Dog Lessons in Living

Our family said goodbye to our 15-1/2 year old Yellow Lab last week.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a very long time.  I used to say, jokingly, that Ben was the rock of our family.  But it was true.   I never, ever, not one day, saw that dog in a “bad mood,” or anything but unconditionally loving.  I don’t think I ever heard him even growl.  He was, unfailingly, good natured.  Not many humans, including myself, can have that said for them.  Over the last year or two, knowing that he was slowing down, I remember feeling that every day with him was a bonus.  And it was.

I realize now that I wanted so much to postpone the day I might have to say goodbye to him.  Maybe I was in a bit of denial.  He had been such an important part of our family fabric for so long, our son had grown up with him.  Matthew used to say, “Ben is the best person I know.”  I got such a kick out of him, too – he always seemed to be smiling, and he snored louder than any dog I ever knew.  He had a champion pedigree but was just an easygoing, lovable hulk of a guy.  I wanted him to always be there.   But the day came when that was just too much to ask.  He was always there for us, and so we gathered around him one last time.

Ben was beautiful inside and out.  I often said if we could all be more like Ben, the world would be a good place.  I’ve been thinking of what I learned from him and this is what I came up with.

Lessons from Ben

  • Show up for the ones you love and don’t be shy -Let them know how happy you are to see them!
  • Sometimes you just need to sit in the sunshine for a while and be.
  • Go big or go home. If you’re having a good meal, enjoy it as though it’s your last.  When it’s time for a walk, give it all you’ve got.  Nap time?  Stretch out and snore like you mean it.
  • You can remain calm and patient no matter who is annoying the crap out of you. (This would mainly refer to his adopted younger sibling, Charles the Cockapoo.)
  • Choose peace. Even with the cat.  Especially with the cat.
  • Steady as you go – there’s a lot to be said for consistency, just doing the next thing in front of you. Saves you lots of wear and tear all the way around.
  • Patience pays. Hang around looking hungry/cute/eager to please long enough, and someone’s bound to give in.
  • If you have a great heart, you don’t need much else.
  • Just the quiet presence of someone you love can be such a comfort.
  • And, finally, have fun and don’t forget to bring snacks.

There have been all sorts of studies in recent years about the psychological and physical benefits of having a pet – less stress, lower risk of depression and isolation, improved blood pressure, increased longevity, and more.  I’ve never tried to quantify those benefits in my own life, but I know this for sure:  Having this special guy be part of our lives is something I’ll forever be grateful for.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Ben

Work. Family. Balance. Really?

If ever there’s a hot topic among women these days, it’s this one.   How do you manage a family, a career or business, and make it all work so that both run smoothly and neither suffers.  Most women I know have either done it or are doing it.  Almost all have at one time or another felt the pull of trying to juggle their various hats along with feelings of just not quite getting it done.   It’s strategic life planning for the modern woman.

There’s no shortage of articles and advice on how to best manage your day with a career and family (trust me, I just Googled them) so I’m not going to add to the list.  What I will do, though, is offer some of the ideas that have worked for me over the years, and that I have culled from others who seem to have achieved a semblance of sanity in the midst of it all.

I didn’t work at all the first few years of my son’s life and then part-time after that.  During those especially important younger years, I made it my business to arrange my schedule around him.  I was fortunate to have work that enabled me to work both virtually and in-office, and still be there to attend school events, and pick him up after school.   Of course, once he hit middle school, I also had to be prepared to drive him around to whatever else was going on!  As children grow, how and when we need to be there changes.  And how much help and support we have at home makes a difference, too.

The bottom line for me has been family as my priority, and I think that knowledge helped me craft the rest of my life.  Even with Matthew off to college now, he’s still my priority, just in a different way.

So, from my own experience and the wisdom of others, here are my best ideas on how to do that (imperfect!) balancing act:

  • Decide for yourself what your priorities need to be based on where you are in your life, and your family’s needs. Priorities will change as your family grows, so what is reasonable for you to take on will also change.
  • Know that wherever you currently are in parenting is a stage that will pass. There will be a time when you can actually take your eyes off of her for more than 30 seconds.  And just when you think you cannot possibly watch one more episode of “Dora, the Explorer,” your child will announce she’s over it.  Most likely, you will never, ever watch it again.
  • If you want to resume your current profession or business sooner than later, you’ll need to ask yourself the hard questions. What is most important at this time in your family’s life?  What is realistic to expect based on your family vs. work needs?   What can you reasonably manage?   What kind of support will you need?   What is the cost vs. benefit?  The answers to these questions will provide your direction.
  • Don’t under-estimate the importance of role models – those women who have come before you, as well as your peers.  Raising a family and maintaining a career or business can be extremely challenging. Who are the women you admire for creating a healthy familyI and work life?  This could be someone in the public eye, or someone in your community.  What is it about them that inspires you? What characteristics do they share?  How do they structure their time?    Most importantly, what can you learn from them to integrate into your own life to create something that works for you and your household?
  • Self-care. I’m a firm believer in taking care of yourself.  It’s hard to be at your best if you’re not getting enough sleep, exercise, or your nutrition is poor.  Your mood and performance will suffer and your effectiveness will decrease.  Taking care of yourself is basic, it’s part of having a strong personal foundation.  If you find yourself constantly tired, low on energy or irritable, pay attention.  Your body and mind may be trying to tell you something.  Something as simple as a half-hour with a good book can be just what you need to recharge when you find yourself running on empty.  Taking care of yourself pays off for you, your family and your business.
  • Organization is key.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.  Having a written plan for each day, knowing what must be done and what can wait, keeping deadlines and events up-to-date on your calendar, keeping your work area organized, having – and using! – systems.  All of these are indispensable if you want to carry on your business and home life with a sense of order.  Being organized is a preventative strategy that will serve you to no end.
  • Learn to say no. I know of few working moms, myself included, who haven’t struggled with this

worklifebalance

If you are continually withdrawing funds from your bank account, you will eventually have nothing left.  You have to make deposits.  Taking care of yourself is the same.  If you are continually depleting your resources  they will eventually be exhausted.  Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessary fact of life that will enable you to be your best self for the people and life you love.

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day!

Suzanne xo

Are You Ready?

I usually spend at least part of December reviewing the year just past and planning for the year to come. I try to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go as well as hoped, and how I might approach things differently in the future. I’ve learned not to be as afraid of so-called “failures” as I might have been in earlier years, because I believe nothing is wasted. Things that may not have worked out as originally planned have often led me to new learning and insight and, just as often, a new commitment or opportunity. So it’s all good.

I’ve don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions simply because, at least for me, I know that if it’s time to make a change, any day of the year will work if I’m ready to commit. If I’m not ready, really ready, to make a change and do whatever it takes to follow through, a date on the calendar isn’t going to do it. But that’s me. The idea of a new year, a clean slate, is appealing to many and can be a benchmark to get started. Research in goal setting shows that the more specific a goal is, the better the chance of attainment. If January 1st works as your target date, by all means, go for it. It’s important, though, to make sure your goal is realistic, and that you have the support you need to set yourself up for success. That’s true of any goal-setting strategy. This isn’t really about New Year’s resolutions, though. There will be lots of articles written about that this time of year.

What I wanted to talk about here is commitment and what that means. Because, make no mistake, real change requires commitment. And commitment often requires work of the hardest kind. It requires planning, dedication and determination. It requires doing things you don’t always feel like doing and continuing when you want to just throw in the towel. It’s hard stuff. I know from personal experience. I’ve been there more than a few times. Change isn’t easy. And what can be even harder is staying changed, maintaining those hard-won victories over ourselves. The good thing is that change, real change, change that sticks, can happen. And getting through whatever it takes to get there is worth it. So, commitment – are you willing to commit? That’s the real question. Because once you commit, really commit, reaching your goal is just a matter of time.


What new paths await you this year?

It goes so fast…..

Today’s article is a bit more personal than usual because graduation is right around the corner, and I’ve been feeling very nostalgic. It’s a bittersweet time –  Our son Matthew is graduating from high school – Class of 2015! – and with this time so close at hand it’s been impossible for me to avoid feeling a bit misty at times.

I became a mother somewhat later than most – well into my 30’s.  Looking back, I don’t think my age really felt like much of an issue.  I felt really good most of my pregnancy, I worked out, and went to yoga class into my eight month.  I remember talking to my yoga teacher, planning to bring the baby in his carrier after he was born so “he could sleep while we had class.”  Neither of us ever having had children, we were clueless as to how completely unrealistic that was.  (I went back to yoga class 12 years later.)

I have not ever before or since experienced what I felt when Matthew was born.  Suffice it to say that from that moment on, I was changed forever.

When I look back now, I realize I had two guiding principles throughout his growing up years that today I feel very grateful for.

  1. It goes so fast.   From the time Matthew was very young, I heard this from friends and strangers alike.  People would stop to visit and maybe fuss a bit over him, as we do with babies and small children, and it seems I heard that repeated, often wistfully, more times than I could count.  I am so glad I paid attention, because I felt that what they spoke was true and so I became determined to be there as much as possible for everything I could.  I am so glad I did.  It went so fast.
  2. “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis   I came upon this quote around the time Matthew was born.  It rang true for me then and it rings true for me today.  It was my call to action when it came to child-raising – whatever else I did, I wanted to be the best mother I could be for him.  I wanted to be present in his life, and see to it that he had everything he needed to grow well.  Most mothers I talk to are this way.   Motherhood is initiation into that group of women who have in their lives that special person or persons that are more important than themselves, that they would pretty much be willing to do anything for.  As a youngish mother once said to me, “You can’t remain self-absorbed and be a good mother.”

I’m fortunate that Matthew was raised in a loving home with two parents who made him a priority.  My husband was, and is, a devoted father and has been a strong partner in our marriage and family.  We’ve had a lot of fun over the years, leaving some great memories.  We always travelled as a family, starting with a trip to Canada and New York when he was just two months old, and have been able to experience many wonderful countries and cultures together.  I am so grateful to have had these times.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful for Matthew and who he has become – a kind, intelligent, responsible and honorable young man and, often, the funniest person I know.  It’s been my gift to be his mom.  So to Matthew, and the Class of 2015 – Congratulations and the best of everything always – Well done!

Enjoy the season!
One of our favorite family trips – London 2011

 

Why Hire a Coach

Be as you wish to seem.” – Socrates

We all have dreams and wishes in life. Sometimes our wishes come true and our dreams come to fruition. As a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Wellness coach, that is often why clients seek me out to begin with – to achieve a cherished dream or goal. And my objective for my clients is always that they will see their wishes come to pass.

Only in coaching, we do a lot more than wish! Dreams and goals have to be backed up with a deliberate plan, and that plan has to be put into action. There will be bumps in the road, and sometimes detours, when Life will intervene. What role does a professional coach play in the process?

  • Athletic coaches help athletes train and improve their skills and performance, individually as well as in teams. Acting and voice coaches zero in on making the most of those talents. Life coaches help clients identify their strengths and values, clarify goals, and maximize potential.
  • A well-trained coach can help a client recognize what might be holding them back and find ways to get “unstuck.”  Using their professional skills and objectivity, they can help the client find a path to the Bigger Picture of their goal, and design a step-by-step strategy to get there.
  • Clients come to coaching because, for whatever reason, what they have been doing in the past isn’t working. A coach’s ability to reframe a particular situation or challenge can offer a new and much-needed perspective that enables the client to move forward with a renewed approach to their circumstances.
  • Empowering clients to discover, and capitalize, on their Signature Strengths is an important part of coaching. Recognizing and applying core strengths in the pursuit of goals has been demonstrated to lead to greater happiness, well-being and success in work and in life.
  • Having a positive attitude is a key component of success in life, but just as important is positive action. Taking positive actions – what you do – changes who you are which, in turn, produces different results. One of the hallmarks of the coaching relationship is accountability, that is, defining and taking actions towards objectives. Having accountabilities provides a structure for the client and also serves as a learning tool in the coaching relationship. If a particular action doesn’t work as planned, client and coach can revisit and revise that strategy. This collaboration can open up a fresh approach to a previously frustrating situation.

Increasingly, coaches specialize in areas such as health and wellness, small business, re-careering and parenting, among others. It’s important to ask a prospective coach what specific education and training they have received, what credentials he or she holds, and what their areas of specialty are. An excellent resource is the International Coach Federation (ICF); http://www.coachfederation.org/ which requires members to complete stringent educational and training requirements, as well as continuing education.

A coach can be a valuable ally in making your dreams come true. Take your time and choose one that’s the right fit for you.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-future-life-working-hard-success-business-image36181634

Stay the Course!

As you’re reading this, we’re already almost halfway into January of 2015! Crazy, right?

Did you start out on January 1st with a goal or intention in mind for the coming year? While we may start out with the best of intentions, it’s a fact that most of us don’t succeed when it comes to our New Year resolutions, or goals. If you started out the year with great ambitions and are starting to waiver, you’re not alone and all is not lost. You can get back on track and stack the odds of success in your favor.

One of the main stumbling blocks when it comes to making changes is dealing with setbacks. And, trust me, you will have them. We often think of making changes as being a decision making process. You decide to lose 10 pounds (or quit smoking, drink less, meditate daily, get organized) and then you follow through on the decision. Only it doesn’t go that smoothly. You lose a couple pounds, then fall off the healthy eating wagon, gain them back, and think, “See, I just can’t do it. I keep trying, but losing these last 10 pounds never happens.” Or you’re meditating every day for 20 minutes – and making it a priority – until the morning you’re running late and it falls by the wayside. And then it falls by the wayside the next morning, but you’ll do it later in the day. (You forget…..) Another year’s resolution, down the well-travelled drain…….

Another familiar scenario is the “Well, it’s just the way I am, I’ve always been this way, I just don’t seem to be able to stick to things” explanation. Maybe a family member or early teacher said things that reinforced this particular notion about yourself and you’ve been carrying that around ever since.

There’s a concept in coaching called the “Inner Critic.” You know the critic. It’s that voice we all have in our head that comes up at times and judges us, makes us feel guilty, or inadequate, or unworthy. Often, we’re not even aware of it. Another name for it is The Saboteur, because it can quietly but effectively sabotage our efforts to change by undermining our confidence in ourselves. As above, it often originates with a past authority figure. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you do now.

Here are some ways to deal with challenges, setbacks and quiet the Critic:

• Instead of seeing a setback as reason to throw in the towel, realize that it is only one occurrence in the much bigger picture of your overall goal. Everyone experiences challenges on the way to a Big Goal. It’s part of the process. If you realize that setbacks are simply part of the journey, it can go a long way towards keeping you going.
• Use setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Did you arrive at dinner starving because you skipped lunch and end up blowing your entire eating plan? Ok – next time, do things differently. If lunch may be on the run, brown bag it, including some protein and fruit. A little pre-planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on track with your Big Goal.
• Realize that you’re not alone. Anyone who has ever succeeded in realizing a goal has encountered their fair share of hurdles along the way. Know that going in, and that recognition alone can often keep you going when nothing else will. Decide that you will persist.
• Self-blame is counter-productive. Recognizing that your Inner Critic is on a rant (inside your head) is the first step in silencing it. Silence that critical voice within by refusing to acknowledge it, tell it to leave the room. If you’re a visual sort, draw a picture of it and sit on it. Whatever. Just don’t let it take over and hold you hostage. Perfection is a myth.
• Talk it out. If you simply cannot regain a healthy perspective, talking it out with a supportive person can make all the difference. You get it out of your head (where it’s doing you no good) and an objective friend can often provide a more balanced view to help you reframe things, and get back on track.

It’s been said that change is a process, not an event. Any process will have ups and downs, obstacles and achievements. It’s all part of it. As long as you keep going, you are in the process of getting to your Big Goal, so persist. Keep going. Pick yourself back up. Because you can.