The Rush of it All

The alarm goes off at 5 a.m.
It’s time to get up to exercise.
It may just seem trivial to some
That I try manage these wide family thighs.

Then off to the shower to get ready for the day
Before the kids start to yell for me,
I’ll be lucky if I’m dressed with my hair all brushed
Before the first one barges in to go pee.

Ok, where are your clothes? It’s time to get dressed!
It’s like a new game every day.
They travel to each other’s rooms
Leaving toys in their wake as they play.

Into the kitchen for some breakfast
Quick! Before the hangry sets in.
Bickering over what to eat and who eats first
As I sidestep toys ejected from the toy bin

Then it’s off to the races! We’re late again.
How did it take so long to put on your shoes?
The car, at least, is warm this very cold morning
Oh great, the baby just went poo.

Back into the house for a quick diaper change
The other two yell “it’s time to go, hurry up!”
Oh dear, they’re sounding more like me every day
And in the exit rush I forget my fragrant coffee cup.

The ride to school is uneventful
Not usually the norm.
Then we get there and, oh geez, what did you forget?
I swear, one day, they will take this world by storm.

Then a shift of the mindset
As I set off on my way to work,
But incessant reminders of what to do at home
In my mind it all lurks.

And just like that, it’s time to go home
The day goes by in a flash.
The to do list for work is somehow longer now
Things in work and in life do nothing but clash.

A review of the day with each of the kids
And a snack, or two or three
Then I make a healthy dinner
That, realistically, the only one who will eat is me.

A quick clean up as I clear the table
And the kids all set off to play.
I cringe as I hear the sound of things crashing
Knowing I’ll find toys left where they lay.

We clean the playroom together
Then it’s time for tubbies, our prayers and books.
They ask for one more story
And exchange mischievous looks.

I see through their ploy, I know this game!
I was a kid once, too.
I kiss each of them on their heads
And tell them “I love you.”

I close the door behind me,
Running through what still needs to get done.
Then I power through the must-dos
So I can try to get in a late run.

Ok, the run won’t happen,
I have to get back to work.
I open the laptop and find 25 new emails!?
“Pretend you don’t see them,” I think with a smirk.

But the responsible side of me wins out
Just like it always seems to do.
Then work is all done and I’m finally in bed,
When a little voice yells, “Mommy, I need you!”

I shuffle to his room to see what I can do
To help him get back to sleep.
And though I’m exhausted and can barely think,
Him snuggled up against me is a treasure I will always keep.

As I lay there,  a list of things to do swirl in my mind
And some, I know, just can’t wait.
So at 2:30 a.m., I head downstairs
To throw in some cookies to bake.

Might as well get some laundry done, too
I think to myself as I wait.
Oh my God, did I just make cookies?
I think I promised them cupcakes!

Tasks are done, I’ve read for a bit.
Now I head back upstairs to bed.
My alarm starts to ding, it’s 5 a.m. already?
I sigh, “Let’s go,” I say to myself in my head.

Though busy and sometimes crazy
At this moment, this is just the way.
There is always so much to do
But I wouldn’t change a single moment from any of our days.

So the lesson for you is that in the rush of all,
Don’t forget to stop and notice the little things that make up your day.
The kids who lovingly call you Mom,
And the way they still ask you to come play.

The chores will always be there,
The laundry, the dishes and the toys to be picked up.
But you can get caught up in the rush of it all
If you don’t remember to look up.

 

How Do You Love Your Employees When They Are Unloveable?

Employees are distracted, not bringing their best to their day. They’re flippant and aggravating, and management is meeting them at this level. It has created an intolerable workplace.

Sound familiar?

So how do you love your employees when they’re unloveable (and that’s the way a lot of employees are acting at this moment)?

VIDEO: How to Love the Unloveable Employee

In line with our theme Lead with Love this month, our CEO and Certified Business and Executive Coach Jay Forte shares his thoughts in a short video on what you can do — as managers and leaders — to guide the unloveable employee back into being loveable through a culture that supports them and holds them accountable.

Watch the video.

 

Consider reading Staying Optimistic and Hopeful in Down Times

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Be the Problem-Finder

“Don’t go looking for problems that don’t exist.”

“Don’t make a mountain out of mole hill.”

How many times have we been told in our lives to not make an issue bigger than it needs to be? And sure, this is great when you’re working through a challenge, you’re stuck in a rut or you’re just working through big emotions. The reminder that a specific event doesn’t need to be your mountain to climb can help you get through it.

But consider this: the problem-finders are often the greatest innovators in the world.

I read an article recently that highlighted that the combination of technology, innovators and the coronavirus has created a seismic shift in the way we work, learn and live. We were challenged to finding ways to work from home, to learn from home and to navigate challenges of life all at the same time.

And we found a way.

This is because, at our core, we can all be problem solvers.

The people, however, who take this to the next level, who seek out the problems waiting to happen, are the innovators.

So let’s imagine that instead of telling our children to stop looking for problems, to stop asking questions or to stop looking for trouble, what if we let them do it? What if we encouraged our kids to not only call out a problem, but learn to be accountable to at least start to solve it? Stop and notice what is going on in your world, consider what could improve it, then act to make it better.

I bet we’d inspire a new generation of problem-finders and problem solvers – some call these entrepreneurs – ready to create a product or service for something we never knew we needed but now can’t live without.

What if we encouraged our kids to find that mountain to climb and challenged them to keep asking questions?

Imagine what a world this could be.

Take Action
The next time you find yourself helping your kid(s) find a solution to a problem, ask yourself why. Are you doing it because they are struggling? Or is it because they’re taking too long?

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably find the answer is that they are taking too long. Give them space and time to seek out their own answers and they’ll most likely surprise you with what they come up with. It helps them develop their self-belief, a skill that will serve them well throughout life.

Try doing this for yourself, too. Don’t get frustrated when you can’t figure something out. Try various mindful practices. Go for a walk. Journal. Shift your brain entirely. When you aren’t forcing a solution to show up in a specific amount of time, you just might find the game changer.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Solve Any Challenge You Face (Really!)

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Three Things COVID Taught Me About What Really Matters

Catastrophes can be epic teachers, and a crisis can be a great job interview. They test us in ways to make us really tap into our greatest strengths and show up in ways that may even surprise us. We also see who rallies and who checks out.

These tough times have a lot to share with us if we are willing to tune in, pay attention and learn.

Though there are so many negatives connected to COVID, I believe that in every event, there is always something to learn, appreciate and connect with.

Here are the three most important things COVID has taught me about what really matters in work and life.

1. People matter most so always lead with love. Life is fragile. The people that aggravated you yesterday by eating your lunch from the office fridge, or took credit for a project or even forgot to say good morning as they walked by may become a statistic of this moment. The challenge of this moment reminds us to lead with love in our communication, kindness in our actions and care in our thoughts.

In this context, love isn’t romantic. It is a deep caring. It is intentional interest. It is profound concern. It is great joy. We are social beings and want and need people in our lives. In the tough moments, focus more on who they could be than who they are. Everyone is struggling in some way, so what others may deliver to you might be because of a stressed moment. It may be more the moment speaking than the person. Remember this.

2. Each of us has amazing gifts that will help us in this exact moment. When confronted with a challenge, we need to learn how to see it as our MacGyver moment – our moment to use everything we know and have to make something important happen. It might be the humor that someone on your team has that keeps everyone’s moods up to help them all through the workday. It might be the gift of staying calm that is shared with others to help them learn how to manage their anxiety. It might be the ability to ask great questions and listen generously to help others feel heard and supported as they struggle with the anxiety and fears of the moment. It may be the detail-focused person who knows every detail about staying safe in COVID and has ensured your workplace is the best it can be.

We each have our things that we are masters at. Tough times help us notice and use these to benefit ourselves and others.

3. Life makes no promises; it just provides opportunities. Not only is life short, but it has few, if any, guarantees. It doesn’t promise that good things happen to good people. It doesn’t promise to be fair or that you should be happy every day. It delivers what it delivers. Each moment of each day is an opportunity to use what comes our way to make something good.

I am reminded of what my dad required of my five siblings and me. He shared that it was our job to pay attention in life – not to judge it – but to see it for whatever it was. Then, we were to ask ourselves what could we do to make this better?, then act on it. It was our obligation to stop and notice ourselves and our world and see the opportunities in each. Where could I be better? What could I help with to make something in my world better? Start to list the opportunities that are present in your days. It will help you see the world through an opportunity focus and, as a result, tough times will deliver something valuable.

Take Action
COVID, like everything, is a teacher. But for the lessons to take hold, we have to be willing learners. Learning requires an attitude and openness to see what is possible. It takes effort to change our perspective about negative or challenging events to seeing something good in them. When we do, we find that every event in life has something important to share – a success to celebrate or a lesson to learn. The way to be part of it is to fully engage with it – not just the good times, but all of the times. So instead of the expression Live, Love, Learn, maybe a better way to share it is Learn so you can Love so you can Live.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Recap: Five Rules for A Really Great Life in 2020

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How You Act Won’t Influence How I Show Up

If you watch the Bravo Channel, you regularly see deckhands, housewives and roommates in full react mode, screaming and yelling because of something someone said or did.

And we see this daily in real-life: in a store when someone refuses to wear their mask, on a highway when someone cuts another person off, a comment on social media. Kaboom. An explosion of self-unregulated ire. Tit for tat. Retaliation. All-out war.

We have all become so accustomed to being activated by the actions of others that we don’t even realize when someone affects us in an unproductive way.

The real question is why? Why do we let others yang us here and there, activate us to lose our cool so we act in ways we say are against our values, and do and say things we regret?

This past year was so full of challenges that it’s little wonder we are all super stressed. And because of that constant stress, it really doesn’t take much to flip the switch and set us off. Our quick triggers, coupled with an increased social acceptance of bad behaviors, has led to little or no self-regulation, even among those who should be setting a better example (like politicians, celebrities and even our mentors, neighbors, family members and friends).

To combat this growing tit for tat mindset, I have committed to this phrase: How you act won’t influence how I show up.

Let me show you a couple of real-world examples of what this looks like.

Example 1: On the evening news the other night was a story about a couple who lost their cool. They were driving back into their gated community in a prestigious town in South Florida. They didn’t have their access card so the guard at the gatehouse, not knowing them, asked for their licenses. As he did his required background checks, this couple became irate at the inconvenience, got out of their car and screamed at the guard. Unaffected and continuing his background process, the husband hit the guard, causing the guard to hit his head on the glass of the guard booth. The guard maintained his cool, finished the background check and gave them access. The husband was charged with assault. The guard was applauded for his self-control.

Example 2: Early in my career, I worked for a super tense manager. Things had to be exactly as he wanted or he would meltdown, scream, bully and swear. This was a daily event, and it was frequently over the smallest things. It was quite normal to hear raging arguments as members of the team fought back, egged on by his horrid behavior. Nothing seemed to ever please this manager. One by one, everyone quit because dealing with him was not worth the effort, me included. It was in this moment that I promised myself I would never let the antics or negative behaviors of another influence who I am or how I show up. That was, and would always be, my choice.

Self-control. Self-regulation. The ability not to be set into unproductive motion every time something happens or someone says something you don’t like. To respond starts with each of us. We each must make a commitment to be in charge of – and in control of – how we show up to each of the events of life.

Take Action
So how do you develop and maintain this self-regulation? By developing a mindful practice. It could include a variety of things that help you get re-centered, like journaling, breathing and meditation. Each of these can prepare you to move through tough situations with tough people calmly and gracefully.

Stop and notice the people in your life. Who activates you to react? Why? What would it take for you to remember that who you are and how you show up is always your choice?

No one makes you be or act in any particular way. You choose it. Sure, there are people who can push your buttons, if you let them. There are people who can get you to descend into petty behaviors, if you let them. There are people who can get you to do horrible things, like post insults on social media, if you let them. Or you can decide who you are and who you will be in every moment, of every day, regardless of what others do.

Clearly define who you are and who you will be in your encounters with others. Notice that when you choose to be the one who stays calm and responds with grace, you don’t get pulled into the drama and self-unregulated actions of others. Your decisions are wiser. Your life is happier.

You are your life’s owner.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Confidence in a COVID World

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3 Things COVID Taught Me About How I Parent

I’m going to be the first to raise my hand and say I’m only human (shh… don’t tell anyone). I get angry. I get frustrated. I lose my cool. I make mistakes. Sometimes, I dwell on these moments longer than I should (see the Energy Funnel). Sometimes, I see the lesson quickly and change gears to adjust my behaviors.

Living in this pandemic world over the past year has brought a lot of my human behaviors to the forefront, and I’m not always impressed with myself.

But I’m choosing not to judge this observation. In fact, I’ve used this as a great learning experience to be a better parent, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend, a better coach… overall, a better person.

Though each area of my life has improved in some way, I want to share the 3 things COVID taught me about how I parent (and what I can do better), specifically because I believe that, as a parent, guiding our kids to be confident in this crazy world is one of the most important jobs we have.

Equipping our kids with the ability to give themselves some grace when they’re feeling particularly human and empowering them to move forward in a thoughtful and intentional way starts with us. We’re their role models. We are their guides. If we expect a certain behavior from them, shouldn’t we practice it ourselves?

Here are the 3 things I learned about myself as a parent and how I made necessary adjustments to be better.

1. Commit to being a human.
For some reason, I always believed that a parent should never show a sign of weakness or admit to making mistakes because you were just… above that. I know, it sounds silly. But when you’re a kid, you look to your parents as the ones with the answers, the ones who make the hurt go away, the ones who know you better than you know yourself. Parents are superheroes. So when I feel particularly human, I find it very hard and frustrating to try to balance the human side with the “super” parent side. And it can be exhausting.

So I made a change. I talked to my kids. I explained why I was upset, or sad, or angry. And you know what? It made a huge difference. They understood why certain behaviors made me angry or frustrated; there was no guessing or tiptoeing around Angry Mommy. They understood why I was crying or sad (we said goodbye to our cat who needed a new home; there were lots of questions about tears that day…) and they weren’t afraid to talk to me about it. I gave myself grace to be a human and the confidence to be honest with myself and my kids about what I was feeling and why, a lesson I hope I’m teaching my three little boys so they confidently show up as themselves as they grow up. It reminded me of the great wisdom shared by Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

2. Commit to always make things better.
You know those days when the kids just seem to be on a mission to press EVERY. SINGLE. BUTTON? Yeah, we’ve all been there. If we’re lucky, it’s a day-long event. If we dealt a poor hand, it might last a week (DARN FULL MOON). And here’s what I noticed: I drop to a very unproductive level. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I just give up and let them run amuck, choosing my battles so I don’t waste the waning energy I have. And at the end of the day? I feel horrible, guilty and upset.

So I made a change. When we’re having a day, I ask myself: what would make this a good day? When I reset my brain to think about how it could be better, instead of dwelling on why it’s not a good day, things start to shift toward a more productive outcome. And at the end of the day, I usually feel energized and happy.

3. Commit to getting to a state of calm.
My kids are looking to me for guidance. If I’m grumpy or short-tempered, why would they think any other way would be appropriate? We see this behavior everywhere – from the workplace (have you ever actively avoided the grumpy boss?) to the kitchen table – no one wants to be around grumpy people because it brings down the energy of the room.

I noticed when I was stressed, anxious or generally frustrated, my kids would reflect the behavior. They’d fight more, whine about the smallest thing and refuse my attempts to diffuse the situation. It always ended up with an explosion, usually from me.

So I made a change. When things are getting a little heated, we all take a yoga breath (sometimes I take a few more in the quiet escape of the bathroom, or basement, or closet) and we get re-centered. We figure out what’s bothering us and then ask ourselves why. Sometimes, the core of the issue is something easily fixed (i.e. SNACKS). Sometimes, the core of the issue is something bigger, like not enough time to get something done (*raises my hand*), and that requires an intentional mindset shift. Focus on what you need to get done, focus on who you need to be to get it done and show up as that person.

Take Action
What has the pandemic taught you about how you show up to life? Start small; pick one thing that you notice about yourself. Maybe it’s something you do really well. Maybe it’s something you’d like to improve on.

Whatever it is, write it down. If it’s working, do more of it. If it’s not working, think about what you could do to make a change.

Remember that we’re human, too. And we can help if you need it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Reassess What’s Really Important

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Sometimes When You Least Expect It…

5 years ago, when someone asked me for my favorite book, I’d list off some books that stuck with me over the years, most of which were for adult readers.

But with three little kids, I have a slew of new favorite books. Some of them are classics that I grew up reading, like Goodnight Moon. Others have found a place in my heart because I’m reading them as a parent now, like Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You (parents, brace yourselves for the emotions this one will bring up).

But one book in particular caught me by surprise: Love Monster.

It sounds like a kid’s book. It sounds like something quirky and funny. But the lesson this book shares is miraculous.

The story is about a monster who is looking for someone to love him in a world that is full of very different things (“you know, cute, fluffy things”). Things that people have no trouble loving. So, he decides to go on a mission to find someone who will love him just the way he is. He looks everywhere but only finds his shadow or a reflection, nothing real. He gets tired and feels defeated, so he “gives up” and goes home. But right at the end, when he feels all hope is lost, he finds another love monster, just like him. It ends with a powerful line: “Sometimes when you least expect it, love finds you.”

Like I said, it’s a cute kid’s book with a very big lesson: sometimes when you least expect it, when life seems to be as hard as it could possibly be, when things seem too dark, things shift. The light appears. Your opportunity presents itself. Whatever you’ve been searching for shows up.

If you go at life with others’ definitions of happiness and love, you will likely be disappointed. But if you realize that you are unique and just right as you are, you will be open to finding people and life events that fit the real you. You will tap into the love that is in you and doesn’t need anyone’s approval for you to access it, appreciate it, use it and share it.

Reset your brain for the power love holds. And I don’t mean this as solely a romantic kind of love. I mean self-care. I mean kindness. I mean looking out for the welfare of humankind.

One of my all time favorite quotes I found when I was planning my wedding over a decade ago holds amazingly true today: “Right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”

Create your fairy tale out of what you have and who you are. After all, this is your fairy tale. You get to invent it in a way that is right for you.

Who knows. Maybe your story starts by being a love monster.

Take Action
Shift your mind. Lead with love. See the opportunities that appear for you when you let your mind be open to the possibilities. Because the truth is this: a mind geared toward kindness regularly sees kindness. A heart open to love regularly finds love. So be open because these can happen in the most unexpected of places.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

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Don’t Let the External Noise Interrupt Your Internal Quiet

Lately, I have gotten into yoga. The yoga class I like the most (because the instructor actually instructs those of us who are novices) is at a gym where the weight equipment is on the second floor and the yoga room is on the first floor. Throughout our yoga class, weights are dropped with booming resonance, sounding like thunder or explosions. Not a good environment for finding your Zen.

Or, perhaps, it serves as an important lesson.

During one of my yoga classes, a particularly loud boom jolted me from my mindful and peaceful place and abruptly pulled me back to the first floor at the gym. I could have been upset and frustrated at the interruption, but instead, it reminded me that life is full of noise.

The continual bing of the email or text notification, interrupting every moment of our days. The 24-hour news cycle that continually shares what is difficult, disappointing and dangerous in our world. The continual yack of people on cell phones, even in quiet places like a waiting room or a trail in a pristine grove of hemlocks.

When we are pushed and assaulted by the distractions and noise of our world, we get worn out. Notice how you interact with yourself and others when you are worn out. Generally, this isn’t your best.

Sometimes you can control the noise, but in most cases, you have to learn to create your own internal quiet oasis within the noise. Learning to be fully present in a noisy world is key to being happy and successful in that same noisy world. Those who meditate share that when you develop your practice, you can meditate in the peace and quiet on a beach or in the cacophony of a subway car.

Don’t let the external noise interrupt your internal quiet.

Finding your internal quiet gives us the ability to tune in to ourselves – to understand what we are feeling, thinking and experiencing. It is in this time that we better understand who we are so we can more calmly and wisely respond to our noisy and distracting world.

Let me show you what this looks like in a real-world example. Try this: memorize the following two lines while you have the television on or while you are watching a YouTube video: “Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. This is how to show up to yourself and your world.”

 Did you find this easy? Challenging? For most people, I bet it was tough. Here’s why: your brain easily gets interrupted by external distractions and noise.

Now, create a space of quiet and calm. In that space, try to memorize the same two lines. You will likely be more successful at the task.

See the impact of creating quiet? Sure, sometimes you can remove yourself from the noise and be in a place that is literally quiet. But in most cases, you will have to create your place of quiet amid the noise. It will be up to you to find a way to get to your inner quiet, even when the world around you is loud.

So, whether it is weight-lifters dropping weights during a yoga class or the ever-present technology making sounds and recommendations to our thoughts and comments, our world is a distracting one. It is up to each of us to either turn down the noise or learn to tune it out. In the quiet moments is where we can process our feelings, our emotions, our thoughts and even our world, to wisely, deliberately and intentionally interact, not react, to it.

Take Action
Wherever you find yourself, take three breaths. Calm your body. Quiet your mind. Focus on something internally. Allow yourself to dwell on that – a feeling, a mantra, a kind thought, a wish or anything that is productive and happiness-based. In this way, and regardless of the noise and distractions around you, you can create an oasis of peace where you can calm yourself, manage your emotions and be present. From there, you can reach back out to that noisy world in a calmer, more intentional and a more mindful way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Small Steps are Key for Big Changes

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Confidence in a COVID World

Man, the world is weird right now. Sure, we’ve all laughed at the ever-changing guidelines, the uncertainty around existing guidelines and which ones to follow, and how our world will never be the same (perhaps it’s a coping mechanism, but I digress). We’ve wondered when – or if – we’ll ever be able to go somewhere without masks. We’ve been uncertain about whether we’d be comfortable leaving the house without masks. We’ve had nightmares about loved ones losing their battle to the virus. We’ve been worried we might get it ourselves.

But then things seem to settle and life goes on. You create new routines. You get into a new groove. And just when you think you get a handle on things, something changes again. You lose control of the situation, again.

It’s hard to stay positive and confident in a COVID world.

Let me tell you a story that put a lot of this into perspective.

My middle son was talking to my Mom on the phone. As is the norm now, it was a video chat, so he was walking around with the phone, showing her what he was playing with and talking about what he was going to do for the rest of the day. My Mom asked him if he would like to play at her house soon. He paused for the briefest of moments as he looked at me and said, “I’d like to, but we have to wear masks so we don’t get sick… it’s probably better if I just stay home for now. I think it makes more sense to just be home.”

I felt so many emotions. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Pride.

Never when I dreamed of being a mom, of raising my children, did I ever think of parenting in a pandemic and what that would feel like for me (as a parent) or my kids. Never did I think about the impact these rules and guidelines would have on such young kids. Never did it even occur to me that, despite the constant touch points with grandparents and friends and family through video chats and phone calls, relationships would be forever changed.

But perhaps the biggest realization is that through all of this, I noticed all of my boys were showing up confident to the world they live in. They are working on discovering their strengths and flexing those what-else-can-I-try muscles. I was seeing their resilience, their ability to move with whatever life was sending them.

Though my heart broke hearing him talk about the need for masks and how it’s safer to just stay home, my heart was equally as proud. He was confident and adaptable. He didn’t see it as a problem or a challenge; life is what it is.

And this little boy continues to remind me that there is so much to learn from kids who have yet to be negatively influenced with the anxiety and fear that seems to fill an adult’s mind.

The confidence we choose to have each day, the way we decide to show up in every aspect of our lives, is so easily impacted by external forces.

But what if we decided, instead, to adapt to change and not fight it? To acknowledge when we can and can’t control a situation and to manage ourselves and our response to it? Life never promises an easy road. It does, however, give us plenty of opportunities to use strengths we never knew we had.

So, to be confident in a COVID world means recognizing what you do and don’t have control over. It’s about committing to being yourself and knowing that you are already equipped with everything you need to navigate life’s road, the smooth ones and the bumpy ones.

Take Action

When you find yourself getting frustrated that things are still not “back to normal,” take a deep breath and ask yourself: is this something I can control? If it is, then ask yourself: what can I do to fix it?

If it’s not within your control, ask yourself: how can I learn to be flexible, resilient and not fight with life?

Your confidence will grow as you learn to appreciate life as it is, celebrating the good times and using the tough times to grow, learn and develop into a stronger, wiser and more resilient you.

By Kristin Allaben

Continue reading A Lesson from Kids: Finding the Good

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Small Steps are Key for Big Changes

No doubt the start of 2021 encouraged you to make some big resolutions. After all, many of us were quite happy to see 2020 and its year of challenges come to an end.

But just wanting 2021 to be better won’t make it better. For that to happen, you have to get clear about what you want in 2021. Doing this gives you clarity, which lets you start to break your expectations down into smaller, digestible components. This is the key to a successful 2021.

As Stephen Covey so clearly shared in Habit #2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.”

So take some time to get clear about what you want this year. The guidance I offer my business and life coaching clients is to select 3 or 4 things you want to achieve. Why only 4? Because more than 4 will inspire burn out and, most likely, you’ll give up.

So choose 3 or 4 meaningful things you want to achieve and make them clear and measurable so you can assess whether you are making progress.

These things to achieve could be anything, like read 10 books this year to focus on learning instead of watching television.

It could be to lose an inch or two in waist size or improve blood pressure through better eating and exercise.

It could be to develop greater passion for work by changing jobs by the end of the year to a job that needs what you do and like best.

Get clear of your destination.

Then, build your journey. Start to create the smaller steps that will help you arrive at your goal. What is one thing you can do in January? Do it all month long to help it become a habit on which you will build stronger and better habits as you move through the year. Based on the examples above, the smaller steps could be to create your reading list, purchase your first book and start reading. It could be to stop buying crackers and cookies in your weekly food shopping. It could be taking time to get clear about what a job that inspires you could be.

Then, add to those steps. What is one more thing you can do in February, then March, then April?  Small changes consistently done can result in significant results over time. Each month builds on your success from the previous month.

As you develop the new habits and discipline, you can do more significant things to achieve your goal, such as joining a book club to increase your reading, committing to eating as a vegetarian for a month to improve your eating habits or updating your resume and submitting it to 3 job opportunities in the month.

Each step required earlier fundamental change and action to be ready for this more advanced step.

Finally, enlist an accountability partner. My role as coach frequently has me serve as my clients’ accountability partner – someone on the outside who helps them achieve what they say matters to them by regularly checking in on their progress and holding them accountable for its achievement. The same happens with fitness trainers and their clients.

But it doesn’t need to be a coach; a friend, partner, spouse or colleague all can be great accountability partners. Give them the authority to hold you to your word and to your plan. We all can find reason why we don’t want to do what we commit to doing, so let others help you stay on track.

Take Action
Small steps over time are the key to great achievements. When we start with small steps, we don’t feel overwhelmed by the step or the change. We can build it into our routine and it soon becomes our routine. Then, it prepares us to take a larger next step – to build on what we have created. And over time, we find ourselves sticking to our plan and achieving things that we wanted.

A new year doesn’t make things better. Clear goals and a reasonable plan does.

Dream big for 2021, then divide the dream into smaller achievable steps. Then the dream can become your reality.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Everyone Needs a Snapshot

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