Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weird is the New Beautiful

When I was a kid, I didn't love school so much as I loved the process of learning. Acquiring new bits of knowledge gave me a boost; a certain "high."

I loved to read for the actual content, but also for the sense of accomplishment I felt when I got through each novel. There was a level of satisfaction not created by most other life experiences at the time. I knew this was one thing which could not be taken away from me. The "stuff in my head" was uniquely and solely mine.

I was not much older than my third grade daughter is now when I first read Martin Eden by Jack London. As an adult I learned that this story is a favorite among many writers. Personally, what I remember connecting to back then was Martin's rapidly amplified passion for reading. I felt deep envy as I pictured the stacks and stacks of great works the main character (a kindred spirit in "weirdness") was conquering.

As I think back on it now, I also realise that reading was my great escape. The way that dogs can sense a big storm approaching, I developed a keen detection for when chaos was about to erupt between the walls of our white house in Suburbia, USA. Even as the first argumentative rumblings became audible through our faux wood panel walls, I had my nose in a Nancy Drew mystery or one of my favorite British classics. Safety was granted through bound pages as I sat behind a tree in the backyard or huddled in my closet or in my newly cleaned shed.

The books nurtured a vivid and active imagination which offered another wondrous exit -- both physically and mentally. My next door neighbor and best friend L. was a perfect companion. Together we enjoyed pretend journeys, made-up but ideal school and home settings and my favorite game of all, "Witchy-Poo."

I was not capable of realising or expressing my gratitude back then, but I think now that L. was one of two people who probably saved my life during my early years.

The other person was my sister A.

These two loving, brilliant, creative and talented girls had a similar knack for making me feel truly accepted. I have so many wonderful childhood memories of them both.

We are all grown women now; their friendship a sacred treasure I will always hold in my heart despite time, distance or circumstance.

With such exceptions I always felt like the "weird" one, especially in school. Although outwardly social, I felt isolated in my curious thoughts and imaginary sojourns.

Luckily I've had the blessing of more friends since then who are either as weird as I am or at least accept me, weirdness and all. Again, I am thankful.

I think of all this now because I see a familiar glimmer of passion and sadness in my daughter's eyes. While I believe my love for the process of learning eventually made me smart (if I do say so myself!), my daughter was born with an incredible intellect. I know, I know. All moms think they have genius kids.

Not sure about genius, but this is a child who at age 6 described her process for solving math problems by visualizing numbers in the air and watching them "dance" together to form the solution. Not a soul meets her without seeing something special. Maybe it's the combination of the extremely bright mind and extremely nurturing spirit, I'm not sure.

More than once throughout the past few years though, she has confided in me that she feels a sense of isolation. She feels "different" in a way that "doesn't feel good" and that she struggles to understand. For example, unbridled enthusiasm for adding imaginative steps to a simple game has often been thwarted by her friends who just want to play without additional complications.

At her (thankfully) academically challenging school, she has become aware that her mind may come to the same solutions as other kids, but through a totally different set of paths. However, sometimes her unique mental process is met with judgment and ridicule.

"They don't think like I do," she admits with sadness in her voice. "They think I'm weird. I AM weird."

On one level it's heart-breaking. Of course. Yet, some relief comes in being able to talk to her about my own experiences and my own feelings. I can give her that gift of acceptance and encouragement that L. & A. gave me. I hope I help her put things in perspective and boost her confidence. Perhaps all parents strive to do this but it feels different somehow.

Luckily, my lovely daughter has been receptive, even grateful, during our many discussions. My friends with teenagers tell me her appreciation may not always be offered. Secretly I hope that my unconditional love, non-judgement and mutual "feeling weirdness" has contributed to a unique bond which will be unfettered by adolescent hormones. People love to burst my bubble on this note but I can't help but think positively!

This is one of those posts which falls under the category of "stuff I was just thinking about" vs. any kind of life balance tutorial in particular. Yet, perhaps there is a lesson in here about the great gift you give yourself and others when you don't judge.

Acceptance is key to building confidence. Increased confidence brings increased capacity. Just think of all the wonderful opportunities you have to increase your own capacity and the capacity of those around you.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Final Step (Step 3)

Step 3: Commit to change.

Now that you've written your "positive affirmation for change" (see Step 2), you're ready to set your action items.

At the top of the third column write,

Write down three things you will commit to making part of your everyday routine which will support your affirmation for positive change. Include one goal in each of these three categories:


We’re aiming for reasonable, consistent movement forward which will set you up for long term success.

Meanwhile, we are reinforcing a state of mind and behaviors which will prevent the shed from filling up again.

1. INTERNAL ENERGY: Thoughts & Feelings
Someone recently told me that 80% of change is emotional. As far as I'm concerned, that makes this goal the most important. Plus it doesn't take any extra time, so there's that excuse out the door!

Starting now, make a commitment to yourself to really pay attention to your thoughts, self-talk and emotions, only giving energy to those which are consistent with your positive affirmation for change.

Here's a tip: If you’re not yet able to internalize and believe, “I amsimply reframe it to be, “I welcome.”

Admittedly, when I started out at 160+ lbs (5'2") and suffering from chronic fatigue, I had a hard time buying into telling myself, “I am fabulously fit, trim and vibrant.” I couldn't even buy into tying my own shoes some days! But I could say with confidence, “I welcome strength, health and vitality into my life now!”

In “welcoming” my goal state, it was also absolutely critical NOT to give energy to thoughts like, “I am such a blob.” “I am so exhausted.” “I hate my body right now...and my body hates me.”

Of course, those thoughts and feelings came up, especially in the beginning. Given your situation, you've likely been experiencing a variety of negative emotions as well. Of course - it's normal!

Another tip is to calmly acknowledge the negative feeling or thought but then just let it go by. It is there. Okay. But don't fight it or dwell on it. What you resist persists.

I once heard Eckhart Tolle give the description of just “tipping your hat” to it, as you would someone passing you on the street. Literally visualize this image and say, “Hello thought. I see you. Goodbye.” Nonchalantly dismiss the unhelpful thought and watch it drift off into the distance.

Focus on welcoming and greeting positive, helpful thoughts. Throw a party for the positive feelings. Give them energy and they will return energy to you.

Energy flows where attention goes.

2. EXTERNAL ENERGY: Do Something!
You know about action. Your initial instinct in trying to solve your current problem was likely all about external action. You have an overwhelming list of "should do's," "shouldn't do's," or "should have done's".

You now have my permission to stop "shoulding" all over yourself!

What one thing can you do as part of your everyday routine which supports your ideal scenario? Don't go crazy and think you're gonna empty the shed in one night. This external action just needs to get you moving -- literally or figuratively.

There’s a (really gross) expression about eating the elephant one bite at a time. In my (almost as gross) trash analogy, we’re going to empty the shed one bit o' trash at a time.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had old programming which made me believe that the only way I could get into "super fit and healthy mode" was to work out for two hours at a time. Maybe for a shorter period of time if I was killing myself in the process. Ironically, this belief eventually kept me from exercising at all. I got exhausted thinking about it!

Using my new process though, I committed to just walking in place for 15-minutes each day. That's all I did at first. Gradually I worked up to more time and different types of workouts. But it was a natural progression as my body and mind was ready.

Side note: If fitness happens to be your goal as well and you're not a huge fan of "exercise," I strongly recommend Leslie Sansone's "Walk Away the Pounds" DVDs.

In the end, the secret to my success was my commitment to just do something every single day to support my positive affirmation for change. That commitment, which seemed so ridiculously small at first, created the momentum I needed to achieve my ideal scenario.

A body in motion stays in motion. Keep moving forward, even if it's in small steps.

3. SUPPORT: Help, Accountability & Reinforcement
This is pretty straightforward but so very important, especially with the really stinky problems.

Help can come in many forms. There are a variety of resources for almost any topic area. I'm a huge fan of online support groups. There are many support groups which meet locally as well. Both of these can be found pretty easily through your favorite Internet search engine.

You may also want to consider professional help, either paid or gratis. It might be appropriate for this "area expert" to provide help as a one-off or an ongoing basis. It depends on your situation.

Phone a friend. Go to church. Join a club. Call me. Expand your circle of energy.

Just remember: you have a much greater chance of success if you have others working along your side.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Future is Now (Step 2)

Chances are pretty good you're reading Step 2 without doing Step 1 either because A) you're new to this blog B) you've made yet another excuse not to face the music -- or in my analogy, the trash -- or C) because you really don't have any problems and are here for pure entertainment (and denial really is just a river in Egypt.)

In any case, here's a quick Step 1 recap: Write down an overwhelming issue for you plus a list of your own inactions/actions (including thoughts, feelings, words) which got you to this point.

Even if it seems like a mentally daunting task, I promise you that it takes less time than watching an episode of Survivor; maybe even less time than reading all those status updates on Facebook. You've got to face it sooner or later. Come on - the future is now my friend!

If it makes you feel any better, most likely whatever you're going through right now, I've also been through on some level. Marital problems, health problems, 60+ pounds overweight, verge of bankruptcy, verge of a nervous breakdown, 10 years to get one MBA. Been there, done that. Trust me, you're in a "no judgment zone" here. If I can do it, you can do it.

So go ahead... do Step 1 now. I'll be here when you get back.


Step 2: Reframe it.

My inner strategy guru really wants to launch into a cool Pareto Chart exercise right now. I'm a total freak -I know! We can skip the fancy graphs for now but I reserve the right to pull out my Six Sigma handbook at some point in the future.

More simply, just look at your list and identify the common threads or themes. As you do your own mental dumpster diving, are there trashy bits which seem to come up over and over again? Are there a few consistent larger issues to which you can attribute the majority of your behaviors?

Looking at my own list from when I was in my most unhealthy physical state: I had a lot of "fat" and "tired" thoughts, feelings and conversations. I also had consistent themes of mindless and careless eating.

What stands out to you about your list?

Based on what you see, the next thing you are going to do is write a new statement about this particular area of your life. In theory, this should be counter to the themes and behaviors you noted.

Become the author of your own life. Welcome to the beginning of your very own "happily ever after."

Create an affirmation for your ultimate positive outcome.

Write it down. You can use the space underneath the original "problem" statement at the top of the page. After you complete your affirmation statement, you can actually cross out the problem statement. It no longer has control over you. It is no longer overwhelming. You have a new state of being which is taking it's place. YAY! (Happy dance optional but I highly recommend.)

Your affirmation for change should provide a positive statement as if your ideal situation is happening right now. Additionally, it should be something which drives you to make choices to support that ideal situation.

For example, here is mine: "I love and respect my beautiful, healthy body -- inside and out."

I can tell you first hand that it's pretty hard to say those words whilst stuffing the last five bites of your kid's Velveeta Shells-n-Cheese into your gullet.

Repeat your positive affirmation over and over. Feel it. Believe it!

Next, we'll outline the action plan. We now understand the past actions/inactions which clearly were not helpful. We've also positively identified and accepted our new state of being.

Based on this simple bit of preparation, the specific actions for change won't be nearly as overwhelming. In the past, we thought we just had to jump into the pile of trash and hope we could dig fast enough not to suffocate. No wonder, right!?

But now you have a plan and a bulldozer and you are AWESOME!

Next post: The final step
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Friday, May 8, 2009

What's keeping you up at night? (Step 1)

Thanks again for your wonderful, supportive emails and comments. I am so excited and grateful that my blog is resonating positively with people from all over the world. Almost 1,500 visitors from twelve countries in less than three months! THANK YOU!

One of the first goals of my Personal Strategic Management methodology is to help identify which areas of our lives require investment; starting with prioritizing our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

That said, my guess is you're already painfully aware of at least one area which feels like a massive pile of rotting trash right now. You don’t even need a "self-assessment tool" to tell you it stinks. (If you're new to my blog, this will make more sense if you read my previous post first).

The thing that keeps you up at night (as we used to say in cheesy sales land) could be in any one of the five categories.

Certainly you could be feeling overwhelmed with many tragic circumstances in the world [PSR]. Maybe you're having non-menopausal night sweats over missed or failing educational goals [L&D]. Or, particularly if you have teenagers, you may have an ulcer farm growing at home [HR & Facilities].
Personally and among my closest friends, two massive quagmires right now are around taking care of our physical health [Self] and gaining or regaining financial control [$].

Throughout our journey together, we’ll keep coming back to each area in various ways and with multiple day-to-day strategies.

Right at this moment you have a shed to clean. If you’ve got more than one, then pick the pile-up which falls in the SELF category. Based on everything you’ve heard from me so far, this should be assumed. But I know how you are. SELF must be first. No excuses.

This could get ugly, so put on your yellow rubber gloves and grab a shovel.

Actually, all you need is a pen and pad of paper for now. Based on my own experiences (aka "finding out the hard way"), I’ve come up with a three-step plan for tackling that one big, ugly problem which simply won’t wait for us to achieve overall perfect life balance.

Think of it as a kick-start.

What we're going to do first is explore the road which got us to Stinkville in the first place. Then we'll create a "new and improved" strategy map to use moving forward so that we don't end up in exactly the same place yet again.

Naturally this is more effective in an interactive format. Please email me if you want a (free) 1:1 session and/or group workshop. I'd love to do it.

Step 1: Own it.
At the top of the page, describe your "big problem" in one sentence or less. Leave a friendly blank space underneath that statement.
Below that, create two columns but leave space for a third which we'll use later.

Column 1: “THINGS I DID”

Column 2: “THINGS I DIDN’T DO”

Even if you're sure other people or things helped carry the bags to the shed, it’s your trash now.
How did YOU contribute to your current situation? Honestly, what might you have you done or failed to do which created the problem, even in some seemingly small way? (Or maybe even in a Tall, Grande or Venti way.)
Leaving space after each item, write down anything and everything you can think of. Get specific. Right now it’s about being completely open to anything which comes to mind.

Now, on any point where you wrote someone else’s name in one of the columns -- busted! Kindly go back and reword the statement so that you are clearly defining and owning your part.

It's not about shaming or blaming yourself. It's about being accountable and aware so that you can create a plan for effective and permanent change. You may have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

Thinking about my "Law of Attraction" post, be sure to include any feelings and thoughts which you've been experiencing relative to this area. Also, what words have you been saying in your own head or to others relative to this problem area?
I've positioned everything in past tense, but it's quite likely you're doing a lot of this stuff right now.

Depending on the depth of your denial, you may want to carry this list around with you for a week or so. Tune in. Listen and be open to the reality check.

Next post: Step 2

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