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!


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!


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!


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.


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.


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


Is Your Bucket List Getting Rusty?

bucketlist-listI don’t have a bucket list and if I did, it would have to be written in pencil with a large eraser and room for substitutions. Not that long ago bungee jumping was something I pictured as an exciting, adrenaline fueled experience. Yet after watching one in real time, it became abundantly clear that it was not a good match for me. On the other hand, when the opportunity for a tandem paragliding flight off the Grand Tetons was a possibility, I jumped at the chance. It was an amazing moment in time with a seasoned pilot and yes, I suppose it’s something to add to that “non-bucket” list of mine and cross off as completed.

The total experience of seeing the gliders overhead as they dipped and hovered like giant winged birds was magical. I knew that I also wanted to fly. Had I given it too much thought with my practical side considering costs, fear of a crash landing, injury and long term disability, I would have dismissed it out of hand. Unknown to me, my husband had also been captivated by the same scene earlier so when I broached the subject with him, he was on board. In an hour we were registered and paired with our pilots. Having credit cards committed, there was no time for second guessing and only the tingle of anticipation as we rode the gondola to the top. My husband recorded my take-off, and between the pilot’s camera and on ground photographer, there were multiples to review and listen to afterward.

Each time I watch the video, it’s a reminder of the pure joy and adrenaline rush from doing anything so out of my comfort zone. After the flight we signed up for white water rafting and fly-fishing. Why not? And when I feel anxious about presenting a new workshop or trying something closer to my freak-out zone, all I need to do is pull out my phone, watch that video and feel confident that this other stuff is a cakewalk.

What’s on your list of activities to try, places to visit or new skills to learn? There will always be time and/or financial considerations. I would love to fly to Paris in first class yet coach will suffice if Paris is my true, ultimate goal. Fill that “bucket” with exciting adventures ready to be plucked out and experienced, not buried with excuses in the graveyard of “Memories I Wish I Had”.


Sleep More, Improve Performance = Worry Less

sleep-deprivedThe brain does not have enough connections to do two complex tasks at the same time, yet we seem to take great pride in referring to how adept we are at multi-tasking. It’s a myth! In fact, not only does it deplete the brain’s resilience, but we actually have less resistance and discipline in the PM hours after a day of multi-tasking. No wonder people often turn to snacking and eating foods they would not choose earlier in the day.

Research has found that women  who tend to multi-task more during the day, use more brain power and need more sleep than their male counterparts. They also feel the effects of sleep loss more acutely. Altering your sleep patterns may reduce anxiety according to researchers at SUNY Binghamton. Of 100 people polled, those who went to bed later and slept for shorter periods had the most severe symptoms of worry and negative thinking.

Everyone knows the sleep warriors, those people who brag about only needing minimal hours in bed, sometimes as few as four. They say that they can accomplish more by rising at 5:00am to hit the ground running and continue at a brisk pace through the day. For the rest of us, six to seven hours of sleep is recommended and of course, eight if possible.

However, sleep plays an important role in our physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

So, who’s right and is there a true debate around what is necessary to maintain good health for everyone? A simple starting point is to check-in with yourself. Do you find that you are exhausted, irritable and anxious? Do you regularly hit the snooze button or take a long time to get going in the morning? Are you feeling sluggish and not fully engaged until mid-morning?

A new routine could be the answer and good sleep hygiene includes consistent behaviors that signal a slowing down at the end of the day. Setting an alarm for a bedtime as well as a wake-up time may be the additional reminder to help you begin a more disciplined approach to sleep.


The “Mother” of Invention

we can do itjpgWhat do the following have in common?
• Bulletproof vests
• Fire escapes
• Windshield wipers
• Laser printers

The answer is that they were all invented by women, smart, imaginative women, not cautious observers on the sidelines. Of course there are many more inventions that were created by women, but these are not in the so called, “pink industries” or women’s product ghettos. Why are fashion or cosmetics or family focused inventions marginalized by using dismissive language to describe their category placement? These are multi-billion dollar industries and growing every day.

How many more good or even great ideas have been passed on before they’ve ever had a chance to see the light of day? Afraid to fail? Get it right the first time! Women are diagnosed with depression and anxiety twice as often as men. According to Harvard psychologist, Shelley Carson, “ If someone criticizes her work, a woman is more likely to walk away, tail between her legs, and sulk, while a man tends to be aggressive and fight back: ‘You don’t like that one? Here try this idea!’ Perhaps testosterone does play a part in this responsive behavior. She states further, “Women have been socialized to please, and when we don’t, we feel bad about ourselves.”

According to other sources, women take missteps more personally than men do. We tend to be “intropunitive,” blaming ourselves for failure, whereas men are more likely to attribute failure to circumstances and the actions of others. Women tend to ruminate more, replaying and magnifying the setback and thereby increasing the temptation to quit.

So, how do we get beyond abandoning an idea or innovation? How can we turn on the creativity machine and turn off the inner voice? How big a part does fear of criticism or failure have to do with your success? We regret the things we did not do, far more than the things we did. Begin with your own process:
• Notice what you are observing and maintain an idea book.
• Brainstorm/discuss your idea/approach with a trusted group for feedback
• Pivot and change your strategy as needed
• Consider setbacks as learning lessons
• Don’t be afraid…Be inspired!


Procrastination is the Thief of Time

slowdown500How much do we actually accomplish when fully engaged in avoidance mode? What does it take to get back on track?

Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off.
How many are left? FIVE
That’s the difference between deciding and doing!

Even the most motivated people are not always on task. Often the most seemingly busy people, those constantly occupied, are in reality accomplishing very little. Yet, the TV watcher, who we can readily identify is perhaps the most honest of all…doing nothing.

When you are in action; cleaning, reorganizing, or purging the space, it feels like you are industrious. Activity like this is measureable, producing immediate results, unlike the outcomes from other endeavors that may not be so obvious.

One client, who dreaded tax season, always scheduled a major home renovation simultaneously, compounding her anxiety. Her assumption was that as long as she was going to be sequestered in her home office anyway, she could also supervise the other projects too. After the “dust” settled, we looked at the consequences of her actions and how this compromised her relationships, health and overall well being. The physical upheaval around her made it easier to avoid focusing on the task at hand, her tax filings, which were the priority. Once she was able to see that it was possible to do some preparation monthly, her calendar became her most effective tool. With long term goals in place for the year ahead, she was able to space projects, arrange her time commitments accordingly and never have a contractor near her home in the spring.

• What are you procrastinating about?
• What is one small step that you can take now?
• Write it down
• Put it in your calendar
• Do it!