everyday success

Blog Archive: Dec, 2013

Follow Your Star

On this day of peace and joy throughout the world, take a moment to reflect.  Within each of us is a compass, an inner knowledge of our own unique path.  Whatever else you choose for 2014, make it a year in which you imagine and explore.  Make it a year to reset if necessary.  Make it a year that expresses your essence.  Make it a year in which you believe in yourself.  Follow your North Star.

Before Another Year: What are Your Strengths?

Before starting on resolutions, it helps to first look at your strengths and weaknesses.    Take a look back over 2013, to remember your best moments, your greatest successes?  As you do so, take note of your greatest strengths.

To help your recall, make a chart with two columns on which you’ll take notes as you look back.  It doesn’t have to be a paper chart – it could be in your mind or notes on your tablet.  One column is your strengths column.  The other column is for your vulnerabilities.  Or, you could use the word weaknesses – we all have one or two.

Under the strengths column, list the things you’ve undertaken that worked, that gave you the most satisfaction, those that you consider successful.  Still under the strengths column, add the details of each success, especially how you made it happen.  As you do so, highlight your strengths, those special aspects that are uniquely you.

For an even deeper look at your strengths, you might take the Character Strengths Profile.    It only takes twenty minutes and at the end, you’ll receive an analysis of your core strengths.

Under the vulnerabilities/weaknesses column, take note of those things that didn’t work out as well as in your last year.  Perhaps you started a diet but didn’t succeed.  Or, you may have tried out for a promotion and didn’t succeed.  What might have stood in the way of reaching your goals?

Sometimes we are overly critical of ourselves.  Be sure to give yourself credit where it is due.  That means recognizing the successes in your life.  If you are unsure about your successes, ask a friend to help you enumerate your successes and your strengths. 

On the other hand, be sure you don’t inflate your strengths.  The goal is to make our resolutions happen and that means we have to rely on our strengths not our weaknesses.
Make 2014 the year you use your strengths.

Before Another Year:  What About 2013?

We’re still shopping and writing cards and checking things off our holiday lists. It all comes quickly at this point in the year.  Holiday celebrations are immediately followed by the start of a new year. 

We’re pretty good at buying gifts and wrapping them.  We can pick up the groceries and prepare holiday feasts.  We know all the words to most of the songs of the season.  What we don’t always prepare as carefully is our plan for the New Year. 

Often, we don’t plan for our own self.  It’s so easy to race through our every day with little time to reflect.  When pressed for a resolution, it’s easy to name a couple of really big things we know we’d like to get done.  But, is there a plan, the thing that actually makes them happen?

Before naming resolutions this year, take a bit of time to figure out which are the ones that would be most meaningful to you – and, how you’ll make them happen. 

Looking Back to See Ahead

The New Year is two weeks off.  You don’t have to have the answer this afternoon.  To begin, it helps to look back. 

What were your successes in 2013?  In fact, what are your lifelong greatest successes?  What have you done that brought you the greatest pride?  What have you done that made you the happiest?  What have you done that gave you an inner sense of fulfillment?

After that, think about what you did to accomplish those successes.  What actions did you take that made the difference?

Next, what didn’t happen in 2013 that you wish had happened?  Are those things still important?  Were they failures?  Did you try to make them happen but didn’t succeed?  Or, did they not happen because the steps weren’t taken to make them happen?

There’s no reason to feel downhearted about your answers.  Instead, over the next week or so, we’ll create a plan that allows for the realities of life and gets you to your goal.  Over the next week or so, we’ll:

  1. Look at what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in the past. 
  2. Decide what matters most for the year ahead. 
  3. Create a realistic plan and a timeline. 
  4. Develop ways to make sure you are successful over time.

But first things first.  Before looking forward, take a realistic look back to measure your strengths.  You’ll use those strengths to make your next successes happen.

Here’s to A Lucky Friday the 13th

Black cats, broken mirrors and Friday the 13th lead the long list of ominous omens that bring fear to the hearts of the superstitious.  We don’t even have to be very superstitious.  We learned these omens in childhood which means they’ve been with us for our lifetime.  That is likely why each omen seems to take on a life of its own.

We think of Friday the 13th as an inauspicious day, a day fraught with risk, a dangerous kind of day.  In doing a bit of research, I discovered that Friday has long been considered a day of misfortune.  Did you know?  I did not.  The truth is, many of us find Fridays to be happy days as they signal the end of our work week and the start of our playtime.

There are some among us, however, who won’t begin a new project or even embark on travel if it’s a Friday.  In Christianity, Good Friday represents the crucifixion, the lowest point on their religious calendar.  Fridays for some signify misfortune.

Then there is the number.  We do not associate 13 with good fortune.  The number 12 has all sorts of good luck attributes but 13 does not. Some among us even worried about our calendar year – 2013.  Would it bring good fortune or not?  What’s your answer, was it a year of good fortune for you?

Not everyone agrees on the day or the number.  In Spain, it’s Tuesday the 13th that sets off shivers.  The Greeks, too, fear Tuesday the 13th.  In Italy, it’s Friday the 17th that is fraught with anxiety. 

In 2008, a Dutch organization looked at Friday the 13th accident rates and discovered that there are fewer accidents, fewer fires and less theft on that date.  Their conclusion?  That people are generally more cautious on those days and that prevents accidents, fires and robberies.

There’s at least one Friday the 13th each year but never more than three.  Today’s is the second Friday the 13th for 2013.  Next year we’ll only have one – in June.

There’s a long list of superstitions that keep the superstitious busy throughout the year.  Other bad luck signs are walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors and that old bugaboo, breaking a mirror brings on seven years of bad luck.  Oh yes, and the kids will remind us that to step on a crack breaks our Mother’s back.

May your Friday the 13th be a day of good fortune!

Besting Holiday Blues

It’s one of the cheeriest times of the year - but not for everyone.  Some among us have to work at lifting their spirits especially when in the presence of manic happiness.

In Holiday Delights, we looked at many of the ways the season can lift spirits.  Incredibly, that long list is not even a complete list.  Good cheer is the name of the game and that’s when less cheery sensations can also crop up.

It’s everywhere.  The world appears to have be decorated.  People are busily running to and fro.  They look merry, don’t they?  Parties and dinners and concerts and caroling.  It’s all meant to heighten the experience.  But it can also have the opposite effect. 

Instead of cheer, other seasonal emotions can be overwhelmed, stressed, sad and even depressed and depleted.  When others appear to be tripping the light fantastic, some of us are magnifying our personal flaws and worries. 

This is a time when some among us look at our lives and don’t see the life they’d once imagined.  This is a time when instead of counting the good, some are counting the negative.  Try as we might, it can be a time when joy is elusive.  Everyone else seems to have found it but we can’t.

First of all, remember, you are not alone.  I’ll repeat that, you are not alone when you experience holiday blues.  It is so prevalent that it’s the subject of this blog.  Those who are down-hearted can barely stand the fact of the holidays.  They’re just not in a jolly place and they don’t want to go there. 

A few thoughts:

Confide in a friend, in a professional counselor, in your pastor or spiritual guide.  Talking can help.  It’s important to express your feelings.  Plus, your friend, counselor or pastor offer helpful insight.  They might even help to change your perspective.  If nothing else, interaction with another who is caring helps.

Watch the sugar and alcohol.  An excess of sugar and alcohol can put our body chemistry into a tailspin that heightens sadness and depression.  It’s not the calories that matter here, it’s what sugar and alcohol can do to start or heighten an emotional downturn.

Get rest.  A good night’s sleep can calm even the most anxious.  Unfortunately, a down-hearted period can be accompanied with sleeplessness.  Follow all the healthy sleep rules.

Exercise.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say.  It’s 19 degrees and who wants to be out of doors?  Wherever you do it, work up a sweat and get your heart pumping.  You’ll sleep better.  Plus, regular exercise can actually help to dissipate an emotional low.

Count!  That’s right, be sure you count.  Find one or two things each morning that are good.  At bed time, ignore the failures of the day and instead look at whatever could be construed as good.  Don’t forget to count.

Choose.  Select one or two holiday traditions and enjoy those.  It could be listening to music.  Perhaps it will be singing.  You may choose decorating a tree or baking cookies.  Whatever it is, do it and savor the moment.

You may not achieve holiday glee but that’s not the purpose here.  Taking it small and easy as you protect your emotions will help you fashion your unique path for your holidays.

To Survive or to Thrive

Surviving is important.  Thriving is elegant.  Maya Angelou

Anyone who has run a marathon, who has survived the grueling 26.2 miles, ends their race with the battle-weary knowledge that they’ve won.  Runners who finish their race thrive on that knowledge; it exhilarates them.  They don’t just survive those 26.2 miles, their life is forever changed with the knowledge of the finish.  A few of those runners even do it on prosthetic legs!  The race, the win – they don’t just survive, they thrive.

In part, it’s pure attitude.  To accept the audacious challenge of running that long a distance seems an impossible feat.  Yet many do it.  To take on such an undertaking results not just in the finish of a race but in the strengthening of inner will.

We are all racers in various forms – some in earning enough income, some in battling a disease, still others in making a good home for their family.  To provide an income, to survive a disease, to see a child awarded a diploma – we can thrive by doing our finest with every challenge placed in our path of life.  We can choose to thrive.

Holiday Gift-Giving Made Easy

Do you have a list of all the people you like to remember with a gift at the holidays?  I keep my gift list on my computer because I’d otherwise forget who is supposed to be on the list and then I’d overlook someone.  That would be awful, wouldn’t it? 

The list on my computer keeps me from forgetting.  Besides, I then look at last year’s list and remember what I gave.  It’s all meant to make life easier.

This year, I printed the list, shook my head and decided it is just too long.  I’m naming this the year of change, the year when I’ll pull back, when I take the time to reconsider whether a gift is still suitable.  I’ll also decide what kind of a gift that should be.

On the other hand, I may decide to keep most of the names and change the kind of gift I’ll give.  Gifts are meant to celebrate the spirit of the season and not necessarily the value of the object.

The spirit of the season, not the value of the object.

Let’s look at a couple of questions to ask when looking at your list:

  1. Why do I give to that person?  Are they someone I value?  What do I want to achieve by sending a gift?  Of course we gift those who are dearest in our lives.  We may also decide to gift people whom we value even though we don’t often see them.
  2. What is the right kind of gift for that person?  What types of gifts express the value I place on that person?
  3. Can I sort my list into gift types?  My kids and immediate family get special gifts that are chosen each and every year.  What friends and less immediate family?  What about more distant friends or family whom you value; can they be grouped for similar kinds of gifts?  And, don’t forget neighbors, the postal person and other service providers. 

Every gift doesn’t need to be unique and hand-selected each and every year.  In fact, certain kinds of gifts when given each and every year take on their own life.  Often, your recipients anticipate their arrival and are delighted at their arrival.  Here, I’m thinking of pears from Harry & David or a wreath from Christmas Greens Shop.   What’s especially wonderful about these gifts is that they are quick and easy yet they make your recipient happy.

Okay, so let’s now take a glance at types of gifts that can feel personal yet can send the special message you wish to send.

Seasonal.  The aforementioned pears and Christmas wreaths fit here.  There are loads of choices from jams or nuts to poinsettias or Christmas cactus.  What suits your gifting style?

Donations.  Whether you give to the same organization or to a different one each year, honoring others through a donation makes everyone feel good. 

You might decide to choose the organization that best serves an immediate need such as the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  For that you could choose to support international medical assistance teams through Clarion Global Response or the Red Cross

Or, you may choose to give to the same organization every year.  That links you most closely to that organizations mission.  If you wish to express the strength of your commitment to a specific organization, you may even enclose an item that organization sells – from a Red Cross back pack to a Women for Women cookbook, there are many possibilities to increase understanding of that organization’s work.

Homemade.  Whether you bake or knit or paint, your giftees will surely enjoy something you created by hand.

Books – CDs – DVDs.  You may choose to share your favorite-of-the-year with your giftees, whether it’s a book, cd or movie.  Or, you may choose a special book, piece of music or movie for each of your giftees.


Just as we make a split-second assessment as we meet someone new, so, too, do we make instant decisions about gifts.  How the gift is presented sets the stage for delight.  That doesn’t mean you need to spend fortunes on wrapping.  Whether you choose newspapers or maps or the paper bought at the store, making it visually satisfying changes the experience.

By the way, if you are a disaster at wrapping, why not buy a gift bag or a nice box?

When gifting a donation, there are many choices.  You can have the organization do all the work, sending an announcement to your list of recipients.  Or, you may choose to download their announcement so you can personalize it. 

Back to the original point, gifting is in the spirit of the season – in your own special voice.

Multiple Sources of Income

Should your job be your only source of income?  You may think that’s a nutsy kind of question.  Of course, you say, my job is my income.  What else is there?  How else can I have income?

The good news here is that the economy is improving and the unemployment rate continues to fall.  That means that except for poor performance, we’ll all likely keep our jobs.  On the other hand, if the economy is improving, now may be the ideal time to strengthen your financial picture. 

Saving is good.  The question to ask, what do you do with the money you save?  Savings should grow.  Savings should be able to pay you.  Savings should be able to generate income.  Choosing what you do with your savings dollars is vital

Putting money into a CD or money market fund is safe, it generates a small income stream and it keeps money handy in case of a rainy day.  Savings, CDs and money markets will generate a small return and will be available to care for the near- and long-term surprises that arrive in life.

The workhorse of your savings plan is likely your 401k.  That is money set aside for the long-term when it should pay you back handsomely.

What about the remainder of your savings?  Stocks, bonds, ETFs and other investment tools are one solution.  There are other choices.  What about putting some of your money into something that will pay you regularly – monthly, quarterly, annually?  How, you ask?

Rental property creates income.  The first thing that will come to mind here is a home or an apartment; they generate monthly income.  But, not everyone has a spare home or apartment.  Some of us may have a garage or specialized equipment.  Perhaps the garage or the equipment could be rented to others. 

Of course, there are costs to any kind of rental income.  Upkeep of your property is important.  So, too, is protecting yourself from the misdeeds of others.  Renting property you own is not for the faint of heart; it is, however, a possible source of income.

Royalties and fees from books, music, inventions and other original work can generate regular or not-so-regular income.

Internet sales of e-books or products generates income.  Not every book or product has the same level of success.  It’s not likely your first book will top the best-seller list but then again, life often is full with surprise.  Internet sales are niche sales to a very specific, targeted universe of prospects.

Ongoing sales commissions from work you’ve already completed can be another source of income.

It can be comforting to have income from sources in addition to your job.

Holiday Delights

Joyful hurrahs!  That pretty much describes the holiday season.  Suddenly, at the end of November, there’s a quickening of pace and a lifting of spirits as we anticipate.  Over the next four or five weeks, we’ll be in high holiday gear.  Our holiday busyness, our ways of celebration are as various as the imagination allows.

There are so many possibilities, so many holiday delights that it’s easy to hit the overload button.  Instead of overload, choose yours and your family’s favorite ways to celebrate and stick to those. 

Holiday spirit takes hold through much of the world.  That means there are as many cultural ways of celebrating as there are religious ways.  Below you’ll find but a few of the countless ways people celebrate the holidays.  What are your favorites?

Let’s start with music. 
Do you carol through the neighborhood?
Do you sing in a choir, play in an orchestra?  Does your anticipation grow as you  rehearse?
Do you go to hear a choir or an orchestra?
Do you play carols on an instrument for your family? 
Do you play holiday music on your iPod or Nano or CD player?  Do you have some faves?

Then there is the food.
Are you a holiday baker?  Are you one who bakes and cooks and shares with others?
Do you throw a party and cook your heart out for it?
Rather than making and baking, perhaps you enjoy the tasty treats of the season.   Which?

There are gatherings.
Is it friends gathering?  It is travelling a distance to be together?

There is story telling – from the theatrical to at-home retellings.
There’s the Nutcracker and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. 
Perhaps you prefer Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Are you a storyteller?  There are stories to be told, stories to pass down. 

There is gift-giving.
Do you love giving gifts to others?
Do you enjoy finding that perfect gift?
Is it the wrapping of your gifts?
Do you make your gifts?  Do you enjoy giving of yourself to others?
It could be you just plain like receiving gifts.
What about charities?  Whether it’s time, talent or money, it is a season to help others.

There are always elevated spirits.
Does your pace quicken?  Do you feel that holiday season joy?

Do you have a holiday season persona? 
Are you the one who “ho, ho, ho’s”?
Do you have favorite holiday clothes?  Maybe you like to wear red shoes or you’ve a  favorite pair of socks.  Even a jingle bell bracelet?

There are decorations everywhere.
Is it decorating your home?  What about your yard?
Do you decorate a tree?  What makes your decorating time most special?

Is it the countdown, the anticipation you most enjoy?
Do you enjoy an advent calendar?

Is it spiritual?  Or, is it the traditions handed down over the years?  What are they?

It’s a season to reach out to others wherever they may live.
Do you send cards, letters and photos?  Do you visit family and friends

Here’s the thing.  The holidays are no longer just Christmas for Christians, Hanukkah for Jews and Kwanzaa for those of African heritage.  It’s true; non-believers enjoy the holidays as well.  Plus, for some, the traditions have blended.  The important point is that you do what is right for you and yours.  Remember, though, to avoid the overload so you can savor your holiday season.

Happy holidays!  The season has begun.