Thank You for that Setback

Suffer a setback? Don’t waste your time feeling defeated, because you’ve just been given two gifts: a lesson and fuel.

After a setback occurs, take a little time to process what happened and identify how you’re feeling. Once you’ve identified the emotions (anger, embarrassment, sadness, etc.) it’s easier to move from a place of feeling to a place of action. Think about what you can learn from this setback; there’s a lesson in there somewhere. But don’t be satisfied with just learning the lesson. Take action! Take that emotion you’re feeling and turn it into your fire, your fuel, your catalyst to say, “Oh yeah? Watch me now!” And then do something!

Maybe your setback was that you missed a deadline and your lesson is that you need to manage your time better. Use your frustration as fuel to create a more organized calendar and to start prioritizing where your time goes.

Maybe your setback was that you can’t fit into last year’s dress pants and your lesson is that your desk job is not doing your metabolism any favors. Use your annoyance as fuel to sign up for a 5k and actually train for the 5k!

Whatever the setback, learn the lesson, be fueled by the emotion, and take action that moves you ahead of where you were before the setback occurred.

My Son Almost Got Hit By a Car…and Other Potential Perils of Being a “Go-Go-Go” Parent

The team was already gathering when I pulled up to the school with my son. I said, “Okay, we’re here,” and he looked up from his phone, scrambled to get his things together, and jumped out of the car. In my side mirror, I saw a van pulling around us and I yelled, “Wait!” at my son, but he’d already slammed the door and didn’t hear me. That nano-second played out in slow motion as I watched him never look, running in front of the van to join the team. Thank goodness the driver of the van was looking straight ahead, saw my son, and slowed for him.

Had this been a sitcom, there would have been a laugh track played as the disheveled boy ran to practice, probably dropping something along the was. The sitcom mom would smile and shake her head and be off to her next busy mom task.

My life is no sitcom, but what it is — and probably yours too — is a daily attempt to be a nurturing, productive role model for my children. I want my boys to see and hopefully model my work ethic as they grow into young adults. But this episode with my son brought to my attention that I also have to teach them the strategies that allow me to be so productive.

Before I share about strategies, here’s another story. After I dropped my other son off at camp, I was walking back to my car. Another mom and her son were hurriedly speed-walking toward the camp drop-off spot. The mom had a can of sunscreen and she was spraying the boy’s arms and legs (or at least she was spraying the air around his arms and legs) while they were in motion. A couple of us witnessing this scene chuckled as she looked up, laughed, and said, “We are SO late!” It was a funny sight, and again could have included a laugh track and been a funny scene in a busy sitcom about parenting. But the thing is, she wasn’t “SO late.” In fact, she was less than 5 minutes late. She was simply caught up in the “go-go-go.” Driving away, I began thinking about what we are modeling for our kids.

Some of us are naturally type A personalities. I am. I enjoy being a productive “go-go-go” mom taking care of my three boys, working, working out, etc. I’ll point out here that I am a “go-go-go” mom, meaning I like to accomplish as much each day as I possibly can. However, I do not encourage overscheduled, “go-go-go” kids.

The two stories I shared earlier reminded me that we, as parents, should also teach our children the strategies we use to be productive. Otherwise, we might just be raising kids who feel stressed out trying to follow in our productive, “go-go-go” footsteps. So here are three strategies I am working on with my kids (and it is a nice refresher for me too as I practice what I’m preaching!)

  1. Prepare the night before. Sometimes we think we’ve got this, we can just wing it in the morning, but even if we can, why not prepare the night before and have a calm, easy-paced morning? (If you’re wondering how to model this for your kids because you’re so used to just doing the prep work behind the scenes, here’s how I’m doing it. I’m talking out loud about what I’m doing and why. “Ok, let’s go ahead and pack lunch tonight so we’re not rushed tomorrow.” And I’m asking the boys questions to keep them listening. “Do you want pb&j for lunch tomorrow? Great. Can you please pull out the stuff to make that?” For us this week, we’re looking at the forecast. “Let’s put the sunscreen bottle on the counter so we don’t forget it in the morning.” And we’re planning clothing. “You’re running tomorrow. Make sure you have clean socks.”)
  2. Take a breath, collect your thoughts and your things before leaving the house/car. Even though we prep the night before, we need to take a pause and make sure we’re not running out disheveled. (Again, I actually practice this with my son, having him pause, put his phone in his bag before opening the car door, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings — to not almost get hit by a car!)
  3. Ask what’s more important. Sometimes even with preparing the night before, we find ourselves running late — because we’re human and maneuvering in a world full of other humans. We grown ups know how to prioritize and get our day back on track, but we need to model this strategy for our kiddos too. (Especially since I will have young drivers in a few years, I am modeling how to prioritize when in a rush.) By asking the question, “What’s more important?” we can model how to prioritize. When asking the question, make is consequence- based. (If my son is playing a video game and I ask what ‘s more important, the answer is always going to be the video game. By comparing consequences, kids understand what you’re really asking. And yes, my son will still say the video game is more important, but he gets this smile and change of tone that let’s me know he understands and just doesn’t want to admit it.) So I model this consequence-based question while driving by asking, “What’s more important, that we get there on time or that we get there safely?” or “I could go faster, but is trying to make up time worth getting a speeding ticket, which will make us even more late?” The desired outcome, of course, is that when our kids are faced with making important decisions on their own in the future, they will weigh the consequences and choose wisely, especially when it involves operating a 2-ton motor vehicle!

I know , practicing these strategies with our kids is not sitcom-worthy. Adding a laugh track to making a pb&j in advance or practicing good decision-making is not going to make it any more fun. But, practicing these strategies may help prevent a drama — and I think all parents will agree that preventing drama where we can is totally worth the effort!

 

When Your Job’s Purpose is not Your Purpose

Do you feel fulfilled by your current job? If not, it could be that you are lacking a sense of purpose in the work you’re doing. This is not to say that the work you’re doing is not important to the company, but maybe it doesn’t feel important to you.

Oprah Winfrey said, “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” I love this statement because there is an implied positive future in it. The message is not that you will be stuck in your current position forever. The message is that you are being responsible now, doing what has to be done, and you are taking steps toward your desired future.

So what do you do in the meantime — while you’re taking these steps toward what you want to do? How do you get through every unfulfilling work day until then? You change how you think about your current job. Start with gratitude. When you wake up each morning, think about how grateful you are to have a job or how grateful you are for a special co-worker, or the experience you’re gaining, or anything else you can think of to be grateful for in your current job.

The other thing you can do is create a purpose for your job that makes you feel more fulfilled. For example, if your job’s purpose is data entry but you are sick and tired of data entry and know that this is not your purpose, then find purpose. You can find purpose in your current job or you can find purpose outside of your job. Continuing with the data entry example, if you feel your purpose is teaching, then ask your manager if you can train the new hires in your department. If that’s not an option, fulfill your desire to teach by volunteering at an organization like the Boys and Girls Club or get a part-time job tutoring or teaching a class after work or on the weekends.

Remember that you are so much more than your job title. My oldest son is currently working as a grocery store “bag boy.” While he is still very young, he and I both know that his life’s purpose is not to bag groceries. However, he has found purpose in his job beyond his job title; that purpose is helping others and making their day better. I got to see him in action one afternoon. He was truly enjoying helping people with their groceries and chatting with them. I watched customers drive away with smiles on their faces and watched my son joyfully find the next person to help.

If you are feeling unfulfilled, reflect on what is missing in your work and what will make you feel more fulfilled. Instead of focusing on the negatives, think positively about the actions you can take to become more fulfilled and more closely aligned to your life’s purpose.

In a Self-Care State of Mind

Self-care is so vital for both you and for all of the people you help take care of. How can you keep giving of yourself if you burn out and have nothing left to give? This concept of self-care can be difficult at first, (mom guilt, spouse guilt, worker guilt), but with a little practice and deliberate thinking, it can become a great habit.

When choosing a self-care activity, decide what will give you an energy boost. (Remember, relaxing/taking care of yourself now will restore your energy reserves for upcoming days.) Your self-care does not have to be the same as your friends’ self-care. For example, your friends may swear by yoga, but if you find trying to sit still and think of nothing more stressful than relaxing, it’s probably not the best self-care activity for you.

Put some thought into what YOU want to do. Maybe you can remember things you used to enjoy doing before you got so busy. (A nap!) Or maybe you have something new that you might enjoy. (A new dance class?) You are scheduling some time for you, so make it something you’re excited to put on your calendar!

Whatever self-care activity you decide on does not necessarily have to do with the amount of time or money involved. The most important element is your mindset. Be mindful of your thoughts and that you are doing something for you. You could take a weeklong luxury vacation, but if the whole week you are thinking about what’s happening at work or trying to schedule every minute of your vacation with what other people have told you are “must see” and “must do” things on your trip, then you really haven’t gained much in the re-energizing department. You could take a 20 minute walk in a quiet park observing the sights and sounds of nature and thanking yourself for the timeout and feel more energized from that 20 minutes than from that weeklong vacation. And it’d be free!

Maybe pedicures are your thing. If you recharge from a $50 pedicure at the spa, that’s great. If you can recharge from taking 30 minutes at home to take care of your nails, that’s also great. It’s your mindset that is key. If you’re doing your own pedi and thinking to yourself, “I wish I could afford the spa” or “this is just a chore,” then that’s not really self-care. Change your mindset to focus on the time and care you’re taking for yourself. Think about how pretty your new polish looks and how good it feels to take care of yourself for those 30 minutes. Choose your thoughts to focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t have.

The point is, focus on the kind act of taking care of yourself (whether that’s physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally). The time and money you have is irrelevant as long as your mind is in the right place — thinking about how nurtured/pampered/energized your act of self-care makes you feel.

Girl, Wash Your Face…Girl, Read this book!

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis…have you read it yet?  Are you following her on social media? Does she not just make you want to stand up and cheer for the power you hold to change your own life?!

If you don’t know who I’m talking about, her name is Rachel Hollis and she is the founder and CEO of TheChicSite.com.  She is also a best-selling author and motivational speaker.  In her latest book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis exposes the lies she used to tell herself and shares how she worked through them to find her truth.  Some of her lies I could relate to and laugh at (mostly about motherhood). Some I could relate to and feel relieved that I am not the only one (also mostly about motherhood).  And some of her lies I could relate to and wanted to take immediate action based on her message.

Girl, Wash Your Face, is an entertaining, enjoyable read, and Hollis provides lots of motivation and inspiration without being too “heavy.”  By that I mean, she tells you her story and thoughts to ponder, but her writing style is light, humorous, and on the topics that cannot be humorous (for example, the story of her brother’s suicide) she explains what she learned from the experience and how even tragedy is not an excuse to keep you from having the life you want.  In fact, Hollis sets the tone for the book in Chapter 1 when she writes, “This is your life.  You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”  And then, “if you’re unhappy, that’s on you.”

To be clear, Hollis is not saying you have to make it on your own, nor does she deny that you may have been the victim of some hardships.  Her message is that you don’t have to remain the victim…of the hardships or of any of the lies you’ve been telling yourself for years. If fact, she seems like the kind of person you wished lived next door so that every morning you’d spring out of bed and rush outside in hopes of getting your daily pep talk before you conquer the world…or drive the kids to school, whatever.

As I previously mentioned, I found her chapters on motherhood to be EXTREMELY relatable.  I especially love when she describes that she is the mom who will buy the shirt for make-your-own-t-shirt day as opposed to the child whose mom will grow her own cotton, spin the cotton into thread and fabric, and sew the shirt herself.  Also, on the topic of motherhood, she gives the advice that moms need to learn to ask for and accept help; it is her answer for “how she does it all.”  And speaking about differences in parenting, Hollis also makes the great point that there is no one way to be a mom…or be a woman with no kids, or have a career, or be retired; it’s about what works for you and the world is better for having that kind of variety.

Two other chapters that hit home for me are Chapter 6 “The Lie: No Is the Final Answer,” and Chapter 10 “The Lie: I Should Be Further Along by Now.” Hollis’ words of experience from Chapter 6 are “I am successful because I refused to take no for an answer.  I am successful because I have never once believed my dreams were someone else’s to manage.”  Pretty powerful.  And then in Chapter 10, she reminded me that goals do not have expiration dates and that God has perfect timing.

There is so much more that I took away from Girl, Wash Your Face, but I don’t want to spoil it for you!  I definitely recommend reading the whole book and following Rachel Hollis on social media.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts too!  And if you have any recommendations for other motivational, life-changing, development-type books, please share.  Thank you!

Beating the Vacation Blues

Since my last post was about the importance of scheduling a vacation, it seems appropriate that today I post about returning to “real life” after vacation.  Believe me when I say I really did not want to return to work after a week at the beach.  REALLY. DID. NOT.  However, I did return to work this fine Monday and had an absolutely lovely day…because I decided to have an absolutely lovely day and took steps to make it so. Reflecting on how I went from pouting like a toddler driving away from the beach on Saturday to being a smiling, productive grown up today, I have some ideas to share that might help you when returning to your “real life” after a vacation, a weekend, or any other time away.

First, find the next thing to look forward to.  If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time planning and anticipating your time away.  You enjoyed it so much and you try to hold onto that, but you also have a little empty spot because it’s over.  Bummer.  So what’s next?  Hey, I have a brunch and a dinner date coming up next week.  And the next family getaway is only like 5 months away. That takes a little bit of the sting of vacation being over away.

Next, get organized.  In my experience, getting organized requires my brain to take over, which helps me get over the vacation blues, Sunday blues, or whatever other blues I may have.  Getting organized allows you to take action and therefore take control of an emotional situation.  Whether it’s sadness that the vacation is over or feeling overwhelmed at jumping back into your daily life (that pile of laundry waiting on you, the 100+ work emails in your inbox…) just take action.  So where to start?

My suggestion is to start with what must be done first.  For example, if you have no clean underwear and almost no food in the house, throw in a load of laundry and make your grocery list.  (Side note, laundry is my favorite chore because it does its thing in the background while I am actively working on something else.  So at the end of the day I can feel super productive!)

After completing what must be done, I suggest doing what is bugging you.  Do the thing that you’re going to keep thinking about even though it’s not the most important thing, because otherwise you keep thinking about it and you’re wasting precious mental energy.  For me yesterday, it was paying bills and getting our financial “stuff” in order.  By the end of the day yesterday (first day after vacation) I was feeling pretty accomplished, but still a little sad.  Maybe you’d consider this an optional tip or maybe a mandatory one, but I decided to indulge in a little “self care” to get over my vacation blues by continuing my vacation so to speak.  I grabbed a drink and sat out on the deck reading for an hour…just like I’d done for the past week at the beach.

Monday morning arrived, and here’s possibly my number one tip: I opened my eyes, smiled, and took a couple minutes to be grateful.  I was grateful for another day, grateful that I have a job with flexibility, grateful that I have clean clothes and food in the pantry, grateful for my health and my family.  Next tip…be kind to yourself, treat yourself, and ease back into work.  For me that meant a quick workout and then picking up a yummy caramel coffee drink after dropping my son off at an early morning practice.  You can make the decision to roll back into work happy or crabby, but either way you’re going back to work, so you might as well be happy!  I smiled and said “have a good day” to everyone I encountered this morning. It made me feel good and hopefully it even brightened up someone else’s day as well.  (Maybe your treat is not food/drink related, and it could be as simple as playing your favorite playlist while driving to work and belting out the lyrics. Just do something that makes you happy to start your day.)

Now, facing work for the first day back is not so sad or overwhelming because you’re in a happy mental space.  You can face whatever the day has in store for you.  You don’t have to get all caught up in the first ten minutes.  You can apply the same strategy to work as described earlier.  Do what must be done (maybe an urgent matter for your boss), then do what is bugging you and wasting your mental energy (sorting emails to find which ones really need action and which ones you were copied on but were already taken care of while you were out.)  Decide the top 2-3 tasks you need to complete by the end of the day that will make you feel accomplished.  Keep a to do list that you can add to as more tasks pop into your mind. (Again, reserve your mental energy by writing them down and not playing them on a constant loop in your brain.)  Anything you can cross off your to do list in addition to the 2-3 tasks you want to complete by the end of the day is bonus!

I hope one or more of these suggestions will help you when returning to “real life” after some time away as well.  If you have other tips that help you beat the vacation blues, I’d love to hear them.  Otherwise, there’s still some daylight left here; I’m grabbing a drink and my book and heading out to the deck…keep this “vacation” going!

Why You Need to Schedule a Vacation Before You Know You Need a Vacation

As you may have guessed, I am currently on vacation and have had an epiphany about vacations. I am a very goal-oriented, motivated person who rarely takes “down time.” I like to go to bed at night thinking about how productive I was that day. I would not say I live a highly stressful life, but I am always thinking, always working on something, always trying to meet some goal I’ve set for myself. I am also very much a planner and I love to travel. I booked this beach vacation 7 months ago. It gives the whole family something to look forward to all winter and spring. But between booking the vacation and being on vacation were 7 months worth of to do lists. Seven months of paying bills, volunteer events, school functions, work responsibilities, soccer practices, homework, graduate studies, swim lessons, workouts, meal planning, and much, much more. And I really enjoy all of it, well most of it. I enjoy knowing I get things done; I meet goals.

So a very unsettling thing happened the first night of this vacation. I didn’t go to bed thinking about what I’d accomplished that day. Instead I went to bed thinking about the unhealthy carbs and sugar I’d eaten that day and worrying that I was undoing all of the healthy eating and working out I’d done the past few months. I was almost anxious thinking about our favorite pizza place here on the island and the certainty that we would go there the next day.

Day 2 of our vacation, another unsettling thing happened. After taking a long walk on the beach with the family and then buying groceries for the week, I decided to take a book and get some sun. After about 30 minutes, I had this anxious thought of being horribly unproductive. Hmmmm…what’s going on here?

Rather than continue to push down these anxiety-producing thoughts, I decided to face them. I asked myself what I was really worrying about and what the worst case scenario was if I ate whatever I wanted for a week or was not at all productive for a week. Turns out the worst case scenario for either was not that bad. That’s when it occurred to me that the time in between vacations is absolutely necessary to building the life you want; you do have to plan, take care of business, meet goals, and be productive. But it’s also the time you lose perspective.

I think vacations are like hydration. I’ve learned from running that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. If you haven’t planned ahead and brought water with you, you are going to have a rough road back. This is why I say schedule the vacation before you think you need the vacation. To continue my comparison, I was dehydrated and didn’t know it. Worrying about eating carbs and relaxing with a book were signs that I needed this vacation, needed to rehydrate. I needed to get perspective on the really important things that make life so awesome.

So after reading for awhile, I went and did a wine tasting, and then I hung out with my husband watching the US Open and World Cup soccer. I joined the family in devouring a large pizza and then I sat by the pool reading some more and listening to the kids play. And guess what? I went to bed blissfully happy with my “unproductive” day.

Welcome!

I’m so glad that you’ve found Your Development Resource for Personal + Professional Development — that’s me!  I have been a “student’ of how to live a positive, healthy, fulfilling life for almost 20 years, devouring (as much as a mom of three with a full time career possibly can!) articles, books, videos, etc. about all things related to personal and professional development.  Now I am sharing the best of what I find, along with some insights from my own life experiences, with others who know there’s always room for improvement.

So what does being “Your Development Resource” mean?  It means I’ll offer thoughts and information that you can apply to your personal life (like becoming more self-aware and practicing self-care), information that you can apply to your professional life (like networking and leadership), and information that you can apply to your whole life (like “work-life balance” and boosting motivation.)  My mission is to inspire and inform so that others can achieve a more positive, healthy, and fulfilling life too!  I look forward to being YOUR personal and professional development resource!