How to Thank More and Apologize Less

I am a sorry-holic. I’m not sure how this happened but I will apologize for just about anything. If someone is late for my class, I’ll say, “Sorry, but we had to start.”If my husband is explaining the timeline for the reconstruction of our house, I’ll say, “I’m sorry, but I need you to explain the process again.” If someone accidentally bumps into me, I’ll say “Sorry.” There may be some legitimate things I need to apologize for, like missing a payment or deadline I committed to. But I do not need to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the world. Even if it’s just in my world.

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I recently read this Lifehacker article by Patrick Allan called “How to Stop Apologizing for Everything You Do.” I suddenly realized that I was an over-apologizer. There are a lot of us out there. I love this one sentence: “It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you keep falling on a sword that shouldn’t come out of its sheath in the first place.” I’ve been impaled for decades. Time to put that sword back in its sheath.

 

So here is how I’ve worked on putting the sword back:

 

  • Admit I have a problem. I need to own it to be able to change it. I’ve started noticing how often I apologize. I almost feel like having a sorry jar. When my kids were little, we had a jar for anytime anyone cussed. Our neighbor Mr. Fred kept that jar pretty full. So maybe I need to put a dollar in a jar every time I say sorry.

 

  • Notice how you feel. Every time I apologize, I feel just a little bit diminished. Like my thoughts, feelings, rights just don’t matter as much as everyone else. That’s crazy. Of course, my thoughts, feelings and rights matter as much as anyone else. Apologizing all the time is making me feel small. When I even catch myself one time not apologizing, I feel a little bigger. More confident. Less marginalized.

 

  • Work thank you into your language. There is a great cartoon by Yao Xiao. Each pane shows a way to work Thanks instead of Sorry into your language. I love the one that says Thank you for your patience instead of Sorry I’m always late. What’s interesting is that the person receiving the thank you feels better than if they receive the apology. What a terrific reframe. This is so much more positive than the apology. It’s a win-win.

 

  • Catch yourself doing something right. I burnt the bacon yesterday. It was perfect today. As Julia Child famously said, “You should never apologize at the table.” So I ate the bacon and didn’t say a word. This morning I said, “Hey, this is perfect.” My husband agreed. Instead of falling on the sword yesterday, I owned the better outcome today. Take credit when you do something right instead of dwelling on what went wrong.

 

  • Slow and steady wins the race. As I have experienced over the last week since trying to change my default language, don’t get self-critical if you let a few apologies slip.  It’s OK. Habit change is tough and requires working on one or two little pieces at a time. I have tried to thank more, which usually makes apologizing unnecessary.

 

Keep track today. See if you are being impaled on a regular basis. Keep that sword in its sheath.

Do It Scared

You want to ask for a raise from your boss but you chicken out. There’s no way she’ll give you one. You want to get on the new project team but put off asking. Pretty soon, the project is launched and you are sitting on the sidelines. You want to run in that 5k but you have never done one before. You are afraid everyone will be laughing at you (or at least judging you). Fear can stop us in our tracks.

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I recently read Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden and he espoused, “Do it scared.” Being scared can paralyze you into inaction. I have been paralyzed by fear before and I realized that I did decide that I would do it scared. So Vaden’s words resonated for me. If you wait for the fear to dissipate, well…that could be a long wait. There are some things I am still afraid of. One example that comes to mind is a bridge in Western North Carolina that is called “Mile High Swinging Bridge.” I saw my son and brother walk across that perilously high moving bridge, but my acrophobia hijacked my brain. I just couldn’t do it. I froze. On the other hand, there are many examples of how I did step into fear, and it’s made me a stronger, more confident person.

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So here are ways to Do It Scared:

 

  • Reframe it as a challenge.  In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she writes that instead of saying you are nervous about the speech you are giving tomorrow, reframe it instead into a positive, like “I’m excited about the speech I’m giving tomorrow.” I actually explained this to my husband after I read the book and he holds me accountable for my language. So if I say, “I’m nervous about this facilitation I’m doing tomorrow.” He’ll say, “Aren’t you excited about the facilitation tomorrow?” This helps me regroup and dampen down the fear.

 

  • Find your why.  I have a white board in my office that says “Make a Difference in People’s Lives!” This is my why. So when I’m doing something scary like facilitating or speaking with a group  I am not familiar with, I make sure I set my attention to make a difference in their lives. I want at least one person in that room to have a takeaway to improve their life. That’s not as intimidating as “I want everyone in the room to love me.” I am just there to change one person’s life. If there is more? Great. But one person out of that roomful of seventy people having a take away is definitely possible.

 

  • Don’t wait to be comfortable.  Vaden wrote, “Do it uncomfortable.” I have fallen for this before. I’ll want to wait until all the conditions are perfect, but perfect never comes. Pretty soon procrastination takes over. I’m waiting on one more data point. One more piece of feedback. When I was standing next to that bridge, I was waiting for the wind to stop. It didn’t. Comfortable never comes so you never take the first step.

 

  • Find an accomplice.  The first time I spoke in another state, I brought my husband along. I knew I was going to be nervous because it was a big group, and the facilitation I was doing was new to me. I wanted support, so I brought it with me. I think I might have walked across that bridge if my husband was there to hold my hand. Wind or no wind. Put together a personal board of directors–your team to help guide your life and/or business. I have “Cathy’s Brain Trust”, who help me with topic choices and editing my blog. I feel accountable to them to have a new post every week. Having support helps me face my fears.

 

  • Jump.  It’s funny but on that same trip to Grandfather Mountain and that darn bridge, my son and I did a zip line trip. I had never been on a zip line before but it sounded like fun. Of course, I hadn’t really thought it through. Which was probably a good idea. First you sign your life away. Then they start suiting you up with a hard hat, gloves and straps. Next thing you know you are following a group of 8 people up to the platform to take the leap. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out in front of my son. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out on myself. I took the leap and it was a blast. Sometimes thinking it through paralyzes you. Jump.

 

  • One day at a time.  I usually have a facilitation or speaking gig a few times a month. There was a time where I worried about it for weeks before, especially if there were five different topics scheduled that month. I learned that by looking at it a week ahead and preparing (i.e. review the materials, gather flip charts and PowerPoints, post it notes, etc.), I spend less time worrying about the event. I felt more confident and don’t let the fear of public speaking hijack me. Prepare one day at a time.

 

This is not to say that every event has been flawless. Sometimes I talk too fast or forget an important piece. But that’s OK. At least I stepped into fear and did it scared. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Oh and that darn bridge? It’s still on my bucket list. What do you need to do scared?

5 Ways to Use the Power Lead to Spark Positivity.

I went to the Work Human Conference in Orlando last year and saw Michelle Gielan speak on Broadcasting Happiness.” She is a terrific speaker and I was inspired to buy her book of the same title. I finally got around to reading (er…listening to the book via Audible) this past month. It is an inspiring piece of work, which I defy you to read and have it not impact your life. Yes, it is that good.

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Gielan’s premise is that positivity at work and at home inspires a higher level of performance and creativity. Part of the reason is that humans seek to mirror others. So, if Negative Nancy is leading the meeting, it has negative results because everyone follows Negative Nancy in kind. On the other hand, if you–yes, youmake one small positive gesture like a power lead, it has a ripple effect that everyone else wants to mirror. A power lead is similar to being a coach or a broadcaster on the news. Instead of leading with bad news, lead with something positive. That is real impactful power.

So here are the 5 ways you can use a Power Lead to spark others:

1. Names.  For the last year, I have been trying to start emails, even ones from my phone with the person’s name.  As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” I also try hard to remember people’s names when they are introduced to me. I’m not always 100% correct, but I am making a much bigger effort. I also try, when possible, to have people write up name tags or badges at public events. It makes it easier for folks to know each other’s names and use them. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you go shopping for a car, or someone is cold calling you, that they use your name several times. There is a reason–it’s the most important way to connect with someone. Be sure to take the time to type or remember their name and use it.

2. Greetings.  Take the time to have a positive greeting, even if it’s just once a day with    one person. A simple “Good Morning” or “Wow that’s a pretty necklace.” When you start looking for something positive to say in your first greeting of the day, it inspires others to do the same. It’s hard for your co-workers’ energy to be down when your energy is up. It may not turn them into Betty White after a Snickers bar, but it will not do any harm. As Geilan says in her book, “It can be addictive.” Imagine being addicted to positive greetings. You will be lighting a spark throughout your entire organization. Lead with a positive greeting.

3. How are you?  How many times do you respond to this with “OK” or “Ugh, I have a headache” or “My alarm didn’t go off this morning.” When you read that, how do you feel? More negative? I thought so. You are mirroring what you are reading. So think about being a mirror and respond in a more positive light. “I’m great.” “My team won and is going to the Super Bowl.” “Isn’t the weather beautiful outside?” There may be something wrong at home and maybe you forgot to eat breakfast, but there’s no need to broadcast that information. Look for the positive when you respond to that simple question.

4. Catch them doing something right.  Ken Blanchard said, “Catch them doing something right.” As a baby boomer leader, we were taught to constantly look for ways to correct folks. It’s much more inspiring to catch them doing something right. I love Gielan’s example of her first boss. At my first job out of college, my boss would ask me right off the bat, in a caring but serious tone, “What is one awesome thing you did—no matter how small—at work in the last week?” Gielan started with something simple and said things like, “I showed up for work.” Eventually, she became more aware of her accomplishments. In the end, it primed her to look for things that went right during the week. This helped fuel her work and will help fuel your direct reports as well.

5. Reciprocate.  When you find other nuggets of positivity in your workplace, make sure you reciprocate in kind. This is how it starts to transform a workplace. Places like Nationwide Insurance were able to triple (yes, triple revenues) by implementing happiness research programs. Find those folks who are positive and have a can-do attitude fuel their fire, as well as your fire. Reciprocate positivity and happiness throughout your organization.

 

As I wrote in my free eBook, “102 Itzy Bitzy Habits“, you should try just one little practice each day. Try it on for size for several weeks until it becomes a habit. It might be making sure you use someone’s name or catching one person doing something right. Just bite off one little piece every day and the progress will spur you on to try more.  To summarize Geilan, people who share positivity are paid higher wages, seen as more attractive and become more successful overall. Take that first bite today!

5 Ways Travel Has Been Transformed

I was describing my recent trip to Colombia to a friend and he looked at me in amazement.  “Wow, look at you, Cathy. Using Uber and Airbnb. You are so 21st century.” I’m thinking, “Me? Cutting edge? Heck no.” This is the way travel has been transformed in the last five years. It’s not as intimidating to travel to a foreign country in today’s world of technology. As long as there is an app and a cellular connection, you are connected to easier travel. You too can take on the world.

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Thirty years ago, when I traveled to South America, we did everything very old school. We stayed with family or walked up to a hotel with a vacancy sign. We stood in line at a travel agency in Caracas to purchase plane tickets to Rio de Janeiro. My first husband bartered with cab drivers to get the cheapest price to our hotel. We would refrain from speaking English in the cab so that we had the most direct route to the restaurant.

 

Travel has transformed and this is how:

 

  1. Uber. This is one of the single most transformative modes of transportation for a very simple reason. You don’t necessarily need to know the language of the city you are in to travel where you want to go. All you have to do is plug in the address in the app. You don’t necessarily need to talk to the driver once they pick you up. In Medellín, the address system was incomprehensible to me. Our address was Calle 8 #42-32. I had no idea how that was figured out, but the Uber driver got us there without fail. You also don’t need to have cash, which helps to not have to exchange all sorts of money into pesos or euros. No wandering around a bus station trying to get on the right bus. I have been in Ubers in Miami, Paris and Medellín, and about 80% of the time, the driver did not speak English. We always still arrived where we needed to go without incident.

 

  1. Airbnb. My first experience with Airbnb was when my friend, Susannah, found a wonderful apartment in Paris. This app/service lets you rent a room, apartment or house practically anywhere in the world. I found a great place in Medellín that was close to shopping and restaurants. I find they are best for extended travel because you can set up shop for breakfast and lunch (maybe even dinner). We could decide if we needed Wifi, laundry, number of beds, and other extraneous creature comforts. Having coffee first thing in the morning without having to dress or take a shower is so much more relaxing. It also takes the guesswork out of a vacation in terms of timing and figuring out when everyone needs to get up. This is a huge bonus with adult kids who have their own schedule.

 

  1. Airline apps. I have the Delta, American and Copa (Air Panama Airlines) app on my phone. The way this is transformative is that you can check-in on your phone for your flight. This saves not having to have a physical ticket in your possession for your entire trip. I can remember when my first husband and I hopscotched around South America in the mid-1980’s. We had to manage a slew of tickets. Some of these apps even have enhancements. The Delta app tracks where your bag is. I recently traveled two days after a snow storm out of my home airport of Raleigh-Durham. I could check the status of all the flights to Atlanta for two days before. I knew that the flight I was taking had been delayed the day before but not cancelled. This was reassuring before I headed to the airport in ice and snow.

 

  1. Trip Advisor. This app gives you reviews, hours of operation, addresses, and pricing for local attractions and restaurants. So when we were in the Plaza de Botero in Medellín, we could find a local coffee shop with the best reviews and use the Map section to walk to it. There were a few glitches with one or two restaurants not being open but for now, I’ll chalk that up to it being a holiday week and Trip Advisor being unaware. It’s also helpful when deciding between one attraction or another to have them based on crowd sourced reviews. So one attraction might have 5 stars (the highest) but only 30 reviews, whereas another has 4½ starts but 2000 reviews. It also shows the latest reviews first and on my app. They were in English.

 

  1. WhatsApp. This is an app to send texts and calls without cellular service. My daughter and I had cellular coverage while on the trip to Medellín. But we were able to contact friends and family both in Colombia and at home without having to use cellular service. This was so critical. An Uber driver or two contacted us using it, as well as several friends and family. It’s the way to communicate. You just need to make sure you have Wifi. It is popularly used in countries outside of the U.S. now. You should make sure you have this app before you travel. With more smart devices than people in the world, you need to make sure you are connected.

 

I feel like I stumbled on all of this in the last year and all of these are available to check out in your App Store, even if you don’t travel overseas. There is also Lyft, a cheaper and safer version of Uber, available in the USA but not overseas, as far as I know. Make sure you are all app’ed up before you travel and it will make your trip so much more enjoyable and manageable.

Before I die, I want to…

This statement is written one hundred or more times on a blackboard in Asheville, North Carolina. I always find it interesting to see the responses and see if I identify with any of them. I love the response pictured below, which is “Before I die, I want to make a difference.” That’s exactly how I feel. I want to make a difference. I have to believe most people want to make a difference. How about you?

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The thing is you probably already have made a difference to someone or something. We just rarely take stock in what we have accomplished. Tally up our impact on others. There are several ways you–yes, you–have made a difference to someone else.

 

Here they are:

 

  • Love.  If you are alive, you likely have loved someone or something. I love my dog. I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family. By loving something else, I have made an impact. I have made a difference in someone’s life. And so have you.

 

  • Listen.  When I teach or facilitate, the biggest takeaway I tell my participants is to listen. Listen empathically to your co-worker, your boss, your child, your partner or your dog. Listening to someone else is the biggest gift you can give and it has an impact. It makes a difference. We all want to be heard. Deeply heard.

 

  • Compliments.  In an effort to be more positive and to connect to others, I have worked on giving compliments. The trick is to be sincere. I love the color blue and purple, and if someone is wearing that color, I can sincerely compliment them on the color of the blouse, sweater, or earrings. It makes a difference in someone’s day when they receive a sincere compliment.

 

  • Kindness.  Giving random acts of kindness makes a difference. Have you ever been in the drive through at Starbucks and someone has paid for your drink? I have. It makes my day. Every time. Give out random acts of kindness and make a difference in someone’s day.

 

  • Language.  Learn another language. I decided to learn Spanish when I owned a restaurant several decades ago. I continue to study Spanish. The thing is, when I speak another language like Spanish, even imperfectly…OK, a lot imperfectly, it makes an impact on the other person. I took the trouble to learn how to communicate in THEIR language. It makes a difference.

 

  • SmileSmiling changes the trajectory of someone else’s day. It’s like an instant happiness pill. And it makes your day better as well. Go ahead. Try it. Make a big fat grin right now. See? Don’t you feel better? Smiling makes a difference for both you and others.

 

  • Disconnect.  In today’s day and age of constant beeps and notifications, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the buzz. Do a techno detox once in a while. Even if it’s after 6 PM, or 7 PM or midnight. Disconnecting from screen time will help you make yourself available to connection time with those that matter. Even your dog. So turn off your phone and snuggle up on the coach with Fido. It will make a difference to both of you.

 

  • Let go of resentment.  I struggled with this for a long time. I would resent putting dishes in the dishwasher for my family members. I’d resent ALWAYS feeding the dog. But when I let go of the resentment and actually proactively washed the dishes or let the dog out, I felt better. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the initiative, I did. It made a difference for me and improved by relationships with my loved ones.

 

So take stock. You know you are making a difference in someone else’s life. Taking stock in it will help you rewire your brain to a more positive focus and, over time, will make an impact on your life. You will be just that much happier and satisfied.

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South America Revisited 30 Years Later.

I’ve recently returned from an 11-day trip with my two adult children to Medellín, Colombia. Sounds like an unusual destination for a 55-year-old woman from Wilmington, Delaware. But my kid’s dad (and my ex-husband) is Colombian and my daughter spent a summer in Medellín making documentaries of families displaced by drug violence five years before. My son had never traveled out of the country and insisted that if he was going anywhere, it would be Colombia. So the decision was made that we spend the holidays not on gifts or decorating for Christmas, but go on an adventure to South America.

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As mentioned in the title, this was not my first trip to South America. Some 30 years earlier, when I was in my twenties, I traveled to Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil with my first husband. While we did not travel to Medellín (which would have been crazy to do in the mid-80’s), we did travel to Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Bogotá. Well, there have been a lot of changes in the past 30 years. This is what I discovered.

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South America revisited:

 

  • Ground transportation. When I initially landed in the Barranquilla airport in 1986, there were hundreds of people vying for our attention. One crowd wanting to show us where our bags were, another crowd pointing us to a taxi, and yet another wanting to point us to where we could get some Colombian pesos. My then husband’s uncle was there to take us to his home in a 1955 non-air-conditioned Chevy. I’ve spent the morning trying to research why all the cars in Colombia were from the 1950’s, and turns out the production of vehicles in Colombia was null. When we traveled from Barranquilla to Cartagena, it was always by bus with no AC and frequent stops for peddlers who tried selling us street food. Flash forward 30 years, and we arranged for an Uber driver at the airport. Juan Camilo, our driver, walked up to me at the airport and said “Cathy?” He had a Chevy Sail (not available in the US) and although the back seat was tight, we had nice air-conditioned drive down the mountain to Medellín.

 

  • Accommodations. On my first trip to South America, we slept head-to-foot on a small cot in my first husband’s uncle’s house. We did not get much sleep. The rest of the time, we were usually staying in a hotel, which frequently had hourly rates instead of overnight rates. Apparently, a different type of business went on there. Many of the homes had cisterns that were filled once a day with non-potable water and a shower was taken by scooping water out of a bucket. This time we had a 3-bedroom, 3-bath Airbnb with a penthouse deck that overlooked the beautiful skyline of Medellín. Wonderful. We had our own space and only unpacked once.

 

  • Food. While in Colombia on my first trip, I seemed to remember eating yucca at every meal. I guess this is a costeño (coast dweller) favorite but not my favorite. Luckily in Medellín, there are paisas (mountain dwellers) and their favorite is potatoes. While there were only a few stores where we could buy a Coke or ice cream on my first trip, this time there was a huge array of restaurants that could be searched on Trip Advisor, everything from Thai to Argentinean to Colombian. No reservation needed and credit cards happily accepted. On my first trip, credit cards were not widely accepted and the inflation rate was extraordinarily high. This time around, we had a 24-hour grocery store right below our apartment and we frequently were able to cook. Even better, I learned my son is a fantastic cook, who makes killer arepas (corn cakes) and arroz con coco (coconut rice).

 

  • Technology. What a dramatic difference 30 years makes. When purchasing plane tickets in Caracas for the rest of our trip in 1986, we had to stand in line at a travel agency (remember those?). We didn’t have cell phones and practically everything included paying electric bills or paying someone else to stand in line for you to pay cash. This trip we were posting on Facebook, ordering Uber rides, checking Google Maps for locations, and paying for practically everything via credit card. We had Wifi (Colombians pronounce it wee-fee) in our Airbnb and we could send free texts and call via WhatsApp. Amazing to be practically on the Equator and share Christmas greetings to and from the US.

 

  • Language. My Spanish has vastly improved in 30 years but my daughter’s and son’s fluency outshined me. I speak Spanglish. I always get pronouns wrong. But I was able to hold my own as opposed to the first trip, where I solely depended on my first husband for translations of EVERYTHING. But I am embarrassed to say that the xenophobia my daughter and I were met with upon our return to the US at the Miami International Airport was disappointing. There was madness at the Miami airport on our return trip back to the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Most of the travelers on American Airlines that morning were going to Latin America or Europe. Most were Latinos or Spanish. None of the American Airlines employees were bilingual except for one security guard. When a Spanish woman approached an American Airlines employee and asked if any of the gate personnel spoke Spanish, she shook her head and said she no one did. The AA employee then turned to me, an obvious US Citizen (tallest, whitest woman in the room) and said, “This is America, isn’t it?” I was flabbergasted.  The outrageous part is that she didn’t even consider that all of the Western Hemisphere is “America.” From Canada to Argentina. America is not just the U.S.A. And English is not the predominant language.

 

This was the trip of a lifetime. Spending 11 days with my adult children in a land that is half their heritage and spending time with cousins and friends they may or may not see in their life time again. Colombia is safe and enchanting, and Medellín is the city of the eternal spring.

Learning to be a Satisficer

For the last two months, my husband, dog and I have been living in limbo.  We have been displaced from our home as it is repaired from being flooded in Hurricane Matthew.  We, thankfully, have insurance for most of the losses but for the last month, we have been overwhelmed by decision fatigue. I have never desired to build a home.   I’d rather fix a house with paint or new furniture than decide how big a room should be or what size windows or which way the house should face.  I realize now that if we built something from scratch that it would be my fault if we made bad decisions.  This is the downside for a Maximizer (re: perfectionist).  There would be the ongoing questions of What if? We should have? Why did we?

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The problem is that now we are in the middle of remodeling about 80% of the house.  I don’t want to remodel my house.  I like it how it was.  But like it or not, we have to make decisions.  The secret is to be a Satisficer.  Shahram Heshmat in Psychology Today writes, “Maximizing are people who strive to get the very best out of every decision.  Satisficing are individuals who are pleased to settle for a good enough option, not necessarily the very best outcome in all respects.”  But the Satisficer is happier in the long run.  They have less regrets.   I don’t want regrets 6 months from now.  I need to embrace being a Satisficer.

 

Here is how to be a Satisficer:

 

  • Get a good night’s sleep.  This may require medication depending on your stress level.  My husband and my stress levels have been through the roof for the last two months with the bureaucracy of mortgage and insurance companies.   It was making it hard to get a good night’s sleep.  The lack of sleep led to heated debates on everything from the color of sinks to the timing of fixing the roof.  I found that when I got a good night’s sleep, I was able to get out of Maximizer mode (i.e. it’s my way or the highway) and back into Satisficer mode (i.e. it’s good enough).  If you need to make a decision on a new job, your marital status or a career move?  Get a good night’s sleep.

 

  • Make decisions on a full stomach.  My daughter can tell if I’m “hangry” from a thousand paces.  If I’m hangry, I’m short tempered, anxious and unpleasant to be around.  This is not a good state of mind for decision-making.  If I go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, we suddenly end up with twice the groceries and half the nutritional substance (i.e. Cheetos instead of apples).  My husband and I went to look at plumbing supplies and made sure we grabbed lunch before heading in.  We made much more sound decisions and delayed making decisions on things that weren’t needed for several months or could be found elsewhere.  Be sure to eat before making important decisions.

 

  • Start early if possible.  We start the day with the most willpower and energy (as long as you have the first bullet).  With each decision we make, a little piece of will power erodes as the day goes on.  It is affected by minor decisions like what to wear or what to eat.  So, if we headed into the plumbing supply store after 5 PM, we would likely buy a bathtub, toilet, vanity, sink and three faucets along with a kitchen sink just for kicks.  Instead we arrived at 1 PM and zeroed in on the two decisions we had to make and left.  Your best decisions are made early in the day.

 

  • Break it down into doable parts.  As I write this, we have 9 rooms in various states of disarray.  One still doesn’t have walls or a floor, the fireplace is torn up, the kitchen needs all the lower cabinets removed and one wall probably needs to be rebuilt.  This is overwhelming.  All told there are probably about a thousand decisions minor and major still to be made.  So my brilliant husband said, “Let’s just worry about the shower.”  OK.  Whew.  Only one or two decisions instead of a thousand.  So much better.

 

  • Decide the criteria.  My husband and I know what we are looking for before we head into Lowe’s, the flooring place or plumbing supply.  We decide on the short list, what color and quality we want and then head in.  This makes Satificing so much easier.  Top quality is important on the shower fixture but not on the sink fixture.  This is our criteria but it may not be yours.  But that’s OK.  As long as my husband and I agree, that’s what’s important.  Decide on the criteria before you start to analyze your options.

 

This has been a work-in-progress.  I can’t tell you I haven’t been overwhelmed several times.  I also try and trust the sales people.  I asked the guy at the flooring place what carpet he would buy and he showed us.  It wasn’t the most expensive but he felt it was the most durable and easiest to clean.  Done.  Rely on other people’s expertise and then move on.

Why Resolutions Don’t Work. And the Fix.

You’ve told yourself a million times you would start going to the gym.  But it’s 7 AM and you still haven’t put your running shoes on.  You roll over and hit snooze again.  You’ve promised to eat a salad for lunch, but you decide that the drive-through at Hardee’s looks a little bit easier and you don’t even need to walk in.  Double cheeseburger it is!  You tell yourself  three years ago that you were going to start writing that book.  But you binge watch Gilmore Girls instead.  This is the effect of most resolutions on most people.  We fail.  Over and over and over again.

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There are many reasons why resolutions don’t work.  Here they are:

 

  • It’s just too big.  Resolving to lose 20 pounds, write a book, or run a marathon is pretty BIG.  It’s daunting.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s so easy to get discouraged and give up before you even start.  You can’t eat a 24-oz Porterhouse in one bite.  And when you don’t, you give up your resolve and throw in the towel.  You’ve got to break it down into itzy bitzy pieces.

 

  • There are a million distractions.  As Beverly Flaxington wrote in Psychology Today, “Even the most minor distractions slow you down, wasting your energy and time – consequently adding more stress to your everyday life – and keep you away from things that you really want.  Distractions cause you to miss many opportunities in life.  They make you feel busy and tired all the time, and frustrated at the lack of progress despite your best efforts.”  These distractions are stressing you out and keeping you from achieving your higher goals.

 

  • You don’t write them down.  Believe it or not, keeping your new resolution in your head is not that effective.  It’s difficult to keep it at the top of head all day when you don’t have it memorialized somewhere.  In addition, you have a world of distractions (see the bullet above) that are constantly taking you off course.  As a coach, I write my clients goals down and then they make a copy themselves, or my clients write down their goals as we talk.  Writing them down helps embed it in your head.

 

  • You don’t clarify what is at the heart of the resolution.  Resolving to lose weight or quit smoking isn’t really the heart of the issue.  It’s probably more about feeling energized, having a more positive outlook, or regaining your confidence.  What is at the core of this new resolution?  Knowing what is at the core will help you see it through when your willpower is waning.

 

So what do you do about it?  It’s the New Year and you have a whole new clean slate.  I’ve got the solution for you and it’s free.

Try out my 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits.  Just click here to receive your free copy.

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Why We Need Compassion in the Workplace

You walk into work and can’t even make it to your cubicle without being assaulted by 3 different coworkers, impatiently making requests.  You walk through the cube farm to the bathroom and not a single employee greets you.  Your coworker is suffering from a dreaded disease, but feels isolated and afraid of repercussions in his job if “word gets out”.  This is a not a compassionate workplace and it’s having an impact on the bottom line.

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It’s easy for those in the ivory tower to believe that “carrot and stick” leadership is the best way to increase market share and fat bonus checks, but studies now show that is not the case.  In a study by Wharton and O’Neill from George Mason University, they found “that compassionate love does matter across a broad range of industries, including those as diverse as real estate, finance and public utilities.”  O’Neill continues by saying,  “But the interesting thing is that even though the overall baseline of compassionate love can differ across industries, there was as much of a difference within industries as between industries.  Overall, we found that — regardless of the industry baseline — to the extent that there’s a greater culture of compassionate love, that culture is associated with greater satisfaction, commitment and accountability.”  Happy, satisfied, committed employees make for a better workplace.

 

Here is why you need to create a compassionate workplace:

 

  • Better health for everyone.  In a Boston Globe article by Richard Williams, Wallace Higgins and Harvey Greenberg, they cited numerous research studies regarding leadership style and the health of employees.  They concluded “your boss can cause you stress, induce depression and anxiety, or even trigger the onset of serious illnesses.  It is not just bad managers who can negatively affect employee health, but it is also the lackadaisical and mediocre who put employees on the sick list.”  And the cost is huge in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs and employee turnover.

 

  • Regardless of technology, we still need personal connection.  With the overabundant use of social media and texting, it’s easy to hide behind technology, rather than reaching out and connecting personally with others.  As Bill Taylor wrote for Harvard Business Review, “In a world that is being shaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that reminds us what it means to be human.”  It reminded Taylor of a story that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos told students at a Princeton University convocation.  His grandmother use to chastise him by reminding him, “It’s harder to be kind than clever.”  Don’t forget to try and be kind to your co-workers.

 

  • Compassion relieves our own suffering.  In The Book of Joy, written by the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both put forth the 8 pillars of Joy.  The seventh pillar is Compassion.  The Dali Lama puts it well when he says that, “When we think of alleviating other people’s suffering, our own suffering is reduced.  This is the true secret to happiness.”  This seems counter intuitive to me.  Like borrowing trouble from someone else.  But I know when I had to lay off a group of employees many years back, when I was compassionate and understanding, some of the departing employees actually hugged me and I was relieved.  That shared compassion is what helped me cope with an unenviable situation.

 

  • The greatest correlation between profitability and productivity is a compassionate leader.  As Christina Boedker of the Australian School of Business found in her research, the ability of a leader to be compassionate.  “[Understanding] people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be” was the single greatest indicator towards success.  Time to throw out the carrots and sticks.

 

  • Teams with compassion surpass those who are not.  As Ray Williams wrote for Psychology Today, “The new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion are finally catching up with Darwin’s observations nearly 130 years ago, that compassion is our strongest instinct.”  Jonathan Haidt, author of Righteous Mind, reflects the view of Edward O. Wilson, David Sloan Wilson and others, who argue that when groups of animals compete, it’s the cohesive, cooperative, internally altruistic groups that win and pass on their genes.”  Teams who care about each other are more successful.

 

This can be a difficult sell to the Powers that Be.  I had a manager tell me once that, “I’m not going to do all the Kum-ba-yah stuff.”  She had a much more difficult time getting the results from her group.  Don’t we prefer to work with others that are compassionate?  It starts with us.

End Your Workday Cleanly

You arrive home from work and completely forgot to stop at the bank, the store, the pharmacy, the _____.  How did I space that out?  You wake up at 2 AM and relive the outcome of the meeting with your boss, coworker, direct report, ______.  You not only relive it one or two times–you relive it twenty times by the time it’s 2:15 AM.  Not a good night’s sleep.  You open your front door after a full day’s work and all you want to do is zone out with a glass of wine and Grey’s Anatomy reruns.  The last thing you want to do is hear about your partner’s lousy day.  Not a very healthy or positive end to your day.

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There is an answer for this end-of-day malaise and ensuing erosion to your health and happiness.  I subscribe to an app called Whil.  One of the series on the app is called “Live Fully Every Day” by Peter Bonanno.  I have been using his “End Your Workday Cleanly” for about a week and the transition from work to home has vastly improved.  Instead of waking up at all hours of the night with a huge to-do list for work, replaying the not-so productive production meeting, or trying to escape into Never Neverland when arriving at home–I’ve found I am finally able to bring closure to the day.

 

Here are ideas for clearing out your day:

 

  • Journal at workday’s end. This has been a real life saver for me.  I sleep better and am able to transition into my life at home much more energized.  Bonanno recommends writing this with pen and paper.  Melanie Pinola equally recognizes the importance of handwriting your thoughts in her Life Hacker article: “The Wall Street Journal discusses several studies that show students who took handwritten notes outperformed those who typed their notes on their computers.  Compared with those who type their notes, people who write them out in longhand appear to learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.”  So take out a piece of paper at the end of the workday and answer these prompts:

 

Journal Prompt:

 

What I am feeling right now is…

 

What’s left for me to do another time is…

 

What I’m grateful for today is…

 

This is a great brain dump that clears you head.  And it ends on a high note by highlighting what you are grateful for, which is a positive punch to the end of the workday.

 

  • Transition when arriving home to a quick walk with a friend or significant other.  As Bonanno pointed out, he and his wife walked at days end, but since they were not journaling, the walks took forever and started to turn into a pity party at times.  After starting to journal at the end of the work day, the walk with his spouse took maybe 10 minutes of recounting the day.  It became a much more positive experience.  Positivity is good and helps your evening get off to a great start.  So you’ve done your brain dump, you’ve connected with a loved one and now you are going to have a much better evening.

 

  • 10 minutes of daily planning. At your day’s end, do what Stephen Covey has espoused for decades.  Take ten minutes to plan your next day.  This along with the journaling helps you schedule the various things you never got to and places them in plain sight for the next day of work.  I’ve been doing this for at least a decade and I am rarely caught off guard by missing something.  It’s also part of Choice 3 of the Franklin Covey’s Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity.  Couple this with 30 minutes of weekly planning, and both will keep you on target with your personal vision and mission.

 

Self-reflection on a daily basis is a way of acknowledging what you have accomplished.  It’s so easy to get caught up in what you didn’t do instead of what you actually did.  Instead of thinking about “what went wrong”, think of “what didn’t go wrong”.  The glass is half full.