Thursday, August 10, 2017

When One Door Closes . . .

This has been a different summer for me. While many people's businesses see a winding down over the summer, I have not had that experience -- until this year, that is. You see, I had been planning to spend July in Hawaii and so other than teaching an online course, I did not make any efforts to book speaking engagements this summer. But as can sometimes happen, life threw us a curveball and the door on our Hawaii vacation slammed shut.

Now what? I wondered, "What am I going to do with all this free time on my hands?"

Yes, I had a few coaching clients who were glad to know I was going to be available for in-person sessions. Yet, I still had a lot of unbooked time, and I like being busy.

Then on June 29, I had coffee with my friend Chris Tieri, founder and president of Idea Agency. During our conversation, we got on the topic of getting done things we had been thinking about doing. I shared that I had been thinking about developing online courses based on programs I offer. Chris shared she had been thinking about writing a book. As I drove home from our get together, I started thinking about all the things I, or others have said, that they wanted to do, but were not getting done.

Two days later while in Syracuse, NY for a memorial service, I got together with my cousin Anne. I told her that I was serious thinking about developing online courses on Time Management, Resilience, and so forth. She was quite encouraging. Anne founded eKamria, a web development company, and so she had a lot of thoughts to share with me about online courses.

And then another, very different door opened. Literally. While sitting in the kitchen talking with Anne, my cousins Tony and Stephanie entered. They live in Georgia and we had not seen one another in twenty years. Long story short, they had purchased the family camp on Lake Oneida and were in town to check on the renovations. They were planning to be back in July for three weeks and wanted me to come up for a few days.

"Our kids we be there; Mary's coming in from Texas and Jamie will be around, too. You have to plan to come back."

Well, I certainly had the time to do so, and 6 weeks later I did just that. We found a hotel within 6 miles of the camp. Spent two days and evenings with family I hadn'€™t seen in decades, met many of their children for the very first time. We had a ball!

Anne came out both days too. While sitting by the lake, she asked about my plans for the online courses.

"Up and running," I said. She looked astonished. "Yup, after our talk back on June 1, I went home and researched online platforms. Settled on Thinkific, and launched the Time Management course two nights ago."

"Not only that," I told her, "I storyboarded the next online class, Resilience: The Key to Retirement Well-being and," I added proudly, "I scheduled the next Change Your Habitudes, Change Your Life workshop for October 28."

Anne was, to say the least impressed with all I had accomplished in the 6 weeks since our late night talk around the kitchen table.

"And," I said, "I am planning to launch another onground, six-week program called, Get It Done! It's for serious-minded people who have something they've always talked about doing, and now want to get it done."

Like the saying goes, "When one door closes, another one opens" and here'€™s the proof. The door on my long-awaited vacation in Hawaii may have slammed shut, but many opportunities opened -- spending time with family in New York, developing and putting into place two online courses, developing the Get It Done! 6-week program and scheduling the next Change Your Habitudes, Change Your Life workshop for October 28.

And it's only August 9. Plenty of summertime left!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

That Four-letter "F" Word

Do you sometimes find yourself spewing that 4-letter "F" word?

No, not THAT one . . . I'm talking about that other 4-letter "F" word -- FEAR.

Fear is a distressing negative emotion brought on by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that triggers your 'fight or flight' response. Our fears, however, can often take on a life of their own and stop us dead in our tracks.

Rejection is an irrational fear that others will not accept us for who we are. Fear of rejection is one of those insidious, perceived threats that can hold you back, keep you from achieving your goals. Fear of rejection pervades our minds, often rendering us incapable of doing or saying anything for fear of others' rejection, lack of acceptance, or disapproval. Yes, there will be times in your life when you will face rejection. How will you handle rejection if it does happen?

To start, be prepared. Identify your limiting thoughts, such as...
  • People dislike me
  • I am a failure
  • I am not worthy of their approval
. . . and then dismiss them one by one.

To do so effectively you need to build your self-esteem. And you build self-esteem by understanding your self-worth.   So make this list instead . . .
  • People like me because...
  • I have been successful in...
  • I am worthy of others' approval because...
Work on your self-worth list everyday by adding just one good trait about you. Remember my equation: 
Self-confidence + Self-worth = Self-esteem

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Be A Creative Thinker

Why is it . . .
  • Superman could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when someone threw a gun at him?
  • man evolved from monkeys, yet we still have monkeys?
  • necessary to nail down the lid of a coffin?
"Good learning starts with questions, not answers," wrote Guy Claxton. And, I will add, sometimes it is the most outrageous questions that can jump start our thinking, get us looking at a problem in a new way.

Creative thinking calls into question the assumptions underlying our usual ways of thinking and acting. 

Creative thinkers consider rejecting standardized formats for problem solving. They have an interest in a wide range of related and divergent fields. Creative thinkers take multiple perspectives on a problem and will use trial-and-error methods in their experimentation. When we step into new territories, tentativeness is normal.

Be a creative thinker. Pose new questions to yourself everyday, even outlandish ones like those above. Have a future orientation; have self-confidence and trust in your own judgment. Deepen your self-knowledge by exploring your inner strengths, your weaknesses, your skills, biases, expectations, and fears.

Examine the patterns, the habitudes that are holding you back, keeping you stuck in the 'same old, same old.' As Stephen Covey said, "Live out of your imagination, not your history."

Monday, December 12, 2016

What Will You Leave?

I love my birthday. I love celebrating my birthday. Sometimes I do so with friends; sometimes I prefer it be a simple and quiet affair. (There must, however, always be cake!) The joke in my household is that once the December holiday season ends, I begin the countdown to my birthday which, by the way, falls on the 110th day of the calendar year. (111 day if it is a leap year.)

Let me state clearly, I do not mind getting older. I embrace it, truly. And truth be told, there was only one birthday that caused me pause . . . the year I turned 48. And I know why, too. Up until that age, I always felt I could double my age and see myself as still living. 40 = 80; 42 = 84; 45 = 90; 47 = 94. But when I doubled 48 . . .96 years old . . . suddenly that seemed to me to be much less probable. For reasons unbeknownst to me, 95 years old was my cut-off point.

In 2017, I will be 62 years old. In thinking about this age, I am once again feeling unsettled. Certainly, 62 is way past my doubling formula, so that doesn't come into play. Something else, something larger seems to be nagging me. At first I thought it was because my mom was 62 when she passed on. But that wasn't it. Then I thought about the friends who have passed this year. Young, vibrant, with so many years ahead of them. I zeroed in on my friend Dorsie Kovacs who died in October. She was 64. Yes. This had something to do with Dorsie. But it wasn't about her young age, 64 years; it was what she had done with those years, with her life.

Dorsie was a veterinarian and owned the Monson Small Animal Clinic. There is so much I could tell you about her, but I'll let these words from her obituary suffice. "She was a special soul whose spirit inspired everyone she met. Possibly the most positive person ever, she always saw the silver lining in every storm cloud that passed her way. Her employees often referred to her as 'Pollyanna,' to me she was 'Perpetually, Pathologically (in a good way), Perky.' Passionate about her life's work as the local veterinarian, she provided care and comfort to pets and their people alike."

My nagging thoughts were not specifically about Dorsie; it was about what Dorie left behind, her legacy.

Legacy is what you create during your life, what you leave behind when you are gone. "The legacy we leave is part of the ongoing foundations of life," wrote Jim Rohn. "Those who came before leave us the world we live in. Those who will come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part."

Looking back on my own life, I could clearly recognize the legacy-leavers who guided me my way. Most notably were my mom and maternal grandmother who instilled in me a passion for learning, for language, for living a compassionate life. I thought, too, of a few former teachers who challenged me to question, to not simply be satisfied with seemingly easy answers to life's perplexities.

I will be 62 in 129 days from my writing of this article. And so I must ask myself: what kind of legacy will I leave? What will be my contribution, my imprint on the future? In my work I touch a lot of lives -- from students to business people. What message am I leaving? What am I demonstrating by my actions? These are the questions I intend to keep in the forefront of my mind for all the remaining days (of which I hope are many) of my life.

"Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you," wrote Shannon Alder. What will be your legacy?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Challenging Ourselves

Saturday, September 17 was a long and exhausting day. Truthfully, the whole week leading up to that date had been long and exhausting. Adding to the grueling schedule was excruciating pain caused by two bone spurs in my right foot. All I wanted to do that Saturday was teach my 5-hour leadership class at Bay Path University, get home that afternoon, take 800mg of ibuprofen, eat a meal, and get off my foot. That's what I wanted to do.

However.... A few months prior to that day, my friend Dennis McCurdy told me he was having a firewalk in Brimfield on September 17. "I'd like you to come and say a few motivating words to the attendees," he said. Now, I love Dennis' firewalks. I've participated three times and I understand the power behind facing the challenge of walking on those 1400-degree coals.

"Sure," I told him. "I have class that day, but I'll come."
You Tube Video Firewalk 9-17-16
As dusk descended that Saturday evening, I dreaded the thought of having to stand on my feet again. The ibuprofen had barely touched the pain and I was down to walking, literally, on the ball of my foot. But I had told Dennis I would be there and so I limped to my car, drove to Brimfield, hobbled onto the field, and joined the 20+ people with the building of the firewalk pathway. We worked as a team, placing logs conically down a 20-foot pathway, after which we stuffed between the logs pieces of paper upon which we wrote a fear we wanted to conquer, a goal we wanted to attain. The wood was doused with a flammable liquid; flames shot into the air. It takes about two hours for the logs to reduce to red hot embers. During this time, we assembled under the tent and Dennis began his workshop. Thirty minutes passed, then 60, then 90 minutes. He must have forgot he wanted me to speak, I thought. Thank God, because the stabbing pain in my foot was so intense I could not even keep it on the ground. I felt unfocused and uninspired to motivate anyone to do anything. And then I heard my name. ".... she's a great, inspiring speaker...." In that split second I knew I had to deliver a specific message about challenging oneself to face and conquer the obstacles in front of us, whether it's 1400-degree coals or mind-numbing pain. (Click here or on the above image to hear a portion of that speech.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

10 Ways to Live a Flourishing Life

1. It starts with self-reflection . . . It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What does your self-portrait say about you?

2. Happiness is as much about what you don't want as what you do want. What’s on your “I Don’t Want . . .” List?

3. Once you free yourself of the illusion of who you want to be, the truth of who you are is crystal clear.

4. There is joy to be found in most any moment. You simply need to be willing to expand your vision and see it.

5. Insight fuels foresight. Open your mind to all the possibilities.

6. To learn something new today, reflect on what you did and what you thought about yesterday.

7. Direct Your Thinking . . . Set a goal today that is realistic. Focus your attention on the actions necessary to attain that goal.

8. Direct Your Thinking . . . Negative thoughts can be changed. Positive thoughts can be maintained.

9. Wake up every morning and begin each day with the desire and the decision to live joyfully.

10. And remember . . . While another’s belief in you may sustain you for a while, lasting strength comes only when you choose to believe in yourself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ambition, Achievement, Fulfillment


A few weeks back a colleague said to me, “I admire how ambitious you are.” Her words stopped me. 

“Ambitious? You see me as ambitious?” I was puzzled. I never thought of myself in that way, so I had to ponder what she meant by that. 

I turned to my internal dictionary and thesaurus — the one my grandmother had drilled into me as a child by insisting that I learn the list of spelling bee words she tore out of the Sunday paper each week. 

Ambitious: a go-getter, power-hungry, zealous. That’s not me. Determined. Hmm. Determined. Now that is me. I am determined, purposeful, motivated, and an enthusiastic learner. I am an achiever

This got me thinking about what is achievement? Achievement is the experience of accomplishment, of attaining the goals you set for yourself. While ambition is the chief driver of achievement, it seems to me they are variables in the equation that equals fulfillment. 

Fulfillment is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted; it is the feeling of satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character. You may have all the success and money in the world, yet be internally bankrupt and feel that life has no meaning.

Fulfillment is accomplished by two things: continuous growth and continuous contribution beyond oneself. It comes from living a life of meaning, of significance. Achievement, however, is pleasure; achievement is of and in the moment.  

In my studies in strategic intervention, I learned that the strongest drive in human beings is the “drive for fulfillment, and that all human beings share this need to experience a life of meaning and purpose.” (Robbins-Madanes) Fulfillment can only be achieved when we focus our lives on the need to grow continuously, and the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way.

My desire to grow continuously and to contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way is fueled by an inner ambition to do so.  

Perhaps my colleague was right. I am ambitious.