Category Archives: Personal effectiveness

How to Be and Stay Happy with 5 Simple Tips

Happy-kitten5817271029_e671acbc62I was watching a morning news show the other day and one of their segments resonated so strongly with me, I decided to write an article about the subject: being and staying happy.

It’s a topic I always address when I’m speaking. Keeping yourself happy is a critical success tool.

People mistakenly think happiness is a result of their circumstances.  Happiness is purely a result of your response to your circumstances.

Case in point…recently I attended the National Speakers Association’s annual convention. One of the keynote speakers captivated the audience of over 1700 people.

Her name was Immaculee Illibagiza. Immaculee lost her entire family to genocide in Rwanda while ‘living’ for 91 days holed up in a tiny (3ft by 4ft) bathroom with seven other women. Hard to even imagine.

During her entire speech,  she fondled the rosary over which she prayed during those horrific days as she spoke about how God answered her prayers, saving her life, those with whom she hid and those who hid her and why she now travels the world speaking of love and forgiveness. Let me repeat that…love and forgiveness.

I was transfixed. Her talk was transformative.

Listening to her made me experience grace, immense gratitude and humility.

Recalling her talk now as I write this article, seems to almost trivialize the necessity of even talking about the absence of happiness for the rest of us who’ve probably never experienced anything even close to what Immaculee went through.

Yet, we all face challenges in life that seem to eat away at, even destroy, our joy.

So, what to do when you’re faced with something that’s bringing you down?

Here are some simple ideas.  I’d love to hear yours too. So after reading this article, scroll back up to the top and leave a comment about practices, rituals, actions, beliefs you have that help you maintain your emotional state at optimal levels .

1. Find one tiny thing in your life that brings you joy and focus on it.
It may be the touch of an infant, the cold nose of your favorite pet, the love (emotional/physical) of your partner, the sound and sights of nature.Identify that item your you and turn your attention away from the thing that’s distressing you.Consciously direct your thoughts toward the more pleasing topic instead.

Find something to be happy about and think about that. Ignore the stressor. Use the relief you feel to help you ‘problem solve’ if necessary.There is a phrase from my corporate life that says “What gets measured, gets managed. What gets managed, improves”. It’s a business process/improvement tactic.

When you take the time to track something you want to improve, you observe it, you learn about it, you catch and correct issues before they go too far astray.It’s similar concept for improving your happiness. Keep track of the things that make you happy.

At the end of the day, think about (or better yet) write down all of the good things that happened to you that day.  Some people keep a Gratitude Journal. Noticing good events, makes other good events in your life more visible to you.  (It’s like what happens when you buy a new blue car and start seeing that same model and color everywhere.)

It’s easy to forget about all the positive events that occur when you’re so fixated on the ONE BIG problem that’s clouding your vision. Don’t let it consume you. YOU are the captain of your ship. Steer it!

2. Take one small action that moves you closer to happiness.
This might be picking up the phone and calling someone you’ve been hesitant about reaching out to for some reason. Play your favorite tune on your favorite device. (Mine is “Happy” by Pharrel Williams,
interestingly enough.)

You don’t have to solve your vexing issue all at once. What is one tiny step you can take that moves you even just a little bit closer to happiness?I remember when my ex and I used to fight over money. We had a joint checking account and ran a business together with one account. I was bringing in most of the income, yet he was spending a disproportionate share…and not mentioning it. I’d find out when I wrote a check (yes, it was a while ago) and it bounced.

We’d talk. We’d fight. Nothing changed.

Exasperated, I approached my Minister just to feel like I was being heard by someone. In the midst of my complaining, she calmly suggested “why don’t you just open up a separate account?”Duh! and OMG! That was the answer to my prayers, yet it took me a couple of years of frustrations to be able to ‘attract’ that idea. One trip to the bank for new signature cards (he was still part of the business), and  one conversation to obtain his signature and within a day, my stress was gone!

3. Listen to and heed your intuition.
As I was packing for the conference referenced earlier, a new pair of  brown sandals were on the short list of what might get packed. I was looking at them on the floor in my bedroom, when a quiet thought
went through my head “Do you really need to take them?”

I didn’t, but I liked them, so I packed them.

Well, somewhere between the hotel room in D.C. and the 3 airports my unlocked bag traveled through on my way home, the sandals disappeared. Darn! I hadn’t even worn them during the trip! They could have stayed home.
Next time, I’ll listen to those whispers more intently.

4. Decide that your true happiness is the most important priority in your life.
I learned this listening to/reading Law of Attraction material from Abraham-Hicks. It sounded selfish at first, but intuitively correct.

It’s analogous to what flight attendants tell you to do if the oxygen
masks appear when you’re traveling with small children: “Put your mask on first”.When you’re alive and safe (or sufficiently happy), you can help other people.  If you’re unconscious or sad, you can’t.

5. Focus on the inside and shut out outside influences. Then, ask for what you want.
When I was younger, it was sometimes difficult to ask for what I wanted. I was afraid of what people thought and afraid of how they might react.In order for me to figure out what really might make me happy, I had to pretend no one would know what I had decided.

Without the pressure of how people might react to my wants and desires, my true feelings and hopes could more easily surface.Asking doesn’t guarantee you’ll get what you want if someone else has control over the thing you’re trying to get. (Keep in mind, like you, their happiness is their #1 priority.) But you’re more likely to get what you want if the people around you know what you want. Expecting people to know or guess or read your mind is not a productive strategy.

No one is responsible for your happiness but you. People and events MIGHT make you happy, but it’s not their job. YOU are the controller of how you feel.

People and events might make you sad, but it’s not their fault. YOU are the controller of how you feel.Events occur. No matter how exquisite or horrific, your response to them is completely within your control.Jenn Lim, Chief Happiness Officer at Delivering Happiness which she co-founded with Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com) cites 4 items  from Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose that are behind the science of happiness:
1. A sense of control
2. A sense of progress
3. A sense of connectedness
4. A sense of vision and meaning
……all of which, in some area of your life, you can influence. Find them. Focus on them. Create happiness for yourself.

How to Stay More Focused in 5 Simple Steps

We live in a multitasking world. We are constantly bombarded by messages via email, LAN line phones, TV, radio, mobile devices, text messages, pop-ups on the internet, global conference calls at weird hours…the list goes on.

We think we can handle it, but all this multitasking and gear-switching robs us of our productivity while deluding us with thoughts that we’re accomplishing more than we are.

In order to get more things done, it’s important to follow some simple rules. I know rules are a challenge for creative, free-flowing types but trust me, incorporating a bit of structure will facilitate the achievement of your goals faster flitting from one thing to another.

Here are 5 simple steps to getting more things done faster.

1.  Look at the task.
That may seem like a weird statement. If the task, for example, is to clean your messy desk, looking at that messy desk is likely to overwhelm or even frustrate you.

It may make you want to run out of the room screaming and find something more pleasant to do like chat with a co-worker or get something to eat.

What if the task is a writing an article or an email? Sharing at a blank piece of paper or empty ‘new message’ window, could paralyze you.

So why do I suggest that you look at the task?

Because it will allow you to focus.

Take a few slow deep breaths. Allow yourself to relax a bit. Don’t judge yourself, the task or the person who assigned it to you. Just breathe and relax.

Close your eyes if that helps you relax. Imagine what the finished ‘project’ looks/feels like. Allow yourself to feel grateful and proud that you’ve completed it. Hold that vision and those feelings of accomplishment in your mind for several moments.

2. Think about the steps.
With your now calm mind and still closed eyes, map out your strategy. Think about the actions you could take, the points you want to make, the words you could use. Think it through first. Visualize the steps unfolding in natural order. If you’re writing, think about the person/people you’re writing to. Consider the points you want to make.  Then open your eyes and do, write, move the first thing(s) that comes to mind. Trust yourself to accomplish your goal with grace and ease.

Even if you’re under a deadline, allowing yourself to get centered and focused will allow you to take more effective action. It will be time well spent.

3. Focus your attention on the task.
Avoid distractions. If music stimulates you, turn on your favorite tunes. I find classical music conducive to deep thinking. I find dance music stimulating for motion tasks (like cleaning). Do what works for you but stay focused on your task. Don’t drift off into reverie about any distracting memories that get evoked with  your tunes. If that happens, turn the music off and focus on your task again.

4. Try your best to ignore distractions by others.
Shut off the ringer on your phone. Tell the kids/spouse/best friend at work, you’re not to be disturbed until… If an idea comes to you that you need to take action on, write it down. Resist the urge to do it, even if you think it’s quick. It probably won’t be as quick as you imagine and even if it is, you will have lost the momentum you’d gained on the original, important project you were working on.

5. Stop working only when you’re done.
If it’s a big project, consider setting a time limit. Staring down the throat of a monumental task, can indeed be overwhelming. Work on huge tasks 90 minutes at a time. Take a short break, then go back to work for another 90 minutes. Stay on task. Don’t move to another project. Stay on this on until it is complete or until you’ve reached the time you had allocated for it this go round.

BONUS STEP: When you’re done, reward yourself!
Give yourself a ‘High 5!’, ‘Atta girl! or Atta boy!’

Wallow, for a bit, in your sense of accomplishment, pride and relief. You’ve just completed something that was a big deal or had been sitting around nagging at you for too long.

A celebration is well in order. Don’t cheat yourself out of enjoying the moment!

Imagine yourself at the Olympics, having just crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else. Hear and feel the crowd cheering for you in all your glory.  Feel the pride yourself and bring the memory of your accomplishment to the next daunting task you have to perform.

‘Cause you know there will be another one coming. But this time, you’ll be more prepared.

Your Comfort Zone Is a Kill Zone

Break-Out-Shell-Woman-smI just came back from a speaking engagement. I had tailored the talk a bit: first, because I had less time than normal and second, because it was a new, special market.

Even in the short time I presented, I found myself talking more than usual about our comfort zones.

It didn’t occur to me how important a topic it was until several people came up afterward to thank me and when asked “what touched you the most?”, they replied quietly and thoughtfully, “the comfort zone part”.

I looked up the definition of a ‘kill zone’ and found it to mean “the area of a military engagement with a high concentration of fatalities”.

So, based on this premise, your comfort zone has created, swept under the rug and buried “a high concentration of fatalities”.

Think about it. Your comfort zone is a vast wasteland of…opportunities you let slip by, dreams you didn’t pursue, relationships you were afraid to develop, jobs you didn’t take, dead-end jobs you didn’t leave, calls you didn’t make, gigs you let someone else win, important conversations you stuffed, trips you didn’t go on, stands you should have taken but didn’t, differences you could have made but ignored, fears you let dominate and prevail, personal growth you didn’t experience.

Have I said enough? Are you squirming yet? I am.

Comfort.2We all have a comfort zone. We often don’t even notice it. We delude ourselves into thinking it’s a happy, safe place.

And at some level, it is. But at what cost?

If you could trade that safety for deeper relationships, being fully expressed, earning more money, being seen and making a bigger difference in the world, living a thrilling, fulfilling life experiencing what might seem like magical serendipitous moments, creating the life you dream of, would it be worth stepping out of that comfortable, dream-killing zone?

Here are 7 ideas to break you out of your kill zone comfort rut.

1. Find something on your bucket list and do it this week.

2. Call the person you’ve been avoiding, have the conversation you’ve been afraid to have and do it in a way that honors both of you.

3. Commit to a goal so big and public it scares you.

4. Be more controversial on important issues that matter to you.

5. End any relationship that is no longer serving your greater good.

6. Stop waiting for permission.

7. Stop waiting to feel ready or confident. Take the action you’re dreading; confidence and readiness will appear as a  result.

Do any of these and feel your power. Do all of them and expect a miracle (or two or seven or more)!

5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity and Get More of the Right Stuff Done

productivitytool10One of my speaking gigs is being an Actor for a local hospital. They give me a script and I act out various patient roles for nurses in training or those going for a professional certification. The hospital staff and I evaluate them and provide feedback on their patient care style and medical expertise.

On my last gig, we were conducting certification testing for trauma nurses. It quickly became evident that those that followed the system they had been taught, were WAY more likely to diagnose my ailments and save my life than those who were just ‘shooting from the hip’ trying to figure out what was wrong with me and what they should do about it.

That experience started me thinking about the value of process and systems in improving productivity and efficiency at work. Here are some tips you can apply even though you may NOT be a nurse.

1. Have a process and use it.
Shooting from the hip wastes time. Without a process, you’ll waste time and won’t get the desired results as quickly as you might need them.  Even for simple activities,using a framework will keep you focused, on task and produce more consistent, reliable results.

2. Make a list of your next day high priority activities BEFORE you leave work.
This will allow you to ‘hit the ground running’ when you get in first thing. You won’t waste that early morning quiet time (if you have it) trying to figure out what to focus on. Even if, especially if, you have a full day right off the bat, knowing what you’ll do before you get in will allow you to allocate precious time more quickly than if you get caught up in the back-to-back meeting syndrome so many people suffer from.

3. Keep the big picture in mind.
The trap many people fall into is dealing with the emergencies that land on their desk first. Of course, if the ’emergency’ is a critical one, you will have to deal with it quickly, but keeping your own important goals top-of-mind will help you triage situations and give things demanding your attention their proper place in the larger scheme of things.

4. Don’t answer the phone or check your email until AFTER you’ve done the top thing on your list.
This may seem like sacrilege or heresy to some, but think about it. Incoming phone calls and emails are things on the top of SOMEONE ELSE’s agenda, not yours. This one takes courage, but if you’re prioritizing things correctly, you’ll make the right decisions. If you’re really worried you’ll miss something from your demanding and irrational boss, scan your inbox if you must, but resist the urge to do anything you don’t absolutely have to until you’ve knocked out your top item(s).

5. Take a break every 90 minutes.
“Step away from your computer!”. Imagine a police officer yelling at you if you need some outside motivation. Go outside if you can, go to the bathroom and relax for a bit. Close your door and play your favorite music video or a snippet of an iTunes playlist. Taking a short 10-minute break, even in the midst of a critical project will rejuvenate your brain cells and reignite your creativity.

Incorporate these tips and see, not only how much more you accomplish, but also how much better you’ll feel in the process.

5 Ways to Use Fear to Fuel Your Financial Freedom

Comfort-squareMost humans resist the idea of stepping directly into the things that frighten them. Of course, there are  some things that warrant fear and deserve avoidance action (crime, fire, hurricanes, etc). But those are things we don’t tend to encounter regularly in our daily lives (hopefully).

Fear, none-the-less, is often present and yet not always warranted. If you are reaching beyond your comfort zone, you’ll likely feel afraid. That does NOT mean, you shouldn’t reach. You should always reach.

Here are some specific strategies you can use to take that fear and turn it into freedom, financial freedom or personal freedom.

1. Do the scariest thing on your to-do list the first thing in the morning

This will free you up immediately. Even if you don’t get the result you wanted, just the fact that you confronted your fear and took action will build your confidence and allow you to tackle other things on your list that will now feel easy and breezy.

2. Ask your inner guidance what the fear is trying to protect you from.
Then figure out a different way to salve yourself that allows you to take the action you need to take. For example, if you’re planning a conversation with someone that you’re a bit nervous about, sit quietly with yourself and determine what action or reaction you’re anticipating with worry. If it’s a reaction from the other party, start your conversation with “I need to share something important with you but I’m afraid that (insert the thing you’re afraid they’ll feel or do) “your feelings will be hurt” or “you’ll get angry”. This will do two things 1) empower you to speak your truth and 2) disempower the likelihood of reaction you were afraid of.

3. Know that when you’re about to step off a ‘virtual’ cliff that you’ll either land on solid ground or you’ll learn to fly.
This action just takes faith. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” If the idea weren’t possible for you, the idea wouldn’t have come to you. The Universe is now just waiting for you to take action on it.

Goethe said “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

There is some controversy that Goethe actually said this (www.goethesociety.org/pages/quotescom.html) but whoever said it, let it set you free.

4. Design strategies or tactics that will minimize the potential for the thing you’re scared of to manifest.
In the corporate world, this is called Anticipatory Planning, Scenario Planning. Attempt to foresee potential problems and develop solutions to them before they become real, current problems. Once you work your way through what might happen and what you’ll do next or what you might do to reduce the likelihood that the thing will happen (as in point 2), your confidence will improve and you’ll handle the situation with more grace, ease and confidence.

5. Ask for help.
You are not alone in this world and you don’t need to face every fear by yourself. As your friends, colleagues, boss, family, spirit guides, God etc. for assistance, support, courage…whatever you need.

Be specific. Ask for what you want.

These tips will work asking for a raise, having a difficult conversation with a friend, stepping onto a larger ‘platform’ in life, confronting a vendor or client, going after a promotion or big prospect. They just require that you take some forward-moving action rather than retreating into your fear or comfort zone and letting your freedom, financial or otherwise, slip between your fingers.

Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.  ~George Addair

Be aware of your fears, but not beholden to them. Use them as stepping stones to your future and a brave new world. Loretta Love Huff