Getting Things Done = Freedom!

imagesCAUIW14S“Taking on new projects is not necessarily a positive change. It may be a sign of recklessness and non-fulfillment. But going back to all the levels of non-completion and completing them is a sign of positive change.” – John Roger

How many lists do you have? Are they short and long term, numbered and highlighted in order of importance? Are they color coded? Has their creation and maintenance taken on a life of its own? Are you living with annoying post-its everywhere that only increase your level of anxiety and multiply mysteriously? Does it feel like you are pushing back the ocean, while conflicted about this selfish waste of paper or electronic data? Are these overwhelming and unproductive activities? Non-completion takes up a great deal of psychic space, often accompanied by finger wagging and other judgmental posturing and is very taxing.

According to David Allen,” Stress comes from unkept agreements with yourself. You can relieve that stress only by canceling the agreement, keeping the agreement or negotiating it.”

Begin by clearing out and collecting your thoughts, assessing each one for importance and then review your options. Here is a 3-step approach that can get you out of being stuck and on the road to taking charge.

1. Find your preferred method of recording information. Take 5-minutes and dump everything that pops into your head. Do not censor or evaluate, just write!
2. Assess each particle. What’s the next action? What will you commit to?
3. Which things will you do in order of  time, place and importance?

A constant part of worry is the nagging feeling that there is always something else to be managed. While that may be true, for now you have cleared out the cobwebs and dumped the brain drains to a place where they can be seen and not just heard.

• Make your list
• Dig deep…no self-censoring
• Notice how it feels different than usual

©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

Claim Your Space

powerposeswomenHarvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy recently delivered an inspirational keynote address. This was of particular note as she wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. Early in her college career, Cuddy suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said she would struggle to fully regain her mental capacity and finish her undergraduate degree, yet she persevered despite the original prognosis.

Cuddy’s research at Harvard Business School confirms that our body language communicates information to others that shapes their perceptions of us. It also communicates information to us that shapes our own self-concept. We can construct how powerful we feel by assuming expansive body poses.

In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, high-power poses for as little as two-minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds, and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss. These power poses led to an increased sense of power and risk tolerance.

In other words, Cuddy states that we can fake confidence and power by using expansive body language to change our body chemistry and our feelings. This is especially useful in preparing to speak to a group or in any situation where a self-assured image is important. Whether you face a challenging subordinate, a complex negotiation or a difficult relative, this is a quick way to gather your composure and tap into your power. Begin incorporating the pose into your daily practices, thereby reducing stress and adding greater self-assurance. Claim your space!

©MWeisner2017

What…Me Worry?

Nervous Business Woman Cringing As She Bites Her NailsEmotions are contagious. Just like the common cold, you can “catch” a mood, according to Marco Iacoboni, MD, the author of, Mirroring People. In the workplace, when rumors start, they can quickly descend into widespread panic. Have you ever attended an event where the energy varies from group to group? Aren’t you more likely to be attracted to people who are animated, smiling and interacting with each other? By contrast, you’d be far more inclined to approach them and join in the merriment rather than move toward another, less open set of people. When we observe others doing something, it activates the mirror neurons in the brain, even if you are not doing anything yourself. “Spend time with happy people and you’ll eventually feel happier yourself,” says Dr. Iacoboni.

So, while serenity may be an ultimate goal, it’s not always a state that we can achieve instantly. However, with practice and by tapping into some simple actions, we can call up mindful bliss to affect our frame of mind.

• Smile- it can lift your mood and increase the positive feedback you receive from others around you
• Sing- there’s some research that suggests a connection with how the inner ear reacts to music and that it may trigger a response in the hypothalamus and create a positive buzz. Also, singing about worries can turn into an absurd moment and neutralize the negative.
• Sweat- exercise redirects energy and promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain that are less reactive to stress
• Soothe- think of a memory that brings to mind a pleasurable, safe, comforting experience and place your hand over your heart. The act of connecting the body to the brain in a physical manner again stimulates neural networks.

Emotions are like the weather, they come and go. How you handle information and process your reaction to it can have long term affects on your health, relationships and overall well-being. Remember that most of what we worry about never happens and for the day to day happenings, take control and practice using some of the techniques outlined above.

©2016MWeisner

Whose Suitcase Is It Really?

rcnKok6KiA woman is standing on a riverbank holding a large stone in her hands. She is observed stepping confidently into the water as a small crowd begins to gather. They watch as the water reaches her chest and she begins to swim towards the opposite shore. Soon enough her struggle becomes apparent. She takes several strokes and sinks below. As she surfaces, the crowd yells, “Drop the rock, drop the rock,” yet she continues, making little progress. Again the crowd implores her to drop the rock. She ignores their shouts and as she reaches the middle of the river, it is obvious she will drown if she does not release her stranglehold on the stone. “Drop the rock,” they yell and as she goes under for the last time, her final words echo in the air, “I can’t. It’s mine!”

A shocking scenario, perhaps, but what relevance does it have for you? What is it about the life and career challenges women face that make us carry everyone else’s “stuff” when our own is more than enough? How many times have you picked up the suitcase that does not belong to you and made it part of your own unmatched set? When have you become the caretaker of that cute little valise, even temporarily, when you know full well it is NOT yours?

Now let’s fully focus on you. Will your suitcase fit in the overhead compartment or is it so heavy and unwieldy that it must be shipped as excess cargo? Are the zippers bulging or can you wheel it along with one finger? How lightly do you prefer to travel?

Start unpacking immediately. The load is not getting any lighter sitting there. Your challenge is to remove something from that suitcase each day until you can make it through airport security stress free and with the knowledge that when you pack for yourself, you are also sending the message that everyone else can too.

Here are two simple strategies to support your new outlook:
1. Always check the luggage tags to be certain that suitcase belongs to YOU
2. Take swimming lessons!

©2016 Maureen Weisner

Set Your Intention

266Woman-Head-SpinningAs the holiday season approaches, some of us anticipate them gleefully and others with nerve wracking dread. How will I fit even more into my already jam packed schedule? It’s simply impossible to add another thing to an ever growing list. Everyone expects me to manage it all!

Here’s another perspective. Stop doing something. Whether it is hosting a family dinner, sending holiday cards or spending beyond your means, eliminate at least one activity that is no longer meaningful and inform those who will be affected in advance. Set your intention. Less stress for you also means less tension for your guests, family members, co-workers…your immediate world. Ask for help and take advantage of it. No one ever perished by eating desserts from a bakery rather than homemade treats.

Several years ago a colleague mentioned to me that she no longer looked forward to Thanksgiving dinner with her extended family. I asked her what in particular made her feel this way. Was it the shopping, cleaning, hosting, etc.? No, it was the time consuming stuffed celery preparation that put her on edge. Surprised as I was that a professional woman, managing teams of associates, had been taken down by a vegetable, I was even more curious. I asked her what had made this task so demanding. She described the process in painstaking detail. When I suggested a seemingly simple way to wash, cut and stuff said stalks, she was stunned and somewhat embarrassed. She said that she and her mother-in-law had always done it this way and she’d never thought about doing it differently. Perhaps in her early years as a young wife in the shadows of an experienced cook, she listened and followed her instructions without thinking, but liberation was at hand. In fact, when she hesitantly offered up the possibility of streamlining their technique, they both enjoyed a good laugh over it. How often do you check out and not question the rules, process, or activity you are engaged in? Is it your intention to not make waves and therefore, take a back seat by default? How can you be a better participant or leader while still being part of the team? When is your contribution well intentioned rather than a controlling behavior? Is it the activity itself or the people you are engaging with that is stressful?

• Choose one activity that you want to modify or eliminate
• Inform the people being impacted
• Anticipate possible push-back and script your response in advance
• Prepare for the possibility that no one except YOU really cares
• Enjoy the relief!

©MWeisner2015

The New Joy of Coloring

212918coloredpencilsMAnyone who can recall their early years will remember time spent with crayons and coloring books; choosing colors and staying within the lines. Colored pencils, paint, charcoals and other art supplies supplanted the earliest efforts of filling in the white spaces boldly without a checklist of proper choices. Most importantly, you didn’t have to be an “artist” to be successful. If you had a special flair, and were a daring youngster, you could actually flout the rules and make other color choices.

Yes, I loved my Crayolas but even more so, the very popular Venus Paradise Coloring Sets. Although these were marketed primarily for children, the sets utilized colored pencils and it was easy to learn various colored pencil techniques. The outline artwork was numbered and the colored pencils needed for the illustration were included in the set. Subject matter covered a wide range of images—American Indian scenes, animals, landscapes, outer space, and scuba diving. These were vibrantly colored, rich media pencils that were a neater version of paint by numbers sets. We would spend hours creating “artwork” that gave us a template and reflecting on it now, a soothing and meditative way to produce something to admire; a project to hang on the refrigerator.

Fast forward to a recent trip to a large bookstore chain and I was surprised to see an entire area devoted to coloring books for adults. Based on non-fiction book sales measured in August, #3 was the Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People. Apparently it is this summer’s hottest trend and per devotees of a return to a happier time, coloring offers complete absorption as it engages both sides of the brain, the creative and the tactile. According to Alice Domar, PhD, “The creativity comes with envisioning the color selection and how it will play throughout the piece, while the tactile involves applying your decisions to the artist’s design. Both keep your right brain from taking over.”

The beauty of these sets for children was in their simplicity and portability. Not everyone was creative enough to draw complex freehand pictures. Instead, we purchased a kit with a template, tools and directions that if completed accordingly, you could have an attractive piece of artwork in time.

Of course I purchased a copy of the updated version of a coloring book for myself and am now on the hunt for the perfect pencils. It’s the 2015 version of a stress free activity…once I have the right pencils.

©MWeisner2015

Milestone Birthdays

screen“I can scarcely wait till tomorrow when a new life begins for me as it does each day.” ~ Stanley Kunitz, 100 year old poet

I wish I could say with confidence that even at the half-century mark, I’d felt as thrilled as Stanley in reaching his impressive milestone. Then again, how should I have reacted? Reflective, curious, excited, or grabbing the phone for a referral to the most skilled plastic surgeon within my network? Is there ever a singularly proper way to celebrate significant birthdays?

What turned it around for me? Well, age 49 was safe. It produced a little flutter but I knew that I still had time, really. At forty-nine you are sitting at the edge of the swimming pool, dipping a toe in and checking it all out. Taking in the scenery and not stressed. From the corner of your eye, you may spy the diving board, but it is far off in the distance, removed from the present and not yet even in your neighborhood.

Now, 50 is different. At fifty your choice is to slip into the water without a splash or approach that diving board with mixed emotion; to plunge in or not even create a ripple. You place your hands on the ladder’s rungs as you climb higher but with less conviction. There are choices now that you have arrived. There are no guarantees, no safety net and the internal dialogue is oddly quiet. You may walk to the edge, curl your toes around the board, hold your breath, close your eyes and jump. Or, you can walk to the edge, open your eyes wide, spread your arms and leap into the uncertainty ahead full throttle, when low and behold you are flying!

Did attitude trump trepidation in making this decision? In my case it did and it was freeing beyond belief to choose to begin this fifth decade with gusto. Embracing the unknown most assuredly shifted the energy and thrust me forward far more decisively and on a broader path of learning and activity.

Having had the experience, I urge you to be BIG, take up SPACE, swing out, grab the bar and celebrate your milestones with a plan to add whatever you choose to your life blueprint and have fun in doing so.

©2015 Maureen Weisner

The Accomplishment List

Image result for accomplishments

“The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to make the turn.”

Oh, it’s always easier to be the Monday quarterback and see what you might have done, could have prepared better or managed under challenging circumstances. The reality for most of us is that we could always do better and that we beat ourselves up over the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” in life. Hopefully we learn from the experiences and add these new insights to the mini-arsenal of skills needed to succeed or sometimes just survive in the future.

Job loss can be an exceptionally demanding time for anyone. A serial entrepreneur who made millions before losing it all and then creating success again related an idea which worked for him during particularly stressful times of uncertainty. What got him through the most difficult periods was a list that he kept with him at all times; a list of his accomplishments. In such circumstances, many of us refer back not to our list of plusses, but rather to our list of failures and what we don’t have, rather than recalling our successes and what we have done well. Like any behavior that we are willing to change, this became a beacon for him to refer to and remind himself that he was indeed a man of accomplishments.

What a terrific tool for any of us to use and how simple to create, carry and refer to! Who couldn’t benefit from a confidence booster and reminder of their potential? When was the last time you took time to review your life through the lens of success? Would you be able to list 10 of your accomplishments right now? Is your mind a complete blank? If you are stuck because you have yet to master the piano, publish a book or cure cancer, among other feats, I urge you to stop. Take this moment to sit down and make your own list. Some examples of accomplishments you might include are:

• I completed my college degree
• I have a successful marriage
• I have raised good and healthy children
• I have worked in a field that I love
• I started my own business
• I bought my first car, home, etc.
• I learned to play an instrument
• I have traveled to many interesting places
• I wrote a book, song or poem

Now that you have the idea, you can take it even further. Begin by creating a file in your computer or dedicate a notebook to being your accomplishment “basket” list holder, not to be confused with a “bucket” list. This is the expanded record of those things you have already done. Challenge yourself to get up to at least 15 examples and add more as you please. Remember, this list is infinitely expandable; a work in progress. Print it out, keep it with you at all times and refer to it daily or as frequently as you like. After all, this IS your track record of successes and no matter what you are experiencing at the moment, you have a solid list of accomplishments that is yours alone.

©2015 Maureen Weisner

Let it GO!

greatest-strength-greatest-weaknessStuck in traffic or behind someone who is paying for groceries with a check, I am beyond agitated and these are not isolated parts of my day. And who whips out a checkbook at the supermarket anymore? Yes, I am making terrible judgments about this stranger based on the fact that she is slowing me down, getting in the way and hindering my progress to get to the next place…the gym. It would be a perfect sequence if I were wreaking havoc on the people in my wake in order to get to a yoga class, but that would slow me down and I need to get where I am going, NOW!

What is it about stress that makes us hop on an increasingly emotional escalator to more tension and strain? Is everything urgent or simply important yet we’ve assigned a value to it that places us at the vortex of more ongoing pressure?

Many experts agree that what stresses us out is really a battle for control. Feeling powerless at the mercy of a challenging client or waiting for your seatmate to jockey for space on the armrest, we are constantly on guard for the next incident. The desire to manage what we can, in spaces we do control, can provide some measure of relief in an increasingly chaotic world. For example, after 9/11, there was a surge of interest in decluttering and organizing. We may not be able to get to the gym, but we can clean out the closet and be ready for the next big thing. It’s empowering to view the fruits of our efforts and know that this single act may be the start of some major purge or at the very least, a way to manage a small corner of our environment.

What’s next? An organized closet may just be the springboard to a new career!

©MWeisner2015