What’s Your Word?

At the end of 2016, I did one of those things on Facebook where you take a screenshot to get the word you would carry into 2017. The last few months of 2016 had not been pleasant and 2017 was not looking promising, so I was thrilled that the word I got was strength. Although it was a silly little game and I knew that anyone could keep taking screenshots until they got the word they wanted, I took it as a sign.

2017 was a very difficult year for me. I was going through a lot personally and I held onto that word, strength, like a lifeline. I spent the year doing a deep dive into what I was feeling and why. I dissected my fears and analyzed potential outcomes for a variety of “what if’s.” Whenever it seemed like too much to take, I just remembered my word and that I had strength for that year. I was never so happy to see a year end as I was on December 31, 2017.

To start 2018, I decided to choose my own word, and that word was thrive. I’d done the hard work of breaking down my thoughts, feelings, and past decisions and I was ready to take what I’d learned about myself and move forward. Onward and upward. I started a Master’s program in Business Psychology that I LOVE, suddenly discovered that my gift is teaching (I’ve been a teacher in some capacity most of my life but thought when I decided not to be a school teacher anymore that I was not really a teacher…and I’d never considered teaching a gift), and started laying the foundation to start my own business. In my free time, I read books with the word thrive in the title and listened to podcasts about thriving. I then added in books and podcasts about happiness, and I was fascinated learning about positive psychology in one of my classes. I was thriving. So much so that I kept on thriving in 2019 and never thought about my word.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting and the topic of planning for 2020 came up. One of the exercises was to choose a word for the new year. Without hesitation the word bold popped into my head. I’d spent a year using and building strength which ultimately prepared me to thrive, and then I’d spent two years thriving and getting comfortable again. But here’s the thing; you can’t grow in your comfort zone. I have enjoyed 2019 and my second year of thriving, but it’s getting too comfortable. It’s time to go beyond what’s working and start putting myself out there, well beyond my comfort zone. So…bold. And ready for 2020.

What are you planning for 2020? What’s your word?

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I Am Not a Mind Reader (and you probably aren’t either)

Twice this past week, I received the lesson that I am not a mind reader. I was beating myself up over what I THOUGHT others were thinking.

The first occurrence last week was after a networking event. Someone approached me as I was walking to my car. She has clients who are entrepreneurs, and she’d heard that I help women entrepreneurs with personal and professional development. I was already thinking about where I needed to be next, and I really did a poor job of expressing how I could help. For the next two days, I thought about what this person must think of me. One of my strengths is communication, and I couldn’t even communicate effectively how I could assist her clients! Well, there’s no way she’d want to connect now…and then she reached out and we’re meeting in a couple weeks. I had incorrectly projected my worries and assumptions (of what she was thinking) onto her. I am not a mind reader.

The second occurrence last week was right before a women’s entrepreneur group meeting I was hosting. I was taking a risk by holding the meeting in a different area of the city, trying to expand my presence. This meant that my “regulars” would have a farther drive and might not make it, and this meeting was scheduled right before the holiday weekend. The responses I was getting told me it was going to be a small turnout. The bright spot was that I did have one new person attending. However, I went into projecting mode. Without even meeting this new person, I projected my fears onto her. “She’s going to think I always have this small turnout.” “She’s going to be disappointed that she doesn’t get to make a bunch of new connections.” Well, right away when I met her, she couldn’t be nicer, and she later said that she preferred smaller groups because she can get to know people better and it’s not intimidating. I am not a mind reader.

Here’s the positive lesson: It’s a good thing to assess what you could have done differently in a situation so that you are more prepared next time. Learn and improve. But do not project YOUR thoughts and fears onto someone else. First of all, you are probably making it far worse in your head than it is, and second, you are not a mind reader!



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Don’t Chicken Out on the High Dive

Last weekend, I took my kids to the pool in my home town. At this pool, there is a high dive and a low dive. As you would imagine, for some kids (heck, for some adults) it is a big, huge, scary deal just to climb the high dive steps and jump off straight forward. Now this is the second year my youngest has been jumping off of either diving board, and his older brother has been doing this for a few years, so I thought I could calmly watch while I soaked up some sun.

Then I saw this boy (not mine) climb the high dive, walk out to the end, and turn around. He was preparing to do something other than just jump straight forward. I saw him prep and then stop and walk forward a couple steps. And prep. And walk forward a couple steps. I found myself saying under my breath, “Don’t chicken out. Don’t chicken out.” I did wonder if he’d tried this dive before. And then I thought, “Well, where else would you practice? You’ve just got to go for it and either nail it or learn from it.” And seconds later, he prepped, jumped backward, and did a beautiful back layout into the water.

How many times do we climb the steps of our metaphorical high dive filled with confidence only to battle self-doubt when we’re ready to jump? Don’t chicken out on the high dive! Something inside you told you your idea is good, you can do this, you believe in yourself…or else you wouldn’t have taken that first step. What’s your high dive? Is it public speaking? Is it making a new and challenging career move? Is it becoming an entrepreneur, writing a book, traveling the world solo? Whatever it is, you had the confidence to take the first steps. Where else are you going to practice this “move?” Just go for it and either nail it or learn from it.


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Simple Advice to Get Through Feeling Overwhelmed

Recently, I made the mistake of looking up. I’d had my head down, focused on completing the tasks to move me closer to my goals. I was successfully juggling the various responsibilities in my life, and then I looked up to see how I was doing. I guess you have to look up and assess your progress at some point, right? That gives you the opportunity to course correct if necessary. But here’s the thing…don’t look around too long. If you do, you may start to feel overwhelmed by what you still need to accomplish.

Let’s use a swimming analogy. Imagine you decided to swim from a boat fairly far from shore to that shore. You know the task ahead of you. You know it’s going to be challenging but that you can do it. You swim for a good long while, ignoring the waves, blocking out any thoughts that there are numerous creatures in the water below you that you can’t see. Then, after awhile, you look up to see how far you still have to go. Maybe you look at how far you’ve already swam and assess whether you can stick with the same stroke to get you to shore. That’s fine. Now keep swimming. Because what happens when you stop swimming for too long? Maybe self-doubt starts creeping in. Maybe you start to feel worn out by the waves that you’d been ignoring up to this point. Maybe you start to worry about potential dangers you can’t see. Are any of these worries moving you closer to your goal? No! They are making you feel overwhelmed. So put your head down and start swimming!

When you are feeling overwhelmed, focus on the task you need to complete and the end goal. Get yourself in motion. Put your head down and do the work. To quote Dory from Disney’s Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

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Who Is the Most Powerful Person in Your Life?

I attended a yoga event last week that included a guided meditation. For anyone unfamiliar with this, the instructor speaks in a soft, soothing voice and uses imagery to try to evoke certain emotions in you…peace, strength, love, etc. Now I am a huge believer in the power of the mind and in using positive self-talk, but for some reason I struggle with someone else trying to guide my thoughts. I found myself sitting on my mat, listening to the instructor speak, and thinking, “when did I become such a sarcastic yogi?” At one point I was supposed to be imagining myself in the perfect garden sanctuary, but I got hung up wondering if it was humid in my perfect garden sanctuary, and if so, how frizzy was my hair getting? And then I heard, “you are the most powerful person in your life.”

Immediately, the words resonated with me. But then in the sarcastic mood I was in, I countered with, “no, God is the most powerful person in my life.” Hmmm….but God is well, God…not a person. Right? (You see why I struggle with meditation.) So, yes, it is okay to agree that I am the most powerful person in my life. Wow. Think about that.

We forget that sometimes, don’t we? We can feel stuck and come up with a list of reasons why we can’t change the situation. But that’s not true. Each one of us is the most powerful person in our own lives. If we are stuck in a situation, then it is because we decided it is easier to stay there. It’s easier than hurting someone else’s feelings or having that difficult conversation. It’s easier than taking a risk and possibly failing. When we list the reasons we are stuck, we are listing the people or things we have given our power away to. Except that…

You are the most powerful person in your life. You get to decide when you’ve had enough of something. You get to decide who to let in and who to kick out. You get to decide whether to forgive or hold a grudge, to be grateful or bitter, to fight for what you want or give up. The decisions are all within your power.

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The One Word That Will Help You Find Your Tribe

I looked around the room and thought about how different we all are. Under what other circumstances would I ever be having these personal conversations with these women?

We were all in attendance for a Women Entrepreneurs Event I was leading. In these events, we have three objectives: Learn. Connect. Support. Once we start talking, we find we have a lot in common. It doesn’t matter our backgrounds or even what businesses we are in. We are brought together by our experiences and our goals.

To the ladies: How many times have you gone to the restroom and ended up having a conversation with a complete stranger (usually about some wardrobe malfunction, makeup issue, or bad dinner date) and you find an instant connection? You don’t have any expectation of ever seeing this person again, but you connect for a few moments.

So what’s the connection? Why can a group of women who share a similar, but yet individual, goal connect? Why can you connect with a stranger in a restroom even without any common goal…and no knowledge of this person’s background, just connecting because of whatever was said at that moment? The connection is authenticity.

The women who attend my “Learn. Connect. Support.” events are their authentic selves. We show up to learn something that will help us grow in our personal and professional development, we network and build relationships, and we support each other’s businesses on social media and by going to each other’s events. We do not show up pretending we already know everything or that we don’t need help. We are not competitive with each other and do not judge. We put our authentic selves out there.

I realize there are risks involved with letting your guard down and being your true self, especially around strangers. But if you really want to find your tribe, you have to be brave and be you. If people don’t accept you as you are, then they are not your tribe. And isn’t it better to find out sooner rather than later? So be brave, be authentic.

Want to live more bravely and authentically? Check this event out: Brave, Not Perfect – The Book Club

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A Little Tough Love…For Your Happiness

Are you happy? If not, why not? And why aren’t you doing something about it? What’s the payoff for staying unhappy? Do you like having people worry about you? Like to play the “who’s got it worse” game? Or is it easier to stay in an unhappy life than to try for the things that will make you happy or than to possibly fail?

That’s a lot of questions all at once, but if you can deal with your truth, happiness is on the other side.

So are the things that make you unhappy things you can change? Do you want to change? Here’s a few scenarios that might make the list:

Unhappy due to being unfit  —  work out and eat better.

Unhappy due to a bad job —  look for another role/job.

Unhappy due to a bad relationship —  talk or walk.

I know, it’s not that simple. The change won’t happen overnight. No, it won’t, but if there’s even the slimmest of chances that taking that first step (taking a 10 minute walk, searching job posts, explaining to your significant other what you need) will increase your happiness by even 1%, then why don’t you take that chance?

And maybe you unhappiness is due to circumstances that you can’t change. You still have the option to change how you feel and react to the circumstances. Staying unhappy, bitter, resentful, you name it, is a waste of your precious time. There is always something to be happy or grateful for…music, loved ones, travel, the birds chirping…let it in.

The point of this post is, don’t waste the time you have being unhappy. You can make changes and choose to be at least happier. I don’t mean this to sound harsh or insensitive, but to quote Rachel Hollis from her book Girl, Wash Your Face,”if you’re unhappy, that’s on you.” (see also Girl, Wash Your Face…Girl, Read This Book!)



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Better Solutions Through Awareness

How does your stress manifest? Maybe it’s not so much “stress” as it is mental or emotional clutter that elicits a physical response from you. How do you work through that? Do you even realize that you are responding to what’s happening internally? In other words, are you aware?

Here’s an example. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful new opportunities and possibilities this month…to the point that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. So many thoughts swirling around in my head and the realization that some things are out of my control for now. My internal clutter manifested in the need to clean. For almost 7 hours on Saturday, I wiped down cabinets, washed light fixtures, and scrubbed floors. I was very aware that my physical response matched my mental need…the need to organize my (head) space. Who knew vacuuming could be therapeutic?!

At the end of the day, I was tired, but having my outside space clean and organized left me free to organize my inside space. And somewhere between swishing toilets and washing rugs, my thoughts pulled together and I realized I do have a strategy for how to proceed and that I’m not overwhelmed. Now this is a long story to say, had I chosen to just say “I’m stressed out” and have a couple of drinks, it is highly unlikely that I would have dealt with my mental clutter. Instead, I was aware that my physical act of cleaning was making room for my mental cleaning as well.

Now I’m not going to tell you how you “should” respond, but I think awareness is such an interesting topic and one that could improve your life. I know, that seems like a big statement, but here’s another example. Do you know someone (or maybe it’s you) who’s an emotional eater? Does eating solve the problem? No…and it usually adds to the original problem because afterward the person regrets what or how much was eaten. Being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a more productive external or physical response. In this example, if the person is aware that he/she is so bored or frustrated with work, then he/she could choose to go for a walk and get a change of scenery. And maybe while on that walk think about if this is momentary boredom or frustration or if it’s time to talk to the boss about a new role.

While choosing healthier coping mechanisms is great, being aware is more about solving the problem. (But if you’re also healthier, BONUS!) The point is that being aware of what’s going on internally can help you choose a response that empowers you to deal with the root cause rather than cover it up or numb it. Finding better solutions through awareness starts with two basic questions: What am I feeling? Why? If the answers aren’t clear right away, try talking it out with a friend or journaling.

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A Detour Is Not a Stop Sign!

You know the song “Life is a Highway” and the inspirational words “life is about the journey not the destination.” I’m going to throw another travel metaphor at you: A detour is not a stop sign.

Imagine you’re on a road trip that you’re really excited about. A few hours into your drive, you see a detour sign. What do you do? Do you say, “Well, I guess I’ll turn around and go home?” No! You follow the detour (and most likely hear your GPS say, “recalculating route”) and eventually end up at your desired destination.

So why when facing a detour or road block on your personal or professional journey would you stop? You’ll hear some people say, “It was a sign…I’m not meant to be doing this.” Right. Or maybe, your cosmic GPS is course correcting you!

Here are 4 reminders for maneuvering your detour:

1. Revisit your “why.” Maybe you’ve gotten a little off course and this detour is occurring to teach you something. If you still believe in why you’re working toward your personal/professional goal, then figure out how to get back on track.

2. Go to your support system. Your people who know your goals and your passion will help get you back on course. They won’t let you give up too easily!

3. Stick to the facts. Don’t let your mind go overboard and make the detour more dire than it really is. (Avoid words like “never.” As in, “I’m never going to be successful.”)

4. Remember that success is not a straight path and there are no overnight successes.

When driving toward your goals, learn along the way and enjoy the ride. Know where you want to go, but have some flexibility in how you get there. Embrace the phrase “Recalculating route…”

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Handle the Comparison Trap With This One Question

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote by Theodore Roosevelt is one of my go-to reminders because I, probably like many of you, fall victim to the comparison trap somewhat often.

Here’s my scenario from this morning: I was in a good mood, going about my routine, checking social media…when photos of a gorgeous fitness model popped up in my feed as I scrolled through. You know, pictures that make you want to throw on a large parka and hat, stay hidden in the shadows, and never post a picture of yourself again? Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point.

So in a matter of minutes, I realized I had a choice to make. Referring back to one of my takeaways from Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop, I asked myself, “Am I willing?” Because if we are going to compare ourselves to someone else, we will either be sad about it or DO something about it. If we are not willing to do what it takes, then be ok with it and move on. Stop comparing and go back to the happy mood you were in before the comparison trap snagged you! (In my case, I decided that no, I am not willing to drastically cut my calories and workout like it’s my full-time job. And let’s face it, there’s also metabolism, heredity, and other characteristics I can’t control.)

So I am NOT willing to go all in and change my life as a result of a few sad moments of comparison. But what I AM willing to do is be honest that my workouts have been more “going through the motions” than really going for my goals. And I AM willing to cut out that late night snacking habit that crept back in with college football season…the habit that would otherwise continue all the way through March Madness.

To summarize, when you find yourself on the sad end of the comparison trap…because at some point we all do…ask yourself what, if anything, you are willing to do about it. Don’t let that trap hold you! Either decide, “nah, I’m good,” and go on with your happy self, or decide what actions you are really willing to take to achieve YOUR realistic version of what you’re comparing yourself to.

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