How Do You Eat an Elephant?

You’ve probably heard this before: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This happens to be one of my favorite sayings. I use it often to calm down and remind myself that any large project is possible when broken down into smaller pieces.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you take on a big task. And then you may fall victim to thoughts like, “Why did I agree to do this?” or “This is impossible!” First of all, worrying and engaging in negative self-talk are huge wastes of time and energy. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge you’re feeling worried, then take control of the situation by creating a plan.

Write down your plan on paper so it is not running on a continual loop in your head. You can make a detailed list of numbered steps, create a process map, or any method that gets your thoughts organized on paper. From there, you can take each step and add details such as who can help and what resources are available. (This works for planning a wedding, building a house, work projects, everything.) Add a target completion date for each step to hold yourself accountable. Move forward by completing one step at a time.

Tackling a seemingly insurmountable task is really an opportunity to develop mental and emotional endurance. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, revisit your plan and remind yourself you’re going to eat this elephant…one bite at a time!

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The Game of Life

Do you know exactly how many days, hours, minutes you have left in your game of life? Here’s why I ask.

As I watch my son’s soccer team play a game that they are losing 1-0, they are trying hard to tie it up. But when a parent calls out that there are only 5 minutes left to play, every player on the field kicks into a higher gear and becomes more intent on reaching the goal.

I watched my other son run a cross country meet this weekend. After 3 miles of running, I see the clock, I see him, and I yell, “You can still PR! Sprint!” And as if he had fresh legs, he did just that. Sprinted to his personal record for a cross country meet.

So this all got me thinking. What if the players didn’t know the time they had to play. What if the soccer teams took the field and didn’t know if they’d play 20 minutes or an hour? What if a runner had no clock or watch along the course? What if a golfer didn’t know how many holes were going to be played each round? How many innings for a baseball player? How many laps for a race car driver? Apply to the sport of your choice. My point is, how hard would athletes play if they didn’t know how much time they had to reach their goals and win their game?

Now, what about the game of life? Do you know exactly how many days, hours, minutes you have left? No! So what are you waiting on? Get your game plan together. Suit up. Take action. NOW. To reach your goals and win at the game of life!

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A Refresher on Coming From a Place of Yes

Writing a bit of a “throw back Thursday” post today. Sort of. You see, I first read Bethenny Frankel’s book, A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life, when it was published in 2011. But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about and writing about saying yes to life, so I decided to read the book again. I expected to quickly skim the book to get a refresher, but I found that the messages applied in different ways now (7 years later) than the first time I read it, and I wanted to absorb the information in this new light.

So, even though it’s an older book, I still recommend reading it. Bethenny Frankel has a personal story that is interesting to read and I am a huge believer in saying yes! (You can also reference my posts Say Yes and Sorting Out Why to Say “Yes” and Why to Say “No”.) Here are my top takeaways from reading A Place of Yes this time around:

  • “Seek what’s true for you, rather than for the people around you.” From Rule 2: Find Your Truth. “Unless you know what you want, you’ll be making decisions and living your life on somebody else’s terms.”
  • “What’s the next chapter of your life going to be about? Don’t just plan it. Start making it happen even before you’ve figured it all out…Make it happen. Make something happen.” From Rule 3: Act On It. “It all comes down to saying yes. Acting on it – making real things happen in real life – comes from a place of yes.”
  • Everything that “happens to you has the potential to open new doors.” From Rule 5: All Roads Lead to Rome. Everything happens for a reason even though you might not know how it all fits together in your life at this moment. “When you are following your truth…everything you do will eventually get you where you want to go – or someplace even better.”
  • Also from Rule 5: All Roads Lead to Rome. “You should always bet on yourself. People often bet against themselves – don’t do that. Don’t let anyone reduce you or your passion to a number. The horses picked as the favorites hardly ever win the Kentucky Derby. Odds are nothing. Instead, follow your gut, because it knows better than the odds. What if you’re a long shot? If you want something, you have to go for it. If it goes badly, you’ll learn from it. If it goes well, then you win, odds be damned.”

Those are my biggest takeaways this time around, but there is so much more to this book that might relate to you. For example, Bethenny writes about “breaking the chain” and not being the woman her mother was. She writes about lessons she’s taken from her childhood and how her childhood shaped her. She writes about her other relationships too and the lessons she’s learned about how her personal issues impacted those relationships. She also has good sections on “noise” – the chatter in your head that can throw you off your game if you let it, and a chapter on making everything you do your business. In other words, whatever you are doing, do it well. You never know who is watching or what opportunities can open up from something.

Obviously I like this book and see value in reading it (since I read it twice.) I like it and suggest it because, whether you like Bethenny Frankel and care about her story or not, Bethenny puts it all out there. She shares all of her mistakes and not just her victories. A Place of Yes is about learning who you are and owning it. It’s about always moving forward, trying something, and not being complacent about your life or giving up on your dreams. Say yes to your life!

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If Not Now, When?

Have you accomplished everything you want to accomplish in this life of yours? I know I haven’t. In fact, I know I have more interests and goals than I will ever have time to get to in this lifetime. So maybe that is why phrases like “just killing time” or “wasting time” and “I have nothing to do” drive me crazy! Time is precious. We only get one life and we have no idea how much time is left in it.

Don’t you want to do something bigger with your life? Have you really checked off all your goals and dreams and have nothing left to do? What are you waiting for? Do you not know where to start? Do you think it’s too late?

It’s never too late and there is always something you can do! Every day that you get to wake up is a new opportunity. If you don’t know where to start, then start by brainstorming a list of things you find interesting or want to try. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak Italian. Maybe your list has “check out Italian language CDs at the library.” There. Boom. You’re on your way. Now set a goal to listen to the CDs while you’re driving home from work or while you’re cooking dinner. Maybe you find that you love it, maybe you don’t, but you DID something.

You can apply the example above to anything on your list. Make a goal. Make a plan to accomplish the goal. Time is our most precious “non-renewable resource.” When it’s gone, it’s gone. So if there’s something you still want to do in your life, ask yourself this question: “If not now, when?”

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10 Tricks and Tips to Find Your Positive Groove

Whether you are generally a positive person who gets in the occasional negative funk or you are generally a negative person but you would like to experience the power of positivity, here are 10 of my favorite tricks and tips that can help you find your positive groove.

  1. Dress better than you feel. Do something with your hair. Put on a little makeup. This works for two reasons: You’re doing something for you and for the rest of the day when you see your reflection, you will see this better version of yourself.
  2. Exercise. Again, you’re doing something to take care of you, but exercise also creates feel good endorphins. Even a 10 minute walk can boost your mood.
  3. Get outdoors. Get some fresh air, clear your head, and can be combined with tip #2!
  4. Get enough sleep. The average recommended amount of sleep is 7-8 hours per night. You need that in order to repair and recharge from the day’s events.
  5. Practice gratitude. Once a day, find 5 things that you are grateful for.
  6. Make goals and accomplish them. Who doesn’t like to feel accomplished? Make a realistic to do list and feel the joy of crossing off each item as you complete it!
  7. Smile more. Others will smile back which makes you feel even more positive. 🙂
  8. Compliment someone. Brightening up someone else’s day is a win-win.
  9. Take actions on problems. If your negative funk is due to a problem that keeps plaguing your mind, take some action towards a solution. Staying in your head about it is a powerless place to be; taking action gives you your power back.
  10. Give hugs. Hug your family. Hug your friend. Hug your pet. It gets your feel good oxytocin flowing…for both you and your hug recipient!

Let me know what you think! Which tip works for you or maybe you can share a tip I don’t have on my ever-growing list yet. Thanks for reading and have a positively amazing day!

Stop Stressing Out About Work-Life Balance

I made a post on Instagram Saturday morning in which I said instead of work-life balance, we should have Work-life Awareness. (I don’t know if that’s a term anyone else uses yet, but I’m using it now. If it becomes a thing, I’m claiming it as my own.)

Anyways, I was making the point that “balance” doesn’t have to be taken literally. I mean if we took it literally we would spend 12 hours at work and 12 hours for ourselves, our friends, and our families. I hear people trying to achieve this balance of time and energy on work and personal and then stress out that they can’t achieve it.

I have to suppose that when the term “work-life balance” was first created, it was meant to remind people not to be workaholics and try to get ahead professionally at the expense of their health and their relationships. But over time, it seems to have become one more measure that people have added to their checklist of “if I do this I’m closer to perfection.”

I am proposing work-life awareness and measuring happiness instead of perfection (whatever THAT is.) If you’re ready to make the shift to work-life awareness, start by asking yourself two questions at the end of the day or week or whatever time period feels right for you:

1. Am I happy?

If you spend 80% of your time working and you LOVE your work, you’re probably happy. On the flip side, if you only gave about 20% of your time and energy working at a job that’s just a job and were freed up to be fully present with friends and family, you’re probably happy. Just be aware of that.

2. Will I regret these choices of how I spent my time a year from now? 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

Not to rain on the happiness parade, but ask this question because you may be happy today, but later you don’t want to either regret spending so much time in the job you love that you missed your kids’ milestones or regret not spending enough time working on a career and feel like you’ve missed your calling. Be aware of that too.

Whether you want to call it “work-life balance” or “work-life awareness” or any other term you coin, it’s really just semantics. But please, stop stressing out about it and find your sweet spot, your happiness, your zone…whatever you want to call it.

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Say Yes

In my last post, Sorting Out Why to Say “Yes” and Why to Say “No” I pointed out that you should assess and understand why your initial reaction to an offered opportunity is yes or no, and I noted some good reasons why you might choose yes or no in a particular circumstance. In this post, however, I am going to advocate for saying yes — especially if it interests and/or scares you. Say yes, get out of your comfort zone, and see how you grow!

If you want an illustration of how saying yes can impact your life, I recommend watching the Jim Carrey movie from 2008, Yes Man. I recently watched this movie again (I had seen it years ago) and still enjoyed it. Of course, it is a little silly in some parts, but the message of saying yes to open yourself up to life’s possibilities is carried out well. The premise of the movie is that the main character, Carl, promises a self-help guru that he will say yes to everything and if he breaks the promise he’ll be cursed. This promise takes Carl well out of his comfort zone, but he does begin living life (to the extreme) instead of merely surviving day after day.

So in real life, how do you say yes to things that are out of your comfort zone? What if you just don’t have the confidence? Well, you’re in luck because it takes courage, not confidence, to get out of your comfort zone. Confidence is built from getting out of your comfort zone! Here’s an example. If public speaking is out of your comfort zone, then it takes courage to say, “you know what…I will try my best. I will get through it, and I will be stronger for it after having this experience.” That’s how you gain confidence — because the next time you do something out of your comfort zone you can say, “well, I survived that public speaking thing, so I can survive this too.” (This reminds me of the workout t-shirt that says “but did you die?” I think anyone who tries something out of their comfort zone should wear one of these shirts!)

I challenge you to give it a try. Be courageous and do something that is out of your comfort zone this week. Strike up a conversation with the other person in the elevator. Take the dance class. Accept the job offer that gives you butterflies in your stomach. Just saying yes and getting out of your comfort zone is a success! Repeated success builds confidence, and then guess what — you’re not just surviving; you’re thriving!

Sorting Out Why to Say “Yes” and Why to Say “No”

Lately I’ve noticed that there is somewhat of a conflicting message on whether to say yes or no to new opportunities. If you are focusing on “work life balance,” the message is to say “no” more often. If you are focusing on personal or professional growth, the message is to say “yes” more often. Here are a few thoughts on how to think through your situation and each opportunity that comes your way.

First, assess why your immediate reaction to new opportunities is usually “yes” or usually “no.” If your immediate reaction is usually “no,” is it because you’ve been saying “no” for so long that you don’t even think about it anymore? Do you say “no” because you’re afraid? lack confidence? accept your limiting beliefs as truths? (“I’m not good at speaking in front of groups.” or “I can’t take any time away from my family.”) Be careful – after you say “no” to someone a few times, they’ll stop asking because they assume your answer is always going to be “no.” Of course, there are good reasons to say “no.” The opportunity might not interest you or maybe you need to wrap up some other projects before you have time to commit.

If your immediate reaction is usually “yes,” why? Is it because you want people to like you? you don’t want to let anyone down? fear of missing out? Be careful – if you’re stretched so thin working on things you don’t really want to be doing, you won’t have time for opportunities you  really want to be involved with when they come along and you could burn out all together. Some good reasons to say “yes” include that the opportunity sounds fun or interesting or that it is a wonderful growth opportunity.

Once you have an understanding of why you are currently a “yes” or “no” person, you can be more conscious of what you’re really feeling when presented with an opportunity. Instead of giving your usual answer, pause. What is your body’s (gut or heart, however you like to think of it) first reaction? Is it excitement or dread? For example, you could be offered a chance to spend a month working in a foreign country and your very first physical reaction might be excitement. Remember that…because the next response comes from your brain. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe, so it is going to run through all the potential downsides (where will you stay? who will you know? who would watch your pets? etc.) You have to be conscious of your thoughts and counter all the downsides with the potential upsides (your company is paying for the travel, it’s a huge growth opportunity, an adventure, there are friends, family, and professional services to help you handle things while you’re away.)

Obviously each person’s circumstances are different, and some people are naturally more inclined to say “yes” while others say “no.” But the point of this post is that we should at least be conscious and deliberate in our responses. Understand why your initial response is usually an immediate “yes” or “no.” Question it. One of my favorite sayings that applies here is “nothing changes if nothing changes.” We have to question our thoughts and behaviors if we are ever going to grow and change.

What If You Loved Yourself As You Are?

Have you seen Amy Schumer’s movie, I Feel Pretty, yet? If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. If you haven’t, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you here.

I will just tell you that I watched it last night and want to recommend it to the following people:

1. Anyone who ever looks in the mirror or photos of themselves and only focuses on the negatives, or

2. Anyone who ever compares themselves to others and feels “less than”

Awhile ago, it seemed like the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?” was the big popular question. After watching this movie, I’m thinking “What would you do if you loved yourself exactly as you are in this moment?” Would you apply for the job you want instead of talking yourself out of it because you only meet 8 out of the 10 qualities listed? Would you throw on your bikini and be in the pictures with your friends and family instead of excluding yourself from those captured memories by always being the one taking the pictures? Would you take a class you’ve been interested in and have faith that you’re capable enough to do well in it instead of making excuses for why you can’t even try?

Here’s the thing…you can love yourself as you are in this moment AND keep challenging yourself to be an even better version of yourself each day. Challenge yourself because you love yourself and want to keep giving to yourself; not because you’re unhappy with yourself and want to completely change into someone else. For example, go to the gym because you love yourself and want to be healthy; don’t go to the gym because you hate everything about the way you look and want to punish yourself. See the difference? It’s really all in re-framing your thoughts…changing them into positive statements and objectives instead of negatives. Another example is to look in the mirror and focus on your favorite feature. Only focus on the favorites, not what you hate, want to change, or what “needs work.” Again, it’s a subtle change and definitely takes practice, but it’s a start!

Please ponder the thoughts above and consider watching I Feel Pretty. And then share your thoughts with me in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Be Brave

Today I reached out to an accomplished, well-respected woman in a more senior position than mine at work. Until today, I had neither met her nor had a conversation with her, but I felt she was someone I should know, someone who might have some answers to my questions.

To my delight, she was gracious, warm, helpful, and offered to mentor me! She gave me a couple of assignments to complete before we talk again, and then what really struck me was that she told me, “be brave.” It reminded me of when my son was 6 years old and he went down a big water slide by himself, something he was too afraid to do the year before, and he exclaimed with all his little kid sweetness, “I was so brave!”

I had not thought about steps taken to advance my career as brave. Out of my comfort zone maybe, but not brave. But brave does have a better sound to it, doesn’t it? Like you’ve really done something big with your day!

So going forward, I’m adopting this phrase for every challenge and uncomfortable situation I need or want to face. And I’m offering it to you too: Be brave!