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The Science of Happiness: 5 Ways Nature Makes You Happier

“Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.” Samuel Johnson

Who doesn’t want to be happy?

We all could use more happiness in our lives, so I’ve compiled some of the scientific research on what makes us happy.

In the video below, I share insights from studies in the fields of positive psychology, medicine, and behavioral economics on the important role that nature plays in our happiness.

From these studies we learn that:

  • Deepening our connection to nature improves our happiness
  • Spending time in nature lowers our stress levels and makes us happier
  • Exposure to nature increases our happiness and helpfulness

Watch to discover how you can use nature to boost your happiness and improve your health. For more easy ways to increase your happiness, download our daily happiness half-dozen. This is a pdf of 6 activities you can do in a few minutes each day that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.

How would you describe your connection with nature? Email me your thoughts on how you . interact with nature to boost your happiness.

3 Ways to Improve Your Success in 2017

We open the book. It’s pages are blank. The book is called Opportunity; its first chapter is today.

Each New Year’s eve, we create a list of resolutions and promises to ourselves. Some people promise themselves to eat healthy and eat less fat. Some focus on spending quality time with their family. Others plan to pursue their passion. To finally fulfill the desires burning inside them.

 

But most times, we find ourselves unable to stick to the routine or timetable we had planned out for the new year. The lives we lead are already quite tough and hectic. No matter how hard we try, we are often find ourselves unable to stay committed to our new routine.

 

This is why 92% of all New Years Resolutions fail.

 

But that does not mean that you should give up on setting goals.

 

Goals are an important part of our success. Goals move us forward into better versions of ourselves. Goals motivate us to do the hard things in life. Goals allow us to focus our attention and energy in ways that can make the most impact.

 

Our goals are the secret longings of our hearts. They lead us into becoming more fully the people we are meant to be.

 

So here’s what you can do to be successful in your goal setting efforts.  Here are three ways you can avoid the most common goal setting mistakes:

 

  1. Dream Big and Start Small

 

The key is not to immediately commit yourself to a whole new routine. The habits that we have adopted have taken years to develop. These habits  are not changed in a matter of a week or a month for that matter.

If your goal is to lose 10lbs and you commit yourself to exercising daily for at least half an hour, going for a walk in the evening and eat less at every meal, you will quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated. You may start doing all three activities at the beginning of the year. But you might tire of one activity or become inconsistent. This inconsistent routine will not create your desired weight loss. Thus you can lose your motivation real fast because you are working hard but not seeing results.

The secret is in taking it slow. Develop a positive momentum and go easy on yourself can ensure that you stick to your routine in the long run.

Pick just one of those activities to help you with your weight loss goal. Do that activity consistently and track your progress. Then after 1-2 weeks of consistently performing your first healthy habit, add in another. This gradual process will build healthy habits, keep you motivated, and produce permanent results.

  1. Stay Fixated on Your Goal and Flexible in Your Approach

 

Your hectic work routine might become an obstacle to achieving your goal. You might be working late on the weekend and have to skip the evening walk. Or you might be eating out all week with friends which will ruin the ”eat less” plan. It can be hard to say no to friends or pending work.

Yet, you can plan for your success by practicing flexible thinking. Perhaps you want to adjust your walk time on the weekends. Or maybe you include one splurge meal in your weekly eating plan.

Expect there to be obstacles to your goal. Keep your eyes on your goal, but remain flexible in your approach. This enables you to stay focused on your goal and achieve results regardless of the ups and downs of your day or week.

 

 

  1. Track Your Progress to Maintain Your Motivation

 

To transform your new year’s resolution into reality, you need to measure your success. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What significant milestones will there be along the way? How will you celebrate each milestone and goal achieved?

For each goal, there are lots of potential pays you could measure your success. For you fitness goal, you could measure: lbs lost, inches lost, BMI, %body fat, speed, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance. You pick the form of measurement that fits best with your goal. Just make sure that it’s easy to watch and commit to tracking it daily.

Also commit to celebrating all the small wins you will achieve on your way to your completed goal. After every small feat you achieve, give yourself a planned reward. Make sure that the reward is in line with your goal. The reward is a way of thanking yourself for doing the hard work to achieve your goal. Expressing gratitude for the results will keep you motivated and effective.

 

Goals and Your Success

 

People who are the highest achievers have figured out how to effectively set and achieve goals in ALL areas of their lives.

 

I believe in you. I know you have what it takes.

 

But, if you’re not careful you could easily fall into the many traps that prevent most people from reaching their goal.

 

High achievers are able to avoid the common traps that keep most people stuck and frustrated. High achievers effectively design a life that reflects their own personalized vision of success.

 

Discover the “success secrets” that distinguish high achievers from most people. My webinar Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever! will reveal three specific success secrets to fuel your goal setting efforts. Registration for the webinar is free, but space is limited. Reserve your seat today!

 

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson

 

A year from now you can be living out the dreams you have carried with you all these years.

 

Here’s to you and your success in creating your new beginning…. Cheers!

 

 

Activate the Healing Powers of Love in Your Life

activate the healing power of love in your life

Our immune system operates according to a moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred. Dr. Mario Martinez

Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally.  More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.

Healing Properties of Love

George Solomon’s research  reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of  psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.

Research  on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.

Dr. Mario Martinez,  a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”

Love Yourself

Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.

Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.

Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.

Practicing the Tool of Active Love

It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.

In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.

These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.

Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.

Tool of Active Love

Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.

Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.

Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.

Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.

Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.

Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.

Practicing Love in Your Daily Life

Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.

Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.

I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.

Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.

Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!

How Balanced is Your Life Portfolio: 3 Steps to Life Balance

life balance

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

Many of us are aware of the importance of creating a balanced financial portfolio, but do we know how to create a balanced life?

Having an out of balance lifestyle leads to poor health, career burnout, chronic stress and depression. In a recent study , researchers found that obese individuals reported significantly lower life balance scores and much more stress. It’s likely that a chronically imbalanced lifestyle leads to obesity and other health concerns. Researchers have documented the emergence of a new personality type that emerges from increased the stress and burnout created by an imbalanced lifestyle. A type D person is distressed and often exhibits certain personality traits including negativity, pessimism, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, and a decreased ability to relax and enjoy leisure time.

You can avoid these negative outcomes and achieve a more balanced life by concentrating on building a balanced life portfolio. A solid financial investment fund is managed carefully to provide a diversity of investment vehicles that provide the greatest return while limiting losses. Balancing investments against each other ensures that when some investments fall others will rise to cover the losses. We can use this portfolio metaphor to help us achieve balance in our lives as well.  Below I identify three ways in which you can use your financial wisdom to help you achieve more balance in your life. 

Diversification is the key to life balance and security.

You can organize your life portfolio into seven different types of investments:

  • physical environment (home)
  • career,
  • relationships
  • spiritual life
  • physical health & self-care
  • personal growth & development (intellectual, emotional, and creative growth)
  • recreation & fun.

Think of the time, attention, and money you have as resources that you can invest in each of these seven areas. Make choices to invest your time and energy in alignment with your values and priorities. Rather than viewing these as individual choices, we can consider them as a part of our life portfolio.

For example, you may place a high priority on your career and make time and energy choices accordingly. But what if something happens that makes pursuing your career no longer possible or desirable? What else are you investing in that will balance that loss so that you are still living a fulfilled and happy life?

Diversification does not need you to place equal investments in each of the seven areas of your life. But it does need you to pay attention to each and investing in your goals for this area of your life. Do you see investments in each area in your calendar and checkbook? How we spend our time and money reflects our values and priorities. If one or more of these seven core life areas do not appear in your monthly schedule and budget, your life is likely out of balance.

Life balance is the reflection of your choices.

You are the one who decides where to invest your resources. The concept of investing your time highlights the centrality of choice. We always have a choice in how we spend our resources, not matter how limited those resources may be.

Too many times we complain about our lives being out of balance as if we are not the ones directing the show. Imbalance is a product of abdicating our power of choice to others. It is also the result of refusing to make choices based on our priorities.

In this brief video , I explain how we give our power to choose away when fail to distinguish “should” from “must”. “Should” focuses on what others want from/for us. Yet, “must” is driven by our life purpose and core values. Identifying our “must list” pulls us forward, creating energy, productivity and joy in our lives.

Thus, we need to gain clarity on our purpose and core values to build a life of balance. If you are not yet clear on these two items, this is the first step to your balanced life. You can sign up for a free life planning toolkit  to help you specify your life purpose. You can also take a free on-line survey  to help you identify your core values. The survey will also show whether your core values are out of balance in your life.

Life balance requires regular assessment.

You must check the performance of your investments at regular intervals. The concept of investment also reminds us to make and test these choices in light of future goals. You are not “spending time” doing an activity, you are “making an investment”. Like financial investments, we can expect that the “return” on the investment increases.

What are your goals for your relationships? What are your willing to invest in those relationships to achieve that goal? How will you know if you have achieved or are on target to achieve your goal? As you can see, life balance requires that we have clear and measurable goals in every area of our life. This is what enables us to assess whether we are on target or need to revise our investment strategy.

Moreover, regular assessment allows us to keep our life portfolio balanced over time. The only constant in life is change. We start new relationships, end previous careers, get new interests, develop different health needs. Each of these life events produce change in other areas of our lives.

Every financial broker will tell you that diversification is not a one-time action. Some investments will outperform others. Thus, the most balanced financial portfolio will become out of balance without readjustment. This is why you need to reallocate your acquired resources to reflect your goals.

Reallocation is needed in our lives as well. The changes we experience in our lives require reassessment and reallocation of our time and money. When we do this based on a concrete assessment of our goals and progress, we make sure that we are continually creating a life of balance.

Put your life in balance.

Balance isn’t just something you do. It is a never-ending, and limitless, act of being. By practicing the tools described in this article, you are inviting this state of being into your life. Once you have mastered the concepts and applied the strategy of choosing to focus on what matters most to you, the opportunities, joy and passion your life will expand to fill the horizons of what you can dream. I challenge you to fully explore the possibilities of this evolution of self.

Think of how you currently or are planning to allot your available investment of time and energy. Which of the seven areas (environment, career, relationships, spiritual life, health, personal growth, recreation) are strongly supported in your investment fund?  Write down your top three goals in each of the seven areas. Have you allotted enough time and energy to meet all three values and priorities consistently? Which areas are “underfunded?

Make a commitment today to reallocate your life portfolio to create more balance. Do not allow your precious resources to be “wasted” or spent based on other people’s values and priorities. Now that you are clear on you priorities in each of your life areas, commit to funding your goals.  You have enough time for everything that matters most; it’s up to you to decide what matters most.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to creating the energy, time and balance you need to live the life of your dreams! If you’d like more support in balancing your life portfolio, feel free to contact me or post your questions and challenges below.

 

A Better Approach to Time Management

replace time management with energy management

“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” ― Tony Morgan

How can effective time management help us support ourselves? Many of us are great supporters of other people. But, we have never thought about what it means to support ourselves. We are great supporters of our family and friends. Great advocates for the social issues we care about. We take pride in the myriad of ways we help  others achieve their goals. So what does it mean to support yourself?

Supporting yourself involves the same activities we engage in to support others. Supporting yourself means developing your capacity to live your best life. It means directing your attention and resources in developing your potential to the fullest. This involves investing the time to needed to identify your life purpose. Then, focusing with laser like precision on expressing that purpose in your life. Effective time management enables you to create a life that supports you.

Problem with Time Management

I have been obsessed with time management ever since I can remember. As a child I loved the book Cheaper By The Dozen. I was enthralled by the father who sought to do everything in the most efficient manner possible. This made sense to me because I knew that time was a limited resource.

Time is the great equalizer, in that we all are given the same 24 hrs in a day. How we spend those 24 hours determines how many days and how fulfilling the future days will be.  I remember my father explaining to me that if our entire lives were compressed into a day, we would only be in school for a few hours. But, those few hours of the day would make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I’d have resources and freedom to pursue my inner desires. That seemed like a fair trade to me and I decided that suffering through a little bit of pain or boredom was a reasonable exchange for my future enjoyment.

I spent much of my time trying to find the most efficient way to manage my obligations. This would enable me to have the most enjoyment of the rest of my life. This approach to time management was limited in its effectiveness. As the tasks I had to do became longer and more complicated, the dreaded tasks still took many hours, weeks, months or years. Worse yet, I was setting myself up to live my life “later”, after I had completed X, Y, or Z tasks.

I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this approach to work and life. Many people are waiting for “the summer”, “the next promotion”, “retirement”, “marriage”, “children”, “an empty-nest”, ect until you feel free to “live your life”.  Stop waiting. Now is the only time you have. Now is the perfect time to support yourself.

Energy Management is Superior to Time Management

Completing the tasks in front of you and enjoying your life need not be mutually exclusive activities. You do not have to wait for “your turn” after you have finished all the tasks on everyone else’s list. You can structure your daily activities, and your life, so that you are productive AND filled with excitement and joy. The secret is learning how to manage your energy.

Many people mistakenly think that enhancing your capacity to be creative and productive is only about managing your time. While time management is important, managing your energy is a more effective means to enhancing your creativity and productivity. Managing your energy requires becoming more aware of your moment by moment energy levels and the life factors that influence them. As you become more aware of what influences your energy level, you can delegate energy draining activities and limit your exposure to energy draining people.

Like time, your energy is a valuable and limited resource. If you do not manage it well, you will find that there is no energy left for you to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have the energy left to write your book, exercise, socialize, ect. Even though these activities are important to you, you can’t find time to do them. At the end of the day, all you have energy for is vegging out on tv and dreaming about your future life. The future is when you believe that you will have the opportunity to live out your desires.

Unlike time, you can actually “create” more energy. By managing your activities well, you can plant seeds that will “grow” your energy levels. You do not have to settle for your current amount of energy. You can expand your energy reservoir by intentionally choosing energy expanding activities. This approach to life will enable you to get more done and feel better about yourself and your life in the process.

Time Management Doesn’t Expand Time, Energy Management Does Expand Your Energy

Below I discuss two actions will substantially expand your energy levels while improving your productivity and creativity.  Implementing these actions, will help you to go to bed happier, having accomplished more in your day, sleep better, and wake up feeling more refreshed and excited about your day. This is how you support yourself. This is giving yourself what you need to live your best life now, not “someday when…”

I encourage you to practice these two actions daily. Make sure to track the changes you observe in yourself and your life as you do.

  1. Identify tangible things that increase your energy level and incorporate them regularly throughout your day.

The definition of energy expanding activities is any thought or action that fills you with energy and joy as you take part. For obvious reasons, what counts as an energy expanding activity varies from person to person.

To identify your energy expanding activities, you can track your energy levels throughout the day. On a hourly basis, asses you energy level on a scale of 1-10. Notice, how the level increases or decreases throughout the day. Write down recent activities that you think might be associated with the changes in your energy level.

Try to identify at least 20 energy expanding activities of various forms. Some you can do with others, some you do alone, some cost money, so are free. You get the point. The goal is to have a variety of energy expanding activities that you can add to your day on a regular basis. You also want to have some that you can add “as needed” to help pull you up after an unexpected energy draining activity. Think of this as your emergency self-care kit.

  1. Distinguish must from should.

Too often we blur the lines between these two types of activities. That is a serious drain on our energy level and a damage to our quality of life. But, when you distinguish the must list from the should list, you can manage your energy more effectively.

“Must list” is important because it helps you achieve what you truly want. It is connected to your life purpose and allows you to fulfill the personal goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to be an Olympic swimmer, you must practice on a regular basis. But if it is your mother’s goal for you to be an Olympic swimmer (or get married, or move closer to home, ect), then the activities associated with this goal does not belong on your “must list.” These activities are examples of “shoulds”.

Shoulds are only important because they help you to conform to what others want you to do. When you find yourself saying “I should do…..” what you are actually communicating is that someone else wants this for you more than you want it for yourself. “I should exercise… study… go out more”. All these activities are things you think others expect from you. That is why doing them feels draining.

The best way to expand your energy and live a productive and creative life is to eliminate everything on your should list.  Once you stop doing the things on your should list, you will have more time and energy for your musts. What?! Am I suggesting that you don’t exercise, study, or get out of your comfort zone? If you can not connect these activities to goals you find personally meaningful, your attempts to do them will be unsuccessful and draining.

Manage Your Energy, Manage Your Life

Respect what creates energy for you and focus on deleting the things that drain your energy. Connect your regular activities to things that give you personal meaning. This produces a magical multiplication of hours in the day.  You will get more accomplished in a day and feel happier doing it.

You do not have to wait for the future to start living the life you desire. Support yourself today. Restructure your activities around your purpose and watch your energy and joy grow!

 

 

Using the Power of Focus to Create a Life You Love

Focus on your dreams

Joy is the celebratory emotion that comes from achieving your goals.

Most women I meet are stressed as they struggle to meet the demands placed on them by modern life. Performing in the workplace, caring for children, partners, elderly parents and outside relationships means that most women have very little time and energy to devote to nurturing their own physical and psychological health. As a result of this stress, many women are in strained relationships. Eventually, the stress interferes with their ability to perform at their peak levels at work.

It’s not that the modern woman doesn’t care about healthy living, quality relationships, or a successful career. Either she doesn’t know how to achieve these life goals or she doesn’t believe that she have the time to do so. Sound familiar?

Because I have witnessed so many women caught up in this cycle, I was motivated to write my forthcoming book: Your Life as a Celebration. I believe that each of us can structure our life as a celebration. A celebration of our unique talents and contributions. A celebration of the people and causes that are important to us. A celebration of our strength, vitality, and wisdom. In every way, your life can be a joyous celebration of you!

The Power of FOCUS

Your Life as a Celebration presents a simple and effective formula to achieve your life goals and creating the life you love. This book introduces the five phases of focus. It explains how this easy-to-use technique can make your success automatic. With a small investment of time, you can put in place this proven strategy and achieve visible progress in just three weeks.

Regardless of whether your initial goal is to lose weight, improve your relationship with your spouse, or get a promotion at work. By applying the strategy in this book, you can take the steps needed to reach your goal.

The 5 phases of FOCUS system uses the three pillars of personal development: thoughts, habits, and planning. I explain the scientific research unpinning each of these principles. I also show how the focus system optimizes this principle. Each pillar plays a critical role in creating permanent life transformation.

As a result of the pillars of personal development, the five phases of focus system will enable you to:

*          develop a road map to chart the steps towards reaching to your goal

*          establish new habits that promote your success

*          create a system of accountability that keeps you motivated and on your path to success

*          identify strategies to overcome obstacles that threaten to block your progress.

As you continue implementing the system, you will achieve more and even bigger life goals. Hence, your immediate success will fill you with confidence that promotes your future success. Before you know it, you will have a lifestyle in which you naturally set, achieve, and exceed your goals. This new lifestyle will fuel you with energy, power, and joy.

Personalized FOCUS

The FOCUS system is uniquely personalized and tailored to you. Your goals are your goals and the path to achieving them should reflect you. There are as many distinctive goals as there are fingerprints and the pathways to accomplishing them are equally varied. The FOCUS system guides you through a series of questions based on scientific research and spiritual principles about personal development. The way that you answer those questions and incorporate these principles into your life are correct for you.

Because we are often taught that there is a “normal” way of being, if we we believe that it is “wrong” to do things differently than those around us. While all people learn the “value” of conformity, women are particularly pressured to confine ourselves into the narrowly-defined boxes of our society. In my coaching practice and in this book, I challenge women to identify and live out their unique and authentic life purpose.

I developed the FOCUS system to help women identify and design a personalized plan for life success.

Terms like “cultivating”, “designing”, and “nurturing” reflect my understanding that your personal development is a creative, organic process directed by you to craft your distinctive vision. Each of the chapters of Your Life as a Celebration covers a different aspect of your life . The book guides you in applying the FOCUS method to your health, career, relationships, and purpose .

In addition to the five phases of focus, Your Life as a Celebration presents a series of powerful practices to supercharge your life transformation. These powerful practices are grounded in empirical research on human behavior. They are also personalized to fit your unique goals, personality, and life circumstances. These powerful practices help you to create a life you love. They celebrate your life’s purpose, highlight your unique talents and gifts, love your body to health and wellness, and strengthen your existing relationships.

FOCUS on Your Dreams

You can create a life that you love! Sign up today for a free, limited advance copy of my book. By using the FOCUS strategy, you can replace the stress and imbalance of your life with joy, peace, and balance. You can develop personalized success rituals that put the process of accomplishing your goals on autopilot.

As a result of using this system, you will achieve more of your core life goals. You will be proud of who you are and the life you’ve created for yourself. This accomplishment will fill you with feelings of pride and joy. You can create your flow: a balanced harmony of value driven activities that provide you with increasing amounts of energy and advance your life purpose.

Get your copy of Your Life as a Celebration and begin creating the life of your dreams today. Harness your potential. Manifest your dreams. Create life filled with meaning, purpose, and joy. Start here. Start today.

Wishing you the best in your personalized success. If there’s any way I can support you in creating the life you dream of, please let me know. You are a vessel for a dream. Shine!

 

 

How the Idea of Gifted Blocks Your Success

Replace ideas of gifted with growth mindset

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
– John Wooden, Basketball

We like to think of some people as particularly gifted or talented in some areas. We think they they are born with innate abilities that make them masters in specific arenas. Yet, the mythology of giftedness is damaging to us as individuals and as a society.

First, the ideology of giftedness is problematic because it is empirically untrue. Second, the belief in giftedness perpetuates social inequality. Third, the myth of giftedness encourages people to avoid the pursuit of their dreams. In this article, I discuss how you can avoid the pitfalls of the gifted myth. You do this by using a growth mindset to fully develop your talents and achieve mastery in your chosen field.

Gifted is a myth

Research has shown that our ideas about innate giftedness does not explain outstanding performers. They argue that we should not think about the distinction between mastery and proficient as the product of innate talent. Rather mastery, and what we call talent, is the product of consistent practice.

K. Anders Ericson’s research produced the 10,000 hours rule of thumb. He observed that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in any area.  That’s approximately 3 hours of practice a day for 10 years. Thus, the difference between the individuals at the top of their fields and the amateurs is many, many, MANY hours of practice.

In a study of young musicians, Ericson and his colleagues asked teachers to rank the students according to their “talent”. The teachers were asked to identify those individuals who were the most talented. These were musicians that the teachers believed to have the most promise for international music careers. Surprisingly, the teacher’s evaluation of the student’s talent was actually a reflection of the students’ hours of practice. Those students who were judged as most likely to have outstanding international music careers practiced on average for about 10,000 hours. Those identified as “good” by their instructors had practiced for approximately 8,000 hours. Those considered the least accomplished practiced for approximately 5,000 hours.

Thus, what we are labeling as evidence of “talent” is the reflection of differential amounts on practice.

Deliberate practice determines your level of success

Ericson asserts that 50 hours of training is enough to allow you to become competent. This average is applicable for any skill with a moderate level of difficulty. These fifty hours of training allow your body and mind to learn how to make the appropriate response automatic.

Yet, those individuals achieve the mastery level commit to never stop learning. This is what enables them to dominate their field. The masters work with coaches who give them the feedback needed to constantly improve their performance. In the video below, legendary basketball player Michael Jordan discusses the importance of practicing with a coach. He identifies consistent practice and direction from his coach as responsible for taking his game to master level.

Belief in gifted promotes social inequality

The ideology of innate levels of giftedness supports the practice of tracking in our schools. This logic suggests that students will perform at the best level for them when grouped according to ability.

Research shows that tracking doesn’t improve student learning. But tracking does expand social and economic inequalities. Rather than an assessment of ability, the notion of giftedness is often a reflection of social privilege. Those individuals from more privileged families (e.g. higher SES, white) are more likely to be evaluated as gifted and placed the more advanced educational tracks. This is a pervasive pattern that has been observed in a variety of schools and states across the country.

We deny opportunities for learning and success to many students by reserving the “enriched” curriculum for those identified as gifted. Yet, schools that are effectively “detracked” show high achievement across all groups of students. Countries such as Finland that do not practice tracking students according to ability demonstrate the highest overall scores of educational achievement.  They also show the smallest range of achievement gap amongst its students. Rather than seeing intelligence and ability as a fixed entity, we now know that our capacity changes with our environment.

Fixed vs. growth mindset

In her groundbreaking book, Mindest: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck shows that perceiving our intelligence, talent, and abilities as something that can grow improves our performance and happiness. This growth mindset suggests that we can expand our ability in any area. But the fixed mindset implies that our level of ability can not be changed by our efforts.

Dweck’s research shows that you truly are what you believe about yourself. Individuals with a fixed mindset experience lots of stress from trying to prove their ability over and over again. They are more likely to give up or not try when things are challenging. Yet, individuals with a growth mindset experience challenges as learning opportunities. As a result of this growth mindset, they are likely to improve from their efforts.

Thinking of yourself and others as possessing an unknown and growing capacity for greatness inspires actions that produce such greatness.  It provides opportunities to all. It focuses our attention on learning and growth rather than proving our worth. These are just a few of the many benefits we receive from discarding our erroneous ideas about giftedness.

Ideology of gifted prevents people from following their dreams

The belief in giftedness encourages some people to play small and avoid pursuing their dreams. They believe that if a particular skill doesn’t come easily for you, then it’s not likely your area of success. This mode of thinking encourages us to give up on our dreams. We give up because we haven’t already demonstrated our “potential” for success.

Successful people without any early visible signs of success

Yet, there are many examples of successful people who looked like they had no potential for such success earlier in their lives. James Earl Jones has earned three Emmy awards. He is also the iconic voice of Darth Vader (Star Wars) and Mufasa (Lion King). But James Earl Jones had a stuttering problem for years as a child. In fact, he practiced poetry, public speaking and acting to help correct his speech problem.

Author Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. But she experienced public failures early in her writing career. In fact, she said her first novel was so bad that even her mother hated it. Rather than throwing in the towel and proclaiming she was not a good writer, Egan continued to learn and improve in her craft as a writer.

Before becoming the youngest self-made millionaire, Bill Gates was a college drop-out. He was also the co-owner of a failed business. Yet he did not interpret these occurrences as a sign that he could not be a successful entrepreneur. Rather, he allowed his passion for computer programming to continue to lead him. Eventually Gates built Microsoft, one of the world’s most successful technology companies.

What these people had in common was a belief that past failures did not prevent their future success. They demonstrated a growth mind-set.  They each continued learning and cultivating their interests, regardless of how others judged their likelihood of success.

Develop your capacity for success

Don’t fall into the trap of giving up on your dreams just because you weren’t a child prodigy. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t experienced a visible level of success, it is not in your future. Failure is not proof that you can’t be successful. Rather it is an opportunity to learn a key component of your future success.

Understanding that giftedness as a myth liberates us. It frees us individually and collectively to invest in ourselves and others. Rather than thinking about talent as a limited resource and directing our focus on identifying those with innate talent, we are now free to focus on interest and effort. If a person is interested in a particular skill or field of knowledge, they are more likely to invest the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice needed to excel in this area.

Success Step 1: Get the information you need

What topics, skills, questions, goals interest you? How are you pursuing them? Now there is no excuses for why you “just aren’t college material” or “don’t have the business sense to become an entrepreneur” or any other excuses that may have justified you not pursuing your goals. Whatever you are lacking now can be learned. You only need to identify your method of getting the information and commit to 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

There are many course, books, programs, videos available to teach you the skills needed to become a master in your chosen area. In this information age you can easily identify resources to teach you almost anything you want to learn. Getting the information is only half the battle. The other part of the equation is logging in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

Success Step #2: Get a coach to take you to master level

Follow the lead of those who have already achieved mastery in their respective areas. Get yourself an expert coach. An experienced coach can design an individualized training program for you and give you the feedback needed to improve your performance. This allows you to focus your full attention on carry out the program. There’s no need for you to try to be both the performer and the evaluator of your performance.

Making the same mistake over and over again will not get you closer to master status. Mastery requires adjusting your performance based on feedback. This feedback loop allows you to get closer and closer to your goal. Your coach provides you with the feedback necessary to recognize errors and correct them. The expert eyes if a coach are a critical component of your journey to mastery. This is how you work smarter, not harder.

Your Journey to Mastery

What’s the next step in your personal journey to mastery level? Have you identified your goal? Are you learning the skills needed for your craft? Are you putting in your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on a regular basis? Do you receive personalized feedback on how to improve your performance from a coach?

If your answer to all the questions above is yes, then let me say “Congratulations!” You are well on your way to achieving master status and dominating your chosen field. No matter how far away it may feel, just remember that if you keep your focus you WILL achieve your goal. I am so proud of you and excited for what you will contribute to our world through your commitment to mastery.

If your answer to any of the previous questions is no, you now know the next step in your journey to mastery.  The fact that you have the interest and commitment means that you CAN achieve your goal. You still need to combine that with instruction and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to realize your dream. I wish you success on your journey!

If there’s anything that I can do to support you on your journey to mastery, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have suggestions for others on the journey, share them below.  Also, please share your success stories as a form of encouragement to others.  Wishing you a life full of purpose, meaning, and joy!

 

The Secret Confidence Killer

Increase your confidence with collaborative thinking

What you think about yourself is much more important than what others think about you.

You have a unique set of talents and a distinctive perspective that is unlike any other. Developing your talents and perspective are the keys to your financial freedom and happiness. Yet, you may be undermining your talent, freedom, and happiness with comparison thinking.

Making comparisons is useful when it comes to shopping for cars or shoes. But, it’s deadly for our self confidence and quality of life when we compare ourselves to others. Comparison thinking has always been with us, but the age of social media seems to have kicked it into high gear. Now it seems as if we can follow people’s life moment by moment on FaceBook and Twitter. This tempts us to compare our daily existence with those we see on social media. Are our children as cute? Do we look as good as she does in her selfie? Is our relationship as happy as theirs? Are our cars/homes/vacations as glamorous as theirs?

I once heard an quote “don’t compare your real life to someone’s Facebook life.” There is both humor and truth in this insightful quote. We must remember that Facebook is a constructed image of snapshots of people’s lives. This is equal to the highlights reel of a sports game. Comparing ourselves to anyone else’s life, virtual or real world, is a dangerous error that undermines our success and well being.

 

Confidence: the Pathway to Success and Happiness

Confidence is defined  as “a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something.”  In the psychological literature, confidence is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the sense that you have the ability to accomplish a task and make good things happen. This feeling of confidence, or self-efficacy, is critical to many our short and long-term success and happiness.

Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence in our abilities and perspective. It’s your uniqueness, not your similarity, that is the keys to your freedom and happiness. But, it’s hard to trust in our uniqueness with so much emphasis on being like the others that we see around us.

Psychological research shows that confidence, or self-efficacy, is associated with increased level of success and personal well being.  Self-efficacy produces positive mental health, high levels of educational achievement, improved physical health, and increased earnings.  There are many reasons why confidence is connected to these various forms of success.

  1. People with higher levels of self-confidence are more likely to try new things.

    Confident people view new activities as tasks that are to be mastered rather than tasks that avoided. They are willing to begin activities with which they have little experience because they believe they can learn new things.

  2. People with higher levels of self-confidence stay engaged in activities longer.

    Since confident people believe in their ability to learn new things, they are more likely to see challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities than failures. Thus, they remain engaged in getting better at the tasks even when it is difficult. This ability to begin and sustain engagement in difficult tasks, increases their level of mastery and their confidence that they can achieve.

  3. People with high-levels of self-confidence perceive themselves as having more control over their lives.

    Thus if there’s something that they find displeasing in their life, they focus on how they can improve the situation. Whereas less confident people tend to see life as happening to them rather than being shaped by them. Thus, they tend to focus on what is negative about their life rather than how to change it. This type of thinking is associated with increased levels of stress and depression.

 

Comparison Thinking Undermines Confidence

You may think of confidence as something you have or don’t have. But research suggests that confidence can be developed by particular ways of thinking and behaving.

A large part of communicating confidence is through nonverbal behavior. We broadcast our levels of confidence to others constantly without knowing it. More recently, scholars and practitioners have been telling us the benefits of “fake it till you make it”. We are instructed to learn and use the nonverbal behavior associated with confidence until it becomes a natural part of our identity.

I definitely agree with the validity of this behavior your way to success approach. Yet, I’d like to draw your attention to how your thinking influences our levels of confidence. Comparative thinking is destructive because it undermines our confidence. Here are two ways that making comparisons undermines your levels of self confidence.

  1. Comparing yourself to someone you admire creates self doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and anxiety.

    You may see the success that the person you admire is experiencing and think that you have to be “just like them” to achieve similar results. Since it’s clear you are not like them, you may stop trying before you actually begin. Or you may ignore your distinctiveness and try to immediate the other person in the hopes of experiencing their successful outcome. You will always be a second rate someone else, but you can be a first class version of yourself.  Living with courage means embracing your unique gifts and sharing them with others.

  1. Comparing yourself to someone you don’t like creates a false sense of superiority and disdain.

    Even comparisons in which we see ourselves “on top” undermine our confidence and success. Rather than focusing on your continued growth and development, this kind of comparison leads you to a path of atrophy. You lose the fire because you think that you’ve already won. Yet the race is not run against other people; it is always within yourself. This is why I loved being a cross-country runner. I realized from a young age that my race is a race of one. I am focused solely on betting my personal best from last time. Focusing on others around you, distracts your focus from accomplishing your personal best. This leads to overconfidence where your confidence exceeds your ability and effort. Don’t allow comparisons to draw you into this trap.

Build Confidence: Eradicate Comparison Thinking

The key to building your confidence and creating the success you desire is to eradicate comparison thinking of all forms and at all time. In comparing of yourself with people you’re never comparing apples to apples. Just because she is a woman, or a singer, or a mother doesn’t mean that she is like you. You are so much more than those titles. You perform the same activity or where the same dress, but the way you do will be totally different. There are people who will be moved only by your voice; by your perspective; by your vision. You owe it to them and to yourself to be authentically you.

Instead of comparison, think collaboratively. The next time you see someone and and tempted to think of yourself as in competition with this person, ask yourself “How can I use my unique gifts to complement this person?” This perspective will allow you to celebrate the success of others and nurture your own.

Confident women collaborate, they don’t compete. Hold yourself up to your own independent standards and encourage others to do so as well. Then you can have success without envy, confidence without arrogance, and pride without self-centeredness.

Confidence Building Affirmation

Where are you comparing yourself to others? Make a commitment to live collaboratively rather than competitively. If you would like support and a reminder to live without comparison, consider writing out the affirmation below.  Post it in places where you will see it daily.

“I can now see the destructive pattern that’s produced in my life by making comparisons. I refuse to do that to myself and my dreams. I am not them, but that does not mean that I can’t have the desires of my heart. Being fully myself can bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire….Being fully myself will bring me all the success I desire.”

Please share below your suggestions about how to build your confidence and live a life without comparisons. We all have a gift to share with the world. Help others live into their gift, as you nurture and share your own!

 

 

 

Celebrate Your Talents and Create a Life of Freedom and Happiness

Create a life of freedom and happiness

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.”
― Erica Jong

Discovering and developing your talents is your key to freedom, success, and happiness. Developing your talents may or may not include formal schooling. Sometimes your career will be the manifestation of your life’s purpose. Other times your career may be the vehicle that supports your ability to do your life’s work. Either way, a meaningful and successful life is dependent upon celebrating your talents.

Celebrating your talents involves reconnecting with your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities. It also includes designing a plan to nurture these talents. But how do you identify your innate curiosity, interests, and abilities?

For people still grappling with identifying your specific talents, this article can guide your self-discovery process. Learning and self-discovery is a iterative process; so you need not know all the answers now. The questions and interests that you identify now will lead you along a path. As you proceed on that path, you will identify even more questions and interests.

Isn’t it exciting to know that this process of discovery and growth continues throughout your entire lifetime?

Once you learn how to ask yourself the right questions, you never have to worry about being bored or retiring from life. Connecting with your inner fire and curiosity will fuel your productivity, energy, and growth. Activating these resources will make you a life-long learner and contributor to our world.

Celebrate Your Talents

The quality of any relationship is based on the quality of the conversations that occur within that relationship. In my coaching practice, I support my clients in improving the quality of the conversations (and thus the relationship) they have with themselves.

So how do you improve the quality of conversations with yourself? Simple. By asking more powerful questions of yourself.

Questions are more powerful than answers as they open up a dialouges and invite new ways of seeing the world.

A good answer can do the same thing because good answers also contain more questions. Unfortunately, our model of schooling often teaches us that answers close the dialogue. We are taught that there’s no more need to raise a question because “we already know”. This shuts down curiousity and is the opposite of learning.

In both my personal and professional life, my focus has been on asking better questions. I’ve found that the right question can fully activate our whole being, mind and body.  Asking myself the right questions gives me energy to sustain my process of growth and discovery.

Below I’ve listed some powerful questions that can help you discover your unique gifts and abilities. These gifts are the basis of your contribution to our world. Thus, it’s important for us all that you discover, develop, and share your talents.

I urge you to write down your answers so that you can more clearly see patterns in your responses. These patterns are your clues to discovering the talents and interests that may have been suppressed by the expectations of others. You owe it to yourself to identify your unique gifts and share them with the world.

Identify Your Unique Talents

Grab your journal and ask yourself the following powerful questions:

Who do you admire?

  1.  Identify five people you admire. They can be people that you know well in your personal life or that you have read about – past or present. For each person selected, write down at least five character traits that you admire about them. These traits may or may not be accurate. It is only important that you perceive this person as possessing these desirable traits.
  2. Once your list is complete look for patterns among your lists. The character traits that you identify and admire in others are the ones you most want for yourself. They reflect your personal values and life goals.
  3. Now write your name in your journal as the sixth person you admire. Write those common themes of desirable character traits under your name. It does not matter whether you yet feel like you possess those traits. Trust that they are in you. If they were not within you, you wouldn’t be able to see and become attracted to them in others. Like attracts like and we see what we are.

What jobs did you dream of having as a child?

  1. In your journal list as many of the various jobs you wanted to pursue throughout your childhood and adolescence. No job is too silly or unimportant to make it to your list. If you dreamed about being an astronaut and a clown, write them both down. By taking all of our dreams seriously, we begin to take ourselves seriously.
  2. Once you have your complete list of dream jobs, write down what attracted you to each one. Why did you want this job? What did you enjoy doing that you thought you could do regularly in this job? What didn’t you like about this job?
  3. Now go through your completed desired job list and look for themes that emerge. Were there common motivations across multiple jobs? Were there common activities? What were the things that lead you to decide a particular job was not for you?
  4. Now take what you have learned and write on a fresh sheet of paper in your journal “my dream job/life contains….”. Write down all the common themes about your motivations, activities, settings, and people across your desired jobs. This list is your dream job/life because you may decide to pursue a career that contains all these elements. Or you may choose to structure your career so that it enables you to sustain a life filled with these activities. This is your choice to make, but we’re not at that deciding point yet.

What messages did you get from others about your career and life choices?

  1. Write down the responses of significant others in your life to your dream jobs. These responses could have been stated explicitly or implicitly. Your sense of others’ responses to your dreams have been internalized by you.  To some extent they unconsciously shape your beliefs about the value of pursuing your dreams.
  2. Make sure that your discussion of others includes people who have played significant roles in your life in the past as well as those in the present. It is important to include messages from parents, teachers, peers, friends, and spouses or romantic partners. Reading through this journal entry will help you to separate your life focus from those of your loved ones.

Whether they gave you messages of encouragement or discouragement, the feedback from these people was more about them than it was about you. In the spiritual book The Four Agreements, we’re advised not to take anything personally. This is because people’s responses to you are actually their responses to projections of themselves. Even messages that seem discouraging or critical may have been grounded in love. A father may discourage you from pursuing a career as a dancer because he is concerned about your ability to become self-sufficient in that career. His comments are products of his worldview, his fear, and his love for you.

The purpose of this activity is not to judge others for the way that have or are currently responding to your life dreams. It is only to allow you to see that their responses do not have to shape how you respond to yourself. You have the power to choose to honor your dreams and decide how you want to nurture your talents.

Honor Your Gifts

Now you can more clearly see what you admire about yourself and what you desire in your dream job and life. You can distinguish your own desires from those of your loved ones. You are prepared to take responsibility for your dreams and begin making them a reality.

If you’d like additional support in building a life that engages your talents in fulfilling your life purpose, sign up for my free Life Planning Tool and for an advanced order of my upcoming book Your Life as a Celebration.

Each day is an opportunity to make a change, to shift direction, to come a little closer to the desires of your heart. This is accomplished by identifying your unique gifts and committing to develop them on a daily basis. Do it for yourself!

Comment below some of your unique gifts as well as how you plan to nurture these abilities.

Saying No: the secret to creating balance in your life and work

Saying No to create life balance

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”-Warren Buffet

People who are successful in life and their careers have mastered the skill of saying no. They don’t say no to everything. Instead, they say no to people, projects, and activities that are in not line with their core values and life purpose. In this article I share how this simple word can help you create balance in your life and work. I also share two easy techniques to help you develop the habit of saying no to everything that is not in line with your core values and purpose.

Early in my career as a college professor, I was overwhelmed with service obligations. I was new on campus and everyone wanted to take advantage of my new energy and areas of expertise. They frequently invited me to participate in their projects, classes, and committees. Additionally, the fact that I was also one of a handful of black faculty on campus meant that I was the first person to come to mind for any request related to diversity.

Service is my way of life. I am always looking for ways that I can add value to others through my unique gifts and talents. I was also eager to get to know and work collaboratively with my new students, colleagues, and administrators. But the expansiveness of my service and teaching obligations made it difficult for me to find time for my research, my family, and my other life priorities.

I quickly learned that I needed to perfect the art of saying no if I was going to be able to thrive in this career and in all the other areas of my life.

Developing the habit of saying no to most request was difficult for me and is challenging for many of the women I work with. Many of us pride ourselves on being helpful to others. We are also very concerned about hurting others feelings or disappointing them. However, once you fully understand the value of saying no, it becomes clear that this is a loving and compassionate act for you and others.

 

How Saying No Creates Life Balance and Success

Saying no creates space for us to do activities we love

By saying no to most request, we protect our time and energy.  This enables us to  say “yes” to things in line with our core values and life purpose.

We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Spending time on a non-priority project provides less time for our high priority projects. Many of us are overwhelmed because we are doing too many activities. When something that we really want to do comes along, we add it to the list because it’s too great to pass up. But adding to a crammed schedule means that we will not have the focus and energy to do our best in this activity. We may not even enjoy it as much because we’re exhausted from all the other activities jammed into the day.

Saying no helps us to avoid disappointing others with less than our best

Often times we don’t want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint the person making the request. Just imagine how disappointed they will be when you don’t complete the job. What about when you don’t do your best work because it’s not high on your internal priorities?

People make requests of us because they value our talents and competencies. They expect us to bring our best game to the requested project. That’s difficult to do when it’s not something that we value. This is what often leads to “forgetting” to do an activity or missing a deadline on a project. It may seem as if we are disorganized or too busy. But in fact, we are unwilling to prioritize that activity given our limited resources. If we communicated this to the person at the time of the request, they could have found someone else who could focus on the activity. But, now they are doubly angry. First, because their activity didn’t go off as envisioned. Second, because they believe that you are the reason that it didn’t.

It is disingenuous to accept a project that is not in line with our purpose and values because we can not do our best work. It’s better to say “no” upfront. We will experience a smaller level of disappointment compared to the disappointment later in the process when we haven’t performed our best.

Saying no helps us not be resentful of others

Resentment occurs when we feel out of control. Saying no helps us to regain control of our life choices. This prevents our growing resentment of others for the choices we make.

Accepting projects based on other people’s values and priorities creates resentment. We act as if they “made” us do something. This resentment is compounded if we think that they are not grateful for our “sacrifice”.

When you do things because they are in line with your purpose and values, you’re not disturbed by the outcome.

If the outcome is different than you expected, or if others don’t appreciate it, you still believe it’s valuable. It’s always nice to have your work valued and appreciated. But when you work on things that you value, it is already valued and appreciated!

Saying no helps us to do our best work

We do our best work when we are focusing on projects and activities in line with our core values and life purpose. This is how we get in the flow. In flow, we are fully engrossed in a activity that we find intrinsically meaningful. As such, we are willing to go the extra mile to achieve optimal results.

Also, we gain energy when we work on activities in line with our purpose. This energy enables us to remain engaged in action. It also provides us with creative insight that isn’t available to people with more peripheral interest.

Have you found that when others tire and shut down, you can sustain your engagement?  Are you able to see possibilities and opportunities more clearly than others? This resilience and problem solving ability comes from your sincere passion and curiosity. It is easy to do your best at things in line with your purpose. Your passion gives you the curiosity, insight, and motivation needed to excel.

Reflecting upon how you feel after an activity is an indicator of its relationship to your purpose and values. If you feel physically tired but emotionally energized, you are likely doing something in line with your purpose. If you feel drained and depleted, you’re probably not working within your purpose.

While the work may not be easy; it is easy to excel at activities in line with your purpose.

You owe it to yourself, and others, to only accept projects that bring out your best. This is where you can make your greatest contribution.

Strategies to Help You Create Life Balance and Success by Saying No

You understand why it’s critical to say no on a regular basis.  Now let’s consider how you are going to build that habit into your life. Having “yes” as our default position has become a habit for many of us. That bad habit is not going to change without intentional intervention.

I’ve listed two proven strategies to help you address your habitual yes. These techniques will shift your default response from “yes ” to “no to anything that is not in line with my purpose and core values”.

  1. Take a “yes” fast.

Fasting means to refrain from food or activities for a specific period of time. The purpose of the fast is break existing habits. It is also intended to promote reflection and introspection.

Taking a yes fast means that you will say “no” to all requests of you for a specific period of time. That period may be a month or a year. I suggest at least a month so that you can say “no” long enough for it to become your new default. It will also give you enough time to observe the consequences of saying no. This will help you become more comfortable with the new habit.

At first saying no may feel very uncomfortable and others may exert even more pressure on you. This is especially true if you’ve developed a habit for saying yes. But, staying the course will allow you to observe that others’ can adjust and the world will go on. Although you may believe (or people may suggest to you) that you are the only one who can do this activity.

Saying no allows you to see that other people really can step up and do the activity. Or if the activity doesn’t occur, perhaps that’s fine as well. Perhaps that was not the best way to meet the need/goal anyway.

This will be a scary experience in the beginning.

Developing a habit of saying no requires both faith and courage.

Faith to believe that you really are meant to do those things in line with your life purpose and core values. Courage to protect the space to do that. Your faith and courage will reward you with increased time and energy. This reclaimed time and energy can be invested developing yourself and your purpose.

If the thought of saying no to absolutely everything is too scary for you, set a narrow parameter. Your parameter should require you to say no to 90% of new requests but allows a small fraction to still get a yes.

After my early years of teaching, I realized I needed to change from my default yes. But, I felt unprepared to go 100% cold turkey no. After discussing this with my trusted friends and mentors, I decided to say no for an entire year to any request that would take more than two hours of my time. The two-hour time limit included the time to prepare and participate in the activity. This was a very difficult thing for me to do. I called my closest friends on a weekly basis with all the reasons why I should make exceptions to my rule. Thankfully, I have great friends who continued to remind me of my commitment and why it was important.

With the help of my support team, I was able to stay the course. By the end of the year, my default was no longer “yes”. I was able to experience the value added to my life of saying no to the many “good, but not purpose-driven” requests made of my time.

  1. Establish a “No Committee”

Another option to help you move from a default of yes is to establish a No Committee. The No Committee takes the stress away from you of deciding whether to say no.

You select close friends and family members that know you, your work, and your life well. You then explain to them your intention of saying no to non-purpose driven activities. Clearly articulate to the No Committee your life purpose and core values. This will become their guide for all their decisions.  Inform them that you commit to abiding by the decisions of the committee.

Because the committee is made up of people who love you (but are not you) they can evaluate the request with emotional distance and clarity. They agree to compare the request to your established priorities and core values. Then make their decision based whether the request is line with your purpose.

The No Committee must have an odd number so that there is never a tie. The committee must agree to respond with a quick turn-around to any request that you pass along to them. I’ve served on a No Committee for years. I have found it a useful and effective way to support my loved ones in achieving more balance in life and work.

Your Balanced Life

Your balanced life can begin today! It requires you to prioritize activities related to your purpose and core values. Say no to everything else! You’ll be amazed at how you can increase your impact on the world and your own happiness. If you’d like other resources to help you better manage your time and balance your energy, check out my YouTube videos on time management and emotion management.

Share you thoughts on effective strategies to create balance in your life. Let’s keep the wisdom flowing! Comment below.

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