5 Steps for Thriving this Holiday Season

5 Steps for Thriving this Holiday Season

At some point, do you find yourself just trying to survive the holidays?  That was my plan for many years until my “survival scheme” left me sick and in bed for the first week of January.

I was always very excited about a few special events, then my calendar would start to fill with work obligations, school programs and distant relatives passing through town.  I’d rationalize, its only a couple weeks.  But if you’re like most of me, you feel the start of the holiday season somewhere around mid November.  So by the time we ring in the New Year, that’s more than six weeks of so-called survival.

I’m sure I should have prioritized better, but each event crept in, one at a time, and I hadn’t yet learned to say no.

So what is my fool-proof plan for thriving during the holidays?

1. Know your limit.  Mine is a max of 4 events in a week.  You may feel fine with more, but remember it’s about thriving, not just surviving.  This is part of being discerning and selective with your time and energy.

2.  Subtract 1.  Limit-1=events booked.  It’s that simple.  When you are accepting invitations or hosting parties ask yourself is that event is worthy of one of your precious time slots.  Don’t just fill up your time because there isn’t anything else on your calendar at the moment.

3. Just say no–or better yet, ‘No thank-you’  I’ve had to practice the art of “saying no”.  No, is a complete sentence.  You are not required to explain yourself.  A simple response is always best.  “Thank you for thinking of us, but we won’t be able to make it to your cookie decorating party this year.  I hope you have a wonderful time.”

4. Guard your down time.  Evenings without events are your recovery and recharging time.  Working late is not down time, it should be considered one of your “event” evenings.  It doesn’t sound so appealing in that light!  Instead, enjoy being at home, eat a bit lighter and healthier, go for a walk after dinner, take a hot bath, get to bed a bit early or just putter around choosing that special outfit or a great hostess gift for your next event.

5. Stay flexible.    Does that sound a bit contradictory?  It’s actually not.  This is where the “subtract 1” comes in.  If you unexpectedly have to work a late night or better yet, get tickets to an amazing performance you can accommodate that without going over your limit. Because you have the other pieces in place, you will be much better at sorting out what’s really worth your time and energy.

Having a plan and sticking to it does more than just keep your schedule in check.  It can give you a real sense of control during what is a stressful time for many.  Having a plan and learning to stick to it is also the foundation of personal integrity–and that’s an absolute necessity for thriving.

Feeling Gratitude for a Place and Time

Feeling Gratitude for a Place and Time

I had the pleasure of attending a Naturalization Ceremony for US citizenship this past week.  It was held at the River Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, so I expected, perhaps a couple of hundred people, including guests like myself. What I witnessed was 533 individuals, from 81 different countries take an oath to become an American citizen.  I was amazed, somewhat by the number of people, but more so by the number of countries being represented.  Keep in mind, Minnesota is the midwest. I would have expected numbers like these in New York, Miami or Los Angeles, but here!  As the ceremony began and as the name of each country was read, I couldn’t help thinking of how much some of these people had overcome, just to be standing in this room today.

For many, just leaving their country must have been difficult, but after arriving, there is a lengthy process involved in becoming a citizen; applications, interviews, even a civics test.  100 questions on topics I know I must have learned at some point (fourth grade?), but many of which I’ve long forgotten. And, as I listened to the judge, in this official court proceeding, my thoughts began to shift from all of those strangers in the room to myself and my life here in the United States.  I was born here and I consider myself very patriotic, but I admit, I take many of the privileges of being a citizen for granted.  I’m always proud to be an American, but that day, and each morning since, I’ve made this thought a part of my gratitude practice:  “I feel immense gratitude for being born here, in this country.”

Another part of the event, was devoted to completion of a voter registration form.  A very distinguished lady, from the League of Women Voters, walked the group through the process of filling out this form that will allow them to participate in one of the most important parts of a democracy, voting.  I participate in all elections, and although the right to vote is something that I appreciate as a citizen, it’s one I often take for granted as a woman.  I am truly grateful for being born at a time when I am able to freely exercise my rights, including the right to vote.

So as I congratulated the newly minted citizens around me, I paused a moment to “renew my citizenship”, feeling immensely grateful for being born in this place and time.  I challenge each of you to look around at what you may be taking for granted each day and renew your appreciation and feel gratitude.  I’d love to hear what you discover.

Creating an Inspired Personal Mission Statement

Creating an Inspired Personal Mission Statement

We detect rather than invent our missions in life…Viktor Frankl

Most of us have an idea of what we believe in and how we want to live our lives.  We may have strong emotional connection to these  values and beliefs and yet many of us would be hard pressed to articulate a personal mission statement.

Words like honesty and integrity come to mind, and both are excellent guideposts but neither really give a sense of purpose.

A personal mission statement can provide clarity, giving you a sense of purpose, defining who you are and how you intend to live your life.

So, if you already have an idea of your values and what you want to do with your life, why is it so important to be able to articulate them? After all, they are kind of personal.

It can be invaluable to articulate and formalized those thoughts and ideas, even if you never intend to share them.  A personal mission statement is one way to do that.

Once you have your mission defined, it can serve to help you make decisions about how you want to interact and share your life with others. More specifically, being very clear on your personal mission can help you make the best use of your time, talents and resources.  What could be more inspiring than that?

And, if a couple of paragraphs can help maintain control over your calendar, why not give it a try?  Sit down with paper and pen, or your computer and work through the following steps.  It may take a few intense sessions one weekend or several brief sessions over a couple of weeks.  There is no magic word count, but typically 1-2 paragraphs should be enough to include what is important while challenging you to really be specific and distill your thoughts.

  1. Identify your past successes.  Where have you excelled?  Look at these successes and note any common themes.  These are most likely areas of strength and interest.
  2. Identify your values both ethical and moral.  Start with a long list then, distill it down to the most important ones to you.
  3. Identify your roles.  As a parent, spouse, co-worker, yogi, friend, teacher, caregiver etc.  These represent the individuals and groups with which you will interact.
  4. Identify your goals, both short and long term.
  5. Using this information, create a personal Mission Statement.  Write in a positive voice, using clear concise statements.  This may take several drafts.  Write it out, read it out loud and hear how it “feels” to you.  Revise, edit and read it again.
  6. Reassess your Mission Statement every few years to determine if you are living according to your mission.  Maybe your life has strayed from your mission, or maybe your mission has evolved. 

Up to this point, this exercise itself can be very satisfying for the insight it provides.  But, now, as the statement is complete, it can start working for you.

Besides bringing clarity, your personal mission statement can be used as a tool to objectively evaluate requests for your time and resources.  It can be very flattering to be asked to serve on a board or committee, or be asked to represent a charitable cause.  Now, using what you have written, you can ask yourself “will the time and effort I spend fulfilling that obligation align with and support my personal mission?”.

Not only does this process help you avoid spending time and resources where you may not want to, but also serves as a way to seek out opportunities that further your mission.

I would love to hear your mission statement or know what you thought of the process.  Comment below, or if you want some help creating your personal mission statement, let’s chat.
Does the very idea of taking a vacation stress you out?

Does the very idea of taking a vacation stress you out?

A vacation away always sounds fabulous!  A beach house for a month, a lodge at the base of the mountain , ski in ski out, or a condo on a golf course on Hilton Head Island.  Something for everyone, right.  Okay, here are your tickets and reservations, all paid, your cab is waiting to take you to the airport.  Bon Voyage!  

But wait…”I can’t go now, I have too much work to do”, “I can’t leave for two weeks”, “I can’t leave the kids”, “I have responsibilities!!!”

Every year, thousands of vacation hours are lost, written off the books, untaken by harried employees who have worked hard all year to accumulate those precious hours.  Or, they are “spent” at home, still working, albeit in robe and slippers.  How does that happen?  I’m happy to report that this was one bad “corporate” habit I managed to escape.  And now, as a business owner, without a specific, limited vacation bank, I would have thought that it would be easier to get away.  Its not.

Booking flights, finding hotels and rental cars along with coordinating child care, school transportation, kennel reservations and transportation, lawn care, snow removal and house sitters can seem daunting.  Even the little things like stopping the mail seem like a pain—actually stopping the mail is easy, getting to the post office, during their limited hours, to pick it up after vacation always seems to be a challenge. So, why don’t we get away on vacations?  Can it be that it’s just too much WORK to take a vacation?

Here are some ways to make it a little easier.

  1. You won’t find the time, trust me on this.  Like other important things in your life you have to make the time.  Sit down with your traveling companion(s) this weekend.  Look at your calendars for the whole year ahead and mark the dates for your  vacation(s).

  2. Plan the whole trip ahead of time.  The idea of jetting off last minute may be romantic, but for most of us it just doesn’t happen that way.  And, if done right, planning can be almost as much fun as the vacation itself.

  3. Arrange your trip at whatever level you feel comfortable.  Some people just don’t know how to get started, others prefer to “leave it to the experts”. There are amazing companies that will pick you up at your door, whisk you off to the destination of your choice and return you, free of worry.  There are also amazing websites that allow you to book everything from your flight to train tickets to museum entrance times on your own.  Let your comfort level and budget help you decide what is best for you.

  4. Take advantage of free or inexpensive travel apps (Pack the Bag, YourtTrip) that help you get organized the first time and then keep track of your all of your lists for future trips. These apps gather and store information for individual lists sorted by trip type: business, beach, skiing as well as “before you leave” lists.
  5. Create a Master List of all of your preferred service providers, from childcare to furnace repair, physicians to auto mechanics.  Don’t have a preferred provider? It’s time to make those connections and find those resources, even if you never leave the city.
  6. Cultivate ongoing relationships with the service providers that make your life easier.  Making kennel arrangements may be just one more “to-do” on your list, but to the kennel, its their business and an opportunity to be of service.  The same is true for lawn care folks and house sitters.

  7. Cultivate relationships with others who are willing to take care of your children.  Yes. You can and should leave them once in a while.  If you are one of those parents who believe only you can take proper care of your child than you are doing them and yourself a big disservice. It may not be as big a leap as you think. Many children already attend sleepovers…just consider two sleepovers in a row, and you have a weekend away with your spouse.  Remember you are not looking for someone to raise them, instill lifelong values and launch them into adulthood.  You are looking for someone who will keep them safe and entertained for a few days.  In most cases, the temporary caregivers will have given them more time and attention than you would have during that same period because its a “special occasion”.  Having said that, it is also critical to raise children that are welcome in other peoples homes!  And be willing to reciprocate, giving other busy parents a chance to get away.
  8. Consider simplifying your life.  What does this have to do with vacation or travel?  The choices we make everyday, in our personal lives, homes and careers all result in a certain level of maintenance.  A beloved pet is worth the effort needed to make special arrangements, but be wary of becoming a slave to your belongings and lifestyle.  (Implementing tips 5,6 and 7 can make your life easier, even if you never leave the house.)This is an excellent time to evaluate outside commitments and obligations. Extraneous meetings, appointments that you have trouble saying “no” to may be an inconvenience during a regular week, but can be a real anchor when you want to get away.

Take the first step, make your plans, enjoy your vacation.  This, like so many things gets easier with practice and who wouldn’t want to practice taking more vacations?

I’d love to hear where you are headed for vacation this year.  And as always, if you need some help with getting started on anyone of these.  I’m here for you.  Book a 30 minute complementary Strategy Session to get started.

Be careful what you wish for…

Be careful what you wish for…

Remember the expression “be careful what you wish for”?  Well, it may be just as important how you wish for things.  As “wishers” and dreamers, most of us tend to be a bit cautious.  We all have our own beliefs or stories around what and how much it is appropriate to request, even from an infinite universe.  So when we make our wishes we tend to be a bit skimpy on the details and circumstances around what we want.  Well, I’m here to officially give you permission to be highly specific and extremely detailed in your wishes and dreams. And, I’ll tell you why it’s critical to do so.

You’ve probably also heard the expression “Wishing doesn’t make it so”.   It takes our actions in response to those wishes to make something happen. And, vague dreams create vague, if any, actions.  This is one of the truths that may have shaped our early perception of how ineffective we were as manifestors and relegated us to the role of dreamers or wishers.  The more detail and specificity, the more direct actions we can derive from the wish.  The more action, the greater chance of bringing the wish to fruition; of manifesting what we desire.

I learned this lesson the hard way.  In a nutshell, I sold my soul to the devil for a four-day work week.

For years, in all of my wishing and hoping and journaling, I focused exclusively on being able to work only four days a week.  I knew I had to maintain my income, so that aspect got an occasional passing nod, but I neglected to define or plan any other aspects around that wish.  And the universe delivered.  I got a well-paying job, working four days a week.

Great, right, but wait, the commute was longer than I had expected, my department was severely understaffed and the company lacked fundamental systems to complete the work necessary to be successful.  With the exception of the commute (There were several facilities and my office location changed after I accepted the position.)  all of the other aspects existed prior to my joining the company.  I didn’t inquire, or research adequately.  I was blinded by getting the offer I had wished for and accepted it.  A job offer may seem like something that is a bit out of our control, but, had I better defined my wish, it would have directed job searches in different areas of the industry and geography.  The experience provided a very valuable lesson.  And when I made my next move, it was with much more clarity and I couldn’t be happier.

There is probably only one way of wishing that is more troublesome than vague wishing. Its a kind of backwards wishing.

Out of hesitancy to wish for what we really want, we sometimes feel more comfortable wishing that what we don’t want doesn’t happen.  A little convoluted?  Yes, but here are some examples:  “I hope it doesn’t rain on my wedding day”, I wish I wouldn’t always get sick when I go on vacation”, “Just once, I dream of having a Christmas where everyone doesn’t argue”.  Some variation of these themes probably sound familiar, because they are pretty typical.  And I frequently hear comments like these from my clients.

It’s not just a matter of positive vs negative thinking, although that is certainly a factor.  More so, its about the actions that each of these statement will drive.  If you want sun for your wedding day, hope for sun… and then plan a time and location that will give you the greatest chances of getting what you want.

If you focus on not being sick on vacation, you may just end up packing lots of medical supplies to take along in case you get sick.  If you dream of being super healthy on your next vacation, you are more likely to plan so that you get enough sleep in the days leading up to vacation or you may pack healthy meals for the flights or take meal bars along if you will be in some areas where the food is questionable.

If you focus on trying to avoid having family arguments ruin Christmas, your tension may just provoke some of the behaviors you are trying to avoid.  If your desires and focus was shifted to having everyone enjoy their time together, you may plan events with several smaller groups or activities that direct questions away from hot topics.  With a focus on a positive experience, you may even take a proactive approach and call or write to family members expressing your (positively framed) wish, asking that they leave history or politics at home and come together to enjoy the season.

Your truest, deepest desires will drive attitudes and actions in alignment with those desires. So, make a wish today, a big, strong, detailed wish, in full technicolor and then go out and get it.

Would you like some help reframing some of the experiences in your life?  I’d love to chat, contact me here.

Can you outgrow a friendship? 3 questions to maximize your ROI

Can you outgrow a friendship? 3 questions to maximize your ROI

As kids, it was almost as easy to change “best friends” as it was to change your outfit, (several times a day if necessary).  Status was measured by who would be invited to which birthday parties and who shared nail polish.  Then, as we grew and changed schools, we stayed in touch with some and lost touch with others.  Now, as an adult, friendships we have maintained over time and distance may seem like they should go on forever. But, should they?  Have you ever found yourself avoiding a call or meeting with an old friend even though you feel like you should get together?

Just because we have past together, do we necessarily have a future together?  

Friendship is an investment in another individual. Its an investment of time, emotional and physical energy and trust.  Like any investment, we expect to contribute and expect to get something in return.  And, as the typical financial disclaimer goes, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.  Friendship is obviously more complex than a financial paradigm, but as a tool, it is actually a pretty good way to evaluate friendships.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you both equally invested?  Or, do you initiate all of the emails, calls and set all of the dates and activities when you meet, or is there an exchange of ideas and planning because you are both excited about spending time together?  This doesn’t have to be a 1:1 exchange, the balance shifts throughout the relationship, but successful, fulfilling relationships are not one-sided.
  2. Do you each continue to bring something new to the table:  new authors, activities, interests, individual experiences? Or, are your conversations limited to rehashing past events and shared experiences.  Reminiscing is fun, but it is not the basis for growth in a relationship*.
  3. Are you still invested in the relationship?  Are you still putting something in or are you just taking out?  Do you only meet or talk when the other person contacts you?  Have you avoided calls or emails to postpone contact?  If someone wrongs you terribly, it is fairly easy to discontinue a friendship, but more often the matter is much more subtle.  If you find that you are disengaging, you can share your feelings with the other person, or initiate something new to revive the relationship if it really is still important to you.

Given the time commitments and constraints we face as adults, it makes sense to be very particular about our friendships. It makes sense to invest strongly in those that continue to grow and develop as we grow and develop personally. It also makes sense to discontinue or scale back on investment into those friendships that no longer work for us.

We need to allow time to make room for new  friendships and associations in our lives.  Have you ever found yourself thinking “I don’t want any new friends, I don’t even have time for the friends I have now!”? I’ve said that, and I’ve felt it.  That’s not the type of energy I want to put out in the world, but sometimes a gal gets tired!

*There is one more category, those in-between friendships.  Friendships based on the past that we feel a pull to continue, not out of obligation but desire.  Sometimes its nice to have a solid connection to the past, not as a place to dwell, but as a mile marker or sign post.  Treasure these friends and remember to invest with your future in mind.

This is not an all-or-nothing game, but rather one of degrees.  Investing heavily in a relationship may mean getting together every week for a glass of wine or movie or sending a quick photo or text when something reminds you of that person. Maintaining a more distant relationship may mean coffee every couple of months.  Both are perfectly fine, as long as both parties investments align with their return on investment.

Work-Life Balance. Is It Possible? Do You Even Want It?

Work-Life Balance. Is It Possible? Do You Even Want It?

The nebulous concept of work-life balance is often debated, but rarely understood. For some its a rather elusive goal, for some a myth.  Others have gone so far as to dismiss the idea of work-life balance as a poor compromise wherein neither work nor life is done well.

The short answer: YES, work-life balance is possible, and YES, you absolutely want it!  But, most importantly, work-life balance itself is not a very useful goal in and of itself!

First, we must define BALANCE within the context of lifestyle.

For many the simplistic set of scales so often used to represent the balance between life and work is the basis of much of frustration and misunderstanding.    When viewed as a simple set of scales,  it is almost impossible to have equal amounts of time, energy and passion for a career and a personal life.  This image creates an unfortunate paradigm for those trying to “do it all”.  A more realistic definition of balance is a dynamic force among the many aspects of our lives.  Walking is a great example.  As we walk, we balance on one foot than the other, arms and body weight moving accordingly to keep us upright.  Using the image of the scale, the only way we could balance would be to stand still, with both feet on the ground and all other body parts symmetrical.  That would not be very accurate physiologically and not very conducive to progress.

Second, we must APPLY this better definition to meet specific goals.

“Achieving work-life balance” is not a very effective or well formed goal.  It does not drive specific outcomes or actions.  I strongly discourage my clients from choosing such a goal.  Rather, set strong life and work goals that you value and the balance will come.   A “balanced” diet is  great example of balance relating to a goal.  Regardless of what type of eating plan you follow, a balanced diet doesn’t mean exactly the same number of  ounces of vegetables and meat, or the same number of milligrams of vitamins D and C.  In nutrition, balanced means having the appropriate type of each nutrient to bring the desired result: a health goal.

In a balanced life, different goals will take center stage at different times.  And that’s okay, in fact its desirable.  There will be days or weeks during which the office gets more attention than the house or the gym and other weeks when the kids get more attention than anything else.  If this sounds like your normal routine, that’s because it is normal and healthy.  The yearning for work-life balance comes when things start to feel very lopsided.  This is also when its easy to get frustrated and off track by “setting a goal” of having more work-life balance.  Next time, you feel that work is taking all of your time and energy, set actual goals for what you want from your personal or home life. Frequently, work goals are the only hard and fast goals set, and they are often set by others.  By setting real, measurable goals for home time, your attention will start to refocus and your priorities shift.  There is a real actionable difference between saying “I don’t want to work late every night” and “I will be home by 5:00pm two nights this week”.  The first pseudo-goal drives nothing but frustration while the second real goal is more likely to drive advance planning and schedule modification.  “I wish I had more time to read for enjoyment” is not likely to initiate any changes, while “I will stop what I am doing every Tuesday night at 9:00pm and read for 30 minutes” is much more likely to happen.

Work-life balance is actually just a happy byproduct of having value-driven actionable goals in each specific area of your life.

Get started rebalancing your day with a complementary conversation with me, Cyndi Lynne.


7 ways to say “no” and reclaim your life

7 ways to say “no” and reclaim your life

Why is it so difficult to say “no”? It’s easy to become overwhelmed with crazy days and crowded calendars.  Even so, many of us feel badly when we have to deny a request.  Here are seven ways to regain some control of your time while maintaining your personal integrity.

  1. News Flash!  When someone makes a request of you, you don’t have to respond immediately.  If someone insists on an immediate commitment, perhaps they are actually making a demand rather than a request. They are demonstrating that they do not respect you or your time, so that “should” be  an easy no, but even then, actually saying the word is not always easy. Reply that you will check your calendar and get back to them by a specific time. (and do so) Think of it as a cooling off period. Even 20 or 30 minutes allows thoughtful consideration rather than a potentially emotional response.

  2. Consider whether the request fits with your priorities, personal mission and existing schedule. If so, happily make and honor the commitment. If not, graciously decline. This sounds rather formal, but these criteria represent the difference between just a crazy schedule and having a fulfilling life.  A 30 second request to help move some boxes, doesn’t won’t require this level of scrutiny, but then, those 30 seconds probably won’t derail your day. This process is best suited to requests for larger chunks of time, or recurring events that have a way of taking on a life of their own.  Great examples:  Being asked to serve on a board or head up  a fundraiser or event.

  3. When you do decide to say no, be polite but firm.  This is best done with a short, simple statement.  It is not necessary or helpful to share your decision making process or criteria with the requestor. In fact it can be very counterproductive. Giving a reason as to why you aren’t attending an event, allows the requestor to evaluate your reason and then try to “problem-solve” the perceived dilemma for you.  “Thank you for considering me, however I am not able to participate at this time.” Or, “thanks so much for asking, but my calendar is full at this time.”  And it’s not a lie, if you have decided that you only want to attend one social event each week and you already have one booked for this week, your calendar is full.

  4. After you say no, stop talking or move onto another subject. Otherwise, you risk talking yourself right back into a commitment. Silence need not be uncomfortable. Use the time to pause your thoughts and strengthen your resolve.

  5. Start thinking in shades of gray.  It’s not always all or nothing.  Often, people make a general request that reflects a specific need. Determine the actual need before you respond.  A request to organize the school potluck (something you don’t have time for) may just reflect a need for someone who can create a spreadsheet and share it on google docs. (Something you can do in your sleep.) Or, if it is something you would like to help with, be specific in your availability:  “My calendar is full this week, I would have some time available next week, Tuesday afternoon if you still need assistance.”

  6. Say yes at the right level for you.  I love to cook, and am often asked to provide meals for different groups with which my family or I have an association.  I may have to say no to a three-course catered meal on a weeknight, but can say yes to calling in pizza delivery, which depending on the circumstances may be just as appreciated.  How do I let my style and integrity show through?  I order good pizza, make sure I address any special dietary needs of the group, vegetarian, gluten-free, make sure there are ample plates, napkins and I always provide dessert!  So, I’ve said no to the formal dinner, but I’ve met the need with a personalized touch.

  7. Many telemarketers are instructed to keep pitching until they hear the word “no” three times.  Children are inadvertently trained to just keep asking until Mom or Dad become worn down and say yes. And so, many folks will just keep asking, changing the request ever so slightly hoping for a yes.  Be aware of these tactics and hold your “no”.  You can retrain people with regard to their expectations and the way they treat you. The most important component of that training:  consistency.

  8. If you feel a request if for a very worthy cause, but it does not meet the “criteria” listed in #2, you may wish to offer something other than yourself and your time.  Perhaps you could provide a contact or make an introduction to someone for whom the request is well suited and would be happy to help out.  To maintain your personal and professional integrity, this statement must be true and the referral genuine.  And as always, give the contact a heads up that you’ve shared their information.  In this way, you can still be of service and your “no” turns into a potential networking opportunity.

Saying “no” with honesty and integrity becomes easier with practice and gives you a sense of freedom and confidence.  Saying “no” allows you the time and energy to fully engage in all of the “yes” of life.

Routine vs Rigidity…Where is the line?

Routine vs Rigidity…Where is the line?

Is there a difference between sticking to your routine and being rigid?  Absolutely.  Having routines or rituals in our lives can be very useful.  They help us stay on track and provide a built-in plan for all kinds of circumstances.  But how do you know if your routine is becoming too rigid?

Its all about the locus of control.  In other words, is your routine serving you, or are you serving it?

Building a routine around certain activities leads to the creation of good habits.  And, consistency in those habits brings good results.  But that “consistency” can be carried too far and that same activity can become counterproductive.

This occurs most often when we lose track of our original intention and only focus on the performance of the activity.

Here are some examples:  Say that your original intention was to spend more time with your aging grandmother.  So, you set aside time every Tuesday evening to stop by, bring dinner and visit for an hour or two.  After a couple of months of pleasant Tuesdays, your work schedule changes, Tuesday nights become rushed and your mind is on all of the things that must be done for Wednesday morning’s meeting.  But you still grab some dinner and grudgingly follow your routine, most likely as a distracted guest.  From the outside perspective, it is obvious that there are several other choices, perhaps visiting a different night of the week, or sharing a phone call instead, for a couple of weeks, until your schedule evens out.  But, sometimes when we are in the midst of the situation the alternatives aren’t so obvious.  And, maintaining our routine becomes the intention rather than  spending time with your grandmother.

The world of health and fitness provides many similar examples .  We begin an exercise routine to benefit our health and then stick with that routine “come hell or high water”, even if we don’t feel well, or become injured, or the activities we selected prove to be less than ideal in the first place.  We lose track of the health benefit and focus on counting miles or reps.

Another tell-tale sign that you might be crossing that line?  Pay attention to how you feel.  Maintaining a routine will typically bring a feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Skipping a routine may bring brief feeling of disappointment or maybe even a little guilt.  But, if missing something in your routine causes feeling of anxiety, then you probably have at least one toe over that rigid line.

So how can you monitor your routines and avoid becoming too rigid?  Don’t forget the common sense!  Keep your goals in mind.  When in doubt, ask yourself if in performing your routine, you are accomplishing your original goal, or if the activity itself has become the focus.

How do you remain flexible while still working toward your goals?  Please share.

Want to learn more about setting high-value goals?  Set up a strategy call with me!

Is there really any harm in a little white lie?

Is there really any harm in a little white lie?

It starts with a twinge of guilt, which soon becomes barely noticeable and then its a habit…I don’t want to hurt feelings. I sometimes just want to head off lengthy discussions or I just don’t want to “get into it”. So I tell a little white lie, once, then again and then all of a sudden I was lying almost every day. Not about the big stuff…I rationalize, but still, lying is energy draining, soul sapping, and integrity undermining.

I confess this and yet I still don’t consider myself a bad person.  But, I do admit that in “wanting to please”’ not wanting to “make waves” and not wanting to “deal with” the (possibly imaginary) fallout from the truth I had let little white lies take priority over telling the truth.  And sometimes it was just easier, or so it would have seemed.

Here is a sample of one of my typical lying days.  See if any of it sounds familiar to you.

“Did you find everything you need?” Asks the check out clerk…yes I lie with 3 items still on my list, but already late for my next stop. (No harm done.)

“How do these pants look on me?” Asks a friend shopping while we’re shopping….they look good I lie, not wanting to hurt feelings…and they do look much better than the last couple of pairs, I rationalize. (Feelings spared, long standing touchy issues avoided)

“Where do you want to go for dinner?” A group of friends asks amongst ourselves…anywhere is fine, I lie, not wanting to sound picky, but knowing deep down I want some healthy choices and will have to accommodate my gluten intolerance. (Oh well, I can always eat when I get home.)

“Lets get together this weekend” suggests a well meaning friend…I’m out of town all weekend I lie, not wanting to take the time to navigate such a wide sweeping invitation. (Our relationship has been strained for a while, I don’t know what to say.)

So why doesn’t my oh-so-clever strategy for making things easier make me feel better?

Because, there is a conflict between my thoughts and my words and actions. There is even a fancy name for it:  cognitive dissonance.  And, when we don’t speak our truth we lose some of our power and more importantly, we lose a little bit of ourselves.

The deception really starts taking a toll because, as we often use others as a mirror for our selves, we can begin to project, or at least suspect others of the same bad habit and trust begins to decay.  Trust in others and in ourselves…it’s a slippery slope.

And so, I declared to myself, in my journal this morning that I will not lie anymore.  It doesn’t mean I will brandish the painful truth like a sword slaying everyone in my path. It does mean I will try to take the time and energy to give an honest thoughtful answer.

“Did you find everything you need?” No, but I will be back!

“How do these pants look on me?” I think you’re  on the right track, they look the best so far.  Maybe the sales clerk can make some suggestions to get the best fit.

“Where do you want to go for dinner?”  Let’s go to Good Earth or someplace similar that is very open about ingredients and preparations.

“Lets get together some time this weekend.” I would love to schedule some time to catch up, and I will have some free time after the holidays to meet for coffee.

Nothing earth shattering, but rather, conflict calming, integrity building and with time and practice, positively reinforcing.  I feel better already.

Want to rediscover your truth and your voice?  Let’d start with a chat.