everyday success


Do You Do the Things You Love Doing?

Name five things that you do that are your most favorite things to do.  Whether big or little, what do you most like to do?   Could be after school time with your kids.  Could be your annual mountain climbing conquest.  Could be playing the piano or teaching someone to read or weekends at your lake house or going to lunch with your best friend.  It could be your work but here we’re really talking about whatever brings inner satisfaction.

Your five favorite things that you do

It may take a bit of time for you to remember them all.  The very moment you start to name favorite things, more are going to come racing to mind.  You’ll be in your shower tomorrow morning and suddenly you’ll say to yourself, ‘I remember! I love decorating for the seasons, of course for Christmas but also Thanksgiving and Halloween and St. Paddy’s day and all of them.’  That goes on your favorite things you do list.

Have a bit of fun as you remember all your favorites.  Likely your list is already far more than five.  Our brains just love going to the things we most enjoy so let your mind explore and generate your list of favorite things you do. 

Once you’ve remembered all the things you love doing and you’ve narrowed your list to your top five, think about how often you do what you most love to do.  Look at each of your favorites and remember when you last did them.  Some of us keep their favorites in their everyday life – if you regularly do what you love doing, then congratulate yourself and keep on doing what you love to do.

On the other hand, some of us get so caught up with the must-do’s that their favorite things fall off their daily or weekly or even monthly list.  It takes not time to lose track of them altogether.  If your everyday has become so full, so intense that you no longer include whatever it is you most love doing, then it is time to stop, look at what you are doing and make a plan. 

Why don’t you do the things you love to do?

But first, before the planning, ask yourself what caused you to stop doing what you love to do.  Could be everyday busyness or it could be weariness.  Life today can be so intense that we get weary and it feels as if we’re dissatisfied.  In part, dissatisfaction can be the result of not doing what you love to do, making life more like a treadmill and less the lives we love. 

Every day we’re bombarded by an endless stream of stuff – whether those Twitter, InstaGram or FaceBook posts or new podcasts or breaking news or the laundry list of must-do’s, we can get to a place of seeming overwhelm and just stop doing the stuff we actually like.

If you’re there, feeling maxed out while not actually getting to do what it is you love doing, take a mental moment to make a plan.  Identify what has kept you away – money, time or even just the blahs.  Maybe it’s as simple as there’s no one to do it with.

Only when you know what bumped your favorite things out of your life, can you take the steps to make a change.  Once you’ve identified the what and why for not doing what you love to do, then decide on the actions you’ll need to take to manage whatever is holding you back.  Make a list of those actions you’ll need to take, in other words, make a plan.

Now, it is so easy to make a plan but never actually make that plan happen.  To fix that, be sure your plan includes the steps you will take to make your plan happen.  Include every step you’ll need to take to bring your plan to life.  If you don’t know what to do, what actions to take, then your plan will likely not work.  So, to get to back to doing what you love, be sure your action plan has the step-by-steps.

Life is not a straight line

As you take each step on your plan, it’s likely you’ll make missteps, you may fall back on your old ways.  That’s very normal when you are making a change even one that means you’ll be back to doing the things you love.  If you stop taking your action, if slip-up, be kind to yourself.  Accept lapses for what they are and get back to your plan.

Best of all, be sure to congratulate yourself for each success on each step of your plan.  That’s right, your successes are accomplishing each step on your plan, one at a time.  Don’t complete one without acknowledging your success with your mental high-five or whatever other way you choose to say good job to yourself.

Your purpose here, to be doing what you love throughout your life.  Enjoy your life; appreciate your life.  Make your everyday one that counts for you.

What Kind of Year Do You Want it to Be?

To begin, happy New Year!

On this first day of the year, many of us get into the list thing – making promises to ourselves for the year ahead.  Usually our promises require that we make a change – for some of us big a change, for others of us smaller, baby step kinds of change.  While we call these resolutions, really, they are commitments we make to ourselves.

Another way to start your year is to name the kind of year you’d like it to be.  Could be you’ll name it the year of nutrition or the year of healthier habits or the year of your best painting ever or the year of planting, maybe even the year of planning.

Could be you’d like to name it the new job year or the energetic year or the year of bliss.  It may be you’d like the year ahead to be your year of nurturing relationships.  Possibly, you want to do something that honors something you value and you name your year accordingly.

What do you want to do with your 365 days ahead?  Instead of making a list of change, think of your life just a bit differently and begin by naming your year ahead.

Getting a “Fix” on Change

A recent FaceBook poster asked how she could fix her life.  To begin, I don’t know how to fix another person’s life – all my articles are about the tools and techniques I’ve used in my life.  Why do I do that?  Because one new idea just might spark a great idea for another person’s life.  In response, then, I’ll think about some of the things that have helped me in my life.

We are each a work in process.  We are learning about ourselves and our lives every single day. 

To begin, then, imagine yourself as an artist creating a beautiful work of art and that work of art is you.   Every single day you make choices and take actions.  Each choice we make, each action we take is much like an artist’s brush strokes; those choices and actions become an indelible part of our history.  Each day, we take responsibility; each day, we add to our self.

You are you with all the qualities that make you special.  Yes, you can make modifications by trying on different styles or altering your interests somewhat but your underlying beauty remains.  Each day, count the good things, your successes, the moments you smiled, the times you experienced sharing or the gift of yourself.

Life is not a smooth road.  We all make mistakes.  Often, we look at others’ lives and think, how come it’s so easy for them.  The truth is, it isn’t easy for any of us – we’re not in other people’s heads so we don’t know if the road they walk feels like silken sand or a bed of nails. 

What to do, then, if it feels as if a change is in order.  First, remember that life is a journey.  Each day can be a moment of change but change won’t happen in a moment.  Yes, we live in a world that demands instantaneous everything; reality, though, is that change is a step-at-a-time process.  Enjoy the path of change.  Embrace your successes, be kind about your missteps.

Identify the “fix” you seek.  Ask yourself about it.  Define what it is you seek and then make a list of all the steps you’ll take to get you to your goal.  What is the problem and what would be the fix?  Work on one thing at a time.  Everything takes time.  Back to our demand for the immediate: success is built on many small steps that you’ll take over time.

Enlist a confidant for your journey.  Make sure you chose someone who is a champion of you.

Be proud of the changes and choices and actions you take.  Enjoy your successes, appreciate that there will be difficulties along your path.  Always remember that you are the artist, the one responsible for your life. 

Now, when we are younger, we are not as certain of ourselves; we’re still learning about our self.  We’re not even certain that the choices we make or the actions we take are the right choices or actions.  We worry so, wondering just what we should do.  That is why it is helpful to keep your vision of yourself, that beautiful piece of art, in your mind.  To that vision, add your list of steps and actions that bring your vision to life.

This link takes you to The Journey of Life section of my website where you’ll find much more about change and habits and happiness.  Here’s hope we’ve sparked an idea for your life.  For now, my care and well-wishes are with each of you, my readers.

What Are We Waiting For?

It turns out, I’ve been waiting for the sun.  With the days a bit longer and the sun a tad brighter, suddenly my diet seems pretty easy.  Since New Year’s, I’ve struggled, trying to diet but have managed to fail at each start.  In the week since we changed to daylight savings time, my diet has seemed easy.

This is my ‘learning moment’.  In the future, I’ll not start a diet mid-winter.  I’m a sunny-day person so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Are you waiting for “the right moment” to start something?  Can you name what that right moment is?   Does it make sense or is it a delay tactic?  Maybe you can’t even figure out why you are not making the change you actually want to have happen. 

Is there something in the back of your mind, something you are holding out for?  Is your change something you could actually be doing today?  Perhaps you are waiting for permission to make the change.  Who would give that to you and why wouldn’t you be the person to decide?

Why not make today the first day of whatever it is you wish to be?

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.

Before Another Year: What Matters Most?

Happy New Year!  Here’s to one mighty terrific year for you and yours.

It’s natural to be reflective as we turn the calendar, as we move on to another new year.  How many New Years have you celebrated?  Do you celebrate the same way each year?  Is 2014 somehow different?  What will make it different?

It’s natural for our thoughts to turn to resolutions, to decisions about what we’ll do differently in the year ahead.  It’s very human to look back and then look ahead and sometimes modify our path.  It’s also easy to simply name the same old resolutions and leave it at that. 

Same Old Resolutions

But, wait!  Before going with the same old resolutions, stop and think about them.  Are you in a resolution rut?  Do you name the same ones each and every year but never quite make them happen?

Instead of going with the same old, ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What kinds of changes or resolutions work in your life?  In other words, what can you make happen?
  2. Why haven’t you succeeded with some of your resolutions?  It’s true.  Most of us do not succeed with our resolutions.  By March, most of the diet and fitness resolutions have fallen aside.  Instead, let’s make 2014 the year that works for you.  Be honest and remind yourself why you haven’t succeeded with past resolutions.
  3. Using your strengths, how can you craft resolutions you can actually make happen?
What Matters Most to YOU in 2014?

What will make the year ahead a special year for you?  Perhaps there is already something special about 2014 in your life.  If not, do you want there to be something different about this New Year?

Write a sentence or two – or, instead, draw a picture.  What resolutions will get you to your goal AND what resolutions can you actually make happen?  Imagine; what will be different at the end of 2014 if you make these resolutions happen?  With those images in mind, name the changes or choices that matter most to you.

For example, I’m naming 2014 my Tina Turner Year.  Why?  Because I’m in sort of good shape but my legs could get stronger and I could be leaner.  She has incredible legs and she is fabulously fit – who at her age can perform the way Tina Turner does?  Other reasons?  Because she is mentally disciplined and knows how to satisfy her fan base.  I can picture my physique at the end of 2014 and I can also imagine working to make Everyday Success a place that is good for my audience.

That’s what matters to me.  It's not necessary to pattern your resolutions on another person.  I use it as an example that shows the process of identifying the things that matter most for one person. 

What about you?  What matters most for you in 2014 and how can those things be translated into resolutions?  

What Can YOU Make Happen?

That's right, it is all about you and the resolutions that are right for you.  As you create your resolutions, be sure you are naming those things you can actually make happen.  Over the next two blogs, we’ll look at creating a plan and timeline plus we’ll develop ways to check in on you over the year.  Let’s make 2014 the year when we make our resolutions happen.

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.

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.

An Everyday Beauty

The sky is an incredible blue today, did you notice?  The leaves are gold and red, did you see?  Soon it will be winter and the hyper intensity of the holidays.  Right now, however, at this very moment on this very day, it is fall and it is gorgeous. 

Our lives can be so intense, so list and to-do-driven, so scheduled that it’s easy to overlook the beauty that surrounds us each and every day. 

We live in amongst astonishing beauty.  Yes, there’s a lot of cement.  Yes, strip malls are not designed to enhance the beauty.  Still, there are trees and flowers and our gorgeous blue sky.  In the midst of our hectic day, it’s calming to focus and really look at our surrounds.  It’s both calming and energizing.

What’s Your Number?

Today I’m blowing the whistle on me and my number.  It’s a number I’ve carried in my mind for a couple decades.  My number represents the ideal weight I wish for. That’s right, while I’ve wished it would happen, I haven’t made it happen.

Do you have a number in mind – the number that represents an ideal for your life, your nirvana?  Some of us carry our “perfect weight” in our head.  We imagine ourselves as our lighter, leaner selves.

Others of us have a salary or bonus number in mind.  They know exactly what they’ll do the very moment they hit their mark.  Once they’ve achieved that number, they think, life will be incredible.  That’s when they’ll really start living.

My number stopped me from feeling good about myself.  It made me put off buying some great outfits because in my mind that lighter weight is right around the corner. 

If you are someone who sets a goal and gets it done, then it is terrific to carry a goal in your head.  For those of us, however, who’ve set a goal but have taken no action, it may be time to stop and reassess.  That bliss we felt about setting our goal may have gotten in the way of actually making our goal happen. 

There is a fine line between working towards a goal and putting life on-hold til you “get there”.  If you’re one of the people whose life is on hold til you get to your number, think about what will really happen when you get to your number?  How will your life be different?  Will it really?

Some of us commit so fully to our “number” that we fail to enjoy our days.  Somehow we put parts of our life on hold.  That’s how we miss out on whole days of living.

Life won’t really change on the day you reach your goal.  Yes, you’ll probably be healthier or wealthier but you’ll remain the same person.  Instead of holding out for an ar arbitrary number, I choose to live today fully.  How about you?

Life Begins At the End of Your Comfort Zone

Are reality shows a source of philosophy?  In this case, yes! 

On What Not to Wear, co-host Stacy London advised one of her makeovers, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  In this instance, a talented young woman learned that her “six-pack of t-shirts” did not dress her for career success.  With gentle prompting and small clothing choice changes, this woman encountered greater recognition – in her career and her social life.

Sometimes we make choices without thought.  Our brain moves to autopilot because our lives are crammed with busyness.  With autopilot, we feel as if we can control the gazillion daily decisions we all face.  Unfortunately, autopilot can also get us into a rut.

Autopilot differs for each of us.  We may use it to choose our clothing, our vacations, our food, even our performance at work. It’s easy to assume your autopilot choices are actually your preferences.  It’s even easy to assume that autopilot choices will always be the right choices.

Consider asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I always do this the same way?  Why? 
  • Are there other ways?  What are they?
  • If I were to make a change, what are the benefits?  What are the drawbacks?
  • How would the change feel for me?

Moving beyond your comfort zone may be as simple as setting your alarm fifteen minutes early so you can practice your yoga or work out.  It might mean taking on a new responsibility at work.  It could be deciding to play with your children for thirty minutes every day.  It could be deciding on a weekly date night with your spouse or partner.

Moving beyond your comfort zone does not mean taking irrational risk.  Often, it’s small incremental change that is meaningful.

Setting the Stage for Great Ideas

Where are you when you get your best ideas?  You know the ones.  They’re the ideas that make you wonder, “Whoa, why didn’t I think of that before?”  Where are you and what are you doing when your really great ideas come to mind?

Researchers1 have found that some of our best ideas, our most original and creative ideas, actually happen when we are literally standing outside the box.  That’s right, they actually did research using room-sized boxes and even shapes of boxes taped on floors.  What did they learn?  They learned that people are most creative when they are standing outside a box.

This does not mean you need to stand on your front porch in the pouring rain to get a good idea.  Where are you when you do most of your idea generating? 

For some, it’s while they drive.  If that’s the case, why not spend a few minutes walking when you reach your destination?  See if a breakthrough idea doesn’t pop right into your mind.

For others, it may be at their desk at home or in the office.  Again, try a different space apart from your regular space.  See what happens when you set yourself apart from your regular thinking or working space.

Use your hands.  Researchers also tested the adage on the one hand or the other and found that extending one’s hands forward as if weighing ideas helped generate fresh thinking.

One researcher2 even learned that better ideas were generated when one’s hands were free.  Put your iPad down, move away from your computer, leave your vehicle, free your mind and see what great ideas come your way. 

1 When Truisms are True by Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes, New York Times, February 25, 2012. 

2 To “Think Outside the Box”, Think Outside the Box by Angela Leung et al, Psychological Science, January 2012.

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