What’s Your Payoff?

Happy 2017!  The new year can be an exciting time because it means a blank canvas – a chance to create our lives in a new way.  For lots of us, it also signifies the beginning of a change we wish to make, which is where the New Year’s resolution typically comes in.

Clients usually come to coaching seeking change –  they may feel stuck in their work or personal life, and aren’t sure what steps to take next.  They may have identified habits that are getting in the way of them living as fully as they would like to, or had some type of wake-up call in the form of a health scare or relationship upheaval, and realize that the time has come to face their reality.

Change is difficult, and maintaining those changes can be even trickier.  What’s the saying?  “Anyone can lose 10 pounds.  I’ve done it hundreds of times.”  Ouch.

timeforchange

What’s the deal?  If we say we want to make a change, and know that it’s good for us over the long haul, why is it so darn hard?  What about the determination and discipline we seem to have in other parts of our lives?  How can we be so successful in our work or other undertakings and struggle so miserably when it comes to changing something seemingly as simple as a habit?

Here’s some food for thought.  If the payoff you get from continuing your bad habit feels better to you, on some level, than the benefit you might get from changing, it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

Let’s say you want to stop smoking.  You know you need to; your family doctor has been on you for years, you know the risks, you want to be around for your children.  You have all the information and  every reason to stop.  And yet, every time you make the attempt, with the best of intentions and all your resolve, you end up in the same place – smoking.  Your abstinence may last a few days or a few months but sooner or later you slide back.  What kind of payoff could you possibly be getting from that?

Maybe you’ve stayed in a relationship that is no longer healthy for you, you know it’s time to move on, but you never do.  What if the doctor has told you you’re a candidate for Type II diabetes and the time to lose weight and make changes in your eating habits is now.  Your well-being, your health is at risk.  You decide to make changes starting tomorrow but before the week is out you’re slipping back into old eating patterns.

In any of these examples, the pain and discomfort of change seems to outweigh the difficulties associated with continuing the habit.

In the smoking example above, more than one factor could be at play.  Maybe you’ve relied on smoking to keep your weight under control over the years.  You’ve heard stories about significant weight gain from some who’ve stopped, and you’re not sure you want to chance that.  You may be at a point where the relationship you’re  in no longer feels right for you.  Still, the idea of having to put yourself out there in the dating world, or risk being alone, doesn’t sound all that great either.  A hoped-for job promotion may create anxiety about losing the camaraderie of your band of work colleague so you end up turning it down.

You get the idea.

Let’s face it.  When we’ve indulged in a habit for a long time – maybe even years – it’s because we have been getting some type of benefit from it.  It’s going to be hard to make a change unless we can begin to see more benefit in the new behavior, the change we are trying to make.  It’s just easier to keep doing what we’ve always done.  When we are able to begin more of a long-term view of the benefits to be gained, it’s going to be easier for us to make the effort.   We might think:  “Yes, I may end up gaining a few pounds if I stop smoking, but I’ll be healthier over the long haul, and have more energy to exercise.  I can always lose the weight and I’ll feel so much better!

There is a quote by Anais Nin that speaks to this:  “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

The next time you find yourself frustrated or struggling in some way with a habit you’re trying to change, stop and ask yourself:  What’s my payoff for staying where I am?  What am I getting out of this behavior that I am afraid to lose?  Asking that question, and listening for the answer, could be the key that unlocks the door to the beginning of real change.

Feel free to comment below with any thoughts you have – I’ll be sure to respond.

Wishing you your best year yet!

Take a Breath?

In conversation with another coach recently, the idea of taking a “think week” came up.  In years past, Bill Gates scheduled a think week twice yearly, taking uninterrupted time away from his usual schedule for idea generation, reflection and future planning.  Businesses hold periodic retreats for the same purpose, assessing where they are and course correcting where needed.

You may not be able to take an entire week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start with a weekend or even a day.  When was the last time you blocked out space to take stock of your life, your work, what’s working, or not, and created a strategy for change? Taking time away from your normal day-to-day can give you the space needed for this kind of objective evaluation.

A key element to a think week, weekend or day is preparation, and the end or beginning of the year is a great time to do it.  Plan in advance for an undisturbed period – let family and friends know in advance you will not be available during this time – and limit any other input not relevant to the task at hand (texts, email, etc.)  You’ll want to lay the groundwork for making the most of this time by thinking in advance of what you want to cover.    As a framework, you might consider:

  • Your Successes.  What did you accomplish this year, personally or professionally, that you feel good about?   What has worked well for you?  Did you reach an important milestone or goal?  Have you increased your knowledge base or learned a valuable new skill? Starting out with what went well is a good place to begin, because you can build on it.  What has been working well that you want to keep going?
  • Your Challenges.  What didn’t work out as planned.  What was difficult?  What happened?  What might you need to do differently in the future?  Are there any important lessons that were learned and how can you use these to improve?
  • Your Commitments.   Most of us have obligations that we have taken on over time – in our communities, church, business organizations and the like.  This is a good time to think about whether you want to continue in these roles or step aside.   If some responsibilities have become cumbersome or are no longer in line with your priorities, it may be time for a change.
  • Your Environment.  Where you live and work can either support you or drain your energy.  A cluttered workspace or office, mail piled up on a kitchen counter or table, clothes or other belongings strewn about – all of these take up mental space that, whether we realize it or not, impact how we feel and function.  Take a look around you.  If there are things you no longer use or need, donate or give them away.  Sometimes simply getting rid of stuff can lead us to more order.  Being more orderly will free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks, and creates space for creativity and new ideas.
  • Your Future.  Now that you have a clear idea of where you are (and I urge you to do this in writing) it’s time to take a look at the year to come, and what your objectives are.  What do you hope to experience in the year to come – both professionally and personally?  What do you want to prioritize What is your vision?  Write it all down and be as specific as possible.  Research shows that writing down goals makes the achievement of those goals much more likely.
giftoftime

The gift of time to think.

Setting aside time for this kind of effort will pay off.  Peter Drucker once said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  That’s what we’re talking about here.

I once had a teacher who used to say, “The outer is always a reflection of the inner.”   If it’s true that we are the authors of our lives, and I believe it is, make sure the story you are writing is the one you want to live.

I would love to hear any additional thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below – I’ll be sure to respond.

Wishing you many good things for the coming year!

Let It Go

It’s the holidays and, for most of us, that means invitations to get together with family, friends,  coworkers and others in our communities.  We may be hosting a gathering ourselves, or having family and friends coming to spend a few days.  Add holiday decorating, shopping, gift-wrapping, and card sending to the list and, along with work and daily life – you have the makings of a holiday season meltdown.

I’ve had one or two of those over the years, but I haven’t in quite a while and today I wanted to share why.  I’m going to invite you to do one simple thing for yourself this holiday season – take one thing off of your plate every week for the rest of December.

That’s it – simple.  Take a look at your calendar for the remainder of December and do just that one thing – decide on just one thing you can let go of, and take it off the schedule.  Why am I suggesting this?

Especially during the holidays, we often feel that we have to say “yes” – yes to invitations, and other requests for our time and energy.  If a request to help with the annual Holiday Brunch is something you really want to accept, great, go for it.  But if it’s something that you feel obligated to do because, well, you’ve always done it, I invite you to reconsider.

Here are a couple questions to ask yourself when deciding what to let go of:

  • What are my most important values and priorities this holiday season?  
  • Will this invite or activity align with those values and priorities?

The reason those two questions are important is because they ask you to become aware.  We often get caught up in the holiday rush and forget to pause and consider what we want to do, what is meaningful to us.  My most important priority during the holidays is spending time with family and friends. It’s also important to me to contribute in some way to others who may not be in a position to enjoy the season fully.  Keeping those two things in mind makes it pretty simple for me to decide what I want to participate in.

I recognize that it’s not always easy, though.  We all want to be there for others, participate, not hurt someone’s feelings, etc., so we say yes and then end up feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes we simply struggle with saying no.   That’s why I’m recommending you take off just one thing.  If you look at what you have scheduled for any given week, I’ll bet just about anyone can find one thing they can let go of to give themselves a bit of breathing room.

letitgo

The reason I know this works is because I do it myself, not just during the holidays, but all the time.  If I look at my week and see something that’s not serving me, or something that my heart is just not into, off it goes.  Most of the time I realize it wasn’t that important for me to do, anyway.

But sometimes I have to gear up my courage and say no.  The gift in that is that I get to put my time and energy where it belongs, in what feels true to me.  The more I do this, the more my life reflects who I really am, my authentic self.  When I’m present for something or someone, I’m really present, not thinking about someplace else I could be.

Over and over, research shows that the most important factor in living a good life is relationships, connecting with others.  Don’t forget your relationship with yourself.  If you get in alignment with your most cherished values this season, I guarantee you’ll create a wonderful holiday for yourself and those you love.

I would love to hear any additional thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below – I’ll be sure to respond.

Stay cozy and have a wonderful Holiday!

Suzanne xo

Surviving the Holidays in a Stressful year

So Thanksgiving is now behind us, and the holidays have officially begun.  For many, the last several months have felt an exceptionally stressful time, no matter what side of the political aisle you may find yourself on. With the holidays now upon us, it may be a  specially good time to take extra special care of ourselves and our loved ones, making sure this season reflects the best of our values and what we hold meaningful. With that in mind, I thought to share some ideas on how to make this season reflective of what may be most important to us, and those we care about, no matter what’s swirling in the world around us.  Whatever your political opinions, this is a time to come together, and share our lives with those we care about.

takecarethisholidayseason

Take care this holiday season…

The current mood in this country has caused many of us to take a step back and re-examine what is important to us, the values we want to live by.  I think the answer of what to do and how to give will be unique to each of us.  As time goes on, what I enjoy most about the holidays are the spirit in the air, and memories of good times with those close to me.  Let your most important values guide your actions and you can’t go wrong.  A few ideas to consider:

  • Send out cards.  Yes, good old-fashioned hand-written cards.  Add a note to let someone know how you feel about them.  Both of you will benefit.
  • Give the gift of experiences.  Research shows that experiences bring people more happiness than material possessions. Tickets to a play, a concert, or a favorite team’s game create lasting memories long after the event is over.
  • Create some new memories or traditions.  A holiday hike, ice skating on Christmas day, or a Christmas eve movie by the fire – whatever brings you together with those you love works.
  • A spa day or afternoon can be a great gift to someone special or a wonderful way to spend time together.
  • Give the gift of learning.  Gourmet  cooking, art classes, music or horseback riding lessons, yoga or dance classes – whatever you think might delight the receiver.  A subscription to an app like Headspace.com or Calm might open the door to the stress-relieving benefits of meditation.  Anything that is personalized to the one you’re giving to is always appreciated.
  • Surprise someone who’s been especially anxious with a self-care basket.  Include lotions, bath salts, essential oils, a diffuser, luxe soaps, pajamas and cozy slippers, a beautiful journal and pen to write with.  The list is endless, and you can tailor it especially to the person you’re gifting.
  • Don’t forget yourself!  It can be as simple as an afternoon or evening home to unwind in the midst of the season, but be sure to include your own self-care in the mix at this busy time of year.
  • Don’t forget those less fortunate.  Adopting a family in need, or stopping by an elderly neighbor’s with a basket of Christmas cookies can remind us of the true spirit of the holiday.  At a time when people may be feeling more apprehension, look for the good you can bring, what you can give.   The world needs it.

I hope you find something in these words that sparks you to find peace, meaning and joy this holiday season.  I would love to hear any additional thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment below– I’ll be sure to respond.

With warm wishes for the best of the season!

Thanksgiving wishes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and it’s a special time in our country to gather with family and friends, and count our many blessings.  One of my favorite things about the holiday season is tradition – those special practices that may be unique to us and our families that have become familiar over time.

At our Thanksgiving dinner, we always try to share something that we are especially grateful for before we begin our meal.  Over time, I have come to realize that at the top of my list are always the people I am surrounded by at the table, family and friends.  Close family and friends (some of whom have become family) are what’s most important for me, followed closely by good health, a comfortable home, delicious food, and all the myriad gifts too numerous to list here.  It’s a time for a gratitude check-in, to acknowledge what we sometimes take for granted.

216863-happy-thanksgiving

So at this time of reflection and gratitude, let me express my thankfulness for all of you – family, friends, clients, and community.  I am blessed to have each and every one of you be a part of my life, and I know that.  One of the most important components of health and longevity is our relationships, our connections to others.  This Thanksgiving please know how grateful I am for you – for your friendship, your place in my life, your support, and for taking the time to read these words.

I wish for you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving holiday, filled with all the good and love your heart can hold.

The Power of Relationship in Business

.

“In business it’s about people. It’s about relationships.” ~ Kathy Ireland

There’s no shortage of information out there about business building these days.  Google most any topic you’re interested in and you can accumulate a wealth of information on, say, how to build a social media presence for your business, how to build your brand or build your own website.  The list is endless and, as someone who has been there, it can also be mind-boggling.  Whether you’re working for an organization or in business for yourself, though, there’s one aspect of business that is always going to be part of the equation – people, relationships.

New businesses are started every day in the U.S. and, and according to some findings, more than 50% of all workers may be self-employed by 2020.  Whether or not you’re self-employed, the fact is that building your social capital is a part of building any successful career or business.

Social capital in business is about building meaningful relationships.  Over time these relationships can help provide resources such as information, introductions, resources and referrals.  Knowing that, just about anyone can benefit from building these connections.

socialnetwork

Some ideas:

  • Become a go-giver.  We all know the term “go-getter,” which means someone who goes after what they want.  I think being a “go-giver” is equally important.  Reaching out to others – offering advice when asked, genuinely looking to help, being generous without keeping score, contribution to the community – all matter.  Generosity breeds goodwill and fosters social capital.
  • Deliver world-class customer service, even if you’re a business of one.  Excellent customer service makes you stand out from your competitors, and helps you to maintain good relationships with clients which, in turn, can lead to referrals and repeat business.
  • Presentation is everything.   Paying attention to how you present yourself and your business is vital.  Professionalism, attention to detail, on-time delivery, how you communicate – it all matters.
  • You never know where your next client will come from – operate accordingly.  I once was hired by a client that I met when I picked up my son from a friend’s house.  You never know when a potential client will cross your path.  When you’re out and about, always be ready to present yourself in a positive light.
  • Business relationships are just that – relationships.  You don’t build lasting business relationships by exchanging cards with someone at a networking event and never seeing them again.  Reach out to new contacts with a follow-up note or email, invite them to meet for coffee, send them a relevant article.  Focus on how you might benefit them (see become a go-giver above.)
  • Become an expert.  Whatever your area of expertise, seek to expand your knowledge and skills, to develop mastery.  The Japanese have a word they use to describe this:  Kaizen, which means constant and never-ending improvement.  Always be on the lookout for what you can do better. Become known as a specialist in your field.

We’ve heard it before, but it all boils down to the same thing – People want to do business with those individuals they know, like and trust. Keep this top of mind when you’re seeking to build your business or career and you’re already on your way.

In the meantime, if you feel like it, please leave a comment below.  I love to read your thoughts and I’ll be sure to respond.

The Power in Relationship

What’s one of the best ways to get healthy, stay healthy and live longer? Cope with stress?   Reach a cherished goal?  Accelerate performance?  And just plain be happier?

There’s a ready resource right at your fingertips – just look around you. I’m talking about the power of a personal support network.  Research shows that making the effort to build a social support network is of benefit in countless ways – mental, emotional, and physical – for you and those around you.

When we’re going through a tough time, dealing with illness, or other stressors, having the support of those around you – family and close friends – can offer relief, wisdom and perspective when we are struggling to access these things for ourselves.  A personal support network is made up of those people you know you can depend upon, and who can depend upon you.  It’s also about sharing in the positives – the joys and successes that come our way.

One of the early pioneers in positive psychology, Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., made it a point in every talk he gave to say this:  “Other people matter.”  It became his mantra, and has always stuck with me.  Other people matter and we – you and I – matter to other people.

There’s a reason why addiction recovery groups emphasize the importance of building a support system – it’s a crucial component of gaining and maintaining freedom from their addiction.  Developing and maintaining close connections to others who understand can make all the difference in maintaining sobriety.  Having people who truly care about you and your wellbeing – and are walking the same path – can be a huge advantage when one is attempting to create a new lifestyle.

friends

Many of us have been brought up with the cultural notion of “not depending on anyone,” or “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.” The fact is that no one gets through this life alone.  Who hasn’t benefitted at some time from the listening ear of a friend at just the right time?  A teacher or mentor?  That parent or parent figure that accepts you no matter what?  A colleague who put in a good word for you?  Relationships like this are part of the fabric of life.

Something I heard years ago has always stuck with me:  “Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s what makes you stronger.”   And it works both ways – helping others by being available to them during challenging times strengthens our own sense of character and self-confidence.

You may already have a strong network of family and friends or not.  Here are some ways to strengthen what you already have and grow your base.

  • Make time for the people that are important to you.  We all have busy lives and it can sometimes seem difficult to get together, but the old adage – “To have a friend, be a friend” – still stands.  It’s easier than ever these days to keep in touch by phone, text or email – even a short note or call lets someone know you are thinking about them.  One of my dearest friends has not lived on the same continent, let alone city or state, for over 20 years and we still email, message and call via Skype every month or two.  As a result, we’ve maintained a strong bond that continues to today.
  • Remember special occasions – birthdays, holidays and the like.  If someone’s going through a tough time, send a thoughtful card or call them to see how they’re doing. We let people know they are important to us by our actions.
  • I grew up as an only child without the benefit of a family network close by.  Something I learned to do early on was reach out to others who I wanted to make part of my life. As a result, many years later, many of those relationships have become family to me.  We’ve shared holidays, special occasions, births and deaths, graduations – you name it – and I truly do consider them family.
  • Be trustworthy. Trust and loyalty are basic to friendship.  Be dependable, keep confidences, and keep your word.
  • On the other hand, you want to bring people into your sphere that add to your life, not detract from it.  You may want to examine your relationships with people who are chronically negative or complaining.  Everyone has a bad day – or week – here and there but you might want to limit your time with a friend or relative who is consistently difficult to be around.
  • Finally, make an effort to show appreciation and gratitude to those who are there for you.  When someone goes out of their way for you, it’s important to say thank you, to let them know both they and their efforts are valued.

We’ll talk specifically about business networking next time.  In the meantime, if you feel like it, please leave a comment below.  I love to read your thoughts and I’ll be sure to respond.