead you down the right path. The speed you travel is completely up to you.

This Week: 
3 intuition hacks to help you tap in.

Try this…

  1. The Friend Factor
    When you’re unsure whether or not a decision is the right one for you, imagine a friend is given the opportunity or choice instead of you and they say YES

    Do you feel relieved that you’re off the hook, happy for them? If so, it’s probably your gut telling you that this is not for you. 

    If you feel envious on the other hand, your gut is clearly telling you that this is a choice that you want to make.

  2. Catch a Tiger by the Toe
    Go ahead and eenie-meanie-miney-moe it. Really. This works more often than you think. If you’re disappointed in the result, or if you try to game the system to end up on a certain response, you can be assured that your intuition is behind it.

  3. Feature Film
    This is my favorite strategy for figuring out what my gut wants me to do because it works even when the situation feels more complicated than a simple should I or shouldn’t I.

    Picture yourself as the protagonist in a film about your life. Play the movie out in vivid detail in your mind’s eye, running through all the choices you have in front you. 

    Each time you change what the protagonist does in the film, imagine the audience’s reaction. 
    ● Are they at the edge of their seats with their fingers crossed hoping that you make the leap?
    ● Do they have their hands over their eyes, screaming “NO, don’t DO it?”
    ● Are they bored and disgusted with the character, thinking “Ugh, here we go again?”

This is your intuition speaking up.

Listen carefully.

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Sometimes It’s Not So Easy

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Sometimes It’s Not So Easy

Our emotions are raw.

Everywhere we turn, it’s right in front of us. There is so much to fight for, to protect, to honor. There is so much at stake. It can feel like everything can be gained or lost every moment.

Our bodies and minds are on high alert, every day, around the clock.

It’s simply not sustainable.

The human body is designed to protect itself - it’s designed to survive. Any perceived threat to safety activates your body’s fight or flight response, flooding the body with chemicals to give you the best possible chance for survival.

This process is intended to be switched on and off within moments or maybe in extreme circumstances, hours – to conquer or escape the danger and move on.

When the switches stay on, you become depleted – physically, intellectually, and emotionally exhausted.

Creativity declines, your ability to solve problems and innovate decreases, you have very little bandwidth to connect meaningfully with people around you, and your body’s immune response begins to diminish.

In short, it’s costing you more than you have to give.

In truth, it’s not the passion, the fight, or even the fear that’s getting the best of you.

It’s the endless stream of thoughts and conversations about the passion, fight, or fear that are dragging you under.

And that, my friend, is something you can control.

So how do you stand strong for the things you believe in, help foster positive change, and fight for what you value without living in fight or flight constantly?

This Week: 
Fighting the battles without living the war.

Try this…

  1. Close your eyes and imagine that there’s a room in your brain where you store all your values. Whatever they are (justice, kindness, loyalty etc…) create an image that represents each one and place it in the room. 

  2. Now imagine that there is also a giant chest in the room with an iron padlock for which you have the only key. This is your armory - the tools you’ve developed over your lifetime to defend what you value. 
    Open the chest and look inside. Be specific about what you see. Do you write, speak, argue, fight, attend protests, lead by example? Don’t judge what’s inside. Simply notice and name each tool.

  3. Close the lid to the chest and mentally place the key in your pocket.

  4. This week, each time you feel triggered or stressed by something you read, hear, or see, notice the stream of stories that flood your mind:
    1. Pause and take a few breaths and bring yourself into your value room.
    2. Match the feeling you’re having with one or more of the values without retelling any of the stories. Simply say, this feels “unfair,” “unkind”, “disloyal” etc.
    3. Next ask yourself the question, “Is there anything useful that I want to do about it right now?” 
    a. If the answer is no, proceed to #5
    b. If the answer is yes, remove the key from your pocket and open the chest. Carefully select what you would like to do (write a letter or FB post, engage in a conversation, plan to attend an event, etc...) and do it. When you’re finished, proceed to #5

  5. Take a few deep breaths and release any thoughts or stories that remain by visualizing them exiting your mind with each exhale. Next give your mind something productive to work on by moving on to some other aspect of your life.

  6. When your mind attempts to engage you in rehashing any story attached to a trigger, simply re-ask yourself the questions “Is there anything useful that I want to do about it right now?” and follow the steps from there.

The goal is to train your mind to choose action when it serves and to acknowledge that when action doesn’t serve, neither does the accompanying story.

Initially, you may need to repeat this exercise several times in a very short period. That’s OK! Keep practicing and you’ll find that you’re actually accomplishing much, much more with far less stress.

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The Golden Rule – It’s Not So

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The Golden Rule – It’s Not So

We all learned it.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It’s a beautiful thing really. Clean. Clear. Simple.

Treat other people the way that you like to be treated and bingo, the world is a better and safer, a more loving and connected place.

And yet, it doesn’t seem to be working.

So, I’ve been asking around.

“What do you think of the Golden Rule?” Everyone I asked, truly everyone, said they thought it was a good idea, and that they considered it a key piece of their value system.

“Do you practice the Golden Rule?” Again, everyone I asked – every single one – either said “yes” or that they do their best to practice it.

Hmmm…. if we all believe in it, and we’re all practicing it, why the devil isn’t it working?

Reciprocity and expectation.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve muddled the intent of the rule. And even though almost everyone can quote it accurately, we’ve come to interpret the rule to mean treat others the way we want to be treated and they will do likewise. Simply stated, do unto others so they will do unto you, too.

Therein lies the rub.

The Golden Rule is about being your best self without the expectation of reciprocity.

It is about treating both friend and enemy the way you like to be treated. It means showing up as a model of the value, even when it is most difficult.

This Week: 

4 Steps to practice the Golden Rule.

Try this…

  1. Get Clear – Take out a piece of paper and answer these questions:
    • How would I like to be treated by my friends?
    • How would I like to be treated by my colleagues?
    • How would I like to be treated by my family?
    • How would I like to be treated by the people who vehemently disagree with me?

  2. Set an Intention – Each morning this week, before you begin your day, reflect on your answers to the 4 questions, and set an intention to show up that way yourself.

  3. Give Yourself Space – Pause and take a breath before you respond in difficult situations this week. Give yourself a moment to respond the way you choose rather than react by default.

  4. Cut Yourself Some Slack – When you start beating yourself up this week, remember your answers to the 4 questions and treat yourself the way you would like others to treat you.


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Just the Facts Please

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Just the Facts Please

This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite tools with you.

It’s about inner presence.

Unlike using your senses to help bring you into the present moment, this tool helps you to explore the very thoughts that get in your way.

With practice, you’ll be able to apply this simple 3 step process to any thought that is causing you suffering, interfering with your relationships or holding you back.

This Week: 
Try this 3 step process.

Click the button to download the workbook.

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The Search for Purpose and The Meaning of Life

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The Search for Purpose and The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?? – That age-old stumper is slowly becoming eclipsed by a newer, more personal puzzle.

“What is my purpose in life?”

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent a bit of time pondering one or both.  

I know I have.

They’re big questions – undeniably important.

Or are they?

My favorite Monty Python flick above all has always been The Meaning of Life (sorry, Holy Grail devotees). And it’s not because of the question it poses. I’ve seen it dozens of times because it doubles me over with side-splitting belly laughs. 

I think that’s why such a ridiculously silly and perverse film has stuck with me for all these years.

Side-splitting belly laughs make me feel fully alive.

In a culture where the search for purpose and meaning leaves it's evidence virtually everywhere, perhaps the lesson to be learned is that the search itself may be distracting us from achieving it.

Perhaps – stay with me here – perhaps the meaning of life is… 

…living.

Maybe it’s as simple as that: laughing, and crying, and helping, and loving, and working, and eating, and fighting, and…

Think about the moments in your life when you felt FULLY ALIVE.

I’ll bet my hat that you were totally engaged, body, mind, and spirit, in what was right in front of you:

  • The sun on your face.

  • That twinkle of love in the eyes of someone who is seeing you.

  • The wind in your hair.

  • Singing at the top of your lungs with the radio blasting.

  • The sound of the forest.

  • That welling of pride that comes from a job well done.

  • Smelling the tangy ocean air.

  • The fire in your belly when you’re fighting for something you believe in.

  • A meal with people you love.

  • Sending a thank you note.

I could go on and on, but you have your own list.

This Week: 
Dive into Purpose and Meaning in the Present

Try this…

  1. List the moments in life when YOU’VE FELT FULLY ALIVE.

  2. Upon waking each day this week (before you even open your eyes) set the intention of experiencing some FULLY ALIVE moments that day.

    Imagine all the different ways that may occur.

  3. Before you go to bed each night this week, add at least one FULLY ALIVE moment to your list.

I’d love to see you! Post a selfie holding your list to our Facebook group with the hashtag #reclaimingmuchness. (Not in the group, click here to join in!)

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Tummy in a Knot?

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Tummy in a Knot?

Some mornings are just like that.

You wake up with an underlying angst, a low-level dread that casts a shadow on the day before it even begins.

What do you do?

If you’re like most people, you brush your teeth, move through your morning ritual (coffee, please), and get on with your day.

In other words, you suck it up, stuff it down, and do your best to get things done.

While this is a hard won and seemingly productive coping strategy, it’s probably not such a good idea.

That undercurrent of malaise is a cue that you’re afraid of something and your body is responding by keeping its systems on alert.

This is a highly efficient physiological process when there’s something real to fear. And I’m talking about actual danger, the “I think I smell smoke” kind of real.

What we’re talking about here is more nuanced, it doesn’t feel like fear, it just feels like yuck – and so it’s seems easier to simply keep on keeping on.

Unfortunately, while your body is designed to move in and out of alert mode to keep you alive in an emergency, it’s not designed to stay there.

And so, what appears to be a productive coping strategy, is actually raising your blood pressure, effecting your sleep, impacting your relationships and here’s the real kicker – making you less productive.

The GOOD news?

You don’t have to feel that way. You don’t have to suck it up. You can shift yourself out of the angst.

This Week: 
Untie the knots.

Use the acronym F.E.A.R to remind you of what’s really behind your angst and to help you remember the steps to pivot out.

Give it a try. Your body, your relationships, and your career will thank you for it.

  1. Find the emotions. Take a moment to name the emotions you’re feeling. Anger, guilt, shame, sadness, self-pity, dread?

  2. Explore the thoughts behind those emotions. Try to separate out the facts from the stories.

    Hint: The facts are the parts that every person would view in the same way and the stories are the things you tell yourself about the facts.

    For example –
    Thought: “He slammed his hands on the table to intimidate me.”

    “He slammed his hands on the table” is a fact, while “to intimidate me” is your story about that fact.

  3. Accept the facts for what they are and Acknowledge what other stories might exist when approached from a different perspective.

    For example –
    Fact: “He slammed his hands on the table…”

    Possible stories: “…because he was frustrated.” or “…to emphasize a point.” or “…because he was having an awful morning.” or “…because he didn’t know what else to do.” or “…because he bit his tongue while he was eating that donut.”

  4. Release or Reframe your story. Your story doesn’t change the facts, it only changes how you feel about them. And how you feel about them impacts everything you do (or don’t do).

    Moreover, holding on to a story that doesn’t serve you keeps your body in that state of constant alert which:

  1. saps your energy,

  2. wreaks havoc on your body,

  3. blinds you to opportunity,

  4. makes you reactive in your relationships,

  5. squelches creative thinking,

  6. diminishes productivity,

  7. and makes you feel lousy!

So, let it go or choose a new story that truly serves you – one that inspires and empowers you.

Having trouble with one of the steps? Reach out and I’ll walk you through it. ;)

Name *
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No Regrets

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No Regrets

I work a lot and sometimes I catch flack for it.

More than one person has said to me, “No one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time working, Wendy.”

The comment makes me bristle a bit because I don’t buy it.

Sure, I work hard. And yes, I do get stressed sometimes. (Here’s where the daily meditation practice REALLY helps.)

But this work is my mission. It’s part of the reason I’m on this earth, and I’m certain I would regret not doing it.

So, I did a bit of research (surprise, surprise) to find out how true the deathbed comment really is…

Here are Forbes magazine’s 25 most common regrets quoted among those at the end of their lives:

  1. Working at the expense of my family and friendships
  2. Not standing up to bullies
  3. Not staying in touch with the good friends from my youth
  4. Being addicted to email and missing so many moments
  5. Breaking up with or getting dumped by “true love”
  6. Worrying too much about what others think
  7. Not having confidence
  8. Living a life that was chosen by my parents rather than the one I yearned for
  9. Not applying for that dream job
  10. Taking it all too seriously
  11. Not traveling or seeing more things
  12. Letting my marriage or relationship fall apart
  13. Not teaching my kids more things
  14. Holding onto old, long-standing grudges
  15. Not trusting my inner voice
  16. Never asking that person out
  17. Getting mixed up in the wrong crowd
  18. Not getting an education
  19. Choosing the practical job over the one I really wanted
  20. Not spending more time with my kids
  21. Not taking care of my health
  22. Being afraid to share at a funeral, wedding or other milestone event (fear of public speaking)
  23. Putting off visiting a dying friend or relative and losing the chance
  24. Not learning another language
  25. Not being a better parent

After reading the list, it’s pretty clear that working too much is only regrettable based on what it costs you.

And that could be said of all twenty-five.

Each, stems from living on auto-pilot. Of not being present to see what is right in front of you, not noticing the infinite choices that life bestows, or of pushing meaning and mission aside in the name of practicality.

If you look closely, you may also notice that the list itself can be broken down into three essential elements – authenticity, purpose, and connection.

This Week: 

1. REVAMP YOUR BUCKET LIST.

  • FIGURE OUT WHAT MATTERS MOST
    Start by reading through the above list and circle the ones that really mean something to you. 

    Don’t circle something like “be a better parent” just because it seems like something you should circle. Only highlight the ones that jump out at you – the ones that put a bit of a lump in your throat.

2. Tap into authenticity, purpose and connection. 
I call this making the THREE DECLARATIONS:

  • I WILL SHOW UP AS I INTEND (authenticity)

You have an image somewhere in your head and heart of who you really are – of that best, glowing, radiant self. 

It’s probably pretty rare, however, that you actually show up that way. 

Our behaviors are mostly automatic. We spend most of our time in default mode, going through the motions, reacting instead of responding, and wondering why no one ever seems to see the real us. 

By pausing, taking a breath, and coming back to the moment you’re in, you can choose to show up as you intend rather than how you might have if you simply reacted by default. 

This simple act of showing up intentionally is a game changer. Use it if you circled 2,6,7,10, 15 21 or 22.

  • I WILL LIVE TRUE TO MY MISSION (purpose) 

Whether it’s taking care of your family or serving a higher power, finding adventure every day, or changing the world – every life has a mission, and they are all equally important. 

Knowing yours and declaring it is the first step in living a life on purpose, a life that feels meaningful and full.

If numbers 4,8,9,11,13,17,18, 19,24 or 25 struck a chord with you, it’s time to uncover and declare your mission. 

Hint: Anything that you come up with that starts with “I should,” “I need to,” “I have to,” may or may not be something you choose to do, but it’s not your mission. Missions start with “I am,” “I love,” “I want to,” etc…

  • I WILL LOVE FULLY (connection) 

People shy away from the word love. It seems too raw, squishy and intimate. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Loving is about being present. It’s about seeing yourself and others as whole, exactly as you are. It’s about showing up as the authentic you and simply connecting with the authentic person in front of you – fully engaged and free from judgment.

There’s nothing squishy about it. This kind of love can be accomplished in any setting, in every relationship, every single day. If 1,3,5,12,14,16,20, or 23 rang out for you, this is a great place to start.

3. RELAX

  • THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG AND NO ONE CAN DO IT ALL. 
    If this feels overwhelming or like a lot of pressure, you’re missing the point. Most regret comes from living in your head, not noticing what’s right in front of you. 

So take a deep breath, actually, take 3 or 4, and see what’s there to experience today.

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 Swallow Your Pride? I don’t think so.

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Swallow Your Pride? I don’t think so.

My teenage daughter has a friend, who is a musician. Let’s call her Vivian.

Vivian writes her own music and lyrics, taught herself to play guitar, and produced her first EP by the time she was 16. All on her own.

Believe it or not, that’s not what makes her remarkable.

Sure, she’s talented.

But I live in a house full of talented musicians – and their friends are talented musicians – and most of what they do for fun has to do with seeking and enjoying other talented musicians…

…lots and lots of people are talented.

What makes this girl remarkable is the amount of opportunity she creates for herself.

If there is a local stage featuring live music, she’s either on it or involved with it. If there’s a contest, she’s in it. If there’s a course or program that’s free (this kid doesn’t have a lot of money) she signs up. If it’s far away, she gets a ride.

People tell her no all the time. She gets turned down for scholarships, loses competitions and is turned away as often as not.

A few days ago, my daughter, referring to a particularly harsh rejection and a subsequent triumph of Vivian’s, said, “I wish I could swallow my pride so that I could do more of that.”

That’s what it feels like, doesn’t it?

For most of us, when we ask for help or opportunity – it feels like we’re swallowing our pride.

But I’ve seen this girl operate. She’s not swallowing anything. She’s simply asking for what she wants. If the answer is no, she moves on and asks elsewhere. Her pride isn’t attached to the yes or no, it’s attached to playing music – and so she persists until she gets to play it.

When “pride” comes from someone else’s response to you, you’re caught in the trap of external validation and sooner or later you’ll have to swallow it.

True pride comes from the feeling we get from doing the things that we are meant to do, thethings that feel like a genuine contribution to the space we’re inhabiting.

What are the things that you want most? The things that you are meant to do?

This Week: 
Use pride as a focal point in your mindfulness practice.

Take a moment and . . .

  • Focus on anything that you do that truly makes you feel proud of yourself.
  • Set an intention to do something today that supports that part of you.
  • Visualize yourself doing it.
  • Now close your eyes and hold the vision in your mind’s eye for about 10 deep breaths. If your mind wanders, don’t worry or judge yourself, simply direct your attention back to your vision.

Do this several times each day or whenever you need a bit of focus or energy boost.

And Vivian? She’s touring with a band in Paris this fall.

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Mindful Sleep

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Mindful Sleep

If you’ve ever woken up at 3:00 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep, raise your hand. 

Yup.

Welcome to the 3 o’clock club – the place where to-do lists race through your mind like theDaytona 500 and worry morphs into a vision of the future wrought with all-out catastrophe.

It sucks.

And not just because of your tossing and turning, or checking the clock to count how many potential sleep hours remain…

The amount (and quality) of sleep you get each night not only impacts the following day, but your health and well-being over all.

Think of sleep as a reset button for your body and a level-up button for your brain. It’s when all of your body's systems repair themselves while your brain runs the data patterns of theday, flushing out the irrelevant bits and synthesizing anything you've learned.

But you know this. And knowing it, only makes it harder to fall back to sleep.

A mindfulness practice will REALLY help.

Mindfulness is all about directing your thoughts back to the present moment. The more often you do it – the more often you notice that you’re in the past or future and choose to come back to the present – the better you get at it.

Just like doing bicep curls, you’ll strengthen the mental muscle it takes to make the shift. So, at 3:00 am when your brain is spiraling out of control and you want to drift back into sleep, you will have built the capacity to leave off catastrophizing and fall asleep.

This Week: 
Use mindfulness to improve your sleep.

Try this:

1. Start a daily mindfulness practice. 
Use this simple 60-second strategy. I recommend attaching it to something you already do about 10 times a day (like check your social media or browse the web). Remember, it’s like a bicep curl – the more often you do it, the stronger you get.

2.  Choose an evidence anchor.

Think about something that you worried about over and over again in the middle of the night that turned out to be far less important, unsolvable, or critical than it seemed at 3:00 am. If you can come up with one that was downright ridiculous, all the better. Create a light, peaceful mental image that represents the ease of the situation in the light of day.

The goal here is not to say that everything is always hunky dory, but to remind your brain that nothing actually gets solved in the middle of the night and whatever the worry, it’s most certainly a distorted view of it.

3. Redirect
The next time you’re awake in the middle of the night, take a moment to focus on your breath, then gently direct your thinking to your evidence anchor image.

Each time your thoughts wander back to the dark place, just repeat the redirect – focus on your breath and direct your thinking to your evidence anchor image.

Do this until you fall asleep.

Seem too simple to work? The magic is in step number 1 – the more often you consciously direct your thinking to the present moment during the day, the easier it will be to do it at night.

Here's to a Restful Sleep!

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Squirrel Brain? Crayola 64 to the Rescue

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Squirrel Brain? Crayola 64 to the Rescue

Oh man. Just thinking about the box sends shivers up and down my spine.

Don’t try to deny it. No human on earth is unmoved by that particular pack of crayons.

Everything about the Crayola 64 was absolutely perfect

  • all of those unspoiled tips in neat, colorful rows
  • the four movable inner cartons that could be slipped in and out for sharing, organizing, or easy access
  • the sticky, waxy smell of possibility…

Absolutely awesome.

Mere awesomeness alone doesn’t bring back such clarity and nostalgia however.

Your exceptionally vivid memories of the Crayola 64 are due in part to the fact that you were much more present, much more mindful as a child.

Back then, when faced with such splendor, you weren’t thinking about what happened two hours before you opened the lid, nor were you worrying about what you needed to accomplish when you finished coloring. You were all about the crayons, my friend – swept up in a frenzy of magenta, dandelion and periwinkle.

Want to try it again?

Go right ahead. In fact, make it part of your meditation practice!

Coloring (or doodling) is an effective mindfulness tool that will help quiet racing thoughts, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your stress.

It’s particularly helpful when you need to calm your mind so that you can listen to or focus on something important or when you’re feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed.

This Week: 
My 3 favorite ways to Color Yourself Calm.

Try this…

  • Get an adult coloring book and a set of fine-tipped markers and color for a bit when you’re feeling scattered or overwhelmed.
  • Go old school and get yourself the Crayola 64 box (FYI dandelion has been retired ???? ) and some actual kid coloring books. Break them out instead of numbing out on Facebook or TV.
  • Keep a few colorful pens and a scratch pad in your purse and near the phone. Pull them out and doodle when you have to listen to something that requires your full attention. Doodling a bit before going into a doctor’s office or taking a test will set your mind up for greater clarity and focus. I’ve always doodled while listening to lectures or talking on the phone – it’s always helped me focus.

Send us a picture of what you create!

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 We’re ALL in This Together

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We’re ALL in This Together

I’ve been noticing something lately.

Every week, I work with dozens of people.

We work on all different things. Building their businesses, growing their confidence, making big decisions, managing change and mastering transformation in their lives.

Regardless of what we’re working on… 
Regardless of who they are… 
Regardless of the apparent circumstances of their lives…

Almost all of them talk about feeling lonely.

Leah, a stay at home mom who is considering becoming a massage therapist said, “I don’t think there is one person in my house who actually knows me – I mean, knows who I really am.”

Kendra, who was recently promoted to SVP of Operations in her company told me, “There is absolutely no one for me to talk to when I have a problem. At home - I’m the caretaker, at work – I feel like I need to know what I’m doing, like they’re waiting for me to mess up, and my friends have their own problems…”

Liz, a fledgling business owner, literally cried out, “I am entirely alone! There is no one to save me if I fall.”

Stacy regularly tells me that since her husband died she just misses having someone to share simple moments with. “You know,” she says, “someone to eat with, or watch TV with, or just someone who would know if I got home late.”

I’ve been there. And I’ll bet at one point or another, you have too.

Unfortunately, there’s a prevailing “Just suck it up Buttercup” stigma around the topic.

Not a good idea.

Harvard’s 80-year study on adult development reports the most significant factor affecting health and well-being is how satisfied we are in our relationships – whether we’re lonelier than we want to be. 

In fact, recent research concludes that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it a greater health concern than obesity and, potentially shaving 8 years off your life.

In the UK, they’ve recently appointed a Minster of Loneliness to combat what they’re calling an epidemic health crisis.

There is good news too.

You are 100% capable of having exactly the amount of love and connection you choose in your life.

And in September, I hope you’ll join me live for my free on-line program:

Be Seen. Be Understood. Feel Connected. 
How to counter loneliness and find ways to connect deeply. 
(details coming soon)

In the meantime, let’s start a little ripple of connection and see how far it goes…

This Week: 
Grow Your Connections

This week:

  • Everywhere you go – the supermarket, the train, work, home – look people in theeyes and smile. You’ll be surprised how rare this simple form of connection really is.

  • Strike up a conversation with a stranger and really listen to the story they tell. Thank them for it.

  • Reach out to one of your Facebook or Linked in friends and meet them for coffee – in PERSON. (If that’s not possible, set up a virtual coffee over Skype, or zoom.)

  • Let your hair down a bit. Allow your own playfulness to seep into your relationships and conversations. Believe me. My life got sooo much better when I started letting my inner dork shine through in all her goofy glory.

And most importantly. DON’T BE AFRAID. The opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s fear.

XOXO

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What was the name of that new restaurant?

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What was the name of that new restaurant?

The Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Memory

You know that feeling when you get a new laptop – when everything about it is lightning fast?

My mind used to be that way.

I knew, in a flash, where absolutely everything was in my office. (Even the things that weren’t where they should’ve have been.)

I was able to keep track of where everyone in my family needed to be, when they needed to be there and what they needed to have with them.

In fact, I could have told you what I wore every day of my life from age 6 to 36.

Things have gotten progressively muddier since then. (My brother, who has complained of a poor memory his entire life, thinks it’s hilarious.)

I rely on my phone for everything. I take pictures of the label when I like a wine, I keep scores of lists in notes and I use Google keywords until I happen upon the name of that new restaurant I forgot to write down.

Whether like me, your data bank isn’t what it used to be, or like my brother, retrieval never really was your thing, there are some really simple ways you can improve your memory.

And the number one way? Mindfulness.

This Week: 
10 ways to boost your memory.

  1. Pay attention to the moment you’re in. Sometimes what we think we’ve forgotten, we never properly learned in the first place. When your mind is jumping from the person you’re talking with, to your phone, to the list in your head about what you need to do next, your brain won’t properly file what you’ve heard.
  2. Make associations. Link what you want to remember to something that you already know.
  3. Create pictures. Whenever you visualize something, you are much more likely to remember it accurately.
  4. Write it down. This may sound like a cheat, but the act of writing something down (especially with pen and paper rather than typing) greatly improves your retention.
  5. Reduce the overload. Just like your tired laptop, when you bombard your brain with tons of information and fill it with unneeded data, it s l o w s down.
  6. Repeat, practice, repeat. That’s right, old school. The more you practice or repeat something, the more likely you’ll remember.
  7. Time travel. When you’re trying to remember something, allow your mind to recreate the space where you learned it in the first place.
  8. Get sleep. Sometimes poor memory and overload are merely a function of your brain needing a bit more time to re-boot. And powering down for humans means sleep.
  9. Create a rhyme or a song. As every child of the 70's knows, (we can all perfectly recite the Preamble to the US Constitution – thank you, Schoolhouse Rock) you’ll never forget something if you sing it enough times. If you’re not a child of the 70's – or if you are and want a bit of nostalgia, here’s Schoolhouse Rock, Preamble. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_NzZvdsbWI
  10. RELAX. Sometimes you just need to stop forcing the memory and let your brain work on it for you. If it’s in there, the answer will come to you.

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Bored? Go Bizzaro.

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Bored? Go Bizzaro.

If you’ve ever been a fan of either superheroes or Seinfeld, (as this geeky girl clearly is) you already know about Bizzaro World.

An invention of DC Comics, Bizarro World is a planet where everything is the opposite of what you might expect. Superman (called Bizarro) is a super villain, the planet is cube shaped, hello is goodbye and vice versa…you get the idea.

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, Elaine makes some new friends. Each is a doppelganger for one of her usual gang but his exact opposite in demeanor and personality. In effect, she’s met a Bizzaro Jerry, George and Kramer.

Not surprisingly, (the human brain absolutely loves the combination of familiarity and newness), she gets drawn in to the Bizarro group.

The point here is that, although we all find comfort in consistency and routine, we also crave novelty. When you experience boredom, it’s actually a cue that your brain wants you to shake things up a bit.

Am I suggesting you watch Seinfeld to cure your boredom? Well, no, but if you decide to anyway (you’ll notice I’ve avoided spoilers), it’s the “Man Hands” episode you’re looking for. ; )

This Week: 
Finding the novelty in your day to day routine.

Each day this week, pull yourself into the present moment (and out of the rut) by trying one of these:

  • Take a completely different path to work.
  • Sit in a different chair than the one you normally sit in at your kitchen table.
  • Stop for coffee at a place other than your usual or go inside instead of driving through.
  • Invite a colleague to lunch that you know little about.
  • Get dressed up. Or if you dress up every day, go casual.
  • Cook an exciting recipe for dinner and put candles and cloth napkins on the table.
  • Try a new form of exercise.
  • Hang out in that room in your house that you rarely go in.
  • Make a plan to do something this weekend that you never do (go to a farmer’s market, get tickets for a play, go hear some live music, take a picnic to the park…).
  • Spice it up in the bedroom by trying something new.
  • Shut down all of your electronics for the evening.
  • Hang out in a bookstore after work.
  • Make up your own!

Here’s to having a a Bizzaro week.

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 Overcomplicating Things?

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Overcomplicating Things?

I bet you are.

We humans are nothing if not logical – big challenges require big solutions. After all, if there were a simple solution, wouldn’t we have solved this already?

Enter the Wile E Coyote planning process.

We love to match every nuance of a problem with its solution counterpart and map out every step from beginning to end.

This makes us feel good – the complexity makes the solution feel credible and proportional to the problem. “Eureka! THIS is going to work!

It makes it feel like a done deal – every possibility has been covered. “YES! I’ve got this.”

It makes us feel smart. “Wile E. Coyote, SUPER genius!”

Except Wile E. Coyote never does catch that Road Runner, and most of our best laid plans end up falling apart (sometimes before they even get started).

Why?

Complex and complicated plans may feel good to create, but they’re a bear to execute. They’re overwhelming. There are a too many places for unforeseen obstacles to creep in and interfere. Their rigidity prohibits us from seeing what’s right in front of us, blinding us to other choices and opportunities along the way.

Most of the time, solutions that work (on both the small and large scale) are simple, not complex.

Unfortunately, we automatically associate simple with easy and we get turned off because:

As in the example above, "…so simple a solution could never change my very difficult problem“.

Or

We think simple means easy and easy means quick fix – then we give up too hastily, frustrated when nothing appears to change. 

My favorite example of this is Nike’s Just DO it campaign. The answer to personal fitness is exercise – incredibly simple – you just have to do it. But you have to do it every day. And that, as we exercise-impaired understand, is not easy.

And so, how do we embrace simple but not easy? And how can a long term, complicated goal be achieved this way?

This Week: 
3 Ways to Keep It Simple

  1. THINK SMALL, THINK NOW
    Rather than attempting to figure out everything at once, choose one small thing that you can do to get yourself started today. A favorable outcome (even a tiny one) will give you the energy and inspiration you need to take the next small step.

    In fact, by keeping yourself from looking too far ahead you'll not only avoid overwhelm, but also keep your mind open to new ideas that emerge from the incremental successes along the way.
     
  2. USE WHAT YOU'VE GOT
    We spend a lot of time and energy reinventing the wheel. 

    Make a list of all the things you're good at. Then add things you've accomplished that you've proud of. Look around you for others who have already solved your problem (or under similar circumstances to yours, never had it in the first place). Add any that resonate to the list.

    Search the list for hints on how you can attack your current dilemma simply. Your first step is probably right in front of you.
     
  3. LET IT FLOW
    Avoid judging yourself or your progress each step of the way. Practice looking at this process as a continuous flow from which you will learn and shift as you move forward rather than a series of starts and stops.

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Grrrrrrrr…

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Grrrrrrrr…

Did you ever wake up a bit out of sorts? Something just feels slightly off from the moment you open your eyes?

And then there’s no coffee.

And Apple (or Google) has decided that you’re not actually you and begins to pull you down the long, dark, tunnel of password restoration.

And you need your computer because you have a client meeting over Zoom in 30 minutes.

And…

Well, you get the point. Some days it feels like the world is working against you.

Clearly, I’m describing the start to my day today and it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a bit grumpy about it.

Anger, like all of our emotions, is fed by the story we’re telling ourselves about what’s happening. When it comes to anger, the story always features BLAME in a starring role.

  • “I’m mad at myself for forgetting to pick up more coffee when I was out yesterday.”

  • “I’m frustrated by Apple password quagmire and furious that they don’t have a simpler fix.” (It turns out that they do. I was just too aggravated to see it at first.)

  • “I want to throttle my son for loading his Skype account onto my laptop because I’m sure that’s the reason I’ll be missing my client meeting.”

Lots and lots of BLAME.

Which leads me to feel like a VICTIM.

And there you have it - the looping Dynamic Duo of virtually every bad day.

WARNING: These super-villains rarely go away on their own. A bad day can stretch into a bad week or longer. For some, the BLAME-VICTIM loop can even become a way of life.

So what to do?

This Week: 
The Secret is in the Story.

Believe it or not, it’s never the circumstance that gets (and keeps) you riled up, it’s the story you’re telling yourself about that circumstance.

For example, the password situation on my computer fueled my bad mood because of the running story I was telling myself.

Ugh! Several days to restore?!

What did he do to my computer?

I’m going to miss my meeting.

My new client will think I’m a flake.

She’s going to fire me.

My reputation will be trashed.

If I had stayed in that story, chances are it would have taken up quite a bit of my morning and probably caused me to postpone my client meeting.

Hint: Thinking clearly, being creative, and problem solving are impossible when we’re stuck in a story.

3 ½ STEPS to Shifting Your Story (and saving your day)

  1. b r e a t h e – step away for a moment clear your head and your mind with a few deep breaths

  2. Reframe – what other stories might be equally true here?
    My laptop just needs a reboot.
    I can use my iPhone for my client meeting if I need to.
    If I do need to reschedule, I can handle it in such a way that it enhances my new relationship.
    I’ve gotten out of MUCH tighter spots than this one. How silly that I’m getting all riled up

  3. Act – do something. Get out of your head and into positive action. This can be problem solving, working, exercising, reading, listening to music, etc… The idea is to get out of the story and into the present moment. Practice mindfulness.
    . Repeat any time the story creeps back in.

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Game Changer

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Game Changer

Did you know that your brain has a natural negativity bias?

It’s designed to remember and embed the bad stuff to keep you safe from encountering it again in the future. More specifically, to keep you safe enough to have a future.

That’s a good thing when it means you won’t be stepping out into traffic or putting your hands on any more hot stoves. When it means you can easily recall every painful experience, self-effacing thought, and set-back while the wins, kudos and proud moments fade into the ether, it isn’t.

Unfortunately, most of the negative things we remember have very little to do with keeping us safe and a lot to do with keeping us stressed out.

Your negativity bias also affects every decision you make.

When you draw on the experiences stored in your memory banks, only part of your reality shows up. The data is flawed. Your memory is skewed negative and that profoundly affects the way you see opportunity, calculate risk and choose what you should and shouldn’t do.

Fortunately, you can begin shifting your negativity bias to create a more balanced, more accurate memory bank.

I’m not talking hearts and ponies here.

This is about noticing the good things that are 100% real. By embedding your positive experiences into your memory in the same way your brain embeds the bad ones, you’re actually growing a new brain – one that will help you stay present, feel better, see new opportunities and make choices to keep you moving forward.

And the way in?

Gratitude.

This Week's Tip:

Three simple steps to balancing your brain.

Start a Gratitude Journal:

  1. Pick a particular time of day you’ll do it. (An anchor is always helpful in making it a habit.) At your chosen time each day, write down three things you are grateful for in that moment.
     
  2. They can be big or small. They can be as simple as “mmmmm, I smell coffee,” or as profound as the universe itself.

    All that matters is that you feel truly grateful for it in the moment that you write it down – that it is 100% real. No rose-colored glasses or false optimism here.

    Never lie to yourself – if you’re not feeling particularly grateful for those messy teenagers today, it’s not the day to put them on the list. Maybe ice cream or wine?
     
  3. Now, remember that your brain is not designed to hard wire these types of thoughts, (the delightful smell of freshly brewed coffee has little to do with your immediate safety or survival).

We can trick your brain into embedding these positive experiences in a way that is similar to the way it embeds the negative ones.

Read over the three things you’ve written down. Notice (and name) any positive feelings that arise when you read them back to yourself. Notice (and name) any sensations you feel in your body.

Try to experience each item on your list with as many of your senses as possible.

In the few seconds it took you to create a sensory experience about the things you wrote, you activated several parts of your brain and embedded your good experiences. You’re on the road to a more balanced database.

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 beep beep beep beep beep . . .

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beep beep beep beep beep . . .

The alarm seemed to go off earlier and earlier.

I’d grab my phone to stop the noise. The one barely opened eye it took to complete the task would manage to see the long list of social media, email and text notifications that poured in while I was sleeping.

I’d disconnect the thing from the charger and take it with me to scan while I made coffee.

So began each day.

On a good day, by the time I hit the meditation cushion I’d be wide awake and feeling accomplished.

With the birds still chirping their early-morning repertoire, I’d already have had my coffee, gotten two grumpy teens off to school, and knocked out the morning’s email, text, FB and LinkedIn responses.

On a not so good day, however, I’d be amped up, frenzied, and find it difficult to settle into meditation (or anything else for that matter).

There were lots of not-so-good days.

And truth be told, I never even noticed the chirping birds. Each day began on auto-pilot. Without ease or intention, my mood by 7:30 am was determined by external factors – whether my kids got up on time, how many things were sitting in my inbox, the tone of the social media feeds…

Sound familiar?

If it does, know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a much more pleasant morning, set yourself up for a productive day, and still get a jump on things.

This Week

Begin your day with ease and intention (it only takes a few minutes).

  1. Get the phone away from the nightstand or turn off notifications at night.

  2. Curate the sounds you wake up to. In this digital age, there is no reason to wake to harsh, tinny or unpleasant sounds.

  3. Take a few deep breaths and stretch as soon as you stand up. I mean it, really stretch - like the exaggerated stretches of silent movies and cartoons.

  4. Hydrate before your morning joe. Down a glass of water while you’re prepping your coffee (your body will love you for it).

  5. Get present. Enjoy that coffee (or tea). Take in the experience of starting your day with this happy little ritual.

  6. Set your intention for the day. Before you dive into everything that’s waiting for you, take a moment and choose how you want to show up and what you would like to have accomplished by the day’s end. Close your eyes, take a deep breathe (or 2 or 3) and see your intention.

And if you’ve got a second or two to spare – listen to those birds chirp. ; )

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