Change


Today has been a productive and challenging day. After weeks of feeling a tad under the weather I am back in action and I would like to share two of today’s extremes with you.

I started my morning bright and early at 5:30 a.m. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m an early bird. The house is quiet, the street is silent, and our young daughter is fast asleep. I usually manage a good two hours of work before she wakes and that time is precious and full of progress.

This morning I was putting together the talking points on a presentation I will be giving in mid-May at the Heartland OD (Organizational Development) meeting. I was asked to speak on ‘personal skill development’ and was told that May’s meeting would focus on Versatility and Creativity. This delighted me and I accepted the invitation a month ago and committed to send my co-presenter the details on what I would talk about.

As I listed the points I thought of Daniel Pink’s new book, “Drive,” which focuses on motivation. What motivates us? What helps to generate innovation, self-discovery, or scientific breakthroughs? I wrapped up the short summary stating:

“By supporting and promoting personal skills development we create happier, motivated, invested employees who will partner together and provide quality and innovation. These employees will also help create a better tomorrow for themselves, their communities, and the businesses and corporations they work for.”

I am sure there will be changes after my co-presenter reads the email and responds  or when I refine it closer to the date of the presentation, but I was satisfied with the rough draft. I moved on to other tasks, pleased at what I had come up with. The main gist of the talk will be on encouraging corporations and even mid-size businesses to invest in a wide variety of personal skill development/enrichment opportunities (physical fitness, credit and non-credit type classes, and even promoting clubs or small business ventures) for their employees. In turn, this will result in an atmosphere of excitement, a more positive view of the corporation as a whole, and dedication to their working environment. When employees benefit from perks, when they are encouraged to develop skills not normally viewed as ‘work-related’ at the blessing and encouragement of the company, they feel a part of something bigger.

It is this, the sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself, which works far more effectively than the outdated carrot and stick approach does towards encouraging productivity and innovation. If I can help guide a manager or CEO to this conclusion, it means improving the lives of countless employees AND the company they work. This in turn creates the potential for even greater company profit, which can lead to more employment opportunities and benefits to the community. In other words, a win for everyone.

So that was a high. I will refine and add detail, but it got me revved up.

If that was the peak, then here is the valley. My heart sunk just a bit when I read the following email that flashed onto my screen:

We thank you for your interest in delivering classes through the [name of organization], but we won’t be providing the particular offerings you have delivered in the past and are offering to deliver in the future.  Thanks again for thinking of us.

I had been anticipating this email after hearing some rumors on the wind. My direct contact at this host site had recently resigned his post and prior to his resignation there had been talk that non-business classes would no longer be offered at this corporate location. In other words, unless it directly tied to the job the employees’ were expected to perform, there was ‘no need’ for the class.

This particular location had built a special center for educating employees and most of the rooms are vacant on weekday evenings, the designated time when I had offered classes on home and office organizing and other classes designed to improve lives and reduce stress. At most, the cost for allowing the classes to continue may have been the minimal one of paying the one lone security guard, who is in all probability stationed there through the night, whether there are classes scheduled or not.

I have yet to reply to the email, although I doubt the sender expects any kind of response. I find myself worrying that, as the economy continues to limp along, more companies will make the decision that this one has and cut out what they view as extraneous.

This is short-sighted for a number of reasons, most of which I have listed above. It is similar to cutting funding to schools or emergency services. We need the minds of the future to be as bright and quick-thinking as possible. We need firefighters when our houses are burning. And right now, at this very minute, we need our workers to be invested and dedicated and feel as if they are partners or even shareholders in the places where they spend over 1/3 of their waking lives.

Without this, our economy will suffer. We will suffer.

I’m not saying that promoting personal skill development is the be all or end all. I’m not suggesting that it will save every company from financial disaster but it’s a start. It’s two steps forward.

Today I managed two steps forward and was set one step back. But I’m not giving up. After all, I’m one step ahead of where I was yesterday! I see the worth in what I’m doing and believe I can make a difference. And I know I’m not the only one.

How will YOU make a difference?

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This popped up in my email today and I just had to share it…

The Magic of Thinking Big

by Will Craig

As long as you are going to go about your day thinking anyway, you may as well “think big”. Anyone can think small, and most people do. In fact, most people keep themselves in the same place in life, doing the exact same thing, without significant growth or change because of limited or conditioned thinking.

Ideas
Don’t just think about what is possible, think about what might seem nearly impossible, that would require you to grow and move beyond who you currently know yourself to be. Think about what you have always wanted to do or have in your life … those things that your heart speaks of.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” ~Walt Disney

Thinking big equals going big. Thinking small means staying small. You decide. You get to choose your thoughts.

Be outrageous and let your imagination fly. This does not mean thinking unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky stuff, like being able to suddenly perform superhuman feats. It means allowing yourself to stretch and believe in the beauty of your dreams.

One particular line in there, “Don’t just think about what is possible, think about what might seem nearly impossible, that would require you to grow and move beyond who you currently know yourself to be,” really resonates with me. After only five years in business for myself there are many wonderful experiences to look back on. I spent nearly two decades in the workforce trying desperately to understand how I could fit in. For me, for my unique perspective and attitude and motivation, the answer was “you can’t.” That was a hard thing to accept, but it was replaced very quickly by, “Oh my God, I have to do what to make my business succeed?!”

The “what” was something I now consider quite simple, but at the time it was terrifying. My first business, and the one that still provides a great deal of my background bread and butter (thanks to wonderful, hardworking staff) is my housecleaning business. When I started, however, it was little ole me. I was unused to going into stranger’s houses and meeting them. I didn’t have much of a spiel and I was absolutely white-knuckled terrified. Of what? The unknown? The new experience? I’m unsure of the specific reason, but I was a complete nervous wreck. The first cleaning consult I went on, the guy actually asked me if I was okay. He never got an estimate, I ran out to my car, drove home and sat down and re-worked everything so that I wouldn’t be such a spaz the next time I tried to do a consult.

The thing was, I did have more consults and I did get clients. Slowly but surely my confidence built. I learned so many things about what to say, what not to say, what to agree to, and what rules and guidelines to put in place. In the end, I built a small, successful business that has generated income for me for over five years. Some of my clients have been with me since that first year!

A couple of years later, through a cleaning consult I realized another strength I had that could be put to use and I opened a professional organizing business. With limited funds, my advertising budget was practically nil. I decided to teach organizing classes and see if that wouldn’t bring in business. This was a terrifying proposition. Teach a class? Stand up in front of people and speak from a position of authority and knowledge? Was I insane? That first class was much like my first consult, I shook with nervousness as I taught the class. Thankfully I had a podium to hide behind.

Nearly three years later and I have published a book on organizing, broadened my offerings to include mini-seminars and classes through at least ten host sites in the Kansas City area and even expanded to teach other classes that I have interests and strengths in. I’ve obtained a certification in life coaching and I am currently working on a book on life change as well as a fiction book I hope to have published in the next two years. My successes in owning my own businesses, teaching these varied classes, and writing have encouraged me to embrace a life-long dream of writing. All of these things, writing, teaching, managing the business, are all interconnected and encourage each other towards success.

In both of these cases (cleaning consults and teaching organizing classes) I questioned whether I was attempting something that seemed impossible, had the potential for catastrophic failure (at least in my mind it did) and they were actions that required me to grow and move beyond what I currently knew myself to be, just like Will Craig encourages everyone to do!

These steps weren’t easy. They were scary, stress and headache-inducing experiences. But my successes, slow but sure in the months and years that followed, allowed me to see that not only was the ‘impossible’ actually quite possible and attainable, but that if I wanted it badly enough, I could make it happen. I can testify that I have grown more in the past five years than I did in nearly two decades of work experience before that.

You don’t have to quit your job to do it.

You don’t have to start your own business or teach classes to do it.

But whatever “it” is, think big. Dream about it and accomplish it. Because when you do this, everything opens up and you will see the world differently. You will see you differently.

Goals and sub-goals are fantastic things. They list out exactly what we wish to accomplish, mapping the road in front of us clearly, and give us a concise directive…”Lose five pounds in the next two months” or “Enroll in college and start working towards my [bachelors, masters, etc].”

That’s a good thing, right?

Absolutely!

Except…see you knew there was a catch, right?…what if your goals are not aligned with what YOU want? What if your goals were made while thinking about:

  • What others expect from you
  • What your ‘responsibilities’ are to your family, friends, or society
  • What you ‘should be doing’

Why would anyone make decisions based on what others think they should do? Well, unless you have grown up in a pack of wolves, unless you have that very rare sense of self that knows exactly what you want and goes straight after it and lets nothing (and no one) stand in your way, then it isn’t too surprising.

We make decisions every day based on others. We fit into society and move within its boundaries and expectations. We are polite, we say thank you and please. We take turns at stop signs and avoid conflict with our co-workers.

Are we always this way? No! There are times when everyone’s anti-social side takes hold. But the majority of the time a majority of us are working within society’s expectations and conforming to the spoken (and unspoken) rules of conduct.

It is easy to lose yourself in that world. But how much unhappiness stems from compromise and capitulation? As in all parts of our lives, we must find balance.

List out three of your goals.

Right now…I’ll wait.

Okay, got them?

Look at your list and ask yourself, “Why that goal?” List your reasons beside it.

Now look at the reasons and underline them if they are other-based and circle them if they are you-based.

If a goal is other-based it has a far less chance of a) making you happy if it is accomplished and b) being accomplished at all.

If it is you-based, you know that this is a goal that you care about. Finding goals that are aligned with our own inner happiness are far more important than trying to make and achieve goals based on what we think our parents, family or society thinks of us. If we are happy deep inside, if we are accomplishing goals based on our needs and our interests, then it will allow us to grow as individuals. Eventually that growth can lead to us giving back (or not) to our community and those that we love on a scale that is tremendously magnified by our new inner joy.

Creating and striving for goals that benefit us as individuals is not selfish, it is the highest form of benefit we can give to ourselves and it will spread from us to others.

Take some time to sit back and ask yourself, “What is it that I want from my life?” You don’t have to have all the answers. It might be as simple of an answer as, “I want to be happy” or “I want a new career”.

Take it slow. Write down you-based goals that align with your needs and wants and leave the other-based goals at the door for now. Begin to work on them and don’t be afraid to revise them as you go along. Nothing is set in stone, not us and not our goals. Eventually, as you grow happier and more content inside, as you find the peace you have been seeking, your actions will naturally begin to impact those around you in positive ways. In other words, the other-based goals may often occur naturally, without any compromise or sacrifice of your you-based needs.

Don’t worry, I will be back soon with a new post on the “Six Phrases You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Say” – actually they are already scheduled to appear each Friday.

But today I have some thoughts I want to share with you about a very interesting book and the ideas and thoughts it has given me as I work my way through it. The book is by Noah St. John, “The Secret Code of Success” and I’m rather impressed so far.

I just finished Chapter 4: Afformations® (no, that isn’t a typo) in which he takes you through several steps. I will use one of my own issues as an example.

I’m overweight. Technically speaking, I’m considered obese. I would settle for being just overweight or having 10-15 extra pounds – instead I have more like FIFTY extra pounds.

So a typical goal would to say “I want to lose weight and not be obese.”

A typical affirmation would be to write and post and read out loud each day, “I will weigh fifty pounds less and fit into a size 10 again!” What Noah suggests is that our brains read those words and think, “Yeah, right, I’m a total loser (and not in the good way)!”

He suggests that affirmations don’t work whereas Afformations® do. A typical example of an Afformations® in this case would be, “How is it that I have lost fifty pounds and am now much healthier?” He points out that it is the question we focus on, not a statement of fact. That we as humans seek to find answers to the questions, most often questions we ask ourselves. By changing our questions, we change our lives.

“Why can’t I lose this weight?” or “Why do I commit to exercising and then never do it?” are both questions, but they are negative and start us down the negative path. By instead asking, “Why is it that I have lost fifty pounds?” we have changed the question to a  positive one and our minds begin to react by coming up with answers we already know will work to solve the problem.

If I haven’t explained this well enough, read the book, it’s well worth it.

As for me, I’ve already begun the process. I sat down and made a list of all the things I want. One of them was that I wanted to lose weight and feel more comfortable in my body. I also added that I would like to be out of pain (my back and neck often hurt) and be more flexible. I then re-wrote the goals into the form of Afformations®.

Why is that I am so healthy and a healthy weight? Why is it that I longer suffer back pain and am more flexible?

Last night before I went to bed I set out my workout clothes and shoes. I put them where I could easily find them (I wake up early and don’t like to turn on lights and disturb my husband’s sleep) and despite my reluctance, got up and dressed and went down to the basement. I didn’t ask a lot of my body…just 15 minutes at 2.5mph. I had a couple of hand weights and I remembered to stretch before and afterward. In some aspects that was the most difficult part, I had no idea just how inflexible I had become! Yes, I counted every minute and every second and wished that I had a tv show to watch. I’ll probably listen to the radio on my iPod next time to help pass the time. I’m also going back to MyFoodDiary.com and logging my weight and what I eat.

We’ll see how it goes. My first objective is to establish a routine – fifteen minutes a day, every day. After that is accomplished and the habit is formed I’ll expand (walk faster, walk longer). I hope to also check in and write about my progress as I go.

Check out his book, write your own Afformations® today and keep at it. Asking yourself those positive questions will change your attitude from one of despair and frustration with yourself to one of excitement and goals!

Change changing places
Root yourself to the ground
Capitalize on this good fortune
One word can bring you round
Changes

-Yes

I live in a house of change. Literally.

Since my husband lost his job at the end of May, it’s been stressful, exciting, frightening and exhilarating. The question “What happens next?” is one that we ask a lot around here.

A student of the martial arts for nearly his entire life, my husband David asked me to look over a few paragraphs he had written up. It was for Tai Chi, Chi Gung, and Ba Gua classes – personal instruction in a client’s own home or for groups if a location/site wanted to host.

I was immediately excited. In California, specifically the Bay Area where he moved from six years ago, and where we both attended high school in the 1980’s, martial arts of all kinds are prevalent. Here it has been a little more touch and go, and he has missed practicing with others. For a while he taught Tai Chi to seniors at a local retirement center here in town until it changed management.

I eagerly edited and spiffed up his write-up and suggested he consider dropping by the local community center and proposing a class schedule to them as well. He did and the director jumped at the chance. He meets with her on Thursday to finalize a class schedule. With that tidy success I sent an email to him, with the contact info of all of my current host sites and suggested he send emails to them as well. He did, and has already heard back from two of them with an affirmative.

We both love to share knowledge and help others and the opportunity to share this passion he has for the internal energy arts is very exciting for both of us. So that was the first set of changes to roll through. They affect me, but not directly, and I am so happy to see him on this path.

Losing your job, no matter what the circumstances, is not easy. I have tried to be helpful, probably too helpful, and it was for this reason that I nagged him into attending a seminar this past Saturday. It was conducted by Chuck Franks, a local life coach, and although he went unwillingly and with no small share of resentment, I think my husband did get something out of it. The seminar was on dealing with job loss, hunting for new work, and basically keeping your chin up along the way.

Dave returned with Chuck’s card and I immediately recognized him as someone I had spoken to earlier this year when I was considering becoming accredited as a life coach. This renewed the curiosity I had had about the subject. After all, I was nearly 2/3 of the way through completing my manuscript for “Change Your Life” and I was busy questioning what a publisher would want with an uncredentialed life coach telling a reader how to change their lives.

I also wondered what the program/training would be able to teach me. A lot I was sure, but what? So I did some research, found a program that seemed thorough, convenient, and affordable. And I signed up today.

[Gulp]

Okay, now just to review.

*I run a housecleaning business and do most of the cleanings on my own.
*I run an organizing business and teach organizing classes where I sell my first published book “Get Organized, Stay Organized.”
*I have a toddler who is still nursing (well, just twice a day now)
*I have completed about 2/3 of the manuscript for “Change Your Life”
*I really need to get a scarf knitted for my mom for Christmas – currently only six inches along
*Should I even mention the fact that all of my molding and doors still need painting?

So I jumped in and signed up for the course and I’m hoping I can fast track it into six months and then get accredited soon after. I’ve also added an ENTIRELY NEW SECTION to “CYL” that will include stories of people that I end up coaching along the way.

Did I mention that I wrote 8,000 words on CYL?!

Woohoo!

This book is going to be fantastic when it is done.

And finally, the last point of the day. I started to feel stressed as I began to log into the International Coach Academy website. So I pulled up a sample of a CD set that is on its way right now to us. The CD is called “Ancient Songs of the Tao” and it is by Bruce Frantzis, a Taoist master and instructor of my husband. I listened to the snippet this morning and immediately began to feel my insides vibrate and a sense of calm descend. You can find this CD at http://www.energyarts.com (and will someone please tell me WHY the paste link function is NOT working? Gah!)

I have found that when writing I cannot have a lot of sound going on around me. Although I love music, if there is any spoken words I am immediately distracted. No Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, no Pink Floyd or Perfect Circle, recently even my Vision CD and the Kim Robertson “Angels in Disguise” CD is too much!

I also found myself having great difficulty focusing on what I was writing and staying on topic. So “Ancient Songs of the Tao” has been ordered and I’ve committed to studying some basic Tai Chi and Chi Gung moves with the hubby. Hopefully the two will help keep me sane over the next six months as I marshal my learning abilities and keep my eyes on the prize!