everyday success

Blog

Checking In on Yourself

Twelve weeks from today is New Years’ Day 2018!  It’s hard to imagine that 2017 is almost behind us but I’m afraid it is – almost behind us.  We’re in the last quarter of the year and we’re racing towards the holidays.  Halloween is one thing, but in fewer than 7 weeks, it will be Thanksgiving and you know what happens after that.  In what feels like minutes, it will be Christmas and Hanukkah and a week later, we’re celebrating the start of the New Year.

It feels as if 2017 raced right by.  Before we know it, we’ll be thinking New Year goals and resolutions.  But what about this year’s?  Now is a very good time to look at 2017.  Has it been a good year for you?  A momentous year?  Or, have you encountered bumps in your road?  Take a moment to look behind and ask yourself:

What were the highlights of this year?  What will you remember forever from this year?  Did you meet a new friend, start a new job, have a new child or grandchild?  Could be you traveled or learned something new.  

As you think of the good parts, make note of each and remember to congratulate yourself for the role you played in making each of them happen, in making it a good year for you.

What were your challenges?  Some years may be better than others so, did you run into anything that made this year more difficult?  How are you managing?  Do you have the help you need to get you through?  Have you reached  out to others so you don’t have to manage alone?

There are so many other ways to look at your 2017 experience, here are a few more.

  • Goals  Did you start the year with goals you wanted to happen?  Did they happen?  If not, is there anything you can do in the weeks ahead to fix that?
  • Fun  Did you have fun or happy times during the year?  Did you make sure you smiled – and found things to smile about? 
  • Family & Friends  Our relationships make an immense difference in life.  What changed, either favorably or not, in your closest relationships?  What might you do in the next twelve weeks to strengthen or solidify these, especially with the holidays in mind?
  • Growth, Hobbies  It may look as if I’ve returned to the idea of having fun and you wouldn’t be wrong.  As you look back and then ahead to the remainder of the year, those things you do that are pure expressions of you – whether gardening or golf, hiking or learning a language – give us a deep and needed satisfaction.
  • Health  Checking up on your health is every bit as important as exercise and diet.  Do have need to check with your doctor, your dentist or anyone else?  How often do we mean to do these details but somehow our intense schedule gets in the way?  Remember you and your health!
  • Work and Money  What did you plan for your work this year?  Did it happen and, if not, what can you do between now and 1/1/18?  Whether we love our work or it is a means to an end, it does require your thoughtful attention.
  • Love Life  When you are married, partnered or otherwise committed, do you take time for just the two of you?  Taking time with your partner is immensely important.  Now, as a woman who didn’t marry til 50, I can assure those of you who do not have a current love, there is so much in our lives that is deeply fulfilling.  Instead of a romantic date, do the things in life you love doing.  I just bring up love life and romance because so many people forget to take time for the relationship.

We’ve twelve weeks during which we can add our own final spin on our year.  Plus, we’ll kick off our new year in strength.  May these be good weeks for you!


Success is Not Final

Success is not final, failure is not final: it is the courage to go on that counts.  Winston Churchill

It sounds so easy, you work hard and build your life, you go to school and establish a career, you meet your partner, buy your home and create a family.  Right?  Easy-peasy.  But then what, if you do all these things, is the rest of life just coasting?  What do you do over all those years?  Yes, you raise your kids, but that’s twenty years and then they’re off. 

It turns out that those early tasks are your training ground.  You are making habits that will serve you for your lifetime, habits of working to goals and making them happen.

It sounds so easy but things happen.  Companies get sold or they change their plans and let people go – not because the people weren’t good but because they were no longer part of the plan.  Sometimes we discover that we don’t even like our chosen career.  Or, marriages can fall apart.  Illness can happen.

Suddenly what seemed like a good life, one easily thought of as a successful life, can turn around. It can feel as if you’re veering of the road but you are not.  The thing that is so interesting about life is that it is not a straight line to nirvana.  There will likely be bumps but never, no never, think of them as failure.  It’s simply a time to reassess, roll up your sleeves and get to it.  It takes courage and it takes willingness to turn it around.

Another favorite quote comes from Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, “If one does not master one’s circumstances, then she is bound to be mastered by them.”  When things go bump, it’s time to break out the courage and get on with it.

On the other hand, life doesn’t always take off at the beginning.  That’s terrible because it isn’t building your confidence in your success.  Still, it is not a lifelong sentence, frustration is not forever.  Remember to seek out a few people you admire and with them, develop a plan. Check in with them on your progress, make yourself accountable to the plan.  It’s mastering your circumstance and finding your success, your everyday success.


Some Days, Life Feels Too Fast

You are not alone in thinking that the world is moving oh, so quickly.  It is.  But it’s not just the pace of life today, it’s the high drama events that add to the intensity.  

Our phone beeps with incoming texts and tweets, emails and posts.  We waken to an intense schedule of work, to-do lists, ferrying the kids after school, managing the highs and lows of family and friends – all to the tune of incoming beeps and messages.  These are the things of our everyday lives.  Somedays it feels doable but other times it becomes too much.

This month, however, we’ve all sustained high drama moments with hurricanes ripping towns apart and leaving floods behind.  And, now, a mass murderer.  Even when we’re not the immediate victims of these horrific events, we feel them.  We want to act, to help, to smooth the path for those who’ve suffered.  Afterwards, we absorb what has happened.

It can be a high drama, fast-paced world which also means we each need to remember to take a moment for ourselves.  There are ways to calm the pressure that can build up inside us, the anxiety that results from feeling overwhelmed. 

Experience the moment.  To begin, stop the mental dialog that is running through your head.  We all do it, we plan dialogs, make lists, figure out dinner, plan the softball schedule.  Stop the dialog and bring your thoughts to the present moment.  You may choose to keep a favorite photo nearby to slow or settle your thoughts.  You may find taking a walk can bring calm, maybe even noticing the beauty of our world.

Gratitude.  While we hear this over and over, science has proved that a daily gratitude habit, grows one’s sense of well-being.  So, name the things that make your life good.

It’s not big things that return us to calm, a sense of normalcy and well-being; usually, it’s the small things.  Hugging babies.  Calling dear friends.  Working in your garden.  Listening to music or a hilarious podcast.  Moment by moment, we regain our equilibrium.


We Stand United

We have huge hearts.  When things go bad for other people, we care, we care deeply.  When others suffer, it’s our nature to help, to take action.  We’re a compassionate people with the willingness to stand up and be counted by helping in whatever way we can. 

When evildoers wreak horror, we stand united.  When winds destroy, waters flood and fires burn, we come together and we act.

While we stand united, the help we offer is different according to our own unique abilities.  First responders race to the scene providing aid to victims and helping to recover the salvageable.  Some first responders care for the injured, others work to recover infrastructure.  Still others work behind-the-scene whether by hugging and holding or by restoring and rebuilding.  Most recently, out of a need to be of help, people waited for hours in lines to donate blood.

In the case of mass murder, many among us courageously shield and care for their fellow beings, immediately giving of themselves to serve others.  In so doing, they foil the evil at hand.  As the victims are cared for, we then stop to look around and wonder how such an act is even possible.  Its enormity shakes us to our core; we are changed, forever changed.  As we come to know about such horrors, our humanness pulls us together. 

We are a deeply caring nation.  We stand united with victims of calamity.  We are bound by our humanity and our readiness to lend a hand, to support, to do something that can somehow make a difference.

It’s an investment of spirit.  In times of disaster, we are there for each other; we stand united.

Updated from my 2012 blog written at the time of another human calamity. 


The Words We Choose

You had a great weekend.  Now it’s Monday morning and you’re going to tell your friend at work all about it.  You want to make sure she gets just how special it was for you.  How will you tell her?  What words are you going to choose to make sure grasps its importance.

“It was amazing, it was awesome”, you say and she says, “that’s nice”.  You can tell she’s not feeling it, she isn’t experiencing your meaning.  You wonder why.  After all, awesome is an overwhelming feeling and that was your experience.

Unfortunately, awesome and amazing are so overused that they no longer mean what we want them to mean.  Today, it can be harder to express something that is exceptional to us because we’re used to hype.  Every day we hear exaggerations in advertising, in social media; everything is bigger and better and best which makes it hard to share that one weekend is better than another.

Instead, add a couple of words that describe what made it good for you.  Was it the people or a particular person?  Was it the experience itself, maybe a great concert, movie or performance?  Was it natural beauty like sky, water and more?  While you can name a weekend a wow, you can also add a sentence or two that explain yourself, that tells what made it better than your typical weekend.

     We danced all night       

     The music rocked my soul

     We hiked through a forest of golden leaves

     My daughter and I sang in a concert together

It doesn’t take a lot of words to express what made it so special for you and when you do, your friend will fully understand that you’d just had an exceptional weekend.  It’s easy to say, “it was amazing” but by adding just a few more words, you’ll tell so much more.


What have today’s happiness scientists learned?

That’s right, there are actually happiness scientists.  They spend their days and their lives working to find the formula – what do we need to do to be happy.  Are you curious what they’ve learned?

One important happiness scientist is Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This mother of four is a psychology professor and author of the best-seller, The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. 

In her decades of research, Dr. Lyubomirsky uncovered the source of happiness.  Her results are so instructive that it’s easy to apply her findings to our own lives.

10% of our happiness comes from circumstance.  This includes all the things that happen in our lives – the good, the bad and the indifferent.  On the upside, it’s meeting the love of our dreams, finding our perfect job, buying a home – all the good things of life.  On the downside, it’s the loss of a job, illness, the death of someone we love and other painful life experience. 

50% of our happiness comes from our genetics.  We’re born to it, our ancestors handed down what amounts to about half of our personal level of happiness.  Yes, if you wish, you can point to your Great Aunt Monica or Grandpa Ben – not just for the color of your eyes but also for a large part of your happiness.

40% of our happiness is our own to decide – it’s our own mind, our own habits and our own actions that determine that much of our happiness.

Are you surprised?  It’s natural to want to poke holes, to say, yeah, but she didn’t know about the car crash that changed my life or that huge amount of money coming my way – those are circumstances that will change everything. 

Well, not so fast.  There will always be circumstances that make us either super happy or super unhappy.  It’s the way the world works.  What we don’t think about when we’re on a high or a low is that, in time, we’ll return to our original happiness point, the point before the happy or sad event.  We go back to our normal.  We adapt to the facts of our lives.  Changes become our new normal.

The forty percent solution

We’re in charge.  It’s what we do with what we’ve got that makes the difference.  If we’re super tall, it’s unlikely we’ll be successful as a jockey but we might consider basketball.  On the other hand, super tallness doesn’t have to dictate what we will or won’t do.  Could be we’re a math whiz who is a great dancer and a fabulous cook. 

How we work with what we’ve got – the circumstances and the genetic disposition – is what will lead us to happiness and well-being.  It’s what we could call the forty percent solution.  Perhaps the most tantalizing outcome of Lyubomirsky’s research is the discovery that we are in charge of forty percent of our happiness. 

It all adds up.  The things we do, the things we say, the things we think along with all the things we don’t do add up – the sum of all these things makes a difference in our happiness, in our feeling of well-being.

Resource:  Lyubomirsky, Sonja.  The How of Happiness, A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.


Everyday Celebrations

When we think about celebrations, our minds run to parties, presents and maybe even a toast or a dance. We’ve a lifetime of celebrations so our mind quickly imagines an event. We know weddings. We know showers. We know birthday parties. Those are the big celebrations, everyday celebrations are a bit different.

Everyday celebrations don’t require hoopla though they may require forethought and planning.  Quite simply, everyday celebrations recognize something special about another person, a person important in your life.

Everyday celebrations can happen every day or every other day or once a week or whatever timeline works in your relationship with the person you choose to celebrate. 

Everyday celebrations come in many forms.  It may be you leave notes for that special person.  When he travelled, my late husband knew to anticipate the cards and notes I slipped into his luggage.  He’d open one each evening before bed but he’d anticipated each message all day long. 

It could be you make a phone call or stop-by for a visit.  It might be you take a few minutes of one-on-one with each of your children.  It might be you establish a date night with your partner or spouse and make it a ritual.

What makes it a celebration?  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you focus on a special facet of the other person.  It’s a celebration when you recognize them.  It’s even a celebration when you hear out their deepest fears because you are caring for them and their unique needs.  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you remember to tell that other person how much you care.

What do you have to do to make it happen?  You’ll need to watch and listen.  To celebrate another person means you are thoughtfully aware of their life experience.  Perhaps your spouse or friend is fearful for their job.  Perhaps your person is training for a marathon, a mountain climb or even a crossword competition.  Well-timed thoughtfulness will encourage them in their endeavor, it will make them feel appreciated and you’ll feel pretty wonderful as well.

What do social psychologists say about everyday celebrations?  It’s like a glue, it helps to strengthen relationships.  They also note that the path to personal happiness is strewn with small, thoughtful acts on behalf of others.


Failures Can Lead to Wins

One of the winningest basketball players of history, Michael Jordan, said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”  Jordan tirelessly practiced his sport; yes, he was talented but he always worked at his talent.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the record player and batteries.  The inventive Mr. Edison described his path to success as loaded with discoveries.  He said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

For Jordan it was practice.  For Edison it was a learning process.  We don’t see either as a failure; we only remember their wins because their ultimate wins were so big.  Edison also said that, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Too often, we think we should be able to get whatever it is we want to get immediately.  It’s easy to lose hope as we move along our path to whatever is in our sights, to our immediate goal.  Rather than lose hope, rather than give up, the answer is to narrow your focus and be willing to risk yet another attempt. 

Don’t let a failure foil your plan.  Allow for failure but don’t make it a habit.  Instead, ask yourself what caused the misstep; then, figure out how to improve on your next effort.  Success is often a matter of persistence and courage.


 

For more on how failure is often found on the path to success, read Megan McArdle’s just published The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success or Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb and Sarah Caldicott.


 


Getting Out of Getting Stuck

It may be your diet.  You’ve lost 12 pounds but now you are struggling.  You’ve even gained back a few of those pounds.  You just can’t get your diet momentum back.

Perhaps it’s the mile a day you promised yourself.  You made it through 19 days all in a row but now you’ve missed 6 days.

It might be you are looking for a new job.  You dove right in and sent out ten resumes each and every week for one whole month.  Then no more.  It’s been another month without a single resume.

There are plenty of ways to get stuck along the road to a goal.  We all do it.  There are stumbling blocks galore.  The real question is how to get back on track.

  1. Learn from your stumbling blocks.  It is true that we all run into blocks.  To get to your success, use your stumbling blocks.  Figure out what happened, what got in your way.  Once you’ve identified the thing or things that can get in your way, it’s that much more certain you’ll get to your goal.
  2. Appreciate the small stuff.  Think back to the things that made it work for you at the start of your quest.  Often, it is the tiniest details that become the foundation of our success.  What made you feel good, satisfied, and proud in that first week?  Find more of those; replicate the good experiences and sensations.  Identify the details that make your change work for you.
  3. Break it into tiny actions.  Replace your afternoon cookie with an apple.  Put hand weights on your kitchen counter and as you wait for the microwave, use them!  Introduce tiny changes into your day and let them cumulate to bigger successes.
  4. Appreciate your success.  12 pounds is success.  You may have more to go but you have a successful start; enjoy it.  40 job applications or resumes sent or networking calls made is a big deal.  Those 40 may not have resulted in the job you seek but you learned a lot in the process.  Appreciate that you learned; use what you’ve learned as tools in your next efforts. 
  5. Make it a habit. Repeat your successes over and over.  Savor the sensation of success and then build on it.  Repeat those each and every day.

We like straight lines.  We want to race from deciding on a goal to achieving that goal.  We want to see ourselves atop a mountain after a steep climb pumping our arms in success.

Success is often the result of zigs, zags and rocky roads.  Never think of a road block or a stumble as failure; instead, recognize it as a mere zig on your road to success.


New Year’s 2017 - Day 4

Breaking Deep-Rooted Habits

It wouldn’t be a habit if it weren’t something you’ve done over and over and over again without ever thinking about it.  Habits become ingrained.  We repeat them mindlessly.  Sometimes we call our habits routines – really?  Our routines become habitual.

We get up each day – some of us pop right into the shower, others pull on their sweats and work out, others race to the coffee pot.  It’s rare we vary our routine except for holidays.  Our favorite foods, our beverages, our daily activities – all the ones we repeat each and every day, these are habitual.

Habits and their routine are not bad things – in fact, they’re super helpful in this crazy, busy world we live in.   Otherwise, we’ d spend lots of time planning the same things over and over again.  So, habits are good and helpful.  Except when they’re not.  Here’s where we run ourselves into a challenge – repetitive can sometimes run us into hard to break habits.

If you are thinking about breaking a habit, start by thinking about what you are doing when you put that habit into action.  Is there a particular time of day or a particular social situation that means it’s time for your habit?  Pull the entire experience apart to find what drives you to the habit.  For example, when I wanted to quit smoking, I realized that I identified myself as a smoker and that I didn’t like the idea of saying I could never smoke again.  What did I do?  I decided to put smoking off; twenty years later, I continue to think of myself as a smoker though I haven't had a cigarette for over twenty years.  You can read more about how this worked at 15-minute wins.

Habit guru, Charles Duhigg, tells about his afternoon cookie habit that he wanted to change.  With thought, he figured out that his purpose for going to the cafeteria for a cookie was to chat with others – he needed a break and human contact!  His result, instead of stopping to chat with a friend in the cafeteria, they do it in a meeting room not laden with food.  And, he brings an apple!

This, of course, is just the first step.  And, it isn’t as easy as these two examples might imply.  Still, if you begin to pull apart what reminds you to practice your habit, you’ll likely find some clues that will help you to break that habit.


1 2 3 > »