everyday success


Making Today a Success

What does it take to make it a great day for you?  What happens in a day when, at its end, you think, this was a success?

A day’s success is different than a lifetime’s success.  A lifetime is loaded with ways to measure success.  A day, those 24 little hours, are usually not quite so huge or complex.  That’s not to say that a day might not be momentous.  We have plenty of big days in our lives – graduations, weddings, meeting the one person we’ll love, job offers, the birth of a child and on and on. 

There are days that are significant but that’s not what we’re about today.  Today we’re thinking about your everyday, the days that are your more usual kinds of days.  What makes those days successful for you?  It’s a great practice to use today’s good and not so good events as a guide for tomorrow.

To get to daily success, though, means you’ll name the things you do each day that bring positive results and a sense of satisfaction.  Those are the things you make a practice, those are the things that become habit.

Conversely, make note of the things in your day that have a negative outcome or just plain don’t feel good.  Those are the things you’ll want to stop.

“There is no beginning too small.”  Those wise words of Thoreau’s prove themselves true over and over again.  My friend, Betty, while doing chemo, viewed her success in small chunks – we called it her “making it to lunch” approach to each day.  We looked at the events of her every day, we broke her day into small segments and that helped her confront adversity.

A day of success doesn’t just happen; instead, a day of success is yours to create.  A day of success is a source of happiness.

I Just Made a Mistake!

I just made a mistake and I can feel it.  The more my brain grasps that I made a mistake, the higher my blood pressure goes.  I can feel my cheeks burning, they’re turning red and my heart is racing. 

Such strong sensations: our entire body reacts to the fact of a mistake; it goes against our grain.  Suddenly our very core is challenged. 

When you think you are doing the right thing and discover that it’s exactly the wrong thing, our whole body reacts.  It becomes physical.  It even feels a bit defensive – probably because our mind is trying to figure out how this new fact that used to be wrong is now right.

Breathe.  Sit down and breathe a moment.  Close your eyes and try to slow your brain; ease it from its mad whirl.  Wrong, I’m wrong.  But, how could I be wrong?  I’m not wrong, I don’t make mistakes.  Well, as it turns out, yes, I do make mistakes and now I’m trying to manage that fact.

The only solution is to calm down.  Once that happens, I can take a look at what happened so I can help my mind understand.  It is a learning moment even if it feels just terrible. 

We all make mistakes.  That’s right, while we don’t like to think so, while are so very certain we are never mistaken, it actually does happen. 

What to do when you are suddenly confronted with the fact of a mistake?  First, give yourself time to process your physical and emotional reaction; your surprise may strengthen your response.  Before you share with others, work at regaining your composure. 

Take deep, calming breaths with closed eyes.  To fix mistakes means you need your full brain power and focus.  That means you need to be fully in control.  Process the physical and emotional side of the mistake.  Then, own up to the mistake and fix it if that is possible.  Finally, figure out how to avoid a repeat of the mistake.

What Kind of A Person Are You? A Last Look – For Now

For the last time in this brief series, we return to considering what kind of person we are.  While this is the first time Everyday Success blog has addressed the subject, we’ll return to it now and again.  In the meantime, as always, we’ll appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

The idea for these posts came from a recent interview in which we learned that a fashion designer knew early in her life what kind of woman she wanted to be.  That made us wonder, what defines us a person.  

Your purpose in life.  This is a difficult question.  Some of us appear to know exactly what to do with their life while others of us struggle to find our place in the world.  It could be you’ve not even spent time considering your purpose.

If you’ve not yet identified your purpose in life, begin by reviewing the words you’ve gathered in response to all the categories we’ve considered in this series – physical presence, personality, relationships and values.  Then, start picturing your purpose.  Write and rewrite.  Trial balloon ideas to see what feels right for you.

While writing, ask yourself about your passions, the things you love doing.  What is it you are doing when you lose track of time?  Those are the things that bring you deepest satisfaction.  And, those are the things that offer a glimpse into your purpose. 

If, after writing and thought, you still struggle with identifying your purpose in life, start a dialog with a close friend, a partner or perhaps a sibling.  Be sure you choose someone who cares about your well-being.

This is not a test; there is no right or wrong purpose.  Purpose is uniquely you; it’s what you are all about.  Not only that, it may take you some time to decide what your true purpose really is. 

Your hallmarks.  Finally, what are your hallmarks?  Hallmarks are things that make you especially distinctive.  Hallmarks are different from all the other categories.  For example, a hallmark related interests might be your work on behalf of animal rights.  Or, a physical attributes might be your red hair or an artful and ever so visible tattoo. 

Some women have selected a piece of jewelry as a hallmark.  Others, like Carrie Bradshaw, make their love of shoes a hallmark.  Hallmarks are not your purpose.  Rather, they are a demonstration of a particular personal passion. 

Hallmarks speak volumes about who you are.  What would you say are your special hallmarks? 

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve thought more deeply about the kind of person you are, again, what are the three words you used to describe yourself at the start of this series? 

______________,  ______________,  ______________,  ______________

Were three enough?  As you’ve likely concluded after reading these blogs, there’s so much that describes each of us.  That's why we've added a fourth entry line above.  You may want to use ten words, maybe even more.  What kind of a woman are you?  What kind of a man are you?  The answer may not be clear to you today but your life’s journey will be guided by the kind of person you choose to be.

What Kind of A Person Are You? A Second Look

On Friday, we began thinking about what kind of person we are.  Why?  After reading recently that a fashion designer knew early in her life what kind of woman she wanted to be, it made us wonder, what defines us a person.  

There are so many ways to think about the kind of person we are.  Plus, there are so many descriptors within each category.  On Friday, we began by naming the countless ways to describe our physical presence and our personality.  Today, we’re considering our relationships and values – both contribute to how we define ourselves as a person.

Relationships.  It’s easy to name our relationships.  We’re employees, bosses and peers, we’re partners or spouses, we’re parents and we’re children.  Plus, of course, we are friends. 

But that’s not all there is to relationships.  How you participate in a relationship is as important as the fact of the relationship.  As a friend, do you initiate things with others or do you wait for others to make things happen?  How do you handle each of these relationships?  Are you a nurturer in your relationships?  Do you listen to the people in your life?  Do you like lots of relationships or just a few?  

What are the words that describe the essence of you in each of your relationships?   ______________,  _______________, ____________

Your values.  What do you value most?  Your marriage or commitment to your partner will likely top the list.  Your children are likely right at the top as well.  If that’s the case, then family values will make your list. 

Before we go further, though, let’s look at what values are.  They are the guiding principles of your behavior.  Values are the aspects of life where you attach greatest importance.  Usually, we carry some variation of our core values for life.

There are so many kinds of values and you know in your heart, which are most meaningful to you.  To get your thinking going, here are just a few of the values people hold dear.  Integrity.  Faith/religion/spirituality.  Personal vision of success.  Compassion, light-heartedness, balance.  Dedication, loyalty, commitment, allegiance, single-mindedness.  Your work.  Your life’s work.  Your leisure time activities. 

How you personally put your values into action is what makes you most special.  You may be big-hearted, hard-working, light-at-heart, an animal lover, conservative, liberal, libertarian, family-oriented, an artist, athletic, an animal lover, a civil libertarian, political, apolitical, musical, freedom-loving, kind. 

As you name your values, you may think your list is too great.  Not true, highlighting your most meaningful values is important.  These are the values you hold most dear, the values by which you live your life.

Once you identify your values, decide which you hold most dear, which identify you.  Make note of these.  ____________,  ____________,  __________

On Wednesday, we’ll take one last look as we consider the kind of person we are.  Until then, you may choose to add, cross-out or make any other kind of change as you express the kind of person you are.  We are each extraordinary.  Slowly, over time, we polish and perfect ourselves.

What Kind of a Person are You?  A First Look

A fashion designer recently said that she knew what kind of woman she wanted to be before she knew what kind of career she’d have. That made me wonder, what kind of a woman am I?  What kind of woman/man are you?  Interesting to think about but it's a question with a gazillion answers.

We often use monikers about ourselves and others.  I’m musical.  She’s elegant.  He’s all business.  They’re the nerds.   He’s so much fun.  She tells the best stories.  They’re collectors.

Before we go any further, quick, what are the three words you’d use to describe you?   ______________,  ______________,  ______________.

There’s the physical.   Are you agile, quick on your feet?  Do you walk like a dancer, with rhythm or is your walk more athletic?  Do you move with purpose?  Are you energetic or slightly lethargic?  Do you stand tall or is your stance a bit rounded?  Before we even get to size and shape, there are so many physical descriptors.  What are yours?   

There’s personality.   There are as many personality styles as there are humans.  Actions, thoughts, feelings and attitudes – these are the things that make up a personality.

Thoughtful, kind, angry, hard-working, lazy, wise, thoughtless, caring, sweet, mean, bitter, friendly, unfriendly, leader, follower, doer.  We could fill pages with personality characteristics.  What describes your personality? 

Don’t forget that our personality may have different shades or degrees – our public style, our friends and family style, our business style and on.  Still, our basic personality crosses the many parts of our life. 

On Monday, we’ll continue our look at some of things that express the kind of person you choose to be.  In the meantime, you might collect the words that best describe you.

A Spot of Winter Cheer

Will this winter ever end?  Where are you on that question?  Right now, it’s 16 degrees at two in the afternoon and it’s snowing.  That should give you a sense of where I am on the subject.  We’ve done enough of the slog through slosh.  It’s time to put the boots away.  It’s time for a warm sun and the brilliance of spring flowers. 

Spring Arrives  in Three Weeks

That’s right; at about Noon on March 20, we’ll reach spring.  But, of course, that’s in name only.  Until those buds pop through the earth, until tulips populate our world, until then it’s really still winter.

What to do?  To begin, remember your smile.  Have you ever noticed that when you just plain smile, your body feels a bit easier?  It’s a simple act, to smile but it does lighten our heart.

Share your smile with the people in your life.  When you enter a room, when you pick up the phone, have your smile ready.  People will respond warmly and suddenly you’ll realize that your spirit is Spring-like even if the sky’s still grey and the temp below freezing.

Buy flowers.  Wear colorful clothing.  Maybe even buy a spring outfit.  Tell jokes.  Walk the mall if you can’t get outside.  Put a “spring” in your step.  Make a lemon meringue pie or a fruit salad.  Keep smiling even when another inch is on its way.  Laugh a lot.  Plan your garden.  Plan your summer vacation. 

As spring draws near, remember to celebrate the signs of new life, the leaf buds, the longer days, the flowers.  Spring is a time of hope; let’s hope it comes quickly!

Making Change Happen - That Uncomfortable Feeling

You can see it in your mind, the you who has taken time to be calm, the you who is fit and ready for action, the you who is climbing that ladder at work – in every case you are winning the day.  You’ve made your plan, you are set for action.  You are ready for the change that will take you to that new place.

But, wait!  Did you remember to plan for the fact that you are changing you?  That’s right, the you who is a jangle of nerves from overload, you are going to make a change.  The you who is at her desk all day at work and when home munches on popcorn in front of the tube, you are going to make a change.  The you who sells herself short at work, you are going to make a change.

This is the hardest part of change.  We all know what we “should” do to be fit or calm or get promotions, even to save that down payment.  The hard part is that YOU ARE CHANGING YOU.

What to do?  First, don’t start with too big a goal and pay close attention to yourself with your first steps.  Did you forget to do what you wanted to do?  Or, did it just feel not quite right?  If you are known as the ‘yes’ person people can count on, how do you learn to say no?  If it’s your habit to diminish your value at work, you may stumble over the words or actions that change that. 

It feels uncomfortable

Whether you seek 5 little minutes of daily calm or a promotion or to stop playing computer solitaire, change takes you outside your comfort zone.  It’s new and it often doesn’t feel quite right.   Certainly not at the start.

That brings us right back to the fact that to make a change means you are changing you.  Your goal, then, is to make it become “right” and the only way for that to happen is to practice your change enough, to make the change you seek yours.  Yes, you’ll feel uncomfortable or squirmy or even testy.  But that won’t last.  If you let yourself move through, you’ll get to the other side where your change becomes your reality.

Start small and accept that your change won’t feel like you at the beginning.  With practice, you’ll likely surprise yourself, you’ll make it yours. 

Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, tells of his personal effort to replace an afternoon cookie.  To begin, he kept a watchful eye, noticing his physical and emotional sensations when it neared the time for his daily cookie.  He realized he wasn’t just hungry for food, there was something more.  Ultimately, he replaced that cookie with an apple and a brief chat with a friend.  He ended up fulfilling both the physical and emotional need.

Find the things that fulfill you as you make your change.  Day by day, practice the new and distance yourself from the old.  Soon, you’ll find you are becoming more and more comfortable with the new.  Still, keep an eye out for those old ways, they’ll keep coming after you.  Use the strength you gained in making the change to foil any challenges to your success.

Making Change Happen – When Will You Get There?

Today, we are connected and in control.  That’s just the way it is and that’s also one reason change can be difficult.  We want things to happen now not six months from now. 

Successful change, however, means you’ve been systematic - you've gotten to your goal a step at a time.  That’s not always easy; a slow march to a goal can make us impatient.  Instead of impatience, shoot for a lot of small successes. 

Setting timelines

Some goals come with a date attached.  Your goal may be tied to a special event like a wedding or a marathon.  Maybe it’s a trip you are planning.  Or, you may be saving to buy a home.

Whether you have a specific date in mind or not, setting a timeline will help you as you get to your goal.  This is where you begin to move your imagined goal to your reality.

For many goals, there’s likely a number involved.  How many pounds you want to lose, how much you want to save for your trip or down payment, those are easy numbers to imagine.  But, what about quitting smoking?  It’s easy; you can name the number of hours, days and weeks you go without smoking.  Getting to a career can even be translated into a timeline.

With an event deadline, your timing is obvious and comes down to a simple formula:

Divide your goal (number of miles, pounds, dollars, etc.) by the number of weeks or months to the event.

If you want to lose twenty pounds in five months, that’s

20 pounds / 5 months = 4 pounds a month

Simply divide your goal (20 pounds) by the amount of time you have to achieve your goal (5 months).  The result?  To lose 20 pounds in 5 months, you’ll want to lose 4 pounds each month. 

To take it further, 5 months is 20 weeks.  Dividing 20 pounds by 20 weeks shows that at 1 pound each week for 20 weeks, you’ll reach your 20 pound goal.

If you need $2,000 for your trip and you’re leaving in 6 months, you’ll want to save about $80 a week or $335 each month. 

$2,000 / 6 months = $355 in savings each month

If your goal is to quit cigarettes, you’ll look at your timeline just a bit differently.  In fact, you don’t even need math to use numbers when quitting smoking.  You just need to count.  It’s been fifteen minutes since I had a cigarette.  It’s been 15 hours since I had a cigarette.  It’s been 15 days . . . and on and on. 

Why a timeline?
  1. With a timeline, you’ll quickly see whether your goal is too big or too small.  If you’re training for your first marathon, you can’t start with a 5-mile run.  Rather, you’ll build your endurance over time.  The same is true for savings.  You may want to have a down payment by the end of the year but can you save enough each month to get you to your goal?
  2. By breaking your big goal into smaller actions, your likelihood for success grows.
  3. With a timeline, you’ll reach lots of smaller goals/successes - each one to be celebrated.  That’s right, make getting to your goal fun.  With plenty of smaller successes, you are creating a strong foundation for longer-term success.
  4. With a timeline, you’ll build your confidence that you can reach your goal.
  5. With a timeline and multiple smaller goals, should you slip-up and miss a small goal, you can get back on track without blowing your big goal.

With a timeline, you can allow for a moment of failure without failure becoming a habit.  Small steps are the building blocks of success.

I Blew my New Year’s Resolve

It’s an unintended demonstration – and a pretty public one.  I blew one of my most important New Year’s resolutions, to blog three times a week.  What happened?  I failed to succeed because I failed to plan.  Well, I planned to write, I just didn’t plan what I would write.

To make change happen, to take your goal or resolution from an idea to the real thing, means you need to think ahead, you need to figure out what actions to take before you even start.

What can I do about it?  I can sit myself down at my computer and PLAN.  It’s time to dust off my disappointment and the embarrassment.  It’s time to start again.  But first, the plan. 

In my particular case, I didn’t break my goal into small easy steps – I didn’t make a list of the specific blogs I planned to write over the next few weeks.  Instead, I wrote a lot of stuff at the start but without a plan, none of it took shape into real blogs. 

What happened next?  It’s what happens to so many resolutions, I stopped writing.

Does it sound familiar?  It’s much like starting a diet or an exercise program.  It takes more than just a decision to make the change happen; first you need to plan how you’ll make your change happen.  Otherwise, it is so easy to stop.

I’ve worked out a plan.  Every week, I have to imagine blog subjects and make a list of the blogs I won’t even start for another two weeks.  Every week, I’ll think up three or four ideas for blogs a couple weeks down the road.  That way, I’ll have time to think about them before I write.  And, when I sit down to write, I’ll know what I’m supposed to write about.

It’s exactly the same as deciding to prepare for a marathon.  You’ve got your running shoes.  You plan to start running four days a week.  But did you plan on that storm?  Are you going to run in snow and ice?  What’s your back-up plan for a rainy day?  To make it still harder, what will you do to make sure you get your runs in and keep up your demanding work schedule?  With a plan, you can make it happen.  If you don’t have a plan, then what will you do when you open your door and all you see is an icy cold? 

It’s the same for a diet.  Have you planned what your family will eat while you are making changes?  Have you planned for diet boredom?  What will you do when you go out to eat with friends?  If you ask yourself these kinds of questions, if you think ahead, you’ll be ready to take on the world.

The weird thing is, it’s so easy.  Once you work out how you are going to make change happen, all you have to do is work your plan.  It’s time to get back on track.

Before Another Year: Planning for Reality

We’re wired.  We like things that are instantaneous.  We’re in a world where we want whatever we want right now. 

That makes resolutions pretty difficult.  Often, our resolutions are for goals that take time.  But, darn it, we want it right now.  Instead, we’re faced with doing it again and again week-after-week and month-after-month and that can be tough.  Making resolutions happen can get pretty boring.  That is why many resolution-makers give up by mid-March.

Making resolutions happen means you’ll embrace the reality of your goal.  When we lose weight, it’s two pounds a week – if we’re lucky.  If we’re training for a marathon, it takes months of running to grow our stamina.  If we’re saving for a down payment, it can take a year or two or three. 

All of this means that to win at resolutions, to get to your goal, you need a plan, a timeline and check-points.  Change can happen; count on it.  We’ll start with the plan and over the next few days, we’ll cover the timeline and ways to keep to your plan.

The Plan. 

Rather than dive into a huge goal, remember that there’s more to your goal than a decision.

Break your goal into small, seemingly easy steps.  Small goals are so much more achievable than one huge goal.  If it’s twenty pounds you seek, then look at it in five pound increments.  If it’s a marathon, start with 3 or 5 mile sprints.  If it’s a down payment, celebrate each and every $1,000 you set aside.  That’s right, the  other benefit from taking small steps to your goal – you congratulate yourself for every single success along the road to your goal. 

Plan for the gazillion details that get between you and your goal.  The devil is in the details.   It’s a quote we’ve long heard and it absolutely relates to goal-setting.  There’s so much more than the actual goal.  So, start with a list of all the things you’ll have to do to make it happen. 

For example, if you are planning weight loss, there’s much more than naming a diet.  You’ll want to create menus, figure out shopping lists, decide which restaurants will allow you to stick to your plan. 

Decide whether to tell others.  That may seem a strange consideration but social scientists have uncovered counter-intuitive data.  It turns out that those who are most successful at achieving change in their lives have not shared their plans with many.

Prepare for naysayers.  What will you say?  Count on it, there will people who will tell you that you won’t make it, that it is just too hard.  Prepare your dialog.  What will you say to those who try to throw cold water on your plans.

With a plan, you’ve greatly increased your chances for success.  On the next posts, we’ll look at setting a timeline and ways to check in on your progress.

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