Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Un-New Years Resolution

I have a confession to make.  I don't make New Year's Resolutions.  You heard me right.  The word resolution translates to maybe to me.  Being a mother makes me aware that the word maybe is ineffective.  My oldest once asked me, "Is a maybe a yes or a no?"  It's not direct, which I believe sets us up for failure.

The most popular resolutions in 2013 are: to eat healthy and exercise, drink less, learn something new, quit smoking, have a better work/life balance, volunteer, save money, get organized, read more, and finish my to-do lists.

What if we substitute the word maybe for "I resolve to...?"  "Maybe I'll take better care of my health or maybe I won't."  "Maybe I'll stop doing something or maybe I won't."  "Maybe I'll try something new or maybe I'll make an excuse not to."  You get the idea, it's not a commitment and that is why most of us get to the end of January and give up on our resolutions.  We don't set goals; we don't say it like we mean it.

My preferred approach is to set realistic expectations or goals that will provide a challenge but are achievable.  I make them more achievable by setting an action plan in place.  A goal is a commitment, a resolution is a maybe.  An action plan is a business plan for life.  I'll go through my action plan below using the top resolution on the blog I referenced above.

The basics to my action plan: 

  1. Define the goal I am trying to achieve: I want to eat healthy and exercise.
  2. Set specific measurable smaller goals: I will go to the gym for 30 minutes a day 3 X a week.  I will make a realistic assessment of what I currently eat and change my eating habits to reflect my healthier lifestyle, focusing on achieving a healthy balance.
  3. Pinpoint trigger fails: I have a sweet tooth and I snack throughout the day.  To curb this, I will keep healthy snacks like fruit on hand for those must have sweet moments.
  4. Set realistic expectations for change: Set back moments happen.  Don't give up, adjust your plan.  You missed a day at the gym? Go the next day.  Ate too much cake at the birthday party? Start over tomorrow making healthy choices.  Don't give up!
  5. Record your achievements: This gives you proof of how far you've come.  We often praise our children when they make changes towards their goals (or ours for them) but we often forget to praise ourselves.  Keeping track allows you to see that you've made progress.
  6. Share your success with someone:  We all like to hear a "You did a great job!"  Tell a friend or your Mom, share it on your Facebook (if you are so inclined) but don't be afraid to share with someone that you achieved your goals and you are proud! (We can learn a lot from kids, they aren't afraid to tell us they just achieved a big milestone!)
That's my approach to goal setting.  I live my life as if I'm running a business, because I am.  I'm running the business of living.  Life is about constantly setting and achieving goals to better ourselves.  My goals focus on physical, mental and spiritual improvement so I become the best possible person I can be.  What are your goals for yourself?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Reaction to Tragedy

My heart goes out to the victims families of the tragedy in Connecticut, and to all the surviving teachers and students who witnessed the attack but live to remember it.  What a heartless tragedy, especially at this time of year.  It makes me cry to think of the parents who in a moment have gone from planning to watch the sweet cherub faces of their boys and girls light up as they open their Christmas presents to planning a funeral.  No Mother or Father should have to bury their child, especially to a senseless tragedy like this.

I was a senior in high school when Columbine happened, which was the first really publicized attack on a school (I don't know for sure if others happened before that, but that was the first one I remember being publicized).  I remember the fear that *I* felt being a high school student at that time, even though I lived in New Hampshire.  It rocked my belief that school was a safe place to be.  I remember peppering one of my favorite teachers who also was a volunteer fire fighter what we would do if something like that happened at our school, and the answer terrified me.  We were sitting ducks.  Graduation couldn't come soon enough, and with it safety.

Now I am a mother, of two beautiful girls.  A second grader and a preschooler.  The thought of my children being victims of a senseless act, or witnessing such violence fills me with sadness and terror.  How soon is it before New Hampshire is victim to violence like this?

It made me really think just how important starting our day off right is.  If I'm honest, we've had mornings where we've woken up late, and rushed around getting ready, in a stressed frenzy and said unkind things to one another.  I know it leaves me feeling horrible when I get to work, and I'm sure my kids feel horrible too. But then there are the mornings that are almost dream-like.  The kids get up easily, we start our day with a hug, we get out the door on time, we part with hugs and kisses and "I love you's."  I want EVERY day to be a positive morning like that.  God forbid it be the last words I say to my child.  I want her to know that she is loved and will be deeply missed if she is taken from me while we are apart.

Like most parents, I plan to hug my children a little extra tight, but I also plan to be mindful of our morning words to one another.  If something like this ever happens where I live, I want the last word I say to my children to be said in love and kindness, not in frustration.

*Photo courtesy of Joanne Lee, Joanne Lee Photography.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School: Changes and Creating a Routine

Our life is a constant flux of changes.  Change itself is neither positive or negative, our perceptions of change determines our reactions.  We can change our outlook, therefore changing our perceptions.

Back to school time is a time of change for both children and their parents.  It's a time that both look forward to with anticipation and apprehension.  I have experienced a lot of life changes in the past few years, and one thing I have noticed: all change comes with mixed feelings.  I used to think that it was abnormal to feel positive and negative emotions at the same time, but it is not.


From a parent's perspective:

  • Back to school is a concrete milestone that my child is growing up.  She is another year older, with more knowledge, new friends and new experiences outside of our family unit.
  • Another round of paperwork.  (I'm sure all parents dread this part!)
  • Another opportunity to watch your child succeed and grow.
  • A new opportunity to become involved in your child's life in new ways: volunteering, attending sporting events, cheering them on in their artistic or music endeavors, etc.
  • A new teacher (or school) to meet and get to know.

From the student's perspective:

  • A new teacher to get to know, possibly a new approach to doing things.
  • New potential friends, while some old friends are put in other classes.
  • A chance to do new activities.
  • A chance to learn new things.
  • New milestones to achieve.
  • New experiences: perhaps riding the bus for the first time, field trips, this may be the first time away from home for some students.
Not all of these changes are positive or negative, but change while enjoyable can bring apprehension.

A few things I've learned that helps our family transition through these changes:

  • Prepare Way Ahead of Time:

    We do our back to school shopping ahead of time, I'm talking as soon as the stuff hits the shelf.  I also try to connect with the teacher before the school year begins and give her a little heads up on what my child's greatest strengths, weaknesses, learning style and interests are.   
  • Prepare Weekly:

    I find that making a weekly meal plan and then shopping for and prepping meals over the weekend makes my week so much less hectic than trying to figure out what meal I'm making at 5:00 in the car during the after work rush on the way to pick up my preschooler and 2nd grader.  I also set up their snack bin each weekend with a mixture of snacks.  (I'm frugal too, I'll buy the big bag of snacks and make my own snack sized packages).
  • Make Daily Prep Part of Your Routine:

    Every night after school we clean out their book bags, replace changes of clothes, pick out the morning outfit, sign permission slips and put them back in the bag, and pack non-perishable snacks.  Then we line bags up in our designated "holding" area, unzipped so we can add in perishables and be ready to go.  
  • Have a Routine!

    We have a "morning list" as my daughter has named it.  It is a simple checklist of the activities that my daughter needs to complete every morning (wake up, eat, get dressed, brush your hair and teeth etc.) but it provides structure because it is the same every day.
  • Allow independence:

    My girls (ages 7 and 3) are independent by nature.  They pick out their clothes and dress themselves.  I set out their place settings, but they pour their own cereal (the older one helps the younger), they do the first pass at their hair and teeth (I check).  By allowing them to practice now, they will have a better chance of mastering it by the time they are teens.
  • Allow down time:

  • The first thing we do when we get home after school each day after the bags have been prepped is have a designated "free time" period.  This allows the kids (and me) to unwind a bit after school and work.
  • Create family rituals:

    Our family rituals are having a family dinner and a set bedtime routine.  These times bring us together as a family and provide structure, consistency and familiarity to our life.  The children thrive on this, and if I'm being honest,  I do too.  It is a simple way to bond with my children and create lasting memories.
There you have it.  My take on how we adjust to the back to school time.
 Without consistent rituals and planning ahead, we'd be sunk.  But by using a little forethought, my children and I are able to achieve success.  They feel a sense of accomplishment because they participate, and I feel less stress because we are able to have the school week go smoothly and we even have some downtime and family time scheduled into the mix.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Olympic Success Demystified

Visualize Your Success

There is a reason why athletes "get in the zone."  By centering oneself and focusing on what you want (rather than what you don't want) you are setting the expectation that you will achieve your desired results.  There is no greater example than an Olympic athlete.  He gets centered, and may pre-play their performance in his head before the actual event.  What you focus on is your reality.  What you believe is what you attract.  If you believe you will be a failure, you will.  If you believe that you will be successful, you will.

Drive and Motivation

A strong sense of motivation, both internal and external.  External factors include your team mates, coach and the gold medal, while internal include feeling a sense of pride in your own accomplishments for each goal that you have reached along the struggle to achieve the gold and a drive to keep going until the ultimate goal is achieved.

Stay Focused

In a world that celebrates multitasking, the Olympics is a large scale venue that showcases success gained via mono-tasking rather than multitasking.  Part of getting in the zone is having a hyper-focus on the task at hand.      

Prepare

Garbage in, garbage out.  Eating a diet that includes a mix of foods that will both fuel extended energy and replenish lost nutrients.  Be aware of everything that enters the body, including supplements because unknown substances could easily lead to disqualification.  Water is essential.  You can't run a finely tuned machine without premium gasoline.


Work Hard

When I competed in the Junior Olympics, AAU Nationals and WKO Karate Championships, I trained a minimum of 3 hours a day.  Michael Phelps said in an interview that the biggest change he expected to face post-retirement was getting used to not training daily.  No one ever got good at something simply by thinking about it and not acting on it.  Practice! Practice! Practice!

Don't Give Up

The most important lesson learned from Olympic athletes is don't give up.  Don't accept failure.  Most Olympic athletes have trained for many years.  Each started as a beginner and made mistakes along the way.  With perseverance and hard work he or she has made it big time.

*Photo of medal stand is from 1996 Junior Olympic Games, Photo at top is from AAU Nationals.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Choice is Yours

Indecision IS a Decision


How many times have you not been able to make up your mind about something, and the choice is made for you?

As a parent, when my children and I are getting ready to go out the door in the morning, they have a choice: you either

  1. Pick out your own clothes and get dressed in a certain amount of time or
  2. Wear what Mom picks out for you.
In the business world, if you don't take the action to perform a task or complete a project, someone else in your office will and eventually he/she will get the recognition, raise, or bonus instead of you.

 In a group project, if you don't speak up during brain storming not only could you miss out on the opportunity to share your idea (and possibly have it chosen) but your client misses out on the full potential of your team because every possible idea you could think of was not exhausted.
Choices, choices... - geograph.org.uk - 465212

Inaction IS an Action


You choose to not take care of your personal tasks today by procrastinating and you suffer in the long run. If you push off your chores, your homework (if you are a student) or even eating healthy and exercise you don't gain time, you lose it.  You spend extra time thinking about that dreaded task, not really enjoying the time you have right now and you still have to do it later.

In the business world, if you don't act often enough you will eventually be forgotten.  Most businesses in the western world look for people who are dedicated, hard working, and self-starters.  It's not enough to just have this on your resume, though, you need to show it.  Plan ahead, participate in projects, take action, organize your time to maximize your output.


It IS a Choice



Remember, you have the power to choose to live your life or to just be a passenger.

How have you allowed indecision or inaction in your life to hold you back? How do you plan to change that?

Photo CTSY Duncan Lilly [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There is No Can't, Only Try

I have loved writing since I was in first grade.  I loved reading before I entered school, and when I discovered that I had the power to create meaningful pieces using words as well, I was hooked.

I shared my creations with my captive audience (usually my father), but rather than pursue my dream of becoming a writer, I added it to my bucket list.  Why was that?

Fear. 

Fear of Failure.  Fear of Success.


Fear holds most of us back.  We live in fear of becoming more than we are, when in reality that is what living is all about.  We are always changing, always growing, always failing and always succeeding.
"Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are always defeated by faith. Having faith in yourself, in the process of change, and in the new direction that change sets will reveal your own inner core of steel." - Georgette Mosbacher


Choosing Change over Regret


I can be resistant to change, I consider myself a late adopter.  But I have decided that I would rather change and move forward than regret achieving one of my life goals.  So many people wait for a near death experience to start completing their bucket list.  I will no longer be one of those people.

Those Who Have Influenced and Inspired


  • Elisa Doucette – who showed me that to achieve anything, all you need is to set yourself in motion and believe that you can do it.  She sprinkled some girl power in the mix with this post: Why Women Need To Stop Feeling.

  • Rob Gould – whose honesty and ability to poke fun at himself for the sake of his work encourages me to take myself a little less seriously and embrace my uniqueness via this blog post: Change Like You Mean It.

  • My own first grader, who when I asked her upon completion of her first grade year what the most important thing her teacher taught her answered, “There is No Can’t, Only Try.”

So, with the encouragement of three peers and a child who shares my dream, I am crossing one task off my bucket list now rather than waiting until it becomes a regret.  I am going to embark on my writing journey.  Thank you for joining me.