It Won’t Break When It Falls

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson

I bet this passage will resonate with you differently depending on where you are in life. For some of my clients, the conversation revolves around that seemingly always-out-of-reach work/life balance. For others, the conversation revolves around which of those five balls is rubber and which is glass.

But it always culminates in the same type of questions:

  • How can I keep my job / my career but still maintain good, strong relationships with my family?
  • How can I possibly spend any time of the day working out to be healthy when I already feel like I have to pick work or my kids?
  • How can I maintain any semblance of friendship with others outside of the house when there’s already such limited time for me and my spouse / partner to just be together?

There’s an underlying theme here, one that hit me square in the eyes as I was reading The One Thing by Gary Keller: balance is really a question of priority.

Think about everything you have going on in your life. Your kids, your partner/spouse, your friends, your job. Now think about where they rank as a priority for you. Don’t let yourself be confused about necessity or desire. Challenge yourself to really see the priorities.

  • Is it a priority for you to be present with your kids all day, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to advance in your career, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to work out during the day, or a desire?

Define priority. Define desire. Understand the difference between the two.

These are your definitions; no one can tell you what is right or wrong for you. You get to decide.

So here’s the biggest challenge: don’t judge it when you see it. You know what a priority looks like, so start your day by prioritizing the big stuff. What needs to get done today for work? At home? With family?

This will not only help you set stronger and more powerful intentions for your day, but it will also help stay sane, calm and more balanced in a period of great uncertainty and change. It will give you more control over things that may have seemed to be out of or not within your control.

Be honest with yourself. If you drop one of those five balls, what will bounce back and what will break or change in a way that can never be replaced?

Take Action
Learning how to prioritize work activities, family activities and personal activities is not the hard part. The hard part is learning how not to judge what you decide is a priority for you. Commit to your priorities. You’ll find that what you decide is a priority for you may be the glass ball, after all.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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Don’t Create Unnecessary Limits

What would you accomplish if you weren’t afraid? If you didn’t have doubts? If you didn’t limit yourself to time or other resources?

What if you allowed yourself to think big?

I think most people hear “think big” and “don’t limit yourself” and immediately say “it’s just not realistic because [fill in the excuse].”

Excuses like: I don’t have the time. I’m not financially prepared to try that. I have too much going on already.

And I admit I find myself in that mindset quite a bit, especially now when I’m home with EVERYONE, and the time I have for big thinking is after everyone has gone to bed… and I’m barely able to keep my eyes open.

So, rather than dwell on all the things I could do “if only I had the time,” I started thinking about why I feel that way. And I started by thinking of the people who have had a direct impact on the way life is today, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos (to name a few).

These people didn’t do their best thinking when everything was quiet and perfect. Instead, they showed up creative, dreaming and inventing in the everyday moments of life. What they each created wasn’t always seen as a project, but more as a way of being.

So, do you impose unnecessary limits on your thinking, dreaming and inventing? Do you think that having the job or the life of your dreams is for others and not you? Maybe all you need is a reset. Here is my guidance:

  1. Set your goal. Picture what you want. It could be work related, could be family related, could be something else entirely, like losing weight or committing to reading more. Identify it (and be specific). Write it down. Allow yourself to think big. You’ve just allowed yourself to visualize your goal. Now you know where you’re going.
  2. Figure out where you are today. With greater clarity about where you are headed, refocus on your starting point. Be honest about where you are. Assess what’s working or not working in this moment. If it is working, do more of it. If it is not working, figure out why and make an intentional effort to change it (it could be the reason why where you are is not where you want to be). That’s okay. Now you know. This will help you decide on the options to move forward.
  3. Stop judging. Now that you see both edges – where you are and where you want to be – the gap between the two becomes clear. Maybe this makes you feel a little anxious. Maybe you’re running through a bunch of reasons why what you want could never happen for you. Maybe you have doubts about your abilities and think the goal is unrealistic, especially in the timeframe you identified. STOP. Stop right there. The purpose of setting a goal and getting clear about where you are right now is to see what is true in this moment. Don’t waste your energy on judging the situation. Instead, use your energy to come up with ideas to get closer to your goal.
  4. Stop comparing. This is your goal, specific to your wants and needs and your life. No one else has exactly the same goal. No one else encounters the same obstacles and challenges you will. No one has the same talents and strengths you do to get you to your goal. Don’t distract yourself by thinking about what success looks like for others. Stay focused on what success looks like for you.
  5. Make a plan. This is the hardest part because we are creatures of instant gratification. We can easily get distracted and frustrated as we work toward a goal when we don’t see progress immediately. So create a plan to reach your goal with mini-goals built in. Start small. One or two things. Then notice your progress and reach for more. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you will not achieve your goals in a day. But you can make remarkable progress little by little.
  6. Find an accountability partner. The best way to stick to your plan to achieve your goal is to ensure you’re holding yourself accountable to it. Sometimes, having someone else help you stay accountable can be helpful, especially when you have a human moment and feel too tired, too frustrated or too distracted to stay focused. Choose wisely.

Oftentimes, we are the greatest limits in our own success. Sure, sometimes there are finite resources, like the number of hours in a day or financial assistance, but that should not prohibit you from thinking, imagining, dreaming and inventing big. Instead of seeing the resources as obstacles, consider how they can become part of your plan to reach your goal. You may need to think a little differently to approach the goal (or mini-goals) to overcome the challenge of limited resources, but when you don’t allow the doubts to creep in, when you hold yourself accountable to the end result, you’ll see a significant change in how you think.

Take Action
Identifying a goal and sticking to it is hard. Just think of all those New Year’s Resolutions that rarely make it past February 1. The first step is to work on getting rid of your limited thinking. Dream big and start small to make it happen. Get clear. Get help. Stay on task.

As you practice this and start to expand your thinking, notice how you feel about each new challenge or opportunity that presents itself. Adjusting your mindset to avoid allowing doubts, fears and uncertainty take over your thoughts opens the door to an entirely new way of being.

Watch how it changes your work output, your relationships and your overall mental well-being.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s how you move past it.

So set your goal and have the courage to go get it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

For a number of years, many employees have requested to work remotely and just as many organizations were insistent on keeping their employees in the workplace. Then COVID-19 sent much of the workforce home to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Those who were reluctant to have their employees work remotely were forced to implement stay-at-home policies, which were put together hastily and some were done without much strategy or support. And employees who wanted to work at home had the chance to try it out.

Now that we have had some time with this, the discussion of how to keep your business productive is shifting to focus on where employees do the work: do we bring employees back to the conventional workspace or do they stay remote?

Remote or not remote? That is the question.

After 3 months working from home, many employers are likely hearing an increasing amount of feedback from their employees. Some employees had a taste of working at home and are ready to come back. Others finally got their wish to work remotely and now don’t want to come back.

With all this chatter, how do you start to consider how to move forward?

First, answer these three questions to give yourself a clear understanding of what makes sense for you.

#1 What does your organization provide and how should work be done to provide it well?
You may have interest – and even pressure – from your employees to return or restructure what they want in their new normal workplace. But their options can be addressed only after you reassess how COVID-19 has changed your organization. Consider the products or services you offer. What is required from your employees to ensure the customer deliverable is done in a way that supports your commitment to the customer experience? Once you define or redefine WHAT you do, you can start to discuss the options of HOW to do it – remote, full workplace or some variation of the two.

Once you clarify the work that needs to be done and how it will best be done, move on to the next question.

#2 Can your employees be successful working remotely?
This requires assessment in 2 areas: abilities and space. Do your employees have the behaviors, skills and experience (abilities) to achieve the expectations of the role? And, do they have the ability to work independently, are self-disciplined and are organized to work without supervision? If you are confident that the employee in question can do the job well from home, ask yourself if the employee’s remote space can support the successful completion of the tasks of the role. Allowing someone to work at home doesn’t ensure they have the privacy, quiet, connection, space or even work surfaces to do the job well. Remember, there are some expectations that must be met in order to deliver an exceptional experience to customers or colleagues, regardless of whether that’s in a remote location or within the physical workplace. You may find that remote may not mean working at home, nor in the workplace, but rather some other place. Consider what some of those workplaces could look like and who on your team, if anyone, may need this as their work environment.

#3 Can your organization support and engage a remote workforce, capable of delivering world class service?
However you define how work will be done, assess how you will be able to engage them to be able to drive productivity, performance and retention. Workplace culture has always been an important part of the employee experience. Employees want and need to feel part of the organization, valued, supported and cared for. It will be important to (re)define what will engage and inspire your workforce and to determine how to consistently deliver it. If you are unable to do this, the result will be seen and felt in not only performance, but also increased turnover. Assessing how you will engage your workforce is a critical consideration in developing your future workforce. 

There is pressure to be remote. There is also pressure to return to the more conventional workplace. Invent scenarios to explore how you will have an engaged workforce that consistently and successfully delivers a remarkable customer experience, grows the business and achieves your goals.

Take Action
Your options or scenarios should be based on achieving your goals, not on the wishes of your workforce. This doesn’t mean ignore them, however. Solicit their thoughts and perspectives, then ensure that the creation of the new normal for your organization makes sense for who you are and what you do. Then, share with your employees how work will be for them and develop a plan to help them return that new normal.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Go Back to Normal. Instead, Focus on Becoming Better.

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4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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How to Help Your Kids Decide What to do After High School

Asking a 16, 17 or 18-year old about what they want to do for the rest of their lives can be daunting, especially now. Our world is unpredictable and, lately, pretty volatile. It’s hard to plan for something next week, never mind next year.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking our high school students – and even our college students – about what comes next. It all just depends on how you’re asking the questions.

Consider these four tips to learn how to ask productive questions of your high school student(s) to encourage self-discovery and a greater conversation about what comes after high school.

First, ask questions that help them focus on what they are good at and what they like. Questions like “What do you want to do with your life” are unproductive. These are too large and focus more on the end. Most people, regardless of their age or where they are in life, would probably answer “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” because this type of question can feel overwhelming. More productive questions include:

  • What is something you really love to do?
  • When you are the happiest, what are you doing that makes you feel so happy?
  • Tell me about something you’re really good at, something that comes naturally to you.

All of these questions set up the conversation to explore what they could do with their lives, but it starts by putting them in a comfort zone: asking them questions they know the answers to.

Second, build on that self-awareness by digging deeper. Ask for examples of when they feel successful. Ask about what impact or contribution they want to make. Ask about what gets their attention for careers and why. Ask about the things that matter to them and what careers could lend themselves to making the things that matter the priority. Encourage them to dig deeper into who they are, what matters to them and how they could see themselves. Despite being the parents or caregivers, you may find yourself discovering new things about your kids that you may have overlooked in the busy day-to-day of life.

Third, be prepared to explore a variety of options. This is the time of explorations, not solutions (those will come). Many teens have limited views of what is possible because what they think is often based on what their friends or family say. Help them see greater options to expand what they consider. Having a greater number of options can improve the selection of one that is truly meaningful. Options could include trade school, a 2-year institution a 4-year institution, a gap year, or going right to work. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so be flexible and encourage your kid to find the right fit for them, based on where their natural talents and passions lay.

And finally, be supportive. Regardless of what your kid(s) may want to further explore or what talent they want to expand on, it is their life they are building, not yours. Remember that your role as the parent and caregiver is to guide from the side, not be the sage on the stage. Guide and support, don’t direct and tell. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you’ll find you are much more comfortable gently nudging your kids back onto their path as opposed to paving the way for them.

The conversation about what comes after high school (or college) shouldn’t be about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The conversation should focus on what you know of yourself and how that self fits in to today’s world. This takes guidance, patience and regular conversations to create greater self-awareness and self-discovery, two pieces of getting to know and understand the real you. Once you have this insight into yourself, when you learn how to tune out the world and all its demands, you will feel empowered to make better and more intentional decisions that fit you.

After all, like Buckminster Fuller once said, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know how to do that won’t get done if I don’t do it?”

Take Action
Start today. Pay attention to how you are helping your high school or college students prepare to make good life choices. Ask a lot of questions. Be available to discuss their responses. Be open and remind yourself that they are living their lives, not yours. Help them discover who they are so they can live it wisely and intentionally.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

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How to Balance Working from Home with Kids

Everyone is feeling the strain right now. The truth is that we’ve all been feeling it for months: the need to get your work done when you’re working from home when your kids are also home.

Regardless of how old they are, kids need guidance. Babies need your attention for just about everything. Toddlers can’t be left to their own devices for long. Tweens and teens need encouragement and support, especially as they work through remote learning. And adult children are likely look for emotional support and guidance, especially as they try to work through what all of this means for them and their independence, their friends and their family.

Trying to balance getting your work done while meeting the needs of your children is exhausting. We’re trying so hard to make it all work, trying to do it all. And though we don’t want to admit it, here’s the truth: a balanced life is not real. Time spent on one thing means time spent away from another.

So how do you successfully balance working from home when you have kids?

Consider these four tips:

First, identify your one big thing for work and home life that you want to achieve each day. Regardless of how many action items you have outstanding on your to do list, pick just one thing for work and one thing at home that, once done, will make you feel like it was a good, productive day.

Second, create a routine. This is as much for you as it is for them. Get used to starting your day the same way. Identify your work time. Identify school time. Identify free play time. Consider starting your day with a family meeting, maybe even over breakfast. Talk to each other about the day ahead. Communicate big events (like important work calls) or deadlines. Share frustrations and concerns. Make it a daily event and it will start to come easy.

Third, establish boundaries. When you’re working, it’s work time. No interruptions (except in extreme situations, and be sure to define what those are). When it’s school time, everyone is engaged. No excuses. Clearly define what “free play time” means and, if needed, put limits on screen time. I have found that having a brief family meeting each morning is a good way to reconfirm and remind everyone in the house about the boundaries, including a consequence for not supporting them. This is, after all, critical to making things work at this particular moment.

And finally, create a mental well-being space. Give a name like, Me time. Down time. Relaxing time. Whatever you choose to call it, make sure you build it into your day. You cannot pour from an empty cup (and I think most parents right now would say they operate on about 50% battery power on a good day).

These four tips – identify your one big thing for the day, create a routine, establish boundaries and create some mental well-being space – are how to get your arms around this working from home thing.

Whether this is temporary or permanent for you, it will require your thought, focus and intention to build and sustain something that works. Defining it and bringing everyone into knowing the approach will help ensure its success.

Take Action
Being told that the way to be effective working from home means doing more work can sound like a lot, but take it one step at a time. Start with the one thing from tip #1. What would a productive and successful day look like for you? Set your intention for the day, for both work and at home. Focus on getting those two things done and you’ll feel empowered to try the next tip.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

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Identifying Your End Goal Can Make it Happen

I was reading Corduroy with my kids the other day and I was impressed with the underlying message: identify your end goal or you won’t know how to get there.

For those of you who don’t know the story (or who haven’t read it in years, like me), it’s about a little bear in a toy store who is missing a button on his overalls and, as a result, no one wants to buy him. The story is about his adventure to find his button, which he does not find. Disappointed, he finds himself back on the toy store shelf only to be purchased by a little girl who always wanted a bear like him – just has he was. The book ends with her sewing on a new button for him, explaining that even though she likes him just the way he is, the button on his overalls will be more comfortable.

Big lessons here.

First, you are perfect the way you are. Each of us come packaged with a unique assortment of abilities. When we take the time to get to know and value these, we can better use them to make our difference in the world. I love this quote from Buckminster Fuller, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” The world needs us to be our exact selves and bring those selves to the world to make it better.

Second, the people who love and respect you for who you are will support you and value what is unique and amazing about you. They don’t require you to be fixed, improved or be different than you are. They won’t bring you down or make you feel less valuable because of a trait you lack or something you have too much of.

And third, decide what you want and go get it.  Corduroy tells himself, “I think I want this” throughout the book, uncertain about what looks or feels right to him. We can get continually distracted by what others tell us we want or need for ourselves. But in the end, like in Corduroy, we have to decide what is right for us and then go get it. Commit to getting to know yourself – who you are, what abilities you have and where in your world can you use them or be your true self – so you start to define what you want. You can’t know which way is forward until you’ve defined the end goal you’re working toward.

Take Action
People set goals all the time. You have an idea of something you want to have happen and you set out to make it reality. But what if that goal isn’t your goal? What if it’s an idea or goal for someone else? Learn to listen to your inner, wiser voice when it comes to you. You know you best. What really matters to you? What will connect you to your greatest abilities and potential? What will make you happy? It all starts with you – and your ability and commitment to knowing yourself.

And once you understand who you are in all your unique greatness, surround yourself with people who appreciate and respect you for who you are, not those who want or expect you to change for them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Give Me Clarity and Courage

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Don’t Go Back to Normal. Instead, Focus on Becoming Better

At this moment, so many people say they just want what they had – to get back to their “normal.”

I get it. We are creatures of habit. We like the normal, the routine, the comfortable.

But when we truly stop and notice, I think many people will realize they were not living healthy, being kind, respecting the planet or bringing their A-game to work. We were caught up in doing the same old, same old. We were getting by. We were in habit mode, just moving through life on autopilot.

But COVID-19 changed it all. The pandemic became our stop and notice moment; it forced us to reflect on how things were and challenged us to do things we never thought we could (or would have to). For example, you never thought you’d teach your kids at home and now you do. You never thought you could work remotely and now you do. You never thought you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, anytime and now you can’t. You never thought you would be able to be at home for a week without going out, and you did.

So much has changed.

So why rush back to your old ways when you see you are capable of new – and better?

I’ve shared the rule my father had for my 5 siblings and me when we were younger, and it applies here: constantly ask yourself as you are faced with the things going on in your moment, “What could I do to make this better?”

COVID-19 gave us an amazing opportunity to reset, to step to the side, view our work and lives and give us time to decide what to do next.

You can be upset at this interruption and the changes in your life, or you can refocus your energy and use this unique moment to take inventory of what worked and didn’t work in your old version of normal. Then, with greater clarity, commit to creating a new “normal” that builds on what worked before and eliminates or moves past the things that did not work.

Focus on making things better. Better relationships. Better work. Better at home. Better health. Better finances. Better hobbies. Better planet. Better neighbor. Better habits.

The thing I have learned most about COVID-19 is that we are stronger and more capable of handling change than we think. When push comes to shove, we can do it. When no pushing and no shoving occurs, we don’t do it. Spend a moment with that. Why is it we respond only when we are backed into a corner?

We have had a tough moment. And it won’t be our last one. But no moment in time is ever wasted. Each moment has a lesson for us if we choose to see it and use it.

Don’t waste this one.

Take Action
Don’t be in a rush to return to normal. “Normal” may have had a lot of things you didn’t like about your work and life.

Don’t be in a rush to get back to comfortable. Comfortable didn’t help you build and achieve goals.

Don’t go back. Go forward. Commit to reinventing a better normal, one that uses your abilities more, treats others more kindly, respects the planet like the sacred place it is, shares more generously, responds more quickly and acts more intentionally.

Don’t let people push you back into normal. Hold out for better. Push for better. Insist on better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Move Forward When You Don’t Know Where you are Going

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Triggers, Meltdowns and Outbursts, Oh, My!

Weeks of isolation and quarantine. Frustration with waiting in line to shop with a very limited selection available. The inability to see, spend time with or even hold the people who matter to us. Worry about our health and the health of our kids and parents.

Yup, we’re all pretty frazzled.

And that’s our starting point as we re-engage with society. A few months ago, we were comfortable being out and around people. We expected crowds in certain places at certain times. We anticipated grumpy people or rude people or nice people. And we rolled with it.

But now, as we start re-engaging with society, we’ll be operating in a new normal, a world where we’re realizing just how many people are strikingly self-unmanaged. And everyone seems to have a shorter fuse.

The frustration with someone who cuts in line seems to be turning into brawls. The request to wear masks when shopping seems to be an offensive ask that is a deliberate attempt to take away the freedoms we have as Americans. A rude person is shot at.

We’re seeing this across the news and some states haven’t even fully re-opened yet. Unchecked rage. Uncontrolled behavior. Less patience. Less tolerance. Less understanding.

It’s the complete opposite of the heartfelt posts shared across social media just a month ago as the thought of being out in public again was but a hopeful wish.

And it’s happening because people are self-unmanaged. To be self-managed means to be aware of yourself (your emotions, feelings and abilities) and to manage each of your attributes so you can be successful, respectful and effective when dealing with others. When you are not self-managed, you aren’t able to control yourself when you become irritated, aggravated or frustrated. It’s not pretty to see someone – especially yourself – having a meltdown because you were triggered by something someone else is doing.

Think about a time when someone did something or something didn’t go your way and you reacted. As a mindfulness coach, I always remind my clients that in any moment, it is your choice how to be in your moments – pleasant ones or difficult ones. You choose to think and respond or react. The situation doesn’t make you do it. You do it. The situation may be challenging but that is why it is called self-management: manage yourself no matter what the situation.

Where we are today requires us to be more self-managed than ever before. We exist with others and, therefore, things will happen that are beyond your control. Some of those things may even frustrate you or trigger you. But you must stay in control so the situation doesn’t escalate and you don’t let your day be ruined.

Without being self-managed, every disappointment or challenge will get you. You’ll always be ready to explode.   

So how can you become self-managed? By better understanding your triggers. When you know what sets you off, you can start to notice when a situation is triggering you. And when you’re aware of this, you have the ability to take control of your feelings and ensure a more productive outcome for the situation. Take a breath. Remove yourself from the situation. Focus on something else that is more valuable to you.

Be self-managed.

Take Action
Start by coming up with a list of the two or three things that are your primary triggers. An easy way to identify them is to complete this statement: “I hate when people _________ ” or “I hate when [fill in the blank] happens.”

Know your triggers, then think of a few things you can do to calm yourself when you feel yourself being triggered. This could be breathing, forcing yourself to smile, changing your self-talk to something positive, refocusing on something you like, or changing where you are. Those are just a few ideas.

You will have to pay attention on purpose, catch yourself when you feel yourself being triggered or starting to meltdown, and use whatever approach you’ve identified as a way to stay calm.

Today, everyone needs to be more self-managed than ever before. What will this look like for you?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: Tangled

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Tangled. This is one of my favorite Disney movies. I love this version of the Rapunzel tale (I grew up watching a VERY bizarre version of the story). The music combined with the great characters and the comic relief make for a very entertaining movie.

But just like every other movie I’ve been watching with my boys, there are big life lessons the movie can share with us.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The good guys can sometimes do bad things. – Flynn Rider is introduced at the start of the movie as the charismatic and funny one of three thieves who steals the missing princess’ crown.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, good guys do bad things. It doesn’t make them a bad guy, per se. It just might mean they veered off the path they were supposed to follow in life; they might be a little lost.

The Communication: This was a surprisingly important and really big discussion point for my boys who are big on superheroes fighting the bad guys. To them, the world is still just black and white. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Good always triumphs over evil. There’s no gray area to them yet, no extenuating circumstances that make explaining why something happened the way it did a bit easier to comprehend.

So, when I explained that Flynn Rider is actually a good guy who does bad things? Mind. Blown. We talked about how there are levels of “bad things.” Something like hitting or punching your brother is a “bad thing,” but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Something like stealing is a bad thing, and it can, perhaps incorrectly, label you as a bad person.

This also opens up the conversation to talk about how you perceive yourself and others. The labels you assign to yourself and to others carry a lot of weight, whether intended or not. So how do you identify yourself? And how does the world see you? The reality is often somewhere in the middle. (This can absolutely lead to an even larger discussion about what labels do to us and to others.)

Lesson 2: Always be kind. – Despite everything, Rapunzel is always kind and honest and generous to whomever she meets. In her first adventure outside the tower, she is brought to a tavern where all the “bad guys” are hanging out and in a twist Flynn never expected, she engages them all in a song where they each share their hidden dreams and wishes.  

The Takeaway: Being kind goes a long way. Not only does it invite kindness toward you (hello, karma), but it can also create amazing friendships. An added bonus? You often feel really good after you’ve been kind to others.

The Communication: The world can be a hard and challenging place, and some people might not know how to deal with the difficulties life shares. It’s a known fact and for that reason, there have been a number of efforts to encourage the world to be kind. Things like #bekind and #passiton and #givingTuesday are all intentional events that encourage people to think of others first.

So, think about what you could do today to be kind to your family, your friends, your neighbors, a stranger. How could you improve on something today to make the sun shine a little brighter for them so they feel recognized, valued and appreciated?

Lesson 3: Be strong enough to stand up for what is right. – In one of the final scenes of the movie, Rapunzel stands up to the witch, telling her that she will no longer bend to her wishes.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, standing up to what you believe in is hard, takes courage and may go against popular opinion. But, it’s important to identify your core values and beliefs to be able to stay true to them in a world that will frequently challenge them.

The Communication: It will always be difficult to be the one who stands out from the crowd, especially when it’s against popular opinion. But this is why it’s so important to know and be committed to your values and beliefs and to identify your guardrails. Your guardrails keep you moving on your road in a way that fits and matters to you. They also help you notice when you are being swayed to do something you’re not comfortable with or be someone you’re not. Talk about your guardrails and help others identify theirs. Life is so much easier to navigate when you know what your road looks like.

Take Action
I love Tangled. It’s a fun, entertaining movie and the music is terrific. But the life lessons it inconspicuously shares are powerful. At the end of the day, being true to who you are is ultimately what helps you identify, and consistently and wisely move forward in, the direction of your life. And the ability to be kind, regardless of what life shares with you, will always benefit both you and others, and will take you far.

How are you staying true to yourself and remembering to be kind with your family, friends and others in good times? In challenging times? In the time of COVID-19 quarantine?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

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