June 22, 2015

Finding Your Happiness

I want to be happier
I believe we are all after happiness and sometimes can't quite figure out how to get there. I love this post from Project Happiness on how you can find your happiness! Follow the link here:  #ProjectHappiness.

Have a great week!!

June 15, 2015

Finding Success in Failures

In the US we are a culture defined by success. We punish children who get Cs (which is technically average - also a bad word) and we celebrate those that have tremendous wealth - no matter how it was achieved. We tend to set expectations so high that anything less than perfection is a disappointment or a failure. No wonder stress levels in the US are high. 

According to a US News report, Americans rate their stress at almost a 5 out of a 10 point ratings scale. While that is a decline from the 2007 rating of 6.2, it is still higher than recommended.

A few months ago my mother suffered a stroke that doctors attributed to stress. Since then I have heard of more than six cases of stroke or aneurysm among family and friends.  You can find studies all over the place that show a link between stress and strokes. One study showed that chronic stress increased the chances of a stroke by almost four-fold.

So what am I trying to say about stress and expectations? As we set our expectations at 10 on a scale of 1 - 10, we give ourselves very little room to experience success. Perfection should never be the goal. I know, I know, right now you are thinking I'm crazy, but hear me out. Perfection is an attempt to control an outcome that includes far more variables than you can ever control. It is a hard realization, but it's true. We cannot control every aspect of our lives.

Failures aren't negative. Failures are opportunities - ways we get a chance to learn and improve. This is definitely easier said than done. Avoiding failure is ingrained in our culture, but what most successful people will tell you is that they have failed more times than they have succeeded. The difference, they are not negatively impacted by failure. 

Robert F. Kennedy said it best, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

What we can do is continue to push through and make our best efforts and focus on the process we are taking to get there-- living each moment and enjoying both the successes and the failures along the way.

This week celebrate all your successes, work to embrace all your failures, BUT most importantly remember to enjoy both!

May 29, 2015

Why I Feat the Dentist

Fear of the dentist is a real thing. Many people get extreme anxiety when even thinking of visiting the dentists -- WebMD.com says "...serious anxiety prevents millions of Americans from seeking proper preventative care." When I was a kid, a dentist failed to give me enough Novocaine and I ended up getting a cavity filled and wasn't numb. That was a devastating incident! I can see why there is anxiety, many people get nervous about the pain, however that is not why I suffer from dentophobia.

I would take the experience of having a tooth pulled without Novocaine (which did happen to me), the terrifying sound of the drill and the scraping sounds of removing tartar over what seems to happen to me every time I go to the dentist. 

What is it that I fear about the dentist? The up-sale!! You know the one... "Oh we see that you have a cavity, your insurance only covers amalgam, BUT we don't trust amalgam and so you should get composite." Or, "Your teeth are looking pretty yellow. Are you interested in getting them whitened?" All while my mouth is open and they are standing over me. It's very intimidating. I mean what am I supposed to say? Of course I want the product you recommend - yes I want white teeth. But I'm not sure that asking while I'm in the chair and feeling vulnerable is the appropriate thing. 

I can't imagine being at my doctor's office and while she's examining me, she says, "So you are overweight, and I really think you should take this shot that helps you lose weight. Oh it's not covered by insurance so you will have to pay out of pocket. You want it?  I'm not even sure that is allowed, but if it were, it would be weird.

I know that dentistry is a tough industry and that historically insurance companies haven't shown the value of the industry. There is very little financial support (i.e., proper insurance coverage to manage dental needs) for dentistry, but more importantly people do not realize how much your dentist can tell about your overall health from your mouth. 

For example, regular check up can identify digestive issues, heart disease and conditions like diabetes. By getting regular check ups you can help catch these aliments early and begin treatment to cure or manage them. Regular dental check ups should be as fundamental as annual physicals and regular contact with your primary care physician.

I would just feel better if it didn't feel like my dentist was a car salesman looking to push the under car protection. Patients in any situation feel vulnerable, even in the best case scenario. It's so important for practitioners to keep that in mind.

July 23, 2014

You've Changed... You Say That Like It's a Bad Thing

I saw this great quote today by Hunter S. Thompson, "Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective." 

And it made me think about decisions I made when I was in my 20's and how silly I think they are now. But I embrace them all. I don't judge myself because I realize that every decision I've made led to a greater breath of experience in my life. And I'm of the opinion that the more experience you have the better choices you make in life. 

I can't even count how many times I have been told by "friends" that I have changed - which they meant negatively and I would feel so bad and guilty because I wasn't the same person they expected me to be. And then I discovered Brene Brown and I realized I am the only one allowed to make decisions for my life and no one gets to judge me for that (Brene Browners you know what I'm talking about). 

"To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.  – Henri Bergson.

I AM the sum total of my experiences and with that, I hope to continue to change throughout my life. So now when people say, "you've changed" I just say, "thank you."

April 17, 2014

Listening is Such a Simple Act

courtesy of www.taminprogress.com
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and all you can think about is how you want to respond to something they just said? We all do it, some of us more than others. 

Stephen Covey’s quote hits the nail on the head, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." 

We spend so much time thinking about our responses, that we forget to be present and just listen.

I Know the Answer… What’s the Question?
My family is a group of loud, boisterous and animated talkers. 

One Christmas Eve we were spending time with some family friends and honestly, I don’t really remember what the discussion was, but in no time it was at fever pitch and with every sip of wine, things got louder and louder; wine is a great conductor for loud conversations. 

We were all talking so loud, and all over one another that nothing could be heard. 

So at the peak of the conversation, where it couldn't get any louder, someone yelled out “I know the answer… wait, what’s the question?” At that moment we all started laughing and realized we weren't listening to one another at all.  

Communication is More Than What You Want to Say
Really great communication occurs when people are talking and listening to each other. The challenge with most communication today is more often than not, it is just one way-- a lot of talking and very little listening. In so many of the conversations I see people spend their time trying to prove their position and less time engaged in what others are saying. 

It’s like we are so focused on swaying people toward our point-of-view.

Communication is speaking, but more importantly it’s listening. The best communicators in the world say very little and listen a lot. 

The way we create better work environments, communities and overall relationships is by abandoning the idea that we have to convince the world that we are right. If we fully engage and really listen we give ourselves a greater opportunity to be enlightened, to be educated, and gain better perspective.

How to Be a Better Listener
Listening, not just hearing, takes work. Here are a few tips on how you can improve your listening skills.
  1. Make Eye Contact – show the speaker that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying
  2. Stop Formulating Your Rebuttal—if you are spending your time thinking about your response, then you aren't listening
  3. Paraphrase– when you paraphrase or ask questions, it tells the speaker that you are engaged. Be sure to wait for natural pauses before asking your question or clarifying what’s been said
  4. Don’t Interrupt – if you are talking, then you aren't listening

“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.” - Margaret J. Wheatley

The Art of Presence

(Originally Posted on www.thepositivitysolution.com)
It all started off innocently enough.

I was feeling a little tight and sore after a hard workout, and I decided to get a massage.

Who knew that the workout was going to be the easy part of my day, and that the real challenge was going to be waiting for me inside the spa?

My good friend, who is well versed in so many things around Los Angeles, says, “I know this great spa, let’s meet in Korea town.”

Prior to all my “living in the present” work (which was helped enormously by reading Shola’s article on the topic), I would have asked 100 questions about the spa we were going to, what is their Yelp rating, what is their health department rating, etc., but my work has helped me live in each day and every moment.

Little did I know that I was about to put my work to the test.

What Do You Mean We Are All Naked?

All day I had been anticipating my massage. I could feel all the anxiety leaving my body just by thinking about having a professional masseuse rub all of my tensions away.

And then that all changed once I arrived at the Korean Spa.

For those of you who are unaware of the Korean Spa phenomenon, I would like to provide a short peek into this time honored tradition. Korean spas offer full service day spa experiences that are inexpensive, but very effective.

Traditionally the spa areas are gender specific, and on the women’s side, all the providers work in their underwear.

Additionally, there is a strict no swimsuit policy. Which means, yes, the spa is 100% nude!

This is a little fact my dear friend left out when scheduling us for massages.

Now the insecure, “body conscious” me wanted to spin on my heel and high tail it out the front door. But the new (and improved) BrenĂ© Brown renovated me, kept calm and remembered that I need to be present in each moment.

Even the uncomfortable ones.

The Challenge of Presence

I think being present is more challenging now than ever before.

We are constantly inundated with all kinds of information—from text messages and emails to information crawls on the news and apps that allow us to interact with our shows on television. We get very few opportunities to just be in a single moment, being completely present without distraction.

I read a great article about Mindfulness in the Harvard Business Review and in it the author discusses how being actively present or mindful, will make us more charismatic, perform better and manage life’s chaos.

We are so wired to multitask these days that, at least for me, this “being present” stuff seemed counter-intuitive. How could I be more productive if I’m only focused on one thing at a time?

I’m sure you all have been here–if not, this is what it looks like for me: I’m on the phone with my mother, answering emails for work, and sending a text to friends.

Can you guess what ends up happening?

I miss what my mother was sharing, I forget to add an important bit of information in the email, and I respond to the wrong text.

The reality is I can’t do more than one thing. If you think about it, I mean really think about it, you can really only be focused on a single thing at a time. But because we are trying to do so much, we actually exhaust ourselves mentally and miss out on really great moments.

Here are some tips to keep you from missing any more of those moments.

Four Tips to Help You Stay Present

1. Practice Awareness

Make note of the situations where you disengage. Is it when you are in mindless activities? Is it when you argue with your partner? Is it when your kids are driving you crazy? Whatever it might be, take stock of those moments so you become aware and can snap yourself out of it and re-engage.

2. Take a Deep Breath

The chaos of life can be overwhelming. But when we break through the noise and get a moment of peace, we restart our minds. A great way to get a quick restart is by taking a break, closing our eyes and taking a deep breath. If you have more time, I would recommend practicing meditation. Meditation is the ultimate expression of clearing your mind of everything that isn’t now.

3. Embrace It All

Every moment, even the “bad” ones deserve your attention. When we consistently disengage from the bad stuff, not only is that not positive at all, it makes it even harder to be present with the good stuff. Every situation has its purpose for your life, find the meaning and embrace it.

4. Let it Go

Let it go? But wait, didn’t I just say to embrace it all? Yes, you embrace it, learn the lesson and let the rest of it go. When we hang on to things we are living in the past. Remember the goal is to live in the moment.

Yes, We Were All Naked

I had the most amazing experience at this spa.

Yes, we were all naked and it was one of the most freeing experiences I have ever had. I wasn’t spending my time thinking about what my body looked like or what the other ladies were thinking about my body.

I spent my time clearing my mind and just being.

To me, that is the art of presence.

- See more at: http://thepositivitysolution.com/art-presence/#more-3841

April 1, 2014

The Challenge of Change

Courtesy of www.fresheggs.com
I find it interesting that so many of us battle with the concept of change when each and every one of us are changing daily. My mother, who is a very young 67, is one of the most amazing women I have been lucky enough to know. She immigrated to the US when she was barely 19, alone and with very little money or understanding of American culture. Over her life she has independently raised children, had multiple careers and has taken in her fair share of the needy, but through it all she continues to thrive. She may be my best example of how embracing change is the way to go.

It’s All About Attitude
Over the past few years my mother's eyesight has been deteriorating. This has been going on for the past 3-4 years, but it had gotten very bad in the last few months. Though very difficult at first, she accepted the changes happening with her body and kept moving forward with her life; when most of her peers are retiring, she is starting a new business!

Recently she saw her doctor only to find out she had a cataract on her eye. The doctor performed surgery and within 24 hours she was seeing better than she had in 30 years. Change is all around us- at times it is good and other times it is challenging, but it always is happening. The change my mother experienced is probably one of the most frightening things that can happen to a person.  My mother’s story shows both the good and bad sides of change, the only thing that remained constant was her attitude about it. When her body started to change in a way she didn't like and could not control she could have crawled into a corner, but she embraced the changes and continued to move forward.

Is Fear Your Guide?
As a customer service and service excellence trainer, a significant portion of my time is spent working with people to change their behaviors. Obviously no small feat- in many cases their current behaviors are preventing them from experiencing better work relationships, better relationships with their customers/patients and a happier overall life. But fear holds them back—the saying I hear a lot is “stick with the devil you know.” I reject that! Why stick with the devil at all?

When we embrace the idea of continuous improvement and change, we really open so many opportunities for ourselves. I tell people all the time, it’s about the experience. The outcome may not be what you intended, but you grow from the experience. Every experience makes us a little wiser, stronger and brings us closer to the things we want (or at least the knowledge of what we don’t want). We give ourselves a chance to learn new things, develop new skills, and grow into our best possible self.  I know that might not be a conscious goal for everyone, but if we took a moment and really thought about it, isn't that what we really want, to be our best self? It’s why we exercise, try to eat right, go to college, read books, and learn new skills. Deep down I think we all want to be the best versions of ourselves.

We Must Hatch or Go Bad
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

No one says change is easy, but it's happening every day. Imagine what we would accomplish with a little effort. We must hatch or we go bad; it’s the nature of the world, if we aren't evolving we are dying. Embrace the idea of change, it is the only way we will get closer to being our best self.