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Recipe for Resilience

There are times when it appears the tide has washed ashore.  Your boat has sprung a leak. The sun has set in your backyard.

During these temporary dark periods it appears that no matter how quickly you bail out water, paddle up stream, reach for safer ground, you still get nowhere.

You may widely open the window; nevertheless, it is you who refuses to let in the sunlight.  No one else is refusing to count the multiple blessings, nor adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Snap out of it I say. Pronto! Press the reset button. Take action immediately.

Stop watching the same old movie. No more complaining!  Sing a different song. The pity party ends right here, right now!

Instead, laugh yourself silly. Put the spring back in your walk. Get your groove back. Put the smile back on your face. You have the power. It’s sticky.  It will catch up with the rest of you, promise.

Start over immediately. There isn’t a second to lose. Why not start the day with a fresh new attitude?

I was reminded of this and the power of resilience by my children. I taught them that no problem is insurmountable. All issues large or small, simple or complex, common knowledge or private, could be handled collectively. They were raised to believe not much could not be cured at the dinner table, or through my home baked chocolate chip cookies, a pot of meatballs, and a large dose of laughter.

Years have progressed, problems have multiplied and grown in complexity; nevertheless, the rules of engagement, secrecy and comfort via the dinner table still apply. Last week my son relayed a story of such intense magnitude my hair practically stood up on end. My daughter’s reaction: “That is horrible”, visibly shaken. “So sad”, (Compassion)! Next, “We really dodged a bullet.”(No codependency there). Finally, “Pass the kale”. (Movin’ On)

I taught them well.  Be compassionate. Know what is yours. Move on.

Foodie that I am, here is my RECIPE for Resilience. Thanks for the inspiration, kids.

R is for Response, Reaction & Relationships:

Your response and reaction to any given situation makes a world of difference in how things will turn out. Some people love a good challenge. Other people’s reaction: why me?

My rule of thumb:

Adversity = Opportunity

I say seize the opportunity. What is the nugget you can grab to learn, grow or prosper?

Can you turn adversity into a stepping stone for personal growth and greatness?

Connections are the heart of my world. My relationships run deep.

In relationships I used to only show up as my personal best. Now I understand that is utter nonsense. It’s exhausting! It is only by allowing ourselves to expose our imperfections, flaws and weakness, that one can fully explore, gain insight and restore emotional equilibrium.  Love me or leave me I say. That’s how I sort out the excess.

Choose your confidants wisely.

Rule of thumb:

To have a friend you need to be a friend.

You can learn a lot hanging around the playground.

E is for ENTHUSIASM:

I truly have a zest for life.

It has been said that my mood and attitude on my worst days resemble that of the average person on their best.

I dance like no one is watching. I sing at the top of my lungs, anywhere, always.  I have no business singing anywhere, ever. Every song is my favorite, ask my kids.  I dress everyday as if I am going to a party. I always wear matching undergarments, in case of accidents. I will try any, I mean any, exercise craze, check out my basement.  I begin each project with total commitment.  I enter all relationships with my whole heart and total abandon.

This is how I roll. This is how I am wired. This is my genetic default button.

How does this help build resilience?

I fake it till I make it.  I never let them see me sweat.  I set the mood and hope the rest of me catches up. Eventually it does.

There are times in life when you will be presented with obstacles. You can view these as challenges or fight to the finish line. Or sing, dance, and look great doing it. Your choice! J

C is for CYCLES & CHANGE

This too shall pass. What goes around comes around. What seems life altering today will not raise your blood pressure six months down the line.

This is hard to fathom when you are swimming upstream in the muck. It is true.

I have heard it said if you round up your friends, colleagues, and even a random stranger or two; put your problems in a hat, you would most likely take back your own.

It is also likely true that the dream job, home, boss and romances unrequited; were really nightmares and bullets dodged.  We just didn’t realize it at the time.

Change is inevitable. I never like to get too comfortable in life because as soon as I do, boom, disaster.   Nine out of ten times the change is good. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Chin up. Keep the faith. Retain your attitude of gratitude.

For this I keep a Gratitude List:

Every night before I got to sleep I write down at LEAST three things I have to be grateful for.

Even in our darkest periods, we still can count our blessings. Try it and see how quickly the cycles turn in your favor.

I is for INDEPENDENCE:

You were brought onto this planet alone and you will leave it alone.

The truth is, no one is going to save you but YOU.

I spent the first half of my life waiting for my ship to come in; unfortunately I was at the airport.

There was no knight in shining armor for me.  No quick fix. No magic bullets. No happily ever after. Thank goodness!

That is what built grit. The perfect playing field for transformation. When the hard work was necessary the magic could begin!

You can lean on your family and friends. You can read, download, mainline and listen to self-help audiobooks till you become the foremost authority on inner strength or your eyes and ears bleed. Attend all the latest and greatest “kick life in the butt” seminars and workshops. Do yoga, meditate, and stand on you head till you are centered yet blue on the face. In the end it is YOU who will need to take control of your destiny.

Vow to wake up tomorrow knowing that YOU have all the ingredients YOU need to have a fabulous life. YOU have the power to be and do anything YOU want. YOU will be, and do anything YOU want, provided YOU are willing to do the work.

P is for PREPARATION & PLAN B

You can never be too prepared in life; nor should you be without a carefully drafted backup plan. I fondly refer to this as a Plan B.  Doesn’t hurt to have a Plan C and D just in case.

Don’t wait till the floor drops out beneath you, you are gasping for air, have your finger in the dam, while balancing on the ledge by your pinky toe.  The time to spring into action is now!

It will not help if you wait till you are down-sized to update your resume, Bio, and LinkedIn Profile. Update them today! Keep your coach and recruiters closely on hand too.

Don’t continue to linger in negative relationships.  Take control and ask for what you want. Do the soul searching required. Have the confidence necessary to get what you need, or move on.

Don’t wait to go on a diet. Go back to school. Sign up for the webinar. Update your computer skills, or get a new haircut. DO IT NOW!

Whatever you want to be, do, and have, is in your grasp.   If you are willing to put in the work.

I always have my back up plan at the ready. I pack my parachute with a plan B and C.  I keep a plan D and E tucked up my sleeve and shoved in my back pocket, just in case. Life has dealt me an interesting hand. I revel in it. Think of me as a Resiliency Eagle Scout.

Having a backup plan takes commitment and energy.

I work at it hard. I set challenges and hurdles beyond my grasp. I envision the outcomes. I imagine I have already achieved the goal and initiative. My credo, “Failure isn’t an Option”.  In my case it really wasn’t.  It was a matter of life or death. Eat or be eaten. Feeding your kids or not feeding you kids.

I recommend getting an Accountability Partner.  Someone to share your goals and aspirations with.  Someone to send your weekly goals to, who will hold you accountable. They will listen to you when you lose faith. Steer you back on track when you turn left instead or right. Become your confidant, guidepost and most trusted advisor. Most importantly they celebrate your wins!

Second tip, do three things a day toward your goals each day.  It does not matter how big or small.

What happens when you fail to take action?

Answer: Nothing

E is for ENERGY

Energy is the life force of the universe. Since this is a business blog I will spare you my spiritual mambo jumbo  and hide my Zen a bit.  I will not pontificate on the point.

Simple stated, what you put out into the universe will return. The earth is a cosmic boomerang. Like attracts like. Positive attracts positive.   Kind acts will beget more kind acts.  Compassion and empathy the same.

Careful here folks. In Reverse, evil will attract evil. Negative thoughts will bring on more negative thoughts. Disasterous thinking can bring on catastrophe.

What’s a girl to do? Change you attitude, obviously. Tall order. Difficult at best. Not impossible.

Here’s my trick.  Think of yourself as a bucket of energy.  Grab a piece of paper and make a line down the middle. On one side jot down all of the things that zap your energy; on the other side write down all the things that restore your energy reserves.  The goal is to always keep the bucket balanced. This will restore you to sanity.

SWAT and Guerilla Restoration Tactics

Some weeks are harder than others.  It feels the elements have conspired against you. G-d has thrown down the gauntlet.

For these times you must strap on the heavy artillery. Dig deep into your bag of tricks. Create a recovery Pu-Pu Platter of sorts, if you are to find your way back home.

These are the Sundays I play my Fight Song, dance with abandon, and sing along at the top of my lungs.  Your Fight Song is the song you keep on your iPod that revives your energy stores. Makes you want to pump your fists. You know the one that makes you know you can fight another day.  If you do not have one, get one immediately.  I have a whole playlist!

Take your Fight Song on the road. Walk, run, jump, cycle, spin in circles for all I care, MOVE.  I do yoga till my muscles shake at these times. I breathe, release, I MOVE ON!

Once depleted, I dance barefoot in my kitchen while donning a facemask, in between cleaning out closets. Multitasking is as essential as self-care during times of stress.  I will do this while stirring a pot of meatballs, and baking a fresh batch of cookies.  As the sauce simmers and the sweet smell of baked goods wafts through the house, it further settles any residue stress.  I then calmly prepare for the week ahead. I am ready.

As I gather my family back at the dinner table to share a meal and solve the world’s problems; I am now ready willing and able.  Resilience restored, they can hit me with their best shot.

We have gone full circle my dear readers.

As my son gathers his things to drive off into the sunset, I know all is well in my world.

I hope you too digested this recipe and are full of hope and new possibilities.

 

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Truth in Advertising

In most instances people and situations present themselves at face value. We however ignore the signs. We see what we choose to see. Painting the scene with our biases, expectations, experiences, hopes, dreams and yes fears.

After all why not, we want what we want. Our wills are strong. Why let a little thing like reality cloud our persistence?

Wouldn’t it be great if people and situations came with warning labels? Narcissistic however funny, introverted nonetheless brilliant, insecure practices sarcasm to cover?

This job will offer great growth opportunity: if you are able to leap small buildings in a single bound, navigate through layers of corporate culture, and be willing to relocate to Peru.

We read the warning labels, see the signs, squint through the fine print, yet we barrel through.  Our thought process; this time will be different. I will make it different.  I have the magic bullet.  Even more tragic, if I hang in there long enough things will change.

News Flash, they won’t.

So what is one to do?  How do you learn to read the signs and see the red flashing light from the runway? Learn to be on the alert, not put on the blinders, or look the other way.

Here are my tips for reading between the lines to get to fine print:

Reality Check:

Open your eyes. Let in the sunlight.  Smell the coffee.  Take a look around you.  Ask yourself what is really going on here?

Who are you surrounded by? How do you spend your days? Nights? Weekends?

Does your current career make you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Does it make you want to hit the snooze alarm?

Are you truly happy?  Is this the life that G-D has intended for you?

Then ask yourself the following question:

What happens when you stop hitting your head against the wall?

Answer: It stops hurting

Red Flags/Warning Detonators:

What gets your goat? Makes your hair stand up on end? Are like nails on a chalk board?

Are you aware of whom or what pushes your buttons? Do you have insight into whom or what installed them?

What kind of people and situations make you want to pitch your tent? Conversely, which makes you want to cut and run?

These insights can be so freeing! A road map to your psyche. The lyrics to your personal dance of intimacy.

This knowledge can be your liberator or your jailer. Either dooming you to repeat your fate, or educating you to freedom and positive choice.

Foot on the pedal or foot on the brake, inevitably the road will be long.

Right road or wrong? Straight road or curved?  I do predict some bumps, potholes, forks and ditches.

That’s when the road map and insights become so invaluable. Your ladder back to safer ground.

What is real and what is perceived? Your reality?  Their reality? The truth?

BOOM

Limiting Beliefs, Fears & Inner Critics:

I’m too old to go back to school.

No one is ever going to love me.

I am never going to make it to the C- suite.

Fill in the Blank.

Today is the day to rise up and fight back. Set up an erase and destroy mission. Slash old tapes masquerading as fears.  Talk back to your Self Criticism. Knock out the Inner Critics that haunt us all.

I have been introduced to a myriad of Inner Critics in my coaching practice. A menacing and meddling bunch at that. I have personally exorcised, befriended and ultimately locked my own in the closet just to publish this and subsequent blogs. I GET IT!

Truth is you are not terminally unique. We all need to fight past fears to become our authentic selves,  and dare to be vulnerable.

Authenticity/Imposter Syndrome:

I love the song Come As You Are.  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could cut to the chase, rip off the mask, wrestle our Inner Critics, mow down the Nay Sayers, and show up as our Authentic Self right from the start?  Ultimately that’s who is going to stay for the long haul.

Nonetheless, we brush on the war paint, suit ourselves up, strap on the armor and hide our true identity away from the world.  We fear that if people truly get to know us that they might not feel the same way.

At work they call it the Imposter Syndrome.  We claim our hard earned position and rightful seat at the table only to be riddled with fear.  What if our colleagues find out that we are a fraud?

It helps to remember that even superheroes have their strengths and weaknesses.  That is what makes them so intriguing.

Don’t Just Listen, Hear:

When I do a communication workshop I start with this quote:

“The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”, Unknown

Pretty powerful stuff!

Further, I impart my favorite communication tip:

“Listen More, Talk Less”.

If I ended my workshop here my audience would have all they need to size up any situation, not to mention ascertain the essence of any individual.

G-d gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!

Truth is we get enough intel and gut feelings to size up a person and situation in the first meeting. What we do with that intuition is in question here.

Preferences, Deal Breakers & Would Be Nice:

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.

What if we took the time to identify what we did and did not want in advance? Could we get closer? Imagine if we each created a list of the things we ultimately could not live without. Our must haves. Our core values.  Our essence. What makes us tick? Bingo!

This can work for relationships, jobs, homes, quite frankly anything.

What are your deal breakers? They are different for us all. What compromises will be too deep? What will cause you to break not bend? What is beyond your capacity to look the other way? Keep this list close to your heart because compromise here will bite you in the back later.

My personal favorites are the would be nices! These are the bargaining chips.  The icing on the cake.  Here you have enough of your wants in place. You are not compromising your deal breakers away. Hooray, you get to add a few would be nices to sweeten the pot!

Pretty cool system. One must however keep in mind that life is an evolution.  This is the ultimate balancing act. We are all a work in progress. As we grow our list and the lists around us will shift as well.

Setting Boundaries:

So we are where we are, and we are with who we are with, now what? Set boundaries.

These are the rules of engagement. A game book of what you will and will not allow.

Only you know what is truly off base.  What will be the final straw? Remember, what sends one person packing is different from the next. What gets one person voted off the island would not even raise an eyebrow for the next.

How do you set boundaries, you ask?

This used to be nearly impossible for me, but with practice it can be achieved.  In the beginning it was like a scary game of tag, only the stakes were much higher.  I would run in, say my piece, close my eyes, hold my breath, hope the world would not crumble around me, and then run out!

I would say, “This is how it is.  This is how it is going to be. This is how I am going to show up.  This is what I am willing to accept. Either you are going to accept me and this, or not. No one is going to die. (I cannot take credit for the last line!)

In the beginning setting boundaries did feel like death; nevertheless, no one died.  Some people accepted my boundaries, some people did not.  Some people stayed some people went. EVERYONE respected me more. 🙂

Time Test:

One of my favorite songs as a teenager was Should I Stay Or Should I Go.  It should have been, Time Is On Your Side.  Now, I no longer look at life in absolutes.  People and situations as good or bad.  Right or wrong. Perfect or flawed. I look at life from Both Sides Now.  I have given myself the gift of imperfection, and I allow others and situations the same courtesy.

My coach gave me the greatest gift, the concept of And.  Sometimes we are just not ready to pull the trigger.  We might not have all the facts. The bandwidth, strength and gumption. The means to make a truly educated decision.  If that is the case you just may need to live in a grey area for a bit longer.  All of the pieces will fall into place, eventually.

It is helpful to remember that choices do not always boil down to Either, Or, sometimes life offers you a third choice, the And.  A middle ground, a time out, an experimental period, a compromise.  It is important to consider what appears life shattering now, might not be all consuming six months down the line.

Compromise, not Cave:

There is compromise and there is being taken advantage of. Some folks have a higher pain threshold than others. Many give more than they get. I know this first hand for I am one of them.

One of my core values is to be “of service”. I was taught by my father at a very early age to give of myself, be charitable and not really worry if it is reciprocated. You will get your gifts later.

He could not have been more correct.  I have lived my life by this rule.  Volunteering and mentoring.  Leading my organization emphasizing service and personal growth. Supporting, nurturing and caring for my family and inner circle beyond measure.  I now have my clients to add to the queue.

I love to give.  I know I am appreciated. Anyone taking advantage, well, that’s on them.

My gift is seeing people happy, growing and moving in a positive direction. That’s why I love what I do.

Conscience Connections:

My New Year’s resolution was to make Conscious Connections.

I am a connector at heart and the consummate Net-worker.  THIS IS GOOD THING! Yet here we are talking about connecting at a deeper level. Conscious Connections are the holy grail of connection. They are about trusting our gut instincts to find our Tribe.

Here we put on our mining hats and tunnel past the red flags. We dig deep, and dare to be vulnerable. We get naked, remove our armor, and peel back the layers of our soul. We will finally find the perfect home. Safely we can unpack our steamer trunks, yet they will dare to stay. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I will pick you up when you fall. You will do the same.  I will not care who you are, where you come from or what you do. Nor will you.  Time will stand still when we speak and are together. Laughter will come in waves and tears can flow freely.

When you find this rare breed dear reader, rejoice.  Nurture, fight for and handle with care. For as hard as they are to seek, is as easy as they are to squander.

Rocking Chair Test:

My niece was taught in kindergarten, “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”.  I think that is utter nonsense and that teacher should be fired!  We all have control of our destiny.

We have the free will to choose the people and situations that appear in our lives. Conversely, we have the power to leave the ones that no longer serve us.

So what is the litmus test for sorting fact from fiction? Will from reality? Opportunity from Illusion?

I use the Rocking Chair Test.

I imagine myself at the end of my days. None of the day to day nonsense created through work, relationships, and difficult choices will matter any longer.

As I sit in my Rocking Chair all I will have are days stretched out in front of me. Time will be like a warm blanket safely covering me, so I can slowly and carefully contemplate my life’s choices.

I will ask myself; do I want you next to me?  Will we have brought each other happiness? Have we become better people having knowing each other?   Will this situation have a positive impact on me? Did it add meaning to my life and the lives around me? How did it serve? Did it make the world a better place?

Your answers to these questions are The Truth in Advertising and The Fine Print all wrapped up in one.

Think hard my friend, consider carefully, and then carry on.

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Teach Your Children Well: They Might Be Listening!

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My Birthday and Mother’s Day gifts did not come this year in beautiful boxes with lovely ribbons.  They did not come in the form of a bouquet or in breathtaking flats of flowers carefully chosen by my family to lovingly plant in my garden.  Nor in a carefully prepared meal of multiple fresh organic vegetables shipped in from out East, (am accused of being high- maintenance), prepared especially for me and served at my farm table fondly considered my home’s mission control.  My gifts this year came in the form of startling realizations, ah ha moments, repeated theme questions from multiple mentees, and a chance meeting at 7-11.  All compelling me to write this blog.

It started with a phone call home from my son, because sadly he did not come home for Mother’s Day this year. Do not shed a tear for me dear readers. That is because I completed my job. He left the nest.

Up until this moment I have shied away from writing a blog solely about my children, but alas the time has come.  Yes, I have sprinkled them in here and there through anecdotes and references but never as the main event. That is because this is mainly a business blog, but you will ultimately see the connections.  For those who know me personally this is by no means because my children took a back seat to my career, in fact it is just the opposite. They are my inspiration. The reason I have the strength to do all I do. The impetus behind all I have accomplished. You see ours has always been a story of survival of the fittest.  Eat or be eaten.  In retrospect my children are the wind in my sails. The energy that fuels my soul. My talisman enabling me to face another day, weather life’s storms, ebbs, flows and challenges.

They say it takes a village to raise a family, for us it took a small country.  So this blog will not only be for parents.  It is for anyone who dares to love, mentor, shape and mold a child, young adult or influence a life. This may ultimately be a story of happily ever after, but it was no fairy tale in the making.  Ours is a story of steps, rotating family members, friends and neighbors. We needed to throw convention out the window to cross the finish line.  It was by no means a graceful relay race; it was an obstacle course, a tough mudder at that, navigating all of the personalities. There was no baton to pass. It was more a struggle of wills carried out through passed backpacks and winter coats through car windows. Happy meals and sports equipment dropped over little league fences. Disputes, disagreements, negotiations, and resolutions conveyed via email and text.  Nevertheless, we made it through!

We had three rules, 1. Be a good Person (Pay it Forward, Equity, Inclusion) 2. Do Your Homework (Accountability) 3. Make something of your life, case closed! The rest was up for interpretation. Making it out the other end was the top line, bottom line, end game, daily goal, and a struggle at that.

The phone call:

If your life is anything like mine from the time you give birth you will never have another sip of any liquid or bite into any form of solid food (even if you are thousands of miles away from home) that is not interrupted or without one of your family members having a burning desire to tell you something.  This Friday night was no different. Feet up, finally relaxed, ready for that first sip of (very good) Cabernet, Boom! My son was ready to download his first week of work. Boy, I am lucky I answered the phone.  He was calling to tell me with a voice full of pride that he joined the Women’s Initiative at work.  I was speechless something you might imagine does not come up often.  He went on to explain that by example I taught him the importance of diverse teams and inclusion. This he felt joining the group was the best way to meet the managers that supported these Initiatives.  Wow, I was blown away!

HE WAS LISTENING

I had a similar experience with my daughter weeks earlier; suddenly I was beginning to connect the dots.  While conducting a lunch and learn at Love and Quiches Gourmet on the subject of Time Management, I looked out into the audience and my daughter was sitting in the front row. It was both shocking and daunting. Truth be told, I did not think she would even show up because it was not mandatory, I assumed she would take a pass.  I had under estimated this young adult. Low and behold there she was, pen and paper in hand. The moment turned out to be magical. The lunch and learn progressed and every time I asked a question or for audience participation my daughter chimed in or raised her hand with the answer.  Finally I had to say ENOUGH!  Secretly, I was beaming.

Ah Ha Moment:

THEY WERE LISTENING

Over the years I have mentored countless scores of men and women. My mentees know I take calls at all hours.  My heart and line are always open. I am always a text, e-mail or phone call away. What I realized that day is the impact this made on my children.

The whole time, THEY WERE LISTENING!

For you see, my children were raised amongst a backdrop of mentoring advice.  For every one of you out there that I have talked off the ledge while making a pot of meatballs, whose resume I have reviewed while proofing a college essay, or mock interview I have conducted while making a Paper Mache volcano (with real lava I might add).

MY CHILDREN WERE LISTENING.

My son still to this day thinks I could not hear him in the back seat while I was driving carpool when he would say to his friends.  “Ask my mom, she knows stuff”.

So full circle, why is this story so important and how does it tie into raising children and ultimately business success? Doesn’t mentoring really start in childhood?  Isn’t mentoring crucial to personal development and building confidence which is vital to success? Look at the impact it has had on my children’s success. Think of the lives YOU can impact by becoming a mentor!

Who are your childhood mentors?   Who has helped shape your career?  Who have you helped influence and pushed up the corporate ladder?

The questions and the recurring theme:

If I were to do a retrospective; a greatest hits album of sorts, of mentoring conversations or most frequently asked questions and recurring themes, the two that instantly come to mind are,  drumroll please …..

Will I be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?

 Will it be alright in the end?

After all, these are the same two questions I have been pondering myself since I gave birth 26 years ago. Patience please, I will circle back in the end, promise.

A Chance Meeting, The catalyst for writing this blog:

(A true story)

 As you all know I am a collector of people. An attractor of odd happenstances.  A relisher of consideration if life is made up of coincidence or sheer will!  As I often say, I do not write my blogs, my blogs write me. They come to life through a series of circumstances, conversations, meetings and happenings compelling me to put pen to paper. This blog is no different.

From the time my children were toddlers, my calendar has been filled to the brim and my to do list wants to fight back and say “are you kidding me?” Instead of my hotel loyalty program sending me a congratulations letter each year they should have been apologizing, and sending my family a fruit basket! You can be rest assured I was always forgetting, running out of, or leaving something to the very, I mean very last minute. 7-Eleven became an oasis in the storm. It was where we went for the forgotten milk. The last ingredient for the cookies we were baking for class. Where I comforted an inconsolable child with slurpies and other unsavory items I would not allow at home. Hate to admit, it was where dinner was served for back to back games and nights on the field!

As we all know the more things change the more they stay the same.  Two weeks ago when I finally cleared my schedule to visit my son’s his new apartment in Philly, (more excited than you could possibly imagine), the week leading to the visit was overflowing to the brim with meetings, clients, workshops, you know the drill.  I found myself at 10 PM the night before unpacked, on the way home from a sales dinner with nothing to bring as a house warming gift.  Then I saw a sign, or actually THE sign, 7-Eleven. Not sure what I thought I would find inside but again there are no coincidences!

As I opened the door there in the aisles was a beautiful woman in a business suit, milk carton in hand, with two adorable children in tow.  My life flashed before my eyes and suddenly I knew what I would give.  I taught my kids to give first for if you pay it forward you will always be successful.  That is true in life and in business.

I tapped this woman on the shoulder, handed her my card, told her of my children, life, balance (or lack there-of), and that I was going to tell my story in a blog for her and as a gift for my son.

Much to my delight I received this e-mail the very next morning.

Hi Joan,

Nice meeting you at 7-11 last night and reminding me there is no such thing as balance and I will survive motherhood ha ha.

Please do let me know when you write your blog would love to read it.

Thanks!

 

My son thought it was cool but was a little less juiced as you could imagine after 23 years of similar stories and happenstance. He was hoping for a flat screen.

So, what is the net long term effect of nights on the road, running out of milk and serving cornflakes with orange juice?  Will your children be permanently scarred from screamed lullabies due to frustration, cold pizza for breakfast or heaven forbid Pork Fried Rice? Can you truly make the right choice between a board meeting and a track meet? Did the world come to an end because I missed a business opportunity or two or let my kids turn in assignment late because being together for whatever reason that day was the better option?

There actually was no long term net effect.

This week I will make my pilgrimage to see my youngest child graduate, a miss-matched army in tow. My job is done, my heart is full, and I could not be more proud.

So, what is the answer to those two burning questions my inquisitive readers?

Will you be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?

Probably not, I never did. You will make choices, some good, and some bad. Through those choices you will ALL grow and learn, after all, isn’t that the point of this blog.

Balance is like one of those jig saw puzzles we all have stored high up on a closet shelf. When you finally do take it down that boring rainy day and decide to put it together as a family activity, inevitably there is a piece or two missing. Nevertheless, you have spent so much time working on it you just squint your eyes and make it work. Mentally you refuse to see what is missing. That’s how you make it out the other end!  Each day you show up fully and do the best you can.That might not make you balanced but it makes you whole.

Dear 7-Eleven mom and countless others reading this blog.

Will it be alright in the end?

That depends on your definition.

I say ABSOLUTELY!

In Case of Emergency Break Glass

 

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I sleep at night with the security of knowing that there is a box of Snowcaps in my night-table. This box of Snowcaps has remained in my night-table unopened for over twenty years. It has accompanied me through multiple moves, various trials and tribulations, and a multiple of life changes, players and personal iterations.

For those who know me personally, I live on carrot sticks and hummus. I rarely even eat chocolate. So why the Snow Caps? The answer is quite simple; it’s symbolic and synonymous for comfort. It is for the same reason that when I was preparing for Hurricane Sandy I bought water, gas, flashlights and five boxes of Snowcaps. After all, if life was going to become challenging, I wanted to make sure I had my comforts available!

I have spent the past month, as I do the open of each year, cleaning (well organizing), purging, and setting the stage for the upcoming year. While cleaning my night-table I came across this ancient box, smiled, and began to contemplate the other “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” habits I have adopted over the years. Further I pondered how important these survival habits, safe guards and rituals have become to my well being and survival in today’s crazy, surprise laden, 24-7 world.

Looking back on simpler times, before the age of cell phones and constant internet contact, having and emergency contact list really had meaning. When leaving the house as a teen and young adult one was told to be home before dark and handed a couple of quarters so you could call someone ”In case of an emergency”. We all instinctively knew just who to call. For me it was my Grandma Fanny. She would get you anywhere, anytime, no questions, no judgment. Who is that person or those people for you? Who will you call when the stakes are high and the chips are down?

It’s wonderful when your children become adults and you can have really honest conversations about what kind of parent you were when they were growing up, and how you continue to support them today. I have come to learn that I am an “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” Mom. What does that mean I asked? Apparently, when it came to the simply day to day stuff like teaching them how to change light bulbs, do laundry, boiling eggs and making beds neatly I failed my kids miserably. After all we were always in survival mode, who could be bothered! Thankfully, everyone turned out great in the end. We skipped egg boiling and went right to omelets. We would be appalled if we got less than A’s in any of our classes, a project (present company included) or showed up late or unprepared to a game or practice! We lived by the golden rule, “Do on to others as you want to be treated yourself”. Most importantly, if you dropped any of us on the set of survivor I am sure we would all make it off the island.

Here are my favorite in case of emergency break glass habits and rituals:

1. Stop!

I used to be the queen of running away from my issues. NO MORE!
In fact I was so skilled at the art of self-deception that I have multiple degrees, a wall of certifications, a laundry list of accomplishments and success beyond my humblest comprehension, all to cover up for problems neglected.
Consequently, I have left shipwrecks of astonished people and boat loads of unanswered questions in my wake. Those days are over.
You can mask running with productivity all you want, but in the end you will need to face your demons and issues head on. Today is as good a day as any.
Slow down, dive in and face the music. This too shall pass!

2. Empty Not Fill

As an ex-chronic runner, filler, busy making problem avoider, and collector of both people and things, I have actually made this one of my New Year Resolutions!
There is nothing better in times of stress, trial & tribulation, and deep contemplation to go on a Personal Purge.
What does this mean? If you need to ask yourself more than once, “Should I hold on to this? The answer is NO. This includes people places and things!

3 Don’t isolate:

Chances are if you run, you also hide. Waiting till you feel better to contact your friends make no sense and defeats the purpose of having them?
Misery does require company. There are others that have walked in your shoes, find them and they will comfort you. Open up to the people you trust. You will be amazed to learn you are not as unique as you think.

4. Know when to let go

Knowing when to let go is always a challenge and often what brings us to our “In Case of Emergency” state.
It is helpful to remember that
“Some people and circumstances present themselves for a reason, some for a season and some to stay.”
I have used this phrase to comfort myself, my clients, my children, and many a saddened friend when they did not get or lost their job, gone through a horrible break up, divorce or life just did not live up to their expectation.
Should I stay or go? Hold on or cut bait?
Knowing the difference is crucial and knowing when to let go is critical!
It helps to remember that life and relationships are dynamic, cyclical and fluid. Be open to all possibilities, and keep your eyes open and learn to read the signs. The right people will actually seem to appear out of thin air.
Trying to make a situation work when it shouldn’t is futile, staying too long may be counterproductive and often destructive. Trust and move on.
The people and things that are supposed to be there will. The ones that aren’t won’t.
Definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results!

5. Break the rules:

I am a definite do gooder, non-corner cutter, live by the golden rule type of girl, but desperate time may call for desperate measures. In times of emergencies you just might be forced to cut a corner or two. Step out of your comfort zone or just push boundaries a bit to experiment with what is possible. Hey you never know? You could stumble into something positive. Just be mindful that you don’t push too far and that you can live with the consequences of your actions.

6. Sweat the Big Stuff!

I am a firm believer that there isn’t an issue or problem that cannot be worked out through with good old fashion sweat and a pair of sneakers, bicycle, yoga mat, weights or whatever physical activity floats your boat. Once a gym rat always a gym rat. I started my Entrepreneurial track as a personal trainer 25 years ago and have always kept a gym membership since, even though I prefer outside workouts (even in the dead of winter). I suggest you do the same. The point is not to isolate. Get up, get out, sweat and start your day right. If you prefer working out at night then go straight to the gym not to your couch. Not to sound unoriginal. JUST DO IT!
I have recently developed a love hate relationship with Hot Yoga. Seriously, who comes up with these things? As if balancing all of your body weight on one leg while holding perfectly still for 60 seconds is not bad enough, now add the element of 104 degrees. Sheer insanity! Yet I show up every Sunday. Why you ask? Discipline? It’s good for me? I’m nuts? My logic, it is mental conditioning. If I can do an hour of yoga each week while being roasted alive everything else that is going to happen to me will be uphill from there.

7. Adventures

Along with my gym rat mentality is my zest for adventure. I am a definite Adrenalin junkie and know this has served me well to help me through many rough patches. For me stepping out of my comfort zone is most often around trying new kinds of physical activity. Parachute Yoga (I know who thinks of these things, but my favorite!), Mountain Biking (15 years ago before it was cool), Rollerblading (when they first came out) to name a few. My son is still traumatized from when I would blade past his bus in middle school and people would say, “Isn’t that your mom”. He would say no, as if there were many other rollerblading moms in the neighborhood.
Bottom line is pick your poison. Live on the edge just long enough to get out of your head for a bit of a break.

8. Fun & Laughter

As hard as I work is as hard as I play. If you read my blogs, or perhaps know me personally, you know that I find the humor in even the most awful situations and topics.
I am a survivor but aren’t we all, we could not have gotten to where we are today without a few bumps or bruises.
I have surrounded myself with some of the best people in the world. Trust me; we have had no shortage of fun. I have laughed at myself, we have laughed at each other, but most importantly we have never stopped showing up for life, and having fun fun fun.
I recently described a best friend of mine as a “Party in a Bag”. This is such a great description of many of my closest friendships. Many of us don’t live in the same state. Our relationships take extra work. So we put in the time and the effort, schedule phone calls, we drive in traffic to see each other, we get on planes and when we arrive we make it count! We laugh, we cry (if necessary) and we have FUN.
LAUGHTER, FUN, CONNECTION truly the best medicine.

9. Calling all contacts

So this will sound like such a contradiction to so much of what I have preached, but I used to be in the habit of waiting till I fixed my problems and the reporting my progress back to my friends. This is absurd!
I am happy to report that I am over this. I will admit that I have had to call myself out to my friends on this habit and they know to reach out if they do not hear from me.
I recommend having regularly scheduled times to speak to out of town friends and specific times you meet your local friends and actually put it in your calendar. This way it actually happens!!
10. Comfort Food

Surrounding yourself with creature comforts in times of trouble is a great thing to do but remember when you popped that last Snowcap, finished the bag of potato chips, and drowned your sorrows in a pint of rocky road you will feel no better about yourself the next day. News flash, your problems are still going to be there.
Remember Rome was not built on Fast Food and French Fries! Think “Brain Fuel” and make healthy choices especially when the chips are down. My rules of thumb, “If it does not fly, swim, grow or have a mother, don’t eat it.” In other words, stay away from anything processed if you want to think clearly to work through your rough patches.
Do treat yourself but make healthy choices. Like one glass of heart healthy Red Wine (good red wine of course!), or a square or two of dark chocolate.

11. Self Care

Times of trouble are no times to let yourself go. In fact you should step up your game even more. My sister and law and I have a running joke. She will always say to me in my darkest hours. “You look fabulous, how can I help”?
If you are a girl, don’t leave the house without make up, if you are a guy shave for heaven sake.
Keep up with manicures and pedicures, dye and cut your hair, schedule a massage, update your wardrobe.
This too shall pass and the last things you are going to want to do when the dust settles is not personal triage, nor should you require a full make-over once things have settled down.
Your grandmother was only partly right. You should never leave the house without a nice clean pair of matching underwear, only you should not do this in case you get in an accident. You should do this because it makes you feel good about yourself!

12. Spoil yourself to a little retail therapy.

Last but surely not least, retail therapy. For me there isn’t a problem in the world that cannot be solved when I have found the perfect pair of new boots and a matching handbag. This I know might not work for everyone. I also don’t recommend retail therapy if your problem is in relation to finances!
Retail therapy comes in all forms and defined is purchasing anything large or small that makes you feel good about yourself, if even for a moment.
Truth be told my favorite retail therapy is gift giving. I love buying gifts and sending my friends random things in the mail spontaneously. No occasion required. I do this out of the blue when I come across something I think will be helpful, or just because it reminds me of them. I do this a lot so they no longer think it’s strange. I highly recommend it. Definitely gets you out of negative thinking for a while.

13. Adopt an attitude of Gratitude:

Every night before I go to sleep I write down at least three good things that happened to me that day and/or three things that I have to be grateful for. It does not matter what is going on in your life, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for at the end of the day. As you start doing this, the positive things will out way the negative things and before your know it the tide will turn.

14. Contemplation

“What brings me to the mat can most often be worked out on the mat”
Translation:
For those of you who have not read my blog the “The Finish Line is a Dotted Line” please do.
Your face down in the ring moment is when your face is on the mat and you are down for the count. The crowd is waiting. What are you going to do? Stay down or get up? Let the other win or claim your rightful victory? This moment is golden; however, it is important to remember this moment is yours to claim and choose alone.
That is where the other mat has always come in for me, the yoga mat that is. Here I can strip down the noise, Adrenalin, anxiety, outside influences, and conventional wisdom to decide what I really want.
Find your means of peaceful contemplation. Then ask yourself what you really want? What is your gut telling you? It is in those quite moments of peaceful contemplation that the healing takes place and the answers come. Follow your voice.  Do the next right thing.

So in conclusion dear reader I wish you neither malice nor harm. I do hope that you read this blog and file it someplace safe and never need to use this list of “In Case of Emergency” tactics. My list is safely nestled next to my Snowcaps as you conclude. It is however an uncertain world and life will continue to throw us surprises and curves balls. Today I do hope you wake up emergency free; nevertheless, just “In Case of Emergency” my list of tactics is my gift to you as you never know, “Maybe one will come up?”

Not Your Circus, Not Your Monkey’s

 

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When you take off on a flight the attendant always says the same thing, “In case of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping the people around you.” This includes the ones you love!
As a road warrior I know this mantra better than anyone. I heard these words every Monday morning for 17 years! It was the theme song of my undoing and then the melody of my road back home.
This, my friend, is the single best advice in my tool chest of tricks. We all know I have a treasure trove of good advice, cautionary tales, analogies and tricks up my sleeve. This one should not be ignored!
Recently, one of my favorite members of my Personal Board passed through town. At an impromptu mini board gathering over fish tacos and red wine, she reminded me of another important saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”
Wow, how powerful and freeing that statement is? How thought provoking.
“Save yourself first”, so you can save the folks around you. Further, “If it is not your circus and not your monkeys” where do your responsibilities start and where do they end? What is yours and what is theirs? What is helping and what is enabling? What is teaching and what is providing answers? Listening and lecturing? Loving and smoothing?
As a parent of grown children letting go is a tippy ship at best. Mission accomplished, although I type through tears, as my son officially graduates and moves the last box of clothing and mementos to Philadelphia next month to start his new career. Nevertheless, isn’t that the point. If you do it right they should leave the nest! My son put his oxygen mask on first! He found his own circus and his own monkeys! Painful as his parting is, I couldn’t be prouder. The coolest part is that we are going to meet every other week in the middle for a meal (once a foodie always a foodie). I will say that again. WE WILL MEET IN THE MIDDLE! (Hold that thought)
So if we are to put our “Oxygen mask on first”, and if it is “Their circus and their monkeys” how are we to continue to show up for our family, friends, colleagues, society and the world in a caring and meaningful way while still retaining our boundaries? After all isn’t showing up fully truly the only way we can make an impact? How then will we still help the ones we love and be of service?
Here is my list of tips for putting on your oxygen mask first so you can show up for those around you while continuing to take care of yourself.

1. We are all a work in progress:

Never stop growing, learning, evolving, exploring, asking, stretching, reading, expanding, scaring yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone! Repeat!
I am a life learner! I say that I am done getting certifications and degrees. We all know I am lying. I will never stop learning! I will never stop reading, taking courses and stepping out of my comfort zone. I will never stop reinventing myself! We live, we learn, we grow and should repeat this process again and again and again!
Pay it forward by sharing your knowledge!

2. Be your personal best:

Whatever your aspiration, strive to be the best in class.
How do you achieve this? Simple, roll up your sleeves and put in the work!
Do the research. Do your homework. Network, Network, Network, (even when you are exhausted). Stretch further than comfortable. Show up fully. Frankly, when you think you have done your best work possible, take one more pass through.
In conjunction have no expectations of others. You won’t need to, you will be too busy leading by example!

3. Take care of yourself:

I never end a coaching session without inquiring about my client’s self-care rituals. Why, because at the heart of our work together no matter what the topic, we can accomplish nothing if we are not taking care of ourselves.
It is the same reason that I watch everything I put in my mouth. Eat organic if possible (even when traveling). Try desperately to get a good night sleep each night, and exercise regularly. I have dragged my yoga mat with me on every trip I have taken for all 17 years of business travel (oh the places we have seen!). It took my limo driver until last year to figure out that I was not a heavy breather and I was meditating on the way to the airport!
Create a healthy routine and stick to it. A healthy life style will lead to productivity.
You will become influential, productivity is sticky!

4. Listen more talk less:

Don’t let the noise cancelling headphones, pile of work, the fact that I am typing, have my eyes closed, am facing the other way, or that I am actually sleeping dissuade you. If I am in your presence (whether I know you or not) you will talk to me and I will listen. You will tell me things you have never told anyone, and I WILL KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE. I will give you advice, I WILL NEVER JUDGE. Trust me I know things I could have gone my whole life without knowing, but rest assured when you utter the last word it is already forgotten.
When I go on vacation with my family I am instructed not to look up or make eye contact with anyone! (after all, it is their time)
All kidding aside this is the best gift you can give someone, empathy and understanding. A safe place to unload, and then let them go on their contemplative way to figure it out.

Energy zappers/Energy fillers:

Get in touch with the people places and trying that are sapping your energy and GET RID OFF THEM! Ok, so this is not always practical. If it was, I for one would spend my days reading, doing yoga, cooking, gardening, hiking, mountain biking, eating at great restaurants and watching old movies.
We are all intimately in touch with what brings us stress; however, are you aware that there is a positive counter balance?
I am also a bit of a math geek, and a strong believer in that “What gets measured gets done”. In fact if I was to get a tattoo it would have that phrase along with the word accountability!  As a result, I have invented the “Balancing Act” equation. (AP to follow)
How does it work? Make a list of everything that brings you stress and give it a numerical value. Then, come up with a list of energy fillers and do the same until you reach equilibrium!
I challenge you to balance your act! Leave others to do the same.

Speak your mind-Don’t over communicate:

No one likes a nag and overstating the same point over and over and over again does not make it so.
Stop!
Definition of insanity.
Doing the same thing over again expecting different results.
This came up two blogs in a row for a reason!
Don’t hold back. Say it once. Hope you are heard. Move on.

Come as you are:

You cannot change anyone but yourself and you should not want to.
It is your responsibility to continue to grow and evolve, and it everyone else’s responsibility to do the same.
You should always strive to be your personal best and hope that the people around you continue to do the same.
At the end of the day you must accept people for where they are regardless of the level. That is their choice.
Do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. I repeat, do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. Lead by example.

Drop the mad:

This is one of my personal favorites; however, be cautioned it does not always work! Nothing was ever accomplished through screaming, yelling and or trying to solve the world’s problems in one sitting. Sometimes you just have to take a break from it all and have some fun.
If you can put together some peaceful connected moments you can get back to figuring out the world’s problems through a clearer lens.
Take breaks:

Step out of the drama! Get out of the ring! Take yourself out of the line of fire!
Do it for an hour. Do for a day. Do it for a week. Do it for any amount of time necessary and practical so that you can clear your head and think.
Take as much alone time and thinking time required to make the decisions and put the actions in place that are right for you. After all this is yours, not theirs.

Empty vessels/projects:

Oh how I love a good project! I get that from my Grandma Fanny. She always took in strays, and I am very much the same. I have a 12 foot farm table and none of the chairs match. Neither do the people that often pass through for the home cooked meals on Sunday nights. My family and I often reminisce and say, “I wonder what ever happened to so and so. I hope it all turned out well”.
I bring this up as a cautionary tale. It is a gift to give, but it can also be trap. Always give and open yourself to others, but remember it is a two way street.

So, in conclusion, what is yours, theirs and ours anyway?

Another favorite saying of mine is really a question. What happens when you stop hitting your head against a wall? Answer, it stops hurting. What is yours and what is theirs anyway? Truth is, it is all yours and it is all theirs. It is our job to be our best, it is their job to strive to do the same. It is our job to take care of ourselves; it is definitely their job to do the same. It is always our job to show up fully. To be kind, caring, helpful (when asked), resourceful and always, always show empathy. It is their job to clean up their side of the street and do the same. Perhaps in time we agree to meet in the middle? Perhaps we don’t? In the end the universe will take care of the rest.

The Finish Line is really a Dotted Line?

The Finish Line is a Dotted Line

 

 

Why is it from the time we are children we are always striving to reach the next milestone. We can’t wait to lose our baby teeth, only to find we look silly and can’t successfully chew.

Reaching double digits comes next accompanied by gaining entry to a coveted seat at the grown up table. Where consequently we are introduced to chores and responsibilities and often where the conversation is quite boring!

Fast forward, we speed through our high school years. Our new focus becomes getting accepted into to the college of our dreams. We are warned by our family, teachers and trusted advisers that these are the best times of our lives. We do not heed their warnings and fail to truly savor the simplicity of the time.

We then become excited for college graduation. This is when real life will begin! We will build up our resumes, network and interview like a madman and woman. The next thing we know we are drones on the train station platform, ordering coffee on auto pilot, and entering the Monday morning rat race.

Finally comes grown up life. True independence; life on one’s own terms. In reality this means mortgages, bills, car payments and more. Often this is followed by cohabitation or marriage. “If only I was in a relationship and had kids then my life would really start,” might become the next goalpost or mantra. Like all other milestones, does anything truly prepare you for this? Who provides you with the warning labels and fine print?

So net net my dear reader is this; whether you are 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50, in Childhood, Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Marriage, Divorce, Parenthood or Old-Age, the one thing you can undoubtedly count on is that life will continue to raise the stakes.

What are you going to do when life throws you a curve ball? Are you going to lie down and take it or are you going to raise the bar?

One can never truly know what life has in store; nevertheless, you need to be prepared to face each challenge head on. Always bear in mind that adversity bares vast opportunity.

Here are my favorite tips for dealing with life’s ebbs, flows, curve balls and bombshells while continuing to raising the bar:

1. Recognize the signs:

Get real, life does not usually fall apart overnight. There are signs. Do not ignore the red flashing lights from the runway.

2. Read between the lines:

Look for the hidden signs. They are there, you just might not be looking hard enough.

3. Be realistic:

Face reality. Whatever the facts are deal with them head on.

4. Get some rest:

Change is exhausting. Get some rest and by all means schedule in some fun!

5. Save yourself first:

When you get on a plane they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first. This is good advice. If you are ok, you will have the strength to do what needs to be done. You can then help those around you get up to pace and follow your lead.

6. Practice Self-Care:

This is no time to let yourself go! Make sure to continue or adopt self-care rituals that helps revive and rebuild your energy stores. Exercise, Eat Well, Walk with a friend, Spend time outdoors, get a massage, and fill in the blank:_______!
7. Fake it till you make it:

My late Aunt Phyllis taught me that if I did not know how to play tennis to get a great tennis outfit, learn how to jump over the net and then get lessons. “You will catch on” she explained.

I do this with everything in life. I decide what I want to do or be next and then I the figure it out in the trenches. Consequently I always get there!
8. Be Your Personal Best:

Learn, Explore, Read, Stay Relevant, Repeat …………
9. Outsourcing and Lifelines:

If someone offers to help you thank them and say yes! You do not have to be a hero. I have not done a load of laundry or a stich of housework in the two years that I went back to school to change my career. Relinquishing control is difficult, but necessary. Something has to give!
10. Let go:

There are things that you will need to let go of along your journey. These may be people, places and things. You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot divide yourself too thin or you will lose focus and you may not succeed. Remember you are the one on the Journey and you are the one that is undergoing Transformation. Trust the process. Let others catch up.

11. Contact & Thank your Supporters & Personal Board:
You put a Personal Board together for a reason – this is it! During times of transformation you need your closest supporters and accountability partners the most. They will keep you going, talk you off the ledge, cheer you on, and be your best sounding boards. All this, while keeping you honest and sane.

My grandfather taught me at a young age the importance of finding the people you admired the most in life and your career and bringing them into your inner circle. More importantly I learned on my own that in order to have a good friend you needed to be a good friend. I value my close relationships above all else in life, and give relationships my all. I treasure each and every one of you. You all know who you and I know you are reading this. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!
12. Welcome New and Fabulous Fellow Travelers!

Wow, the people you will meet! Doctor Seuss might have said this first but boy was he right. I have met the greatest people during my transition into my new career. When I walked into NYU that first Sunday morning two years ago I did not realize the door I was truly opening. I have met the greatest people, some I believe to be lifelong friends. Through opening up to new networking opportunities I have again met fabulous people, joined a board and again made fantastic new friends. I have had lunches and coffee dates that have been like warm comfortable sweaters and long deep exhales. Yes, there are people out there that will truly get you, and get what you are going through. Be open to them and let them in. Your will expand and new opportunities will be endless.

13. Steal and savor all and any Peaceful Connected Moment:

I coined the phrase Peaceful Connected Moment when I had small children. By definition a Peaceful Connected Moment, is a very small window of time when the wheels stop, the noise in your mind slows if only for a moment, and you can savor a moment of quiet peace and contemplation.

You will know when one arises. Learn to recognize it, and enjoy.

14. Be willing to take a risk:

At the end of the day, when the preparation, contemplation, and analyzing is over, you must be willing to roll the dice. (I can’t take credit for this, it came from a board member)

You must trust the “Net Will Appear” -Zen Saying

or

“Learn to Swim or Build a Boat” me

15. Let go of dead weight (kindly), but beware of the carnage:
.
When you emerge from the rubble and dust yourself off, not everyone will be there to cheer you when you take your victory lap. This is ok. The ones that are supposed to be there will and the ones that aren’t won’t. That’s life.
You will survive.
My life has imploded and I have reinvented myself so many times, I can hardly recognize myself. This is a good thing; adversity has brought me great opportunity! I have been knocked down and have gotten up each time from my face down in the ring moments stronger, wiser and more resilient from the fight. I have faced adversity and won. I have raised the bar each time and clearly understand there is no finish line or end game in sight. There are only targets, goals and lots and lots of surprises. I am excited for every new challenge. Bring them on, I’m ready willing and able!

I challenge you to do the same.

Tips for Firing Your Inner Critic; Well Maybe Not?

CRITIC CATCHER 2

I used to wish I could fire my inner critic.  You know the little voice that comes out at the most inopportune times.  For Instance, when we are about to go into a meeting, address a room, write a paper or meet someone new.  It reminds us that we are not good enough, strong enough, smart enough or any other similar negative dialog.

 What do you mean you are saying? Not me! I don’t have an imaginary nay-Sayer!

To that I challenge we all know we have one!

I spent many years of my life oblivious to mine. I never realized how much it was interfering with my ability to reach my full potential.  When I finally came to grips with its existence, I only wanted to find a method to make it go away!

With deeper understanding and introspection, I am beginning to change my tune.  What if I could come to grips with its existence, understand its origins and gain a deeper understanding of the essence of their message? Wouldn’t this be ultimate freedom? Could I heed its warning, yet move forward anyway? Wouldn’t this help me gain perspective and resilience?  Could I use these small victories to become a stronger person and ultimately reach my true potential?

I decided the answer to this question was a resounding yes.   This deeper insight gave me the power to embark on the path to make this invisible enemy my friend and adviser.

 Here are my tips for embracing your Inner Critic:

 1. Catch your critic in the act!

 When are you visited most by you inner critic? Is there a specific pattern?  Do they come out when you are lonely, hungry or tired? Is it when you write a report? Do they sneak up on you at a meeting? Tap you on the shoulder on dates, at parties or when you meet new people? Do they give fashion tips as you dress in the morning? Perhaps they try and trip you when you take a new exercise class or open the refrigerator?

Recognizing the patterns will heighten your awareness and provide the ability to be prepared.

 2. Become an intuitive listener!

 What is your inner critic trying to say? Is the message always the same? Does the inner dialog change with the circumstances? Is there validity to the words? Perhaps a lesson to be learned? Is this inner voice a warning of danger ahead?

 The message can be utter nonsense or maybe a call to action.

 3. Notice the surroundings and circumstances that bring them out of hiding!

What patters are starting to surface?  Do they visit you most at work or at home. Do they torment you when you are out with you friends or on dates? Torture you when you step out of your comfort zone?  Exercise influence at mealtime or sabotage your new workout regime? Is it their habit to spoil family dinners and visits? Mess up your vacation? Show up when you present or perform?

With a sharper lens of acute awareness the patterns will emerge. Take note and notice their effect on you.

 4. Consider who or what do they remind you of?

Dig deep.  What is being triggered?  What memories come to the surface?  Do they bring you back to your college days, the high school cafeteria or all the way back to the elementary school playground?  Maybe you are brought back to grandma’s kitchen, the dining room table or battling your sibling or the bully who lived up the block.

If the message is eerily familiar and oddly holds the same negative charge today then in the past understanding the origin will help put it into new perspective.

 5. Describe them and bring them to life!

 Here is your opportunity to be creative!

Draw a mental picture or grab a pen and bring them to life!  Use a much detail as possible. This will give you the strength required to face your tormentor head on.

 6. Give them a name.

This will also help defuse their effect. By humanizing them they will lose their power to catch you off guard. You can remind yourself that this character is here solely to block your path and steer you off your game.

Perhaps through clear and honest recognition while truly embracing their presence they can actually propel you farther?

 7. Arm yourself by creating two or three things you can say to send them packing!

 8. List two or three things you can do or say to embrace their existence.

My inner critic is a Tasmanian devil  that shows up most when I write, meet new people and present. Things that today I believe are my strongest attributes.

I call it Sandy, after the Hurricane that threatened to destroy some many lives.

It stands over my shoulder when I write to caution me, “You can’t write that” or “No one wants to read that”! It messes up my papers and jumps on my keyboard when I persist.

It spills coffee on my notes before I present and then does its best to psyche me out before networking events.

Today I  “Thank it for its concern” but tell it “I am going to publish this anyway” and take my chances.  When it tries to break my confidence before I present I remind it “I got this” and reflect on my last positive presentation.

So, as you see, through developing a deeper understanding of the origins and messages of my Inner Critic, today I choose to make them my muse instead of my nemesis!

It is now my inspiration. The little voice that reminds me that I can do anything.  It is that pesky yet persistent voice that makes me do spell check one more time and inspires me to create the best work possible.

It now stands right next to me or takes a seat in the front row when I present. It pushes me out of the door to step out of my comfort zone and enter a room of strangers.

Through finally embracing its existence I have become the best version of myself.  By understanding and honoring its message I have ultimately been able to break free.

I encourage you to do the same.

Transition to Transformation: Tip for Navigating Change

 

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The world is moving at a very fast pace. What are you doing to keep in step?
Every day we hear of corporate mergers, downsizing and restructures. What actions are you taking to rewrite your script to ensure you do not wind up on the cutting room floor?

Did you choose to stay home devoting your energy to the betterment of your family and now face a looming empty nest? What will you do with the next chapter of your life?

It does not matter where you turn; work and life are moving at a dizzying pace. People, vocations and emerging technologies are in a constant state of evolution and reinvention. We face a daily backdrop of high alert and digital connection. No wonder Transition and Change Management have become the adopted vernacular to describe daily existence.

How can one cope with a state of uncertainty and a general sense of unrest?
I cannot overstate the importance of creating a strong contingency plan. Why wait till life is on a downward spiral to pick up the pieces and turn life around? Having a strong backup plan is not only practical but can give you the confidence required to leverage and improve your current circumstances.
Would you go on a road trip without a destination, map, gas, and provisions? Would you go back to school without properly researching the program? Do you step into the ocean with your eyes closed and let the first wave knock you over and spin you around? Then why would you do this in life and your career?

Why show up without the proper skills and a well thought-out strategy? What actions and steps can you set in motion immediately to ensure you are ready to face any and all unlikely events or circumstances?

I recently led a round table discussion group at a Leadership Conference on the topic of sharing our most valuable secrets and tips for success. I introduced the concept of having a Plan B regardless of your current work status. There was a member of our table who was incredibly quiet the entire discussion. I assumed they were unmoved by the discussion. I received an email shortly after the discussion sharing how powerful this concept is. They assumed “that if they showed up each day and did a good job the powers that be would give you a promotion and raise”. It never dawned on them that not anyone else is responsible for your development plan and ultimate destiny.

We can all learn from this lesson. Don’t wait for the fork in the road to form a new path. Lay down a purposeful track and let life adapt to your path. Vow to be the best in class and embellish your current role and life. We all deserve to be happy and on purpose. Don’t wait for necessity or catastrophe. Start building today for the future of your dreams.

Here are my Tips for Building a Strategic Plan B

1. Get real!
Take a fearless and honest look at your current circumstances. Are you showing up as the best possible version of yourselves? Is your position and company secured? If your company took a downturn would you be the first to go? Are you doing what it takes to ensure your relevancy?
2. Keep up with the Jones’s!
How current are your skills sets? Are you keeping up with the current technology? Are you raising your hand for stretch assignments? If not get started yesterday.
3. Ready Set Learn!
Knowledge has never been easier to acquire. If you don’t know something, Google it. Want an up to the minute definition, try Wikipedia. There are webinars, audiobooks, podcasts and multiple books on every topic all downloadable to your smartphone. Today you can get an MBA without leaving the comfort of your home! No excuse, stay relevant!
4. Expand your circle.
Network, Network, Network, and just when you think you can’t stand it one more minute, Network some more.
5. Acquire a Personal Board
Times of change are difficult. Your Personal Board will be your Life Line back. They will keep you on track, honest and moving in the right direction. They will become your biggest critics and your strongest advocates all wrapped up in one!
6. Volunteer: Give and Learn
Volunteering is a great way to keep up your spirit while going through turbulent times. Why not volunteer your services in a way that will require you to learn different skill sets? These skills can be leveraged in your current role or added to your resume for future positions.
7. Take a break
I cannot overstate the importance of self-care during times of change. Change is exhausting. You are in a constant state of uncertainty, learning, stepping out of your comfort zone, and all while showing up at your personal best. Eat Well, Sleep, Nap, Take Breaks, Laugh, See Friends, Exercise (preferably outside), Schedule Fun.
8. Take risks
Change is risky business. Going back to school is scary. Learning new technology is overwhelming. Constantly showing up for networking events can be daunting. Creating an on line presence makes one vulnerable to the masses. You know the old adage, no risk no reward.
9. Step Out
Stepping out of your comfort zone is also not easy. I suggest a change of mindset. Think of trying new things as an adventure. You will not like everything, but you never know what will resonate. I think of how empty my life would be if I did not meet all of my great friends through Networking. What if I never took the risk that first Sunday and walked into NYU for my Coaching Certificate? Trust me I was terrified!
10. Get comfortable with discomfort
My biggest life lesson during my transition from running a Sales and Marketing department to heading up Human Resources and starting my business as an executive coach is that anything is possible. I mean anything! We all have the potential to be, do and have anything we want; we just need to be willing to put in the work. I now welcome uncertainty as it is what gives me grit. It is what gives me the gumption each day to show up as the best possible version of myself and never, never, never give up. One can never truly know what lurks around the corner, but I do know I welcome the challenge. I am ready willing and able to do whatever it takes to reach my full potential. I recommend you do the same.

 

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It’s Not Too Late To Finish Strong!

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Since I was a little girl, Labor Day has always been my favorite holiday.

I love the summer. Longer days, casual Friday’s, activity filled weekends, vacation, casual reads and days at the beach. Nevertheless, by the time August rolls around I am ready to hang up my flip flops, put away my gardening tools, roll up my sleeves and get back to work!

As I woke up this morning, poured my coffee and sat down to check my e-mails I was thrilled to discover my new syllabus in my inbox. Just as I felt growing up I experienced the same jolt of excitement I remember so vividly when discovering my school supply list had arrived in my mailbox. I could hardly wait to download my text books, sharpen my pencils and grab a clean sheet of paper and get to work!

Another summer concluded and a fresh new quarter to make my mark in 2015.

I am an optimist. Definitely a glass is half full person, yet, as I laced up my sneakers to take my morning run I began to ponder what changes I may fail to make this year? What resolutions might I not follow through on? On which commitments will I miss the mark? What stones might I leave UN-turned?

As I opened the door I took the first breath of morning air. Imagined or not, there was a marked change in temperature. Perhaps I wondered is this analogous with changes to come? A symbol of possibility and movement ever so slight peeking out around the corner? Is it synonymous with slight shifts in behavior and perception? A doorway to transformation?

As my pace hastened so did my determination. There is still time to cross the finish line a winner. The opportunity to reach my goals, mountains yet to climb, issues left to resolve.

Where to start? Somewhere and now!

Here is my top 10 list of strategies to finish strong:

1. Don’t ignore the signs:

If something need addressing, face it, handle it and move on. If you need help or support then ask for it.

2. Stay relevant:

If you do not stay up to date someone else will. Only you are responsible for how your story will unfold or end!

3. Update your resume/social media profile:

Even if you are in the most secure position, you should update your resume, bio, profile and head-shot once a year. It is moreover a great way to see what you have accomplished each year. It can additionally be a measure of work still needed to be done.

4. Update your resolutions and goal list:

If you don’t have goal list then create one immediately! Putting your aspirations on paper is a form of commitment. It is the first and most critical step to creating a successful strategic action plan.

5. Buddy Up:

Everyone needs a goal buddy. Sharing your goals with  trusted advisers makes them hard to ignore. No one wants to be the slacker that starts an exercise routine and fails to follow through.

6. Call a Board Meeting, or simply call your Personal Board:

If you don’t have a Personal Board them make it part of your goal list to get one. Defined; your Personal Board members are mindfully chosen advisers and confidants that will help you rise through the ranks. They will become your accountability partners on your road to success. Furthermore, they are a perfect pool of candidates from which to choose a goal buddy.

7. Let go:

Are you holding on to something that you need to let go? Is anger or resentment holding you back? Why not consider letting bygones be bygones? The energy you are putting into plotting your revenge could be energy better spent toward crafting your future success story.

8. Reconnect:

Get back in touch with the people and relationships that slipped through your fingers this summer. Get some lunch dates on the books and dinners on your calendar. Consider joining a new networking group.

9. Finish something you started:

Vow to finally sign up for the last two classes required to complete your masters. Buckle down and complete the work project that you keep pushing to the back of your list. Get the roof at home repaired before the winter kicks in. Fill in the blanks?

10. Prepare the Field:

The best way to get back in the game and finish strong is to get organized. Clean up your desk, inbox, closet, night-table, kitchen, garage, brief case, car or whatever is making you feel out of sorts. Do whatsoever is necessary to clear the field so you can plot your strategy and finish strong.

We all have our favored time honored traditions, mine is the last run of the summer. I take this run each year at the beach on Fire Island. I grew up on the beach. Weekends spent at my grandparents’ house in Rockaways followed by summers in Fire Island. The beach helped teach me persistence and fearlessness. As early as two, I remember being knocked over by waves, tumbled upside down, losing my breath and landing far off track. Yet I ran right back in and did it again! The vastness of the ocean as I run along the shore similarly reminds me of the endless possibilities that are available to meet my goals, objectives and dreams. Each year when I finish this run, I take a little extra time to sit on the shore savoring the sights, sounds and distinctive smells of the ocean. I steel one last minute of serenity, as I paint a mental picture of the scene. I will conjure this image in times I get discouraged.

As I walk back up the stairs to pack up our summer home, I know I am ready. When I ferry back to shore, I am confident that I will end the year victorious. How will you do the same?

Summer Heat

Staying Cool, Calm, and Collected in the Summer Heat

How to Stay Cool In The Summer Heat!

 

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“Summer time and the living is easy”. That is the tune we all hope to sing in the summer, unfortunately this is not always the case.   Balancing one’s personal life with professional responsibilities can become even more challenging when work loads and work pressures continue to turn on the heat!

Here are my favorite tips for staying cool, calm and collected in the summer months:

  1. Clean up your sleep hygiene– Even the scariest case load becomes easier to face after a good night’s sleep. Cool down the room, lower the shades, cut down on your caffeine consumption and cut off e-mail checks an hour before bed.  (Drops of lavender oil on your pillow can help.)

 

  1. Take a breath– We all over react from time to time. Add heat, stress and a touch of overwhelmed to the pot and it becomes a real pressure cooker! Instead of blowing the lid off the top why not STOP and take a deep breath or two or count to ten. When challenges threaten your composure this will help get your emotions back in check.

 

  1. Embrace the Light– Let’s face it, we all work too late. The good news is that in the summer we can stay at our desks until 7:00 or 7:30 PM and still have an hour of sunlight!  Think of all the great things you can do with this extra hour?  Take a run. Meet a friend or loved one for a drink or dinner at an outside restaurant. Take a walk on the beach. Garden or simply sit outside to finish up your phone calls and work, (if you must!).

 

  1. Stay hydrated– Soda, ice coffee, and ice tea might quench your thirst but they will dehydrate you in the long run. If you are like me, drinking gallons and gallons of water is a drag! Throwing in fresh berries, lemon, or even mint can help water go down easier.

 

  1. Keep it light– Nothing slows down productivity more than a heavy, greasy breakfast or lunch. Keep fruit, nuts and raw vegetables handy to keep temptation down.

 

  1. Turn it up– Nothing lightens the mood better than upbeat music. In the summer months why not turn on Reggae, the Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet to lighten the mood in the office or at your desk.

 

  1. Take it outside– Instead of eating lunch at your desk why not grab a colleague and eat outside? If you need to work through lunch bring your work outside and handle a task that is less stressful.  Just being out in the fresh air and sunlight will help elevate your mood.

 

  1. Reconnect– Who have you been neglecting during the long cold months of winter? Summer is a great time to reconnect. Everyone is anxious to get out and enjoy the summer months.  Block time in your schedule for friends.  Summer months go by quickly. Blocking the time guarantees you don’t miss out.

 

  1. Disconnect– OK, you’re saying, now you have gone too far! This is the hardest suggestion but totally necessary to regroup and unwind.  Take a dedicated e-mail and cell phone break.  It does not matter if it is for an hour, during one meal, one morning, and one day or even just at the gym, detaching will do you well.

 

  1. Escape! Summer is a great time for a mini excursion.  Take a day trip to the wineries, the Hamptons, the zoo, the city, or upstate.  It doesn’t matter if you check into a local hotel and sit at the pool, getting away for a couple of hours or a day will help you rewind the clock.  If you can’t get away at least grab a good book and escape right on your coach or lounge chair.

 

  1. Pamper yourself. Self Care always elevates your mood, decreases stress and increases confidence.  Get a message, pedicure, manicure, facial, or try a cool new haircut.

 

  1. Layer it- Stress is bad enough, being overheated and stressful is even worse. The challenge of dressing comfortably in the summer is that every office, conference room or restaurant you visit is a different temperature.  You can be hot one minute and freezing the next!  Dressing in layers and carrying a sweater or scarf in your briefcase can help guarantee your comfort at all times

 

Whether you adopt one or two of these suggestions or all twelve even the simplest shift in behaviors can bring about positive change.  Why not find a “Stress Buster” accountability partner in your office or professional network? They can help keep you on track and support you in turning these suggestions into habits.  Make it a great summer, enjoy, and make the most of the months ahead! Remember dessert spelled backward is Stressed,  always “Eat dessert first”!

 

Photo Credit

About the Author:  Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture.  Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specialing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.

 

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