Positive Anticipation

Just as anticipation of demanding events can make us more tense, anticipation of something wonderful happening in the future can make us feel joyful right now.  Particularly during stressful times, anticipating a fun and exciting event can lift our spirits.

This is exactly why it’s so important to have positive plans in our future.  As we traverse through stressful times, if all we can see are more demands and, at best, a few mundane happenings, our anticipation will be primarily negative.  It must be balanced out.  Yet too often we leave planning for fun in the hands of others.

Personally, I’ve learned that during stressful times I have a tendency to quit planning for fun – or for much of anything, for that matter.  It’s at these times I know I need to push through my anxiety and make some happy plans. When worry has a hold on you, this is the best time to create something good to anticipate.  It can be something small such as lunch with a friend.  Or something much larger, like a vacation.  Either way, when we have something fun to anticipate, it makes us hopeful in the present.

Anticipation of positive events brings hope and hope is a perfect emotion to balance out our worries.

Coaching Challenge: Dreaming

It was a short week for blog posts so today’s coaching challenge will be short, too.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging, though!

Here we go….

  • Identify a few of your little dreams that you’ve been pushing aside because they seem insignificant.  Or at least not important enough to prioritize.  Now, prioritize them.  Set some time aside in the next week to get one or two of these done.  And then, enjoy accomplishing your little dream.
  • Create a bucket list.  If you have one, update it.  Put it up in your office or cubical.  Prioritize the items.  Pick one to shoot for in the next year.
  • Ask someone else what is on his or her bucket list.  You’ll have a fun conversation.  I promise.

Whether you’re dreaming of something to do three years from now or next week, dreaming, like setting goals, gives us a sense of direction and purpose.  Move toward your dreams, both big and small.

Dream A Little Dream

Not all dreams need to be big ones.  In fact, some of our smaller dreams keep us motivated, delighted to do what we can to achieve them.  It’s often these little things that are ours alone.  Goals others might deem strange or at least not very dream-worthy.

So what.  Dream them anyway.

Planning a night out with friends.  Cleaning out that one closet or room.  Finding time to make a favorite seasonal dish.  Organizing your desk.  Having the greenest lawn on the block.  Spending a day at the spa.  Making your own cleaning solutions.

Whatever your little dream is, figure out a way to make it happen.  These little things give a sense of accomplishment that we just won’t get from anything else.  These are the things we do simply for ourselves.  Sure, someone else might also benefit.  But really, we’d be happy even if realizing our little dreams didn’t affect anyone else at all.

Go ahead.  Dream a little dream.

What Relaxes You?

Sure, we all know we need to relax.  The next thing to do is to figure out exactly what that means.

This was brought to light as I discussed yesterday’s post with the teen mentioned there.  He said he relaxes all the time when he plays video games – and then proceeded to tell me which ones relaxed him the most.

Sigh.

Then again, maybe he’s right.  After all, who am I to say what will lower his stress levels?  Perhaps gaming really does do that for him.  I know there are plenty of things that other people do to relax that I would never, ever do to relieve stress.  Gaming would definitely cause me more stress than relief!  Golf is another example.  Just holding a club makes me tense up.  Others find it to be a perfect release.

Like happiness, success and so many other things, relaxation is yet another thing that we need to define for ourselves.  Whatever those things are for you, the key is to make time to do them regularly.

What’s Your Hobby?

Turns out that the topic for this week ties into the ideas of Stephen Covey discussed here yesterday.  The last few days have been dedicated to sharpening the saw, so to speak.  How so?  Through a hobby I have.

As Covey reminded us in his work, “sharpening the saw” is when we take the time to balance and renew our resources, energy, and health to “create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.” (Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how a hobby can take away the worries of the day, bring on a challenge, and provide new learning.  Oftentimes hobbies are purposeful as we create a tangible outcome – like jars of pickles, a renewed chair, or a beautiful photo album – or meet a particular goal – like finish a marathon, complete a kayaking journey, or summit a new peak.  This sense of purpose brings meaning to our lives and enriches us.

Unfortunately, hobbies find their way to the bottom or our priority list too often.  These activities can seem frivolous, even selfish.  They are, however, important to our self-development, to our learning more about ourselves, and to ensure that our lives are multi-dimensional.  We are more than our work.  We are more than our family.  Our lives are a tapestry woven with many different threads, and our hobbies provide some of the brighter strands.

While I committed a crazy amount of time to my hobby this week, I will reap benefits from this commitment for months to come.  I learned a few new things and enjoy looking at – and consuming – the outcome of my efforts.

Been a while since you spent time on your favorite hobby?  I leave you with these words from Dale Carnegie:

Today is life – the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.  Get interested in something.  Shake yourself awake.  Develop a hobby.  Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.  Live today with gusto.

Coaching Challenge: Play

Remember when it seemed like all you did was play?  Particularly in the summer months when schoolwork didn’t interfere with all the fun you had every day with your friends.  Or even on your own.  Of course there were times when you were bored, but mostly, you found something creative to do.

Today, let’s tap back into those memories and figure out how to bring more play into your adult life.

Here we go….

  • Recognize the play you already have in your life and be sure that it is made the priority it should be.  Don’t let this stuff fall off the schedule.
  • Identify a new activity you’d like to add to your calendar.  Learn a new instrument.  Join a group exercise class.  Find an instructor to teach you to knit or to carve wood or to fence.  Buy a kayak.  Whatever it is that you’ve been thinking you’d like to do and haven’t.  Yet.
  • Bonus points if the above item helps balance out how you spend your time at work.  Do you spend every moment with people all day long?  Play on your own.  Are your days filled with strategic planning and seeing the big picture?  You’ll find balance from an activity that focuses on detail.
  • Right now, go to your calendar and add an hour of play into next week.  For American readers, this should be EASY given that next week has one of our most playful holidays in it.

Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why I love Independence Day so much – because it really is a time to gather with friends and family to play and to celebrate the incredible freedom we have.  I hope you are able to do just that.

Enjoy!  And I will see you back here after the holiday….

Play Goals

We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Happier people make time for playing in their lives.  Children are natural players.  Unfortunately, as we age we forget how to play and most of us rarely prioritize it.

Why bother with what seems like a frivolous activity?

In the book Creating Your Best Life, Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch describe the benefits like this:

Playing games and being spontaneous make us smile.  Play goals also often involve learning new habits, making friends, getting fit, laughing, and exploring the world.  Psychologists note that humor is one of the most powerful antidotes to discouragement and pessimism.  Play also often puts us in a state of “flow” – where time stands still and we are completely engaged in the challenges in front of us – and it helps us restore our equilibrium and simply unwind or recharge our batteries when we need it most.

Play goals?  When I first read this – and even now – those two words stood out for me.  Who sets goals to play?

As I think about how I could bring more play into my own life, a few ideas have come to mind.  I’ll share them in hopes of getting your own creative ideas flowing.

I miss playing a musical instrument.  When I was a kid, I bounced from lesson to lesson, learning to play everything from the piano to the bassoon to the bass guitar.  I could set a goal around relearning to play – or I could pick up a new instrument again.

My workouts have become routine and a bit like work.  What could I do that would make working out more fun?  I’m going to do some research.

My teenager plays all the time – but mostly on his XBox.  I’m sure there are ways that we could play together as a family if we put our minds to it.  He’s always asking to play Monopoly! Maybe it’s time to establish a family game night.

Setting play goals.  Sounds odd, but perhaps it’s something we should all do so we don’t lose the playful spirit of our youth.

Balance Work And Play

Hey! Forget about what you think I’m going to say here. You’re thinking that I’m going to tell you to schedule more play time, do less work time. Well, that might be a good idea, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. Turns out that the type of play you choose can help you out at work. Intrigued?

If you’ve gone to college, been away at a retreat, or spent much of any time in the business world, you’ve likely taken some sort of self-assessment that has labeled you as “ENFP” or “Yellow” or told you that you have a “Driver” personality. And while that is interesting, particularly in relation to how those around you differ from you, what else did you learn to do with the information? Unfortunately, in the context of these learning events there is rarely time to delve much deeper. Here’s one way to take it a step further to apply it in your life.

In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment I am the above mentioned ENFP. The E = Extroversion which means that my energy increases from being around people. My job, however, rarely requires me to be physically around people. This is actually OK because it gives me opportunity to exercise part of my self/personality/brain/spirit in a way that I wouldn’t naturally be drawn to – and it causes me to grow. It also means that my job can drain my energy more quickly than if I was around people in a more consistent way.

Enter PLAY! What I choose for my leisure activities can impact the energy that work takes from me. In assessing this pattern, I know that I should schedule “play time” that includes people. And so I do! When I get my energy adequately from my time outside of work, I’m loaded up and ready to do my job even when there aren’t that many people around me. Now, if the reverse was true, adding leisure activities like reading, taking nature walks or playing solitaire would challenge me to grow outside of my comfort zone.

Are you someone who loves detail and spends all day looking at the big picture? Add needlework to your relaxation time or volunteer to do the books for your favorite charity. Do you enjoy spontaneity yet spend your days doing the same tasks over and over? Don’t schedule your free time – just pick a location and go there when you have time to explore.

And so yes, I think you should include plenty of play time in your life. Adding play that gives you something different from what you do at work might bring more satisfaction to both work and play.

To dive deeper into this topic, check out Work, Play and Type by Judith A. Provost, Ed.D.

Playful Summer

Preparation for winter begins this week as I select the first of summer’s harvest to stash away for winter.  Summer just began a few days ago and as I blanch spinach to freeze, I am reminded again how fleeting these few precious months of warmth and sunshine are.  Almost in a panic, I realize that I need to get out and play.

Yes, play.

As adults we enjoy recreation.  We socialize.  We relax.  We exercise.  But how often do you get out and really play?  Do you remember the last time you let your playful nature take over?  Maybe you were tubing on the lake with your kids.  Or you created some silly game, spontaneously.  Or perhaps it was when you got the giggles with your close friends.

You know the difference when you begin to play.  Lightheartedness takes over.  Appearing a little ridiculous matters less.  Cares drop away.

It’s been a while since I was playful.  This week, I’m looking for the opportunity.

Take A Vacation!

It’s June!  It’s summer!  Where are you going on your summer vacation?  What?  No plans yet?  Yes… you can take a vacation.

You know that vacations improve your health, create stronger connections with your travel partners, and expand your view of the world.  There are those of you who know this and travel; there are those of you who know this and think you can’t.

As I’ve said here before, there’s little else that makes me crazier than hearing “I can’t.”  Here’s a few ways to help you consider how you can.

  • Vacation where you are.  Sure, the “stay-cation” is the latest trend… but there is something to it.  Almost everyone neglects some interesting things in their own city or town that tourists check out when they visit.  Within 100 miles of your home there are bound to be museums, historical sites, hiking or biking trails,  or unique eateries that you haven’t yet explored.  Take a day or a long weekend and check them out.
  • Plan.  When my sister-in-law decided to put away $50 from each paycheck, she had enough money to go to an all-inclusive resort in the tropics within 12-24 months.  Each of her family members did this and they were all able to go together.  Even small amounts add up over time.  Give up your daily coffee or eating out once a week and put it in a travel account.
  • Be prepared.  My husband traveled to Europe for the first time FREE because he had his passport ready to go.  Another friend traveled to China at a reduced cost because a friend asked her to join her on business travel.  If you don’t have a passport, you’ll never get out of the country.  If you do, you might.
  • Make vacationing a priority.  I mentioned this week that my parents were fans of extensive road trips (from Fargo, ND we DROVE to South Padre Island, TX and to Banff in Alberta, Canada – and we’ve done this with our kids as well).  Growing up on a farm, the only way my parents could escape work was to physically leave.  So we did, whether we had money or not.  Years without money included very rustic camping and some hotels we’d rather forget.  But we also created memories that last a lifetime.

Regardless of how you choose to travel, I encourage you to figure out a way to take a real break from the day-to-day.  Because yes, you can take a vacation.

Make Time For Friends

There’s a lot of talk about spending time with family during the holidays – and our focus is often there.  That said, it’s also the time of year when we gather with friends because we have the excuse of holiday parties to meet up after weeks and sometimes months of not seeing one another.

We had the opportunity to join our friends at one of these events last night.  As our friends arrived all at once, the feeling that breezed into the house with them was so loving and warm.  It made everyone feel cherished and blessed all at once.

This sort of closeness doesn’t happen by chance.  We’ve been hanging out for quite a long while and we’ve all made a commitment to these friendships.  We’ve supported each other through cancer, divorce and loss.  We’ve made meals.  We’ve held each other and cried.  We’ve traveled together.  We’ve celebrated weddings, birthdays and graduations.  And we’ve laughed.  A lot.

I’ve never understood when people say that they would like to spend time with friends but they just can’t find the time.

Make time.

Not just because you will need these people sometime in your life – because you will – but because it’s to your benefit to have them in your life every day.  According to the Mayo Clinic, friendship

  • Increases your sense of belonging and purpose,
  • Boosts your happiness,
  • Reduces stress,
  • Improves your self-worth,
  • Helps you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one, and
  • Encourages you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.

So why is it that you don’t connect with your friends more often?  What will it take to make them a priority?

Make time to be a friend.

The Gift Of You

The holidays should be a joyful time, yet we all know that the season can also come with obligations and stress.  Parties and gatherings where we should be “merry” fill many of us with dread as we think about long hours with relatives, mindless conversation with a spouse’s coworkers, or volunteering at school activities.  For any of these things that you are able, you should certainly bow out.  But when you must keep the family peace, impress the right bosses, or it’s your turn to be the volunteer parent… give the gift of you.

We all have things we don’t want to do and it seems that this time of year brings even more of them.  But when we do commit to an activity this is not the time to start whining (I remind myself); this is when we have the opportunity to be fully present, engaged and charming.

Truth is that what we bring to an experience, we get.  So when we choose to give of ourselves and show up fully engaged, the experience gives back to us.  We find out interesting things about those people we thought were going to drive us a little crazy.  We see the wonder in the faces of children.  We enjoy ourselves a bit more.

And we’re probably a little more enjoyable to be around as well.

If you’re going to bring anything to holiday gatherings this year, be sure to bring your energy, your attention and your smile with you.  Give the gift of you.

Find me on Facebook: Coach Carolyn

Coaching Challenge: Vacation

In making the case for taking vacation time, I hope a few of you began to think about adding this important piece to your health regimen.  To solidify it, here are a few vacation and traveling challenges for you to consider.

Here we go…

  • Schedule a day off.  Send the request to your manager today.  Have it coincide with a day your kids have off so you can explore a museum or zoo.  Or land it randomly in an upcoming week so you can spend a restoring day at a spa, driving in the country, or cross-country skiing in a city park.  Do what you want to do.  Feel your stress level go down…
  • Dream.  I find that when I dream of traveling, soon I am.  Buy a copy of a travel magazine or, better yet, subscribe.  (Budget Travel is one of my favorites – because I’m a bit of a cheapskate.)  Make a bucket list.  Sure, you might not get to all the places you want to go.  But if you dream about it, you may get to some.
  • Plan.  Have a dream spot in mind?  An event you don’t want to miss?  Friends or family you haven’t seen in too long?  How can you make it happen?  Figure out how much money and time it will take and then start working toward it today.  If you don’t start, the likelihood of your trip happening at all will decrease.
  • Find something in your community you haven’t done before.  Do it.
  • Get your passport.  You’re sure to never leave your country if you don’t have one.
  • Change your thinking.  Next time you hear yourself say, “I can’t afford to travel,” or “I can’t take time off from work,” say instead “How can I find the money to travel?” and “What would I have to do to plan time away from work?”  Get creative.  Allow the possibility.

That’s a lot to do!  You better get right on it if you’re going to get out of here anytime soon!


Yes, You Can Take A Vacation

You know that vacations improve your health, create stronger connections with your travel partners, and expand your view of the world.  There are those of you who know this and travel; there are those of you who know this and think you can’t.

As I’ve said here before, there’s little else that makes me crazier than hearing “I can’t.”  Here’s a few ways to help you consider how you can.

  • Vacation where you are.  Sure, the “stay-cation” is the latest trend… but there is something to it.  Almost everyone neglects some interesting things in their own city or town that tourists check out when they visit.  Within 100 miles of your home there are bound to be museums, historical sites, hiking or biking trails,  or unique eateries that you haven’t yet explored.  Take a day or a long weekend and check them out.
  • Plan.  When my sister-in-law decided to put away $50 from each paycheck, she had enough money to go to an all-inclusive resort in the tropics within 12-24 months.  Each of her family members did this and they were all able to go together.  Even small amounts add up over time.  Give up your daily coffee or eating out once a week and put it in a travel account.
  • Be prepared.  My husband traveled to Europe for the first time FREE because he had his passport ready to go.  Another friend traveled to China at a reduced cost because a friend asked her to join her on business travel.  If you don’t have a passport, you’ll never get out of the country.  If you do, you might.
  • Make vacationing a priority.  I mentioned this week that my parents were fans of extensive road trips (from Fargo, ND we DROVE to South Padre Island, TX and to Banff in Alberta, Canada – and we’ve done this with our kids as well).  Growing up on a farm, the only way my parents could escape work was to physically leave.  So we did, whether we had money or not.  Years without money included very rustic camping and some hotels we’d rather forget.  But we also created memories that last a lifetime.

Regardless of how you choose to travel, I encourage you to figure out a way to take a real break from the day-to-day.

Really, You Need A Vacation

Have you ever been in a meeting with someone and thought – or muttered under your breath – “SHE needs a vacation!”?  There’s a reason we’ve all done this – it’s because we inherently know that going on a vacation releves stress.

So why has it been so long since YOU took one?

Many studies have shown the benefits of vacations to our health.  Specifically, those folks who don’t take vacations are more prone to heart attacks and other nasty consequences.  (You can check out one article here… and there are many more if you search.)  In the short term, vacationing improves your sleep and reaction times as well.

Personally, I know that even vacations that have had stressful moments (and most do) have resulted in a calmer me upon my return home.  And just as family memories are built on short trips as well as longer ones, even taking a day to just be at home with no obligations can serve as the mini-vacation I sometimes need.

So figure out when you can take a break – for your health.

Find me on Facebook.

Family Time On The Road

I have a confession to make.  I don’t remember a lot of day-to-day details of my childhood.  Most of the memories I have were during a trip taken – whether to visit relatives, tag along on a business trip, or on an extensive road-trip that my parents were particularly fond of making.

Fast forward to adulthood, this realization wasn’t lost on me.  Traveling with family is a unique time to bond, learn more about each other, and share mutual experiences.  “Collect experiences and adventures, not things,” is pretty much our family motto.  And we’ve been lucky to collect many adventures along the way.

If you’d rather not take my word for it, perhaps this quote from Psychology Today will bolster your belief:

An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond” (in sociological parlance, a “shared experience”) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks, even in families that are not particularly close, according to Lehto and co-authors.

Our close-to-home trips created as many memories as those thousands of miles away.  The key is simply carving off time to be with those we love and being present in the experience with them.  While it should be possible at home, it often isn’t.  A family vacation creates an environment where it can’t help but happen.

Oh yeah, there are a few stories of one of us melting down along the way (there are even pictures of a few instances!)… but that just adds to the memories we now cherish.

Headin’ Out

After several months of being Earth-bound, I took to the air last week and will do so again tomorrow.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy traveling and also was reminded why I’d get so sick of it too.  Travel can be a bit of a double-edged sword.  That said, travel is definitely something that changes us.  Regardless of the length of the journey, cost to us, or the purpose of the trip, we can’t help but return home changed.

The latest travel data I could find showed that in 2005 64% of Americans had traveled away from home in the previous year.  If you’re in that bucket, good for you!  For the other 36%… you need to get outta here!

Yes, I know vacations cost money.  Yes, I know that we hesitate to take time off from work.  Yes, it takes time and energy to plan.  And yes, it is worth it.

So for the 36% who haven’t left their abode for a year, those who speak with pride about all the vacation time they have accrued or the many without a passport… this week I plan to encourage you to take to the highways or skies.

All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it. ~Samuel Johnson

Check out this interview with me from the Dale Carnegie ND online magazine!

Committed to Leisure

We’ve enjoyed one of the most beautiful autumns in recent memory.  But as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  This happened ceremoniously for us yesterday as we finally brought our boat and dock ashore.

As we and our recruited help worked to put away summer’s toys, I remembered a friend observing how committed my husband and I are to leisure.  How right she was!  Clearly we are willing to work hard and make sacrifices so that we can spend leisurely days floating on the water for a few short months each year.

Those who know me know there are few things that I’m more committed to than spending time at the lake.  For those of you who are not “lake people,” I know it isn’t something that’s easily understood.  Just as I don’t understand those who are committed to golf or those committed to running a marathon, I don’t expect others to always understand my commitment either.

While I don’t always appreciate the specific idea, dream or activity I see others committed to, understanding my own passion for my commitments allows me to respect and admire the commitments of others.  I find this to be true well beyond leisure activities; encompassing commitments in career, relationships, faith and finance.  Because of this, I can respect the commitment someone has to something regardless of whether I understand it or not.

So good-bye summer… I look forward to seeing you again next year.  You have my commitment.

Coaching Challenge: Celebrate

Each day gives us something we can celebrate.  We just need to be ready to see it; ready to shout out a rousing “woo hoo!”  Everyone has something to celebrate.  Today, I challenge you to celebrate.

Here we go…

  • Find something to celebrate today.  It could be your accomplishment or someone else’s.  The celebration can be big or small.  Just celebrate.
  • Plan a celebration.  A birthday.  A retirement.  A reunion.  Find an excuse to celebrate with family and friends.
  • Celebrate an important relationship.  Your time with your loved ones might not be as long as you hope.  Let someone you love know how much he or she means to you while you can.  As often as you can.
  • Acknowledge a milestone you met this week.  They happen all the time.  Did you meet a deadline?  Finish a project?  Pass an anniversary date?  You don’t have to go tell everyone you did it – simply acknowledging your work and time passed is good.  An internal celebration just for you.
  • Find a “win” to celebrate.  Yours or someone else’s.  Perhaps your child got an “A” on a tough assignment.  Or your spouse made a big sale at work.  Or you were able to get a client to re-up on a contract.  Make a favorite dinner or uncork some wine (for the adults, not the kids!).

However you choose to do it, choose to celebrate!

Thanks for reading! Now head on over to Facebook and join me there!

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Celebrate the Wins

Last weekend brought with it celebrations of all kinds, including the celebration of a big win for my nephew’s football team.  And a sweet win it was.

If I have the story straight, the Loons were up against the guys who beat them quite soundly last year.  Last year’s game was a blowout that included injuries for several of the players.  On Saturday they had to face them again.

My nephew, Reece

My nephew is going to be 12 in a few days, so there isn’t a long history with this nemesis – just last year’s game.  I’m sure there were more than a few butterflies in the tummies of these young players as they headed on to the field.

We arrived a little late and the score was 20-7.  The home team was winning!  Honestly, these boys didn’t look like the same team we watched last year.  They were unafraid of the tackle.  They ran fast and hard.  They were winners!  With each play and touchdown we got to our feet and cheered them on, celebrating each small win along the way to the big win of the day.

What a great story of resilience.  Last year’s game was tough but that history didn’t matter.  What mattered was this year.  This game.

How often we bring irrelevant history into what we are doing in the present.  Perhaps if we let it be in the past where it belongs we’d celebrate more wins today.