Tag Archives: personal improvement

7 Principles for Extracting the Extraordinary in You

extraordinaryWhat does it take to live an extraordinary life? What would that mean for you on a day-to-day basis?

I was recently reminded of some simple (yet not necessarily easy-to-do) concepts that if installed in your life would place you squarely on the higher road, the road less traveled.

I’m still working on some aspect of each of these myself. It’s a lifelong discipline. Not for the faint of heart, but surely well worth the effort.

1. Be truthful.
Being truthful is about honesty and accuracy. The accuracy aspect is about re-conveying an experience such that your words evoke the thoughts and emotions you experienced in the person you’re sharing with. While each of us has our own perspective of life and interpretation  of events, if your intention is to have them experience what you did, you’re on the right track. No shading of the truth to make yourself look better.

Additionally, the honesty aspect will likely cause you so alter your behavior. You may have heard the phrase, ‘Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper.’ Living your commitment to transparency encourages good behavior and lack of deception at work and home.

2. Give more than you take.
Give freely of your time, love and money. Give generously and not with the expectation that your gifts will be repaid. Purposeful giving fulfills you. It’s almost like you’re not giving for the benefit of the recipient. Make life easier for yourself and others. Don’t forget yourself. The problem some over-givers encounter is that they deplete themselves in the process and end up feeling resentful.

3. Don’t take what isn’t yours.
This is more than just ‘don’t steal’. It’s about not benefiting from ‘mistakes’. Now I’m all for serendipity and miracles and to be honest, I don’t know that I can tell you how to distinguish between those incidents and the ones that are to be avoided. I think the barometer here may be how you feel internally although the internal barometers of habitual ‘takers’ are probably flawed.

Here’s an example…My husband and I were shopping in a store last week. We bought something together and each paid for half in cash. The cashier gave us both our change back, but it seemed like too much. I didn’t say anything, not sure there was a problem, but the more I thought about it, the more I was pretty sure we got too much change. My mind tried to justify it by telling me ‘It’s a big store. They won’t notice it.’ But my heart felt something else. So I went back to the store, found the clerk and reminded him of the transaction. He couldn’t really validate the error with their sales system and ended up telling me to keep the $5 for my honesty.

I left feeling happier, but I still feel like giving that $5 to someone who needs it more will make me even happier. Think “Pay it forward.”

4. Make the world a better place
Do your actions make life easier for those around you? Is the world a better place because of what you think, do and say each day?

Or do you make people jump through hoops to get your favor? Do you consistently ‘block’ other people’s progress?

How would you behave differently if you knew your purpose was to leave the world in a better place because you lived here? Be constructive. Be helpful.

5. Honor life.
All living beings have the right to their lives. Respect them. This applies to not only to humans (even the ones you don’t like) but to non-human creatures as well. Last summer, I accidentally severed a praying mantis while pruning some plants. I was heartsick as he stared at me mournfully it seemed, with half of his abdominal cavity missing.

While I carefully carry spiders out of my home, I still intentionally kill crickets and scorpions when I find them inside. I guess now, I’ll work on finding some non-lethal way to rid them from my home when I encounter them.

6. Do no harm.
Intentionally ending the life of another (even an ant), when living rigorously, is an extreme measure. But what about the ‘little’ harms we do during the course of life?

Have you ever tried to get someone in trouble at home or work without first discussing the situation with them with the intent to resolve it? Do you gossip?  Do you have nasty, judgmental thoughts about others?

Once I took this discipline on, I had to confront the judgments I made of others. Casting frequent silent aspersions seemed automatic at times. I’ve taken on the practice now of blessing people, especially those my internal judge initially denounces.

7. Recognize that you are the source of everything.
It’s easy to blame others for the status of the world and even for your experience of your own personal life. In the training and coaching I do, I often share the concept of “Those idiots over there…”. When you place blame on your co-workers, spouse, children, parents, siblings, neighbors, strangers, political opponents, you rob yourself of power. You pine for changes in them. You want to ‘fix’ them.

You can’t change them. You’ll never change them. And if you wait for that, you’ll be in misery forever.

The only person you can change is you. The only person who can change the experience of the life you are living is you.

When you shift your thinking, emotional responses and actions, you will start having a new experience of life. Additionally, your new perspective, behavior and words will eventually impact the people around you and their response to you will likely change as well. The dynamic of your relationship will be different.

So stop trying to fix them. Work on improving yourself.

One of my favorite sayings is, “We all have more options that we generally see and more control than we tend to take”. So I challenge you to implement the ideas mentioned here. Open your eyes to options that are currently hidden from your view and take control of the way you live your life.

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5 Keys for Stepping Up to Your True Leadership Persona

stand outMy husband and I recently watched two movies, The King’s Speech and Battleship.

Both depicted characters who were thrust into leadership before they thought they were ready.

Their first reaction was denial, mixed with a hint of resentment, “Why me? Why now?”

Neither thought they were ready nor capable.

Has that ever happened to you?  How did you react?

Regardless of your history, how do you think you’d react now if you wer suddenly handed a huge, visible, critical responsibility?

Whether you’ve just been thrust into the spotlight or are longing for that level of accountability, here are some ideas that will amplify your readiness for the role.

1) Have faith you can do it.
Most people downplay their abilities. Our parents taught us not to boast or brag. We’ve seen other leaders get assassinated (literally or figuratively). Plus, let’s face it, it’s more comfortable for most not to be in the limelight and just carry on with their regular routine.

The truth is, we’re far more capable than we generally believe. It often takes some catastropic event for us to figure out what we’re really made of.

2) Have faith in others.
Don’t try to accomplish mammoth tasks alone. Look for help. Ask for help. Assume help and make requests. You may need to provide some context to your ‘team’ (whether ad hoc, virtual or designated). They need to know the import of what you’re asking them to take on. They need to know what’s at stake. They’ll likely have to step up too.

3) Invest in yourself.
You may need support beyond what your immediate team can provide. The King of England hired a coach/speech therapist to help him with his stuttering. It was a secret arrangement initially and required the King to not be ‘King’ which caused some challenges in the beginning. The King had to set his ego aside and recognize he didn’t have all the answers. He also had to reach deep inside and work on his inner game in addition to his moving mouth parts.

4) Be bold.
This is not the time for timidity. In critical times, big actions are needed. Perhaps you need to stop an impending disaster. Or perhaps, you’re needed to win the big game. Whatever it is, you must go beyond the tried and true. It’s time to innovate.

5) Act, don’t think.
You don’t want to be stupid obviously, but you also don’t want to over-think your decisions. In emergency situations, speed is often the critical factor. Trust your gut. If an idea comes to you, try it out.

Leadership occurs when you put accomplishing the task at hand ahead of your ego and fear.  You have to become a better person than you thought you were. It’s possible. Just step up.

 

The #1 Factor that Contributes to Living a Long Life

I knew I was getting ‘old’ when I realized NPR was my favorite radio station!

Anyway, I was particularly engaged by one interview discussion on a study conducted with octogenarians around the world. One of the significant findings was the revelation of the most important thing that helps people live very long lives.

The guest cited several contributing factors which I will summarize in a bit. But I want to encourage you to imagine what the top factor was.

Here are 5 of the factors:

1) Octogenarians eat largely a plant-based diet
I’ve been moving in this direction recently, striving for ever more veggies, fruits and beans. I must admit though, I’m a carnivore by blood type and the satisfaction that chewing on muscle provides is hard for me to replicate. But I have seen enough other studies confirming this to actually start shifting my intake mix. In this study, fava beans were seen repeatedly as a dietary staple.

2) When they eat meat (once a month or so), pork was the meat of choice
This finding shocked me. Pork has had somewhat of a ‘branding issue’ with a somewhat negative reputation although it’s a staple in our house as my husband has food allergies to many other meat protein sources. However, this is what people who live long around the world  eat.

3) Physical activity promotes longevity
We know this, right? But our lifestyle makes it challenging to get in the physical activity our bodies truly need. Many of us go to the office, sit in front of our computers all day, network at lunches and dinners and then go home. If we’re good, we walk, run, bike, do yoga, workout at the gym, do Pilates or Zuumba.

Around the world though, people have different lifestyles that incorporate movement. They garden and walk frequently. Their lives are done in motion.

4)  Daily napping contributes to a long life
This is another practice that seems challenging, even wasteful to me (the overachieving, always-working-on-something person that I am.) I know the value of getting enough sleep and have begun going to bed earlier at least. But napping in the middle of the day?!?!?

Hmmm. However, evidence shows that getting plenty of rest keeps the body going longer. So take heed.

5) Octogenarians have a supportive ecosystem
People who live long don’t do so alone. They are connected to a social network (no, not Facebook), a live network of real people who know and support them. They get encouragement and love from their families and communities and just as important, give love to their communities.

They have a strong sense of faith and likely belong to a faith-based community. They are connected to others, here and ‘above’.

The top contributing aspect of this supportive ecosystem is having a clear sense of purpose. In many of the communities in which octogenarians prosper, the concept of retirement is non existence. People do their life’s work their entire lives. Even if they have jobs in their earlier years, they have a sense of personal purpose that incorporates, envelops or transcends their wage-earning means. It gives meaning to their lives. It gives them a reason to be here.

So my question to you is, ‘What is your purpose?’ What will keep you going after you’ve ‘retired’? What are you here for? What is so important to you that you would continue pursuing it until your last dying breath?

Take some time right now and write down in large print, your purpose…what your life is about…why you’re on this planet at this time.

Why your life will have mattered.

Then make sure you take action on it every day. And, oh yeah, incorporate the other ideas in this article to live long and prosper.

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5 Secrets for Making Time Work for You

What are you doing with your time? If you’re like many people, your days rush by you leaving you exhausted or exhilarated and frustrated or ecstatic. Maybe some days, you feel all four of those emotions.

What is the key to keeping the pendulum hovering over the exhilarated and ecstatic positions?  Focus.

Knowing what to focus on though, can present a real challenge for some. Stephen B. Covey provided invaluable guidance in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But that was published in 1989 before many people had email.  Mark Zuckerberg was just 5. The internet was the bastion of academic universities and world wide web was still in its infancy.

So how do we profit from time today?

1. Set long- and short-term goals
When you know where you’re headed, the pathway becomes more clear. When the path is clear, the correct daily actions along the path are more easy to discern. Without direction, any action keeps you busy but won’t necessarily get you anywhere you truly want to be.

2. Do something everyday that scares you
Miracles happen outside our comfort zone. Our routines and habits keeps us ‘safe’, in the mind’s eye at least. Unfamiliar activities are seen as dangerous and a threat to our survival. Yet, no true progress is made if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. My husband makes the distinction between people who have 20 years of experience vs 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. One person is more likely an expert; the other, not so much.

3. Track your time
It’s a tedious practice but can yield frightening results that will motivate you to make changes. Pick, in advance, 2 – 3 ‘typical’ days in your upcoming week. Every 15 minutes, make a brief note about what you did with the previous 15 minute time frame. Review your activities after 2 – 3 days and notice which ‘rabbit holes’ sucked up your valuable time. Make a vow to yourself to avert time wasters and energy drainers. Delegate. Negotiate. Procrastinate (on those things that aren’t worthy of your time and talents).

4. Clump like tasks together
If you have a lot of calls to make, do them all at once. Shifting from a phone call to an email to an office visit down the hall to working on a report uses up valuable energy. Allocate time to completing similar tasks during one period. Your mind won’t have to make so many transitions. You’re less likely to get distracted during one of those transitions and will feel more productive once you’re accomplished a list of things rather than the onesy-twosy items you may fall victim to.

5. Set a courageous, unpredictable revenue or salary goal
With this big number in mind, evaluate every task against the value of your time. Ask yourself, “Would a person who makes $’X’ be spending their time on this activity?” Even if you have a job with ‘constrained resources’ available, this is still a valid practice. It will cause you to prioritize your activities in terms of their real value and help you look for other, easier ways to accomplish some of your goals.

Focus is the key. Focus your energy, your time and your talents to accomplishing specific tasks. Put mental blinders on and stay with a task until it (or some predetermined portion of it) is done.

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Upgrade Your Fears And Free Your Soul

Fear is part of the human condition. We have all experienced it at one point or another. It’s what we choose to do in the face of fear that defines our character…and our results.

Fear’s original design is to protect us from harm. Unfortunately, sometimes we place too much value on the “Danger! Danger!” alerts it sends us and fear things that should be more directly confronted.

A recent, simple experience got me thinking about the impact fear has on our lives. I attended a surprise birthday party with an Hawaiian theme.

After the surprise, entertainment, food and cake, the coordinators announced there would be contests and prizes for the lowest limbo and longest hula hoop whirl.

I surveyed the jagged rock-covered ground and considered the flimsy sandals I was wearing and immediately ruled out the limbo contest.  I thought though, I could probably handle the hula hoop contest.  However, immediately my mind went to “How will I look?”, “Has it been too long?”, “What will they think?”, “Will I embarrass myself?”

Just as quickly though, I DECIDED it didn’t matter how I looked  or what they might think and sprang out of my seat to claim my hula hoop.

Out of a crowd of over 50, about 10 of us decided to participate in the contests. No, I didn’t win (shucks). I did come in second though and felt pleased with myself that I didn’t let that little voice in my head keep me on the sidelines cause even though the hula hoop fell down too quickly in the final round, it was exhilarating pressing my muscles to remember  ‘the moves’ from my childhood.

What do your fears keep you from doing?

It’s a trivial example, but it made me think about the things my fears DID keep me on the sidelines for. So that night I DECIDED to push the edge of my concerns and worries when I got back to the office on Monday.

So, at the start of the week, I pulled out my call list and when I felt a twinge of “Oh no. Today’s not a good day to call that person”, I knew that was the person to call. Now I can’t say any of those calls turned into immediate money, but amazingly, I DID get two enticing offers ‘out of the blue’ that let me know the universe was rewarding my efforts.

Most of us waste our energy worrying about things that are undeserving of our attention.  Studs Terkel once wrote, “Most people are in jobs that are too small for their souls.” I would spin that slightly to “Most people live inside fears that are too small for their spirit.”

We are afraid of stuff that’s too small, insignificant, unbecoming of the magnificent person we truly are.

So, instead of wasting your time on the trivial minutia or day-to-day drama, create something meaningful that scares you and conquer that.

It’s silly to be afraid to pick up the phone to make an important call. But left to our own devices, we all do it from time to time.

Life, and our success in it, is about continually expanding our capabilities, our sense of self, our positive impact on the world, the expression of our deepest longing, our gift and purpose for being on this planet at this time.

And to do this, we most grow larger than that which constrains us.

What would you do or attempt to do if you were living life courageously? Who would you call? What would you say? What project would you take on? How big would you play? What would you do with your life? How bold would you be?

Here are today’s simple fear-busting tips:
1) Catch yourself when you start to procrastinate or make excuses. Then take action on something you fear.
2) Go public by telling others what you’re up to so it’s harder to back out.
3) Commit to goals that stretch you even if you have no idea how you’ll put them off.
4) Ask for help along the way.
5) Praise yourself for kicking your fear to the curb even if you don’t get the immediate result you desired. If you continuously take courageous action, your life will change.

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