Encouragement Matters

14116176561_f02a3ee0bb_m

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

I had an unanticipated visit from one of my nephews the past four days. He’s a beautifully grounded 22-year-old college senior. In one of our many conversations it became apparent that he is struggling with who he knows he is and where he sees himself heading versus what his parents want for him. Sound familiar?

I know of few people who don’t welcome and appreciate encouragement; even the most confident and accomplished. Encouragement for good matters, particularly in a world of overly opinionated, overly stimulated people. We are often quick to debate matters, but we need to be just as agile to encourage.

11615882606_e52a62542e_m

Encouragement applies everywhere. We can find it in people who are:

  • seeking employment
  • questioning their faith
  • searching for love
  • dealing with family matters
  • lost
  • unwell
  • lacking confidence
  • personally challenged
  • depressed
  • venturing anew
  • daring themselves
  • beaten down

2371962844_94e0c9698b_m

It’s hard to find fleeting thoughts of encouragement as you watch what is going on in the world today, never mind within our own sphere of influence. If you’re like many people, you rarely hear praise about the things you do well. Positive observations are huge and learning to focus on the positive and giving people genuine feedback, strengthens relationships in ways you may have not imaged.

Discouragement often demoralizes. However, favorable words and actions embolden! If you are inspired to share your heart and talents, these three actions may be worth your time and consideration… and be equally well received:

  1. Praise ordinary accomplishments. Look for the little things that most people take for granted. Make it personal. Look the other person in the eye, pause, and share your words with real meaning.
  2. Ask for advice or confide in someone. This is akin to flattery. You know how you feel when others ask for your advice or confide in you about something personal and important to them. It can be uplifting! Didn’t that action make you want to help and do what you could to ensure their belief in you is well founded?
  3. Show appreciation. Watch for the slightest improvement in someone. Be specific. Tell the person exactly what it is that you appreciate about her or him. Is it their compassion, work ethic, the way they treat others? Maybe it’s someone’s weight loss, organization skills, or willingness to take on a challenging task.

With my nephew, I simply promised to listen and support as he explores and pursues his passions. I sense he appreciated that encouragement.

Do you know someone who can use your encouragement, now?

How You View You

447603835_9d10792c34_m

“Your whole life is a message. Every act is an act of self-definition. Everything you think, say and do sends a message about you.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Most of us, I believe, have at least one or two facets of ourselves that we spend considerable time nurturing. They’re often challenging efforts in conjunction with personal growth and development. The other day someone asked what one thing matters most to me? And I couldn’t immediately answer the question. My first reaction was to cite one of my key values but something deep inside said, “you’re warm but it’s not that.” I sought time and promised I’d soon get back to her with an answer.

I’m glad I didn’t rush simply for the sake of proffering an answer. When I later created space to reflect on the question, my mind was all over the map. I began to write:

  • being happy
  • life purpose certainty
  • knowledge
  • fulfilling relationships
  • smiling
  • compassion for others
  • love
  • accepting defeat
  • family
  • to keep breathing
  • learning
  • being passionate
  • mindfulness
  • time
  • being empathetic
  • health
  • life itself
  • curiosity
  • and much more

3778911301_546ba2fe8b_m

It was when contemplating the ‘much more’ that I discovered what matters most to me: A positive self-view. For me, having a positive self-view (others might see this as self-regard or self-concept) means accepting myself for who I am and what I believe in. It means having the courage necessary to make my own decisions and to live life the way that’s right for me.

Absent a positive self-view we tend to compare ourselves to others, feel insecure about ourselves and are too sensitive to the opinions of others (though I admit to being a highly sensitive person). We also make choices based on other people’s expectations rather than what truly feels right for us.

I’ve lived much of my life with a diminished self-view. Sure I’ve been cocky and confident but there were plenty of times when I was concerned about other people’s judgment. Like many people, I’ve come a long way but I’m still working on learning to love myself, unconditionally. And, for me, this is challenging work. 🙂

If a strong(er) positive self-view matters to you, here are three considerations:

  1. Accept imperfections. Perfection is a lofty intention yet you need not start or end there. You’ve heard it before but make doing your best is an admirable goal. Focus on what you have achieved/accomplished and how you can draw on same going forward. Bypass what wasn’t done or ought to have been done differently. And laugh at yourself instead of criticizing.
  2. Be optimistic. Always believe in yourself. Being an optimist doesn’t mean always seeing the brighter side of life. It means to view your surroundings whereby you can maximize your gifts and strengths and minimize your hesitations and weaknesses.
  3. Forgive and forget. Your past can control you if you don’t control it. If you can, forgive past wrongs and move on. If you have a hard time forgiving or forgetting, consider talking through your emotions with a good friend or counselor, but try not to dwell. Allow freedom and new choices to frame your future.

And here’s my invitation: When you view you, what one thing matters most?

318139568_a01f25eda0_m

I Dare You

285024032_0b8b039b63_m“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

~ Leonardo da Vinci

I dare you… to stretch yourself. I’m not talking about exercise or warming up your muscles. Rather, I’m encouraging you to test your perceived limits; to learn, maybe even begin to master, a new skill; to explore something unknown that you’ve been curious about; to challenge your mind, body or spirit.

With most activities, if we want to get better, it helps to stretch ourselves. Athletes strive to move faster or become stronger. Musicians aim to complete a harder, more intricate piece of music. Writers endeavor to craft that literary treasure. And business people are driven to increase productivity, sales and the bottom line.

192250230_a897fa01c9_m

In our busy world, where time flies, if you don’t challenge yourself your creativity and even happiness can stagnate. When the status quo becomes not only the norm but comfortable, you may find yourself unrecognizably following your routines even though they are no longer fulfilling or enriching.

This “dare” doesn’t necessarily mean doing something that makes you anxious or nervous. The point is to open yourself to new opportunities when you’re ready. As you meet new challenges, you encounter new character traits, gain new confidence, and enhance your sense of accomplishment. As you meet your doubts and broaden your horizons, your mind can become too busy to worry about inconsequential things that life throws at us from time to time.

6445984891_7aca263a20_m

Something I’m uncomfortable with is being humorous while speaking in front of large groups. Some people are naturally humorous; I’m not. Entertaining and witty I can be, but humorous, not. So I am enrolling in an Improv class to learn how to become more at ease integrating humor. For me, this is a stretch.

You have probably given thought to stretching yourself. What’s preventing you from doing so now? 🙂 For those who are curious how or where to step into this, here are three considerations to get you started.

  1. Take cooking classes. Even if you’re hesitant to go to classes of any sort, especially if you consider yourself an introvert, drag yourself out of the house and be open to chatting up (not for long) strangers. There is fun to be had, watching everyone learn and seeing people enjoy being newly creative. Go stimulate your taste buds!
  2. Volunteer at a local mission or soup kitchen for a day and realize how comfortable your life really is, while helping others at the same time. It will likely broaden your perspectives and reground your sense of appreciation.
  3. Be willing. An attitude of willingness is essential. You can make excuses all day that will keep you from stretching yourself and taking the next step. You need to step away from the demands of every day life. An attitude of willingness will stretch you simply by making a commitment to take the plunge.

8026940272_9891c14712_m

You As Yoda

Lucasfilm, LucasArts & ILM

“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” ~ Richard Bach

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker discovers that he needs help on his journey to become a Jedi Knight. He recognizes that he cannot achieve his true potential without some guidance and training. He needs someone to provide direction and practical knowledge so he can acquire the understanding and skill to use The Force, the energy in the universe, wisely and effectively.

Yoda, who Luke meets on an isolated planet in the galaxy, initially appears to be an unlikely guide for such a momentous journey. Yet Yoda puts up with Luke’s initial insolence and arrogance, takes him under his pointed ears and manages to bring out the Knight that is within him. Yoda demonstrates, as the mentor to mentors, how to give support to a promising individual, how to offer challenges that permit one to learn and grow, and how to provide vision so that the “mentee” gains confidence and, eventually, independence.

4223229674_6f693893f0_m

Have you ever been a Yoda to someone? Or perhaps, thought about being a Yoda? There are many ways to support someone who is exploring and willing to discover their true potential: there are teachers, trainers, coaches, guides, and obviously, mentors. These roles are not mutually exclusive.

So what makes a mentor unique? A mentor is an individual willing to become part of a supportive and diverse community of learners, open to sharing experiences, vulnerability, and expertise. A mentor is a person who models the need to continue learning as a life-long adventure. S/he is a person who has learned through success as well as challenge. A mentor realizes that respect is always an earned commodity. And a mentor accepts others in humanity.

8167128586_3f568e4778_m

I have been blessed to have had several mentors; individuals who were as honored to support my growth (and at times arrogance), just as I was privileged to receive their tutelage. I’ve also been on the giving side of this relationship. As a mentor, I get to model the professional values and behaviors to those with and for whom I serve. It’s a win-win proposition.

There are many ways to be an effective mentor. If contributing in this capacity is something you might be good at and interested in, here are three ways to consider serving:

6312302582_119871e105_m

  1. Guide and Counsel. You can serve as a confidant, sounding-board, or personal adviser to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.
  2. Share rather than teach. Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance and helps a mentee forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness, and diligence
  3. Follow-up. If you’re going to start the process, make sure to be consistent and follow-up. Make arrangements to meet for coffee, phone calls, etc., every couple of months or at a frequency that works for both schedules. Mentoring only works if you do!

A Meaningful Life Trumps

“Life is not infinite, but its potential is. Embrace every second and you’ll triumph over compunction.” ~ Eric Tonningsen

It took years, but I finally figured it out. When you’re not happy, unfulfilled, or not living a meaningful life — you ought to (I really wanted to type must) make a change. If you remain a slave to cultural expectations, and the trappings of money, power, status and/or perceived success, you’ve left a void in your life. I told myself, “If you’re truly unhappy with your job, move on.” “Find a way to pursue your passion and your mission in life.”

So I left a world in which I prostituted myself to shareholders, made good money, traveled the world and had whatever I wanted. What was missing was meaning and significance. And I knew this for some time.

I’m not saying quit your job; you may love your job.  But are you happy? Essentially we are when we get what we want. But when our happiness outweighs the meaning in our lives, something’s disproportionate. I believe happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult affairs are avoided.

When I decided to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown it was terrifying and exhilarating; surreal and at times, indescribable. Suddenly, I was accountable to myself. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t that highly confident being. Yet I knew I was heading in the right direction.

Days after I left the traditional workforce, I came across this Joseph Campbell quote. It has guided and inspired me since. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” To which I have personally added, “…and what you can still be.”

If you are contemplating a major life shift; how you might contribute in more meaningful ways and; how living a life of greater significance might change you — here are three anchoring thoughts as you explore your potential and how realizing it could be beautifully fulfilling.

  1. Figure out what defines you. You’ve dreamed most of your life. You have a vision for ‘what could be.’ It/they can still be achieved. Personally, I have a lot of life left and plans to effect change. Sure, everything won’t work out just as I’ve planned. But I can focus on being ready for whatever opportunities (and challenges) come my way. Dreams and visions can define us, even if they don’t turn out exactly as we hoped.
  2. Question whose approval you are seeking. Like it or not, we’re all sometimes guilty of relying on others opinions to feed our feelings and self-worth. While approval and compliments from others can feel great, seeking them all the time can be unhealthy. They can turn into self-fulfilling cycles of negative feelings. When you start on a self-discovery journey and pursue what you want to do, you take ownership of your life and begin to realize that it matters what you think about you.
  3. You have a right to pursue your passions. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that pursuing your passion is impractical. Passion is what brings meaning and value to your life. The quality of your life experience is directly affected by the pursuit of your passion(s). Don’t allow your passions to drift into the “maybe someday” file. Life is too short to settle for anything less than passionate.

Try It. You Might Embrace It.

“Intuition is perception via the unconscious.” ~ Carl Jung

When it comes to decision-making, are you logical or intuitive? A while back I wrote about emotional intelligence (EQ) and intellectual intelligence (IQ) and how EQ is replacing IQ as a new measure for business and social success. Today I paused, reflecting on the plethora of assessments used to test and measure seemingly every facet of human consciousness, behavior, skills, potential, and preferences.

But let’s bring this back to intuition, which to some is not considered a true science and is often categorized as parapsychology. Whether it is a true science or not, it exists. And those who are intuitive know that they do things differently. Here are three examples:

  1. They practice mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness practices can be an excellent way to tap into your intuition. Mindfulness (paying attention to one’s current experience in a non-judgmental way) helps one to filter out chatter, weigh options objectively, and ultimately make decisions that you can stand behind completely.
  2. They connect deeply with others. Mind reading or “empathic accuracy” refers to the seemingly magical ability to map someone’s mental terrain from their words, emotions and body language. Tuning into your own emotions, and spending time observing and listening to others can boost one’s powers of empathy.
  3. They mindfully let go of negative emotions. Strong emotions, particularly negative ones, cloud intuition. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that being in a positive mood boosted one’s ability to make intuitive judgments. Your intuition fares better if you’re able to mindfully accept and let go of negative emotions, rather than suppressing or dwelling on them.

It’s that age-old, mind versus gut ‘thing.’ Which do you trust more? With which are you more comfortable? If you’re interested in further exploring or strengthening your intuitive abilities, here are three (of many) ways:

  • Accept that you are not in control. Don’t try to shut down your uncomfortable emotions. You will return to a state of balance as those emotions evolve on their own. Making critical decisions can be gut-wrenching. And you know this. Consider being open to another source of self-knowledge.
  • Be spontaneous. Try new things and go with the flow. Notice how often you find yourself in the right place at the right time. Awareness, when coupled with intuition, can yield expanded insight.
  • Practice. It is important to practice using intuition. Begin with something small that has little impact on your life. For example, try to guess who is calling before you answer the phone. Guess which elevator will come first when you’re standing in front of a bank of elevators. Stay relaxed and focused so as not to be distracted by other mental chatter. As you practice you will gain confidence in using this skill. The greater your confidence about identifying your intuitive voice, the more you will trust it and be able to act on it.

Why Be Assertive?

“To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Over the past few days, I’ve observed some blatant passive-aggressive communication. A lot of “I’m okay; you’re not” behavior that focused on one-sided needs. There were visible instances of ‘attitude’ as well as self-serving and sarcastic expressions. Figuratively speaking, there were people who were being steamrolled and walked over. I wasn’t directly involved so I simply watched the interactions.

How do you cope in passive-aggressive situations? Do you bite your tongue? Do you take your displeasure out in other ways? Or do you use a little assertiveness?

Assertiveness has been described as a personality trait and social competency. It is expressing one’s thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way. Being assertive also means treating others fairly and with respect – while respecting yourself. Knowing when and how to assert yourself can be an asset in work and social settings. Yet many people don’t know how to be assertive – at least comfortably.

Assertiveness is also connected to self-esteem, communication style and values. Keep in mind that putting the needs of others ahead of your own does not make one unassertive. Take charity for example. Most of us want to be charitable, but charity is a choice to sacrifice your convenience, comfort or resources for the sake of someone else or the common good. Personally, I have no problem hanging up on telephone solicitors seeking money. That’s just me responding assertively to their emotional extortions.

Some people are naturally assertive. However, if you’re not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive. Being assertive can help you:

  • Improve communication
  • Create honest relationships
  • Earn respect from others
  • Understand and recognize your feelings
  • Create win-win outcomes

If you want to communicate in healthier and more effective ways, here are four tips to help you become more assertive:

  1. Use “I” statements. This lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. Consider saying “I disagree,” rather than “You’re wrong.”
  2. Do not assume to know someone’s motives. Just because someone is acting badly does not necessarily make him a bad person. Stick to the facts at hand.
  3. Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Although feelings of anger and frustration are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. Wait a bit if necessary and work on remaining calm. (This took me a long time to learn.) When you choose to speak, keep your voice even and firm.
  4. Do not get hung up on the outcome. You can only deliver the message. How it is received is up to the other person.

Be comfortable and confident, and be okay with sticking your neck out. 🙂

Rituals, Routines and Ruts

“In the beginning man makes the habit. In the end, the habit makes the man.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This post started simple. I was going to write about some pros and cons of routines. As I filtered thoughts, I found myself meandering around routines, habits, rituals, ruts and behaviors. Granted they’re not mutually exclusive but I wanted to find my way back to something more focused. So work with me as I try to ‘tighten’ this message.

There may not be much difference between a routine and a habit. A habit typically refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition. They can be good, bad or indifferent. Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine. A routine suggests ordinariness, even a lack of thought; to be on autopilot. But routines also involve choice for taking advantage of a range of things such as time, willpower, discipline, and optimism.

It’s helpful to have order and discipline in our lives. Creating good habits and useful routines helps us feel productive and directed. Yet, sometimes, routines turn into ruts without our realizing it. We can find ourselves feeling trapped, bored, and boring without understanding why. Enter stress; obviously unwanted and unneeded. When we feel relied upon to perform tasks we’ve grown to resent, or simply to do things the way we always have, that sense of duty can sap our energy and enthusiasm.

On another hand, a ritual usually refers to religious meaning or a solemn ceremony. But rituals are not always simply a means to an end. They can be rational, extremely effective and deeply valuable on their own. For example, think of rituals performed after experiencing losses that alleviate grief or rituals performed before high-pressure tasks to reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. They can also be as simple (and superstitious) as eating certain foods or ‘crossing ones fingers’ for good luck.

Rituals (and most of us have them) can have a casual impact on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If you’re wondering how you might add to or restore some focus to your rituals or routines, here are three possible actions:

  1. Acknowledge your top three. Every morning, ask yourself, “What are the top three most important tasks that I will complete today?” Prioritize your day accordingly and don’t retire at night until the top three are complete.
  2. Align meaning with what matters. Often, rituals are the things we care most about. If you value nature, consider a tree-planting ritual by performing mindful and valued steps that allow you to celebrate nature. Whatever rituals you create, remember to include significant and repeatable steps.
  3. Craft an “Ignore list.” Most people have a to-do list but it may help to ask yourself: “What’s not worth doing?” Write down what you’re willing to disregard – emails you have no intention of responding to, vacuuming, or exercising more regularly. Review the list occasionally to ensure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention. (But think twice about the exercising.) 🙂

Failure Yields Great Outcomes

“If you are not failing, you are not moving fast enough, close enough, towards your fullest potential.” ~ Larry Broughton

You’ve heard the expression, “The Real Deal,” right? It is frequently used when describing authentic people; those with character. I had the privilege of having a real deal on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show. If you were unable to catch the show ‘live’ you can download the podcast and my guest’s full bio, here.

Larry Broughton has lived one of those classic, humble beginnings to award-winning entrepreneur and CEO, stories. And on this show he shared a bit about his unconventional journey to success. Founder and CEO of Broughton Hotels, a leader in the boutique hotel industry; as well as Co-Founder and CEO of Broughton Advisory, Larry is a man who believes in his vision and walks his talk, personally and professionally.

One hour is barely enough time to scratch the surface of anyone’s story. Yet Larry shared valuable insights into what he believes makes each one of us successful. Having presented to, coached, and mentored thousands of current and aspiring veteran entrepreneurs across the U.S., Larry spoke about the importance of mindset, how it is essential to embrace failure and, how fear and failure are actually healthy as they nurture learning and growth.

Larry cited several abilities/qualities that are necessary to be successful entrepreneurs (and individuals!) including:

  • Having a sense of adventure, as did the early explorers who knew there was something else out there;
  • Being crystal clear about what you intend to accomplish and how to achieve desired results;
  • Possessing a strong belief in your vision;
  • Tapping your competence and confidence;
  • Banishing negativity and the “energy vampires” from your life; 
  • Surrounding yourself with brighter, bolder people and having mentors or accountability partners;
  • Undying resolve and;
  • The ability and sense to ask questions. Ask questions!

Larry’s upbeat, creative approach to business and life have been featured in countless newspaper and magazine articles and he’s been a guest on news and TV programs on every major network, including multiple appearances on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. In his grounded, inspiring ways, Larry emphasized for listeners: the importance of using one’s strengths; being authentic and transparent and; doing what it is you are great at, to yield clarity and live a successfully integrated, holistic life.

So much wisdom… so little time (on this show) with Larry. While he offered much on which to reflect, my three simple take-aways were:

  1. Get comfortable with the “panic zone”… embrace failure.
  2. “Do good things.”
  3. “Don’t let guilt of the past define you; let it refine you.”

Consider listening to the podcast (linked above). It was a good show!

Choosing the Right Words

“Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.” ~ Unknown

You have unlimited power. You can choose what to do with your life, and with your day. You have influence over the people around you, over your daily schedule and daily activities. You can control many things in life – not all things by any means, but many things. Whether you take charge, choose a direction and move forward or not, is largely a choice. Remember the saying, “use it or lose it?”

Do you use negative, limiting, and critical words to talk to yourself, especially when you make mistakes or are frustrated? Most people do and if you do you probably have the same old feelings and make the same old responses. Words matter and if you want different results, new responses and especially more positive feelings, you will have to choose power words rather than limiting words.

Whatever you aspire to in business, health, fitness, family, spirituality or other areas of your life, you get to choose and unleash the words that will power you! And the best quality of power words is that you don’t have to believe them or be confident of their truth. All you have to do is keep using them and through repetition you will believe them, confidence will increase and most importantly, you will set-up more success. Think of power words as words that:

  1. Focus responses by directing your mind to the present task and how to complete it. These include words such as: how, commit, and yes.
  2. Lower anxiety by keeping responses and choices in the present where actions occur. Anxiety is always about the future, so words about the present reduce or prevent anxiety. These words include: calm, now and present.
  3. Increase confidence by keeping the task within the framework of what can be done right now. Confidence comes from doing, not hoping or wishing to do. Confidence feeling words include: done/do, happen, and can.

In your ongoing self-talk you make a choice. You can use limiting words that never are helpful and supportive of getting you what you desire, want or dream about, or you can use power words that are always supportive. When you choose power words you expect and continually set-up success.