Suffering is Optional

sufferingoptional“You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” – Yiddish saying

Any adult can tell you that life is not linear and yet as human beings don’t we plan and create. What we know to be true beyond a doubt at this very moment may be changed or challenged in the next. As convinced as we are that the “terrible twos” of childhood are seemingly endless, fasten your seatbelt for the traumas of the teen years.

Yes, you may have a perfect life, the ideal career, fulfilling relationships, supportive friends, significant wealth and terrific health yet you may still be suffering. What is your daily dance about? Is it worry, anxiety, excessive thinking and more that might be keeping you from fully living your life?

We poke and prod, plan and plan even more in anticipation of the future and making it manageable and perhaps creating our notion of perfection. We cannot control the future and living there only increases our anxiety in the present. The more we resist whatever is happening now, the more we suffer and the more it persists.

                                       Suffering = Change x Resistance
According to the author Steve Mitten, “The suffering you experience is equal to whatever resistance you give to the changes you experience in your life.” Once you accept whatever comes as a fact rather than purposeful acts to ruin your life, you can stop your personal suffering, step back and focus your energy on the reality of a situation, not the fantasy of what you wish it to be.

Helen Keller is often partially quoted, “When one door of happiness closes, another open.” However, her complete thought adds.”… but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

• What are your habits that may spiral into suffering?
• How willing are you to step into appreciation instead?
• Choose 1 action today that will focus your thoughts on the open door?

© 2017 Maureen Weisner

Ignore the Small Stuff

0123-a%20man%20watching%20an%20hourglass_pYou have only so much energy. Spend it wisely.

Some things just aren’t worth your time and energy. Perhaps a co-worker refuses to greet you in the morning. Perhaps a customer uses a sharp tone of voice. Your partner may forget to do an errand, sending you over the edge. Is it worth stewing about it, replaying the incident, slight or misbehavior endlessly? Possibly, but more often than not, we expend much more effort on minor grievances that can take on a life of their own, relinquishing our power to someone or something else

Think about how much time you’ve wasted on what really amounts to minor irritants when you could have used it to redirect your thinking and avoid getting trapped. Are you willing to carry along the annoying experience in the AM, through your day, only to share it in the PM with family or friends? How much “rent” can you charge to that earlier incident for taking up premium space in your head?

One effective strategy for managing frustrating situations can be as simple as counting to ten before engaging or responding. Try it when you’re sitting in traffic and before leaning on your horn. Another technique is to change the geography by physically moving to another space or area before reacting. Sometimes just the act of moving can make a huge difference.

Get smart. Don’t spend $10 worth of energy on a 10-cent problem. Learn to identify the higher value issues and act accordingly.

“Do not let trifles disturb your tranquility of mind…life is too precious to be sacrificed for the nonessential and transient…ignore the inconsequential.” ~Grenville Kleiser~

©MWeisner2017

The Three Rs: Rumination* Regret * Refocus

noregrets-movingonRumination, or dwelling persistently on distressing situations from the recent or distant path, saps our energy, confidence, and ability to solve problems. We all know someone like this, and it could even be YOU. When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he was probably not referring to an endless and counterproductive focus on the past.

Get over, over thinking. It’s a trap, a habit that can be changed. Are we primed to ruminate? According to psychology professor, Stephen Ilardi, memories are linked to powerful emotional associations. Common themes may be familiar to you like: “I can’t believe I said that or replaying what might have been a better or faster response in a personal or professional setting.” When an unpleasant event puts us in a despondent mood, it’s easier to recall other times when we’ve felt terrible, which can set the stage for a downward spiral. If events in the past were negative, then present and even future events will also go wrong. We think we can “fix” the problem by playing it over and over. On the contrary, the more we do this, the more it ramps up activity in the brain’s stress-response which can eventually sap motivation. No winners here.

Yes, this is much more typical in women than men. In a series of studies, women were more likely to accept undue responsibility for other’s well being. They also were less likely than men to believe they had control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

Ruminators are not worriers, who tend to live in the future and are concerned about what could happen. Their anxiety is forward focused on what has yet to happen. The ruminator already has a scenario and replays it. Not only does this send you into the past without a time-machine and an eraser, but it takes your attention away from the present and the opportunity to refocus on what you have learned and how you can change.

We have all had unpleasant memories or regrets about things we said or did. You cannot change history, but if you cannot let it go, call Jane/John/Jasper, apologize and move on. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but it will put an end to at least one cycle of personal discomfort and afford you some closure and even relief. It’s also important to recognize that some behaviors are habits that you have the power to short circuit and change the outcome before it becomes another “thing” to focus on looking backward.
©MWeisner2017

The Name Game: How Do You Stand Out?

whats-your-nameHow important is your name? Well, it can actually affect whether or not you are hired and even how much money you earn. A recent NYU study revealed that names with 5 or fewer letters were easier to pronounce and those individuals frequently had higher status positions at work.

Research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, suggests that using a middle initial increases people’s perceptions of your intellectual capacity and performance. In one study, students were asked to rate an essay with one of four styles of author names. Not only did the authors with middle initial receive top marks, but the one with the most initials, David F.P.R. Clark, received the best reviews.

If you are a woman with a gender-neutral name, you may be more likely to succeed in certain fields. According to The Atlantic magazine, in male-dominated fields such as engineering and law, women with gender-neutral names may be more successful. One study found that women with “masculine names” like Leslie, Jan, or Cameron tended to be more successful in legal careers.

Lastly, professional women at the top are more likely to use their full names. LinkedIn researchers found that the most common names of female CEOs include Deborah, Cynthia, and Carolyn. Unlike the men, women may use their full names in an attempt to project professionalism and gravitas, per this report.

Will the future for Millenials mean that name changes are strategic or will the norm in the board room become Emma, Lily or Grace? There are no hard and fast rules to apply, but adding your middle initial immediately is an easy way to step up your game and judge the results yourself.

©MWeisner2017

Stop the Noise!

stopthenoiseThe world can be a noisy place. There are noises from the outside world that we cannot control in addition to the clatter we allow into our lives. From television to radio and mobile devices, we often turn to these distractions without thinking. Is it with purpose or to drown out our own thoughts because there is discomfort with silence? If our thoughts prompt our feelings and we are then moved to action, how is downtime and/or silence factored into the day? There’s no substitute for stillness. It need not be a prolonged, anxiety filled time. However, an awareness of how much we use noise to keep us separate from our inner selves can also be a profound awakening.

I frequently see people walking with headphones while also communicating on their phones. At the gym, almost everyone, me included, is listening to our music or watching/listening to the TVs and if not on an instrument of your choice, then there is background noise. Sound is everywhere, some unwelcomed and some that gives us information and calm. Notice when or if ever, you choose to be present and connected in the quiet?

Noise as a distraction affects us in many ways. Is it entertaining or numbing, educational content or a static din? While there’s no reason to subject yourself to unnecessary clatter, does inserting your earpieces protect or separate you from your environment? Is it an automatic response in your day or is it specific to a time/place?

Drowning out thoughts and emotions you may find uncomfortable or overwhelming can also complicate those same issues by delaying your attention to them. By tuning out noise and embracing silence, you may be surprised at emotions that might have been suppressed and are now free to flow.

Opting for a distraction free early morning is a good start. Refrain from turning on the TV until the evening, or limit it to specific programs or to your gym workouts. We have more technology and tools at our disposal than ever before and we are at choice in how we use them. Remember that silence can be golden too!

©MWeisner2017

Lighten Up!

strong-mover-201x300I hate clutter, but sometimes, behind closed doors, it can sneak up on you. Out of sight doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The lengthy bouts of inclement weather we have endured this spring have also made for unintended, positive consequences. Forced time indoors and the ensuing purges from closets, basement and attic are not only freeing but a trip down memory lane as well. Read on for my quick impressions and whether any resonate for you.
• Clearing out
• Five trash bags worth of clothing
• Weight lifted
• Holding on to the dream/image/notion of a secret/glamorous life waiting beyond
• The never worn striped sweater a la Audrey Hepburn on a Mediterranean yacht
• Sky high purple heels for the red carpet
• The chandelier earrings for the paparazzi
• More mundane; the comfortable look that feels more like a Halloween costume
• When do we really get our fashion sense and what is it a reflection of? Frozen in time.
• False eyelashes
• Gold headbands
• Outerwear for the après ski moments in the chalet perched on a mountain top overlooking a quaint Alpine village where the locals are sipping hot toddies.
• What about cooking utensils, dishes, glasses, and more?
• All to be used when entertaining, baking bread or making pasta from scratch. Seriously???

And suitcases…too many to count, multiplying in the attic like a science fiction movie. Where did 20+ suitcases come from? Admittedly we travel a lot and have done so for many years. Also, the size restrictions have made it almost an impossibility to keep up with changing regulations for check in and carry on. Too big, too small – feels like Goldilocks, tortured to find the perfect piece…for now. Is it identifiable?

• Who else would have a red suitcase with a day-glow green tag?
• What are we ignoring?
• Holding onto?
• Prepared for anything? What emergency?
• Too many novel story lines. The glamour of sashaying through an airport looking ever so put together, lightly pulling the perfectly sized piece is an image for the big screen.
• Reality. More like dragging, pulling, and negotiating the byzantine JFK check-in procedures/process. This is not 1960!
And airports…Imagining the places you could be and the experiences you could have.
People leaving + returning = adventure.

Readying the bags for donations or trash day. Someone out there will love and feeling lighter already!

©MWeisner2017

Achieve Your Summer Fitness Goals

imagescae2vkgaWill this be another season of half-hearted attempts at getting fit, or will this really be the summer begun with a new attitude? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit gives us hope and a way to make changes that can break-up the old routines. The following is a mini-plan to begin.

1. Create a Routine: Teach your brain that it’s time to exercise by devising a cue, like putting your sneakers next to the door, or packing your lunch the night before. “A routine gives your brain something to latch onto,” says Duhigg.

2. Set Small Goals: You want to run 5 miles 3 x weekly? Week one, wear your workout gear. Week two, walk around the block. Increase slowly until you reach your goal. Habit formation is built on small wins, according to the author.

3. Choose a Reward: When you reach your daily goal, regardless of what it is, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, 20-minutes of Web browsing or whatever you genuinely take pleasure in. “This works because you are training yourself to associate a behavior with something you actually enjoy,” states Duhigg.

4. Write it Down: List your cues and rewards: “Monday- put on workout clothes + one square of dark chocolate.” This works because by identifying your routine, you significantly increase the chance that the habit will take hold,” according to the author.

Change require discipline, patience and your personal buy-in. Think back to times when you have been able to consciously shift your thinking, modify or eliminate a behavior. Redirect your focus into replacing old actions with new behaviors for success!

• Are you a biker, runner, walker, swimmer or outdoor enthusiast?
• Is variety important to you?
• Learn a new skill or mix in what you already know?
• Is your best time morning or later in the day?
• If equipment is necessary can you borrow it first?

Trying something new requires patience. As a rule of thumb, I suggest trying an activity at least three times. You will have low expectations at first. The next time, you are a still a beginner and on the third attempt, you will have a better feel for the activity. Perhaps you may look for something else or sign up for lessons with a pro, purchase the bike or dust off those old roller blades and get moving!

©MWeisner2017

Monday Morning Mayhem Makeover

imagescakc7fr7My schedule is no longer based on a Monday-Friday, fixed timetable. I have flexibility and can organize my workday to suit clients and myself with late afternoon and evening appointments. Technology has made it possible to accommodate time and space that was unthinkable not so long ago.

I now prepare for the week ahead differently, and the lessons I learned by harkening back to anxiety filled Sunday nights still serve me well. To avoid unnecessary morning chaos, having systems in place is crucial. The fewer decisions you have to make daily about mundane things, the better.

While I don’t suggest taking fashion tips from the Steve Jobs school of black mock turtlenecks, simplicity is the key to being organized. A very successful client who manages her time to the minute has streamlined her work week wardrobe. She owns five pairs of black slacks of varying fits and lengths that she rotates. They all hang in the same part of her closet along with tops, jackets, and accessories that work together. Her standard is a white shirt as a fall back.

Meal time choices can also take too much time. If after doing a quick self-inventory, you realize that you always eat x for breakfast and y for lunch with variety thrown in for dinner, relax. You’ve just removed more decision making from your thought processes and at the same time freed up resources for other critical thinking. We all have a capacity to function at a high level and when we limit the number of “extras” to weigh, it is liberating.

When you spend time on Sunday evening to prepare for the week ahead with respect to wardrobe and meal planning alone, you will find that you can handle the inevitable curve-balls more easily. At the very least, you’re probably dressed and fed.

©MWeisner2017

Is a Career Pivot Next?

266woman-head-spinningProfessionals who have successfully made a career change have done their homework. Have you been feeling unsatisfied or mismatched in your career or is it this job that you don’t like? It may be that the culture isn’t a fit or the environment is not what you expected. You may feel overwhelmed or under compensated. For some clients, the commute made everything unpleasant and stressful and that became the deal breaker.

• Are there recurring patterns in your life and is this another attempt to fix something else?
• What’s unsatisfying about your current situation?
• Who’s doing work that you think you might want to do?

Unless the situation is toxic, we don’t recommend quitting a job in the hopes that something better will appear. As part of our intake we ask clients the following: If we were to have an appointment at a local restaurant three years from now, what would have taken place in your life for you to be fully satisfied and fulfilled both personally and professionally?

If money, time or credentials were not issues, what would you be doing? If the client already has an answer, we will break that down into how-to achieve your goal steps. Then it’s time to look at your networks, identify people who are doing what you would like to do, request an informational interview and spend time with them. This step takes work but for the most successful career changers, they learn from being curious and diligent in their efforts to become informed.

Not uncommon, especially for Millenials is the burnout after 18-24 months of not having a satisfying job, quitting and returning to school. School may have been a safe place, where achievement was rewarded. Adding debt without a plan is always a mistake.

Change is rarely simple. There are financial questions to address, perhaps relocation and even the judgment about leaving a role that you trained for years to reach. It takes courage, persistence and a plan, all of which are doable.

©MWeisner2017

Stress Less…Go Fly a Kite!

kitesI can fly a pretty cool kite, especially after we abandoned our yard and the kite eating tree for the open space of Maine beaches and the quasi-exclusive world of kite enthusiasts. Our kite is not of professional caliber but it is still cool because it was purchased on a trip to Sausalito. Yes, it was made overseas and could probably be purchased in other venues; however, it is a special California kite that survived a rigorous airport check-in and an overhead bin crunch to get here.

Kites were invented in China, where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material; fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line; and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. . Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military and even rescue operations

I’d always associated flying kites as an activity for kids, simple and easy to assemble, rolled tightly and inexpensive. Anything more elaborate was a decoration, perhaps suspended from the ceiling or matching a designer’s vision of a room’s theme.

It’s joyful to see children with an adult, running to get a kite aloft perhaps after some stops and starts, watching it rise high above. Many of us have memories of such an experience and the delight in a successful lift-off on a windy day. But much more frequently, kites have become elaborate and colorful, often requiring strength to launch and monitor. Beaches are an attractive place with wide-open areas and running room. There is an art to moving the kite in tune with the air currents and I’ve yet to see an unhappy person working the lines from below. When there are multiples or very active kites to watch, people stop and pay attention. It’s almost hypnotic. It’s outdoors. And most of all, it’s fun for you and anyone who looks up for a minute or two or more!

• Buy a kite
• Go to the beach
• Go to the park
• Assemble as directed
• Fly the kite
• Share the joy
• Give it away
• Create new memories

©MWeisner2017