STIR UP SOME COURAGE

There is a commercial on United States television for Nestles’ Coffee-Mate which features a woman who is concerned about how she looks for her first day back to work.  Her husband tells her she looks  really nice.  She says she wants to look better than nice so she removes her wig to reveal a bald head.  Her husband then tells her she looks stunning.  A tagline for the commercial says, “Today is a good day to stir up courage.”  The implication in the tagline and with the woman is that she is returning to work after having undergone treatments for cancer.

This commercial touched my mind and my heart. I thought about the change the cancer diagnosis introduced to this woman’s life.  I thought about what it takes to keep moving forward when unexpected change enters our lives.  And, I thought about what courage it takes to face change head on and positively deal with all the unknowns. There is a lesson here for any of us who deal with major or seismic change (and most certainly, a cancer diagnosis brings a seismic change to one’s life).

 

So, what is courage and why is it an important quality to have when dealing with change?  Courage is the mental or moral strength to face fear or danger or to persevere in the wake of adversity (and some may substitute change with adversity) with confidence and resolution.  And, when one is courageous, they are brave; they are not deterred by danger or pain.  Since change usually rocks our world in some way (even change we choose), courage (having the strength to face fears or to persevere in the wake of adversity) may be just what it takes for us to face the new environment and to put things back in order after our world is rocked.

Courage – where does it come from?  As the characters on the journey in the Wizard of Oz learned, they always had within them what they were searching for.  The Cowardly Lion was in search of courage.  Instead of an external search, the Cowardly Lion just had to unlock it within himself.  It is the same with us.  If we are anticipating a change and feel we need courage for it or when change blindsides us and we need courage to face the changed environment, we should look inward to discover our reserve of fortitude.

We can “stir up” our courage by:

Acknowledging the fear we feel, but moving forward and doing what needs to be done to deal with the change.  We can’t let the fear paralyze us.  Confront it. Work through it.

Moving past worry.  Someone said, “Worry is a total waste of time.  It doesn’t change anything. All is does is steal your joy and keeps you very busy doing nothing.”   Worrying robs us of energy; of strength.  In effect, worrying strips us of our courage or keeps us from being able to bring it to the surface.  The rule of thumb is:  If the situation/issue can be solved, no need to worry about it.  If the situation/issue cannot be solved, what is the use of worrying?

Letting go of the familiar.  French writer and 1947 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Andre Gide, tells us “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”   It is only when we move out of our comfort zone that we learn exactly what we are capable of doing.  Outside  our comfort zone is where true learning occurs.  So, if we let go of what is we may be able to discover what can be; we might just uncover the depth and degree of our courage.

Believing in ourselves.  We can do this.  We can get through this.  We just need to trust in ourselves.

Persevering.  Keep trying.  Don’t give in or give up.  Maintain hope.

Viewing the situation as an opportunity.  There is a lesson in everything that comes our way.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the situation.  What is the situation/issue “telling” us?  What can we learn from what is happening?

Reflecting on past successes.  We were able to handle some things in the past.  Think about those times and recall what was done to deal with those issues/situations. We can deal with whatever we are now facing.

Reinforcing ourselves for our successes.  Each time we face a fear or deal with something difficult (especially something we’ve been avoiding), we need to give ourselves a pat on the back (or treat ourselves to something meaningful – me time, a good book, chocolate – whatever makes us feel good).

 

Talking to someone.   We need to use the “touchstones” in our lives, our friends and our family to discuss what is happening, what concerns us, of what we are afraid.  Talking things through will help us discover the strength needed to deal with whatever we are facing.

When change of any kind enters our lives, we may need to ‘stir up some courage’ in order to effectively deal with the change.  We all have a reserve of courage within us.  So, when things get tough, we all need to draw upon that reserve to help us deal with and overcome any challenges that we may face.  As Mark Twain, the American writer and humorist, tells us, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

HIGH ON LIFE

 

I was in the hair salon getting my hair cut, chatting away with the stylist when all of a sudden the salon was filled with a joyous voice soon followed by enthusiastic laughter.

All of this emanated from the person in the chair next to me – a 73-year-old woman who could have been a reincarnated Phyllis Diller.

 

Phyllis Diller was an American stand-up comedian, actress, and voice artist who was known for, among other things, her distinctive laugh. In her stand-up routines she spoke of everyday topics – children, family, pets, life in general, neighbors – relaying amusing anecdotes about each.  

 

Just as Diller used to do, this salon patron laughed at herself and at what life had thrown at her. She could make light of life’s unpleasant moments. At one point she was sharing concerns about her Facebook account. The stylist asked if her children had gotten her involved on Facebook. She said, “No. I did that to myself!” Her matter-of-fact statement was punctuated by her uplifting laugh.

This woman exemplifies living life to the fullest. As her stylist said, “She’s high on life.” She is indeed. She finds reasons to smile at the smallest things and she doesn’t let any random happening ruin her day. Her positive outlook seems to go beyond just being upbeat and positive. Her positive outlook is her essence. Beyond her enthusiastic laughter, she exudes happiness, joy, exuberance, cheerfulness, optimism, and hopefulness. She is the type of person that just by being around you can’t help but feel good.

We all have that capability of being upbeat and positive. We all have the capability to be joyful and cheerful; to be optimistic and hopeful. But, we are often the greatest obstacle to being joyful; to being positive and upbeat. We often let life interfere with that capability (and when life throws us a curve ball in the form of change that can be a major obstacle). But, as Jonathan Lockwood Huie (author and “philosopher of happiness”) said, “You don’t have the power to make life “fair,” but you do have the power to make life joyful.”

There are no guarantees in life. There are few ‘do overs.’ Second chances are rare. We just need to make each day a great day, living life to the fullest. Paul T.P. Wong offers the following eight themes to living life to the fullest (with my commentary in italics):

Be fully engaged in what really matters. Focus on the things over which you have control. Follow your vision; your goals; your dreams.

Be mindful of the present moment. Each day is a new beginning. Be present. Live in the moment.

Transform past mistakes and regrets into self-improvements. View mistakes as learning opportunities. If something isn’t going great; if there is a roadblock in the way, view it as a temporary setback. It doesn’t have to put a negative slant on everything. Rise to the challenge and put your creativity to work in overcoming the obstacle. If one thing “bad” happens to you in a day, that is one “bad” moment; not a bad day. Learn from constructive comments (criticism).

Do not miss any opportunity to develop your full potential.  Make sure you maximize and balance yourself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Embrace new ideas. Try new things. Make learning a lifelong pursuit. Make sure there is meaning in all that you do.

Love others. Let others know you appreciate them. When you make others feel good about themselves, you cannot help but to feel good yourself. As the saying goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Have an attitude of gratitude for everyone around you.

Make a positive difference in the lives of other people. Practice random acts of kindness. Try to do one good deed each day.

Live freely, courageously and vitally. Have the mental or moral strength to face fear or danger and to persevere in the wake of adversity with confidence and resolution. Believe in yourself. Move past worry and regret.

Maintain an appreciative attitude towards life. Be grateful for what you have and count your blessings. When you live with an attitude of gratitude your entire attitude towards life changes and you are better able to live life to the fullest.

If we are high on life, our joyful spirit, positive attitude, and enthusiasm are contagious. It is difficult to be around someone who is positive, upbeat, and has a zest for life without some of that same feeling catching hold to us. This is always a good thing when we are dealing with something that is stressful or chaotic or unpleasant (some of the things that can enter our lives with a change). Being high on life can be the “fire” that lights us up and keeps us moving forward in the face of difficulties. It lifts us up when the situation looks dark, and it energizes us when we are tired. As someone said, “If you think positive then…

Any sound becomes music

Any move becomes dance

Any smile becomes laughter

And the entire life becomes a huge celebration so always think positive and live your life happy to its fullest.”

Jonathan Lockwood Huie’s advice sums things up nicely, “Today, I choose to create joy in my life. Whatever my external circumstances, I choose to see all of life through joyful eyes.” Whether dealing with change or just with life in general, choose to create joy; choose to see life through joyful eyes. Like the salon patron, choose to be high on life and release that light that does shine within all of us. You might just be amazed at what this powerful energy can do for you and those around you!

CHASING DREAMS

On February 5, 2017, the National Football League held its annual Superbowl. One of the commercials that aired during that event that caught my eye was Honda’s “Chasing Dreams.” In an article about the commercial on bustle.com, Caitlin Gallagher shares, “To convey hopeful exuberance, Honda uses yearbook photos… …the images aren’t just any yearbook photos – they are celebrity yearbook photos. In the optimistic ad, before-they-were-famous celebrities come to life to give inspirational advice.” It is this inspirational advice that caught my attention and in this week’s post, I want to share some of the words of wisdom and why they are relevant for us in our life’s journey and especially when we are dealing with change.

Tina Fey (American actress, comedian, writer, and producer) offers, “You might not know when you start out where you are going or what you are doing.” “You just get going, keep your focus; avoid the distractions,” urges the American actor, director, producer, businessman, environmentalist, and philanthropist Robert Redford. Amy Adams (American actress and singer) shares, “At times, you may fall flat on your face but technically, that’s still moving forward.” “Pick yourself up, make some moves and do it all with a smile,” advises retired American professional basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

“Believe in yourself,” is Steve Carell’s (American actor, comedian, director, producer and writer) contribution. American actress and producer, Viola Davis reminds us, “The point is, all dreams are within your reach. All you have to do is keep moving toward them.” The commercial concludes with, “Here’s to chasing dreams and the amazing places they lead.”

Ah, yes, our dreams. Those things about which we might fantasize (e.g., traveling, becoming rich, becoming famous, having a family, winning the lottery, owning a Honda CR-V, getting the perfect job…add yours to the list) or something for which we are ambitious. Dreams are our desires; our aspirations. 

Why are dreams important when managing change and transition? With change, something becomes different. We are moved out of our comfort zone. Both our personal and professional lives can become unsettled. Dreams are a way of helping us deal with the unsettled nature of things. If we dream about something happening and really desire that to happen, we might work hard to make that dream come true. Dreams give us possibilities. Remember, anything that can be imagined can become reality under the right circumstances.

Dreams help us navigate the waters of change and transition. On his 1991 album, Ropin’ the Wind, American country singer and songwriter, Garth Brooks has a ballad titled The River. In this song, a river is used as a comparison to one’s dreams. In the first stanza, Brooks writes, “You know a dream is like a river, ever changin’ as it flows. And the dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes. Trying to learn from what’s behind you, and never knowing what’s in store makes each day a constant battle just to stay between the shores.” The chorus of the song tells us, “And I will sail my vessel ‘til the river runs dry. Like a bird upon the wind, these waters are my sky. I’ll never reach my destination, if I never try. So I will sail my vessel ‘til the river runs dry.” The second stanza continues, “Too many times we stand aside and let the waters slip away, ‘Til what we put off til tomorrow has now become today. So don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tide.”

This song highlights the importance of pursuing our dreams. Brooks talks about never reaching one’s destination if one doesn’t even try. It is our dreams that provide the destination. Brooks talks about needing action to make the dreams a reality when he talks about not sitting upon the shoreline. And, Brooks encourages us to take on any challenges along the way with his words, “…choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide.” Indeed, dreams are powerful and can set the stage for a new reality especially in a changed environment or situation.

So, whether you have a dream that will bring about a change in your life that you really want or whether you have a dream of something new and different because of a change that has happened in your life, you are moving in the right direction to controlling and managing change. As the celebrities in the commercial told us:

All we have to do is keep moving toward our dream(s).

If we fall flat on our face, we just need to pick ourselves up, make some moves, and smile.

Our belief in ourselves will carry us through.

We just need to stay focused and avoid distractions.

 

 

Following this advice, we will be the masters of our destiny; we will be in control of whatever change or life has thrown our way. Our dreams and the pursuit of them will enable us to master the change in our lives!

TAKING THINGS IN STRIDE

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Posted on February 27, 2017, GIVING CHANGE THE ‘GREEN LIGHT’ opened with the following: My oldest godson and his wife decided it was time to start their family. When they found out they were pregnant, they were ecstatic. When they found out they were having twins, the excitement still remained but it was tempered with reality of having two babies at once. My godson jokingly commented, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

 

While the news may have been overwhelming for my godson, his wife took things in stride. She said, “We don’t know any differently. We never had one baby yet. Is it that bad to have two at once? It just doesn’t seem like a big deal!” I loved her reaction and her overall attitude about this change.

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stride-life-unfold-naturallyTaking things in stride simply means not overreacting to what is happening in your life. While this may be easier said than done, it is wonderful advice when unexpected change brings what may be a challenge along with it. The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu says, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” There is always going to something in our lives over which we have no control. (And, certainly, my godson and his wife having twins was not something over which they had any control.) This week, I would like to take a look at eight advantages of taking things in stride (or letting things flow naturally forward):

 

Stress levels are lowered. If you aren’t letting negative emotions and “woe is me” thoughts consume you, you will be able to focus on the positive in the situation and by doing so you will not be so stressed. Avoiding the “oh, woe is me” thinking opens up thinking that allows you to say, “What adventure can I go on now?” Remember, with positive thoughts you can get positive results and all of that leads to less stress.

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‘Victim mode’ is avoided. Taking things in stride allows you to accept what is happening. Acceptance leads to making the best out of what you are facing and in doing so, the focus is now on hope and optimism instead of dismay and annoyance. Your tune will be ‘OK. Now what?’ instead of ‘Oh no! Now what?’ You will tend to seek solutions instead of dwelling on what is changing or has changed.

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Flexibility is enhanced.  If we are going with the flow of things, we are better able to move in whatever direction we need to make things work in the changed environment. We aren’t rooted to what we had been thinking or to what we thought might happen. We are then better able to look at all the options in front of us and choose one that will help us move forward toward something we want to see in the change.

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Divergent thinking takes the lead. In dealing with the situation at hand, we may be more willing to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to what we are facing. We are better able to focus on ‘what if?’ instead of ‘why?’ And, we are better able to gain insights from the situation.

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Ability to laugh and see the humor in the situation is increased. If we take things in stride we don’t get all bent out of shape with what is happening. This allows us to see the lighter side of things. And in doing so humor and its accompanying laughter help keep our emotional, mental, and even physical health in balance. Humor can help us develop peace of mind, hopefulness, joy, cheerfulness, resilience, and the ability to go with the flow.

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Resilience is greater. Resilience is our ability to absorb what unexpected change brings us rather than becoming overwhelmed by the change. Our ability to bounce back from the news and/or what is happening is enhanced when we go with the flow. Resilience helps us remain healthy and helps us to cope with the changes, the challenges, and the pressure.

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Blessings are more in focus. Sometimes what seems to be a challenging situation turns out to be the best thing that ever happened. When we take things in stride, we are better able to have an attitude of gratitude for everything and anything especially for situations and events that are opposite of what we really want. There is something to be learned from everything and if we don’t jump to conclusions, we will be able to see the “gift” in those things/situations that challenge us the most.

 

The present moment becomes meaningful. The ability to reflect on what is important seems easy when taking things in stride and in doing so the result of that reflection can serve as a guide in the changed situation.  stride-live-in-the-now

 

Someone said, “If you align in any moment with the flow of life as it presents itself, all will unfold in the right way at the right time with a certain spontaneity and ease.” This is what taking things in stride is all about. When life brings you a change that seems difficult to handle, just stay aligned with what is going on; accept the change without the negative baggage; roll with the punches; and, take just work with what comes your way.  If you do, as my godson’s wife says, whatever is happening won’t “…seem like a big deal!”

“HIGH HOPES”

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Last week’s blog post dealt with how high expectations can help us deal with change and we explored things we can do to set ourselves up for high and positive expectations to become reality. This week, I would like to focus on why having high hopes or high expectations are good for us especially in times of change.

high-hopes-antMy inspiration for this week’s post comes from the song High Hopes (lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by Jimmy Van Heusen and popularized by the American singer, actor, and producer, Frank Sinatra). In the first stanza of the song we are told:

Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground

There’s a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant, can’t

Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes

He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time you’re feelin’ low

‘Stead of lettin’ go 

Just remember that ant

Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.

In this song, the ant had a goal that most would consider unattainable. Despite such a grandiose goal, the song goes on to tell us that indeed, the rubber tree was moved by the ant. The message is once an expectation is set, even if it doesn’t seem to be realistic, we tend to act in ways that are consistent with that expectation. And, it is our hope (a confident feeling about what will happen in the future) that we can reach our goal – our expectations – that does keep us going even when the challenge seems overwhelming.

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Hope is very powerful. The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (American minister and author known for his work in popularizing the concept of positive thinking) tells us that, “Hope is a dynamic force, a concept full of power. It can bring the weak back to strength. It can bring the sick back to health. It can turn failure into success.”

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Hope is important, especially when we are dealing with change. Change can often throw us off track. It shifts us out of our comfort zone. It can ‘blanket us in darkness.’ If change brings darkness, one way to find ‘the light’ is to have hope. Hope is the expectation of something beneficial in the future; it is a feeling of expectation and desire. Hope is a motivator. Hope helps us to keep going when times are hard.   Hope lets us know that no matter how bad things seem at the moment, no matter how dark, there will be something better and brighter around the corner. As Samuel Smiles (Scottish author and government reformer) says, “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”

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Hope is like fuel. It provides the ‘get up and go’ needed to get where we need to go and to reach what we are trying to reach.  “When the world says give up hope whispers…try one more time.” (Anonymous) That ‘try one more time’ attitude helps us deal with challenges with a mind set on succeeding, on overcoming. And, when we set our mind to do something, our chances of succeeding, of actually accomplishing our goal(s) are increased. (Think the ant and the rubber tree plant.)

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Positive psychologist, Charles R. Synder has conducted much research on the concept of hope and has developed the Hope Theory. This theory says hope consists of the agency (the will) and pathways (the ways) to help people achieve goals. In an article on Approaching Hope he offers tips for helping adults raise their hope levels “in terms of setting goals, finding the requisite pathways to those goals and becoming motivated.” Let’s look at a few of those tips.

high-hopes-goalsIn setting goals, make sure the goal is something you want and not what others what for you. Set goals that do challenge you.   Stay focused on your work on the goal.

In looking at the ways to achieve the goal, come up with several options to reach the goal then choose what seems to be the best path considering what you are facing. If the goal is long range, break it down into steps. Consider challenges and obstacles that you might face and come up with a plan to work through those. Ask for help from others when needed.   And, if different or new skills are needed to help you reach your goal, learn those skills

To develop or maintain the will to reach the goal, remain positive and practice positive self-talk. Replace negative thoughts and words with positive ones, words that make you feel happy and in control. Concentrate on positive thoughts with positive results. Adopt the philosophy that obstacles are there to challenge you. If something isn’t going great – if there is a roadblock in the way – view it as a temporary setback. It doesn’t have to put a negative slant on everything. Rise to the challenge and put your creativity to work in overcoming the obstacle. Keep things in perspective. If needed, change the way you look at something. In doing so, your attitude and your results will also change. Approach situations with laughter and humor. Take care of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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Ah, yes. Hope is a powerful tool in our ‘toolbox of strategies.’ It is one that does provide us the means and opportunity to deal with any challenge which comes our way – a challenge in our life journey or a challenge brought on by change.   Hope is powerful because it is accompanied by positive emotions such as joy, happiness, confidence, courage, enthusiasm, and optimism. If we maintain hope when pursuing our goals and in our most challenging situations, we may be as successful as the ant in moving the rubber tree plant!

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HIGH EXPECTATIONS HELP US DEAL WITH CHANGE

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On This Holy Night is a book containing Christmas messages of six Christian authors. One of the concepts John Maxwell shares in his message, “When You Follow a Star and Find a Stable,” is our expectations control our conduct. He starts with the following story, “The actress Helen Hayes once told a story about cooking her first Thanksgiving turkey. She explained that she wasn’t a very good cook, but after several years of marriage, she decided to try preparing a turkey on her own. She sat her husband and son down before the meal and said, “This may not come out exactly the way you want it to. If it’s not a good turkey, don’t say a thing. Without any comment, just stand up from the table, and we’ll go to the nearest restaurant and eat.” A few moments later, Helen walked into the dining room with the turkey. Her husband and son were already standing with their coats and hats on!” (Pages 2-3)

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Maxwell points out with this story, “We conduct our lives and our daily affairs based on what we expect from them.”  Helen Hayes, the woman in the opening story, thought she was a bad cook and with her comments, set up her family to not even give her efforts a chance. Her Thanksgiving turkey was doomed before she even started cooking. She did indeed conduct her time in the kitchen based on what she expected from it – not very good results.

This story is a wonderful example of how we can set ourselves and those around us up for the realization of a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as, “any expectation, positive or negative, about a situation or event that affects behavior in such a manner that it causes that expectation to be fulfilled.” (literarydevices.net) In other words, we get the outcome we expect. If we expect something good to happen, it will. If we expect something bad to happen, it will.   I feel this is how we often view unexpected change. If we view it as good, then we will see the opportunity in the change, embrace it, and work with it. If we view the change as bad, then we will only see obstacles, resist the change, complain, and long for things as they were before the change happened.

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So, what are some things we can do to set ourselves up for high expectations and positive expectations to become reality?

pygmalion-positive-expectationsCHALLENGE OUR MINDSETS! Our mindset consists of beliefs and beliefs are thoughts that are repeated over and over for a period of time that determine how we respond to situations.   And the longer we think that something can or can’t happen, the more we believe that thought and the more we act accordingly. So, our mindset is very powerful. It can control us; it can hold us back from doing things and in times of change, it can definitely hold us back from accepting or dealing with the change and moving forward.

If negative thoughts (I could never do…, I don’t think I can do this…, I’m not as good as….) dominate your mindset, what action can you take to eliminate the negative? Can you try to focus on the positive? Is the negative a learned, an ingrained behavior? If so, you can unlearn it. Change the ‘I could never and I don’t think’ to words of encouragement. Don’t feed the cycle of negativity. If your mindset is set on a specific goal (I want to make…, I want to be…), what action can you take to work toward that goal? What are the steps you can take to move in the direction of that goal?

PRACTICE POSITIVE SELF-TALK. You are what you think. If you think negative, you will be negative. If you think you can’t, you won’t be able to. If you think you can, you will be able to. If you repeat positive thoughts, your mind will begin to focus on what you want rather than on what you do not want. If you feed your mind positive, it will weaken the negative. Remember, we act in ways that are consistent with the expectations we have or others have for/of us. Therefore, we need to think positive, think we can do this, and think above and beyond.

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SURROUND OURSELVES WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE. Energy vampires need to be kept at a distance. People who are able to see the good and positive in people and things are the ones you need around you when you are dealing with unexpected change. People who are able to keep things in perspective, not jump to conclusions, and who can help you see the opportunities within the change will be the ones who help you maintain high expectations. Seek out those who are successful in doing what you need to or want to do and use them as role models. Align yourself with their way of thinking, with their mindset. Get inspired by them.

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BELIEVE YOU ARE WORTHY. Ramp up your self-esteem and concentrate on feeling good about yourself. When we feel good about ourselves, we have a stronger sense of control and direction and will be able to approach anything change challenges us with. While our goal, dream, desire, direction might have to be altered slightly due to unexpected change, any revision is still worth pursuing. It is important to replace any self-limiting tape that your mindset might be playing with a newer one that contains the truth – you are worthy to have your goal, dream, or desire realized.

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GIVE YOURSELF AN “ATTA PERSON” OFTEN. The one thing change and transition can do is mess with our sense of who we are and how we feel pygmalion-pat-on-back about our self.   When dealing with the chaos that can surround the change, not being in our comfort zone,  or having to do new tasks or step into a new role, it is easy to get down on ourselves about a lot of “stuff.” It is important to recognize yourself in how you are handling the changes in your life. It is important to feel valued, important, and recognized. Others may be reinforcing you and encouraging you on, but you need to the same for yourself. You need to acknowledge how well you are holding up; how well you are doing. You need to pat yourself on the back often.

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Sir James AllenNew Zealand statesman, said:  “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” Make sure your thoughts take you to a place of feeling good about yourself and a place of high expectations. Remember, since change itself can have us questioning ourselves and our self-worth, it is important to have a good or high view of ourselves because believing in one’s self builds self-confidence. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to deal positively with whatever change you are facing. And, the more confident you are, the stronger your sense of control and direction will be allowing you to deal with anything change challenges you with. High expectations yield great results.

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(To learn more about self-fulfilling prophecies, check out information on the Pygmalion effect, the Rosenthal effect, the Galatea effect, or the Golem effect. Literary pieces such as Greek mythology (Pygmalion) and George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion or the musical My Fair Lady will also provide insight into self-fulfilling prophecies.)

 

HAVING ONLY GOOD DAYS

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Last week’s post took a philosophical look at bad moments vs. bad days and how it is our choice to take bad moments along with us all day. I provided an example from my days as a college administrator when I had to put a staff member on a work improvement plan. Having been there and done that (letting a bad moment stay with me for a day), I got to thinking about the things that I did to move myself beyond choosing to take a bad moment with me all day long and making me think the entire day was bad. This week, I’d like share six of those things with you.

LET GO OF THE ‘BAD’ MOMENT. It is the holding on to and the rehashing of whatever was said or done that creates the ‘bad’ moment that gives it life – that gives it the power – to remain with us for the whole day. To move on with the day and to recognize the good in the day, we must give up what   is – give up the ‘bad’ moment. The sooner we are able to do this, the sooner we can move forward with the day in perspective. Remember, the ‘bad’ moment is just that – a moment. It is but one part of the day; it doesn’t define the whole day; it is not the whole picture.

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change-hard-inner-peaceDEPERSONALIZE THE SITUATION. Oftentimes whatever has caused the ‘moment’ isn’t about or a reaction to you. In my employee situation, I was the agent of the college having to put the work plan in place. My employee was reacting to the plan itself and that reaction was directed to me since it was my responsibility to follow college procedures. Depersonalization is about not placing blame on yourself for whatever or whomever is creating the ‘bad moment.’

Who you become on your journey is far more meaningful than what happens to you. If you learn how to get beyond taking things personally by witnessing and then choosing a different response, you will eventually become unshakable. Be comfortable with who you are and remember, you can’t lose who you are. You can’t lose your essence. When you become someone who is clear and centered, you will have the tools to move through life no matter what happens externally.

 

KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. It is important to look at the moment and how it fits into the bigger picture. Keeping the moment in context can help with this. Former Senior VP advertising creative director and self-help author (her latest book is The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Adversity, Setbacks, and Losses) Karen Salmansohn offers some wonderful advice, “PLEASE keep in mind that whatever you’re going through, this challenging time in your life is merely IN your life. It is NOT your WHOLE life. So be sure to keep this SLICE of your life in perspective and don’t let it overwhelm you. REMEMBER: Nothing is everything. The part is not greater than the whole.”

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RELAX. Relaxation techniques are a great way to reduce anxiety and worries. When you are more relaxed, you will be able to keep things in perspective and look at the situation a little more rationally. Creating a calm inner peace will help in dealing with the situation and with resulting emotions. Implement whatever works for you: meditation, prayer, deep breathing, guided imagery/visualization, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, rhythmic exercise, walking, journaling, listening to music, etc.

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CHANGE THE MINDSET.  Decide to have a good day. You will only have a good day when you decide to have a good day. If you are determined to have a good day, you will not let those ‘bad’ moments take over. You will be better able to keep them in perspective and treat them as just one part of the whole day. Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady of the United States, often talked about how we shape our lives and ourselves through our choices. You need to make a choice to have a good day. When dealing with my employee who was on a work plan, once I made the choice that nothing that person said or did to me was going to ruin my day, then nothing did.

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VENT TO FRIENDS. We have talked a lot about the importance of having “touchstones” in our life especially when dealing with change and challenging situations.   Our ‘touchstones’ can help us put things in perspective and help us stay focused. Share with them in general terms (avoid giving details about what may have been said or done, but rather just let them know that something happened that you are having trouble letting go of) what is happening. Just having them listen to what is going on will go a long way to helping us put and keep things in perspective. Remember, friends provide a measure of stability that is most helpful when dealing with challenging situations. They listen, they encourage, they provide suggestions and advice, and they are just there to provide whatever support may be needed.

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Remember, we can choose to have a GOOD DAY.   We can act like we are having a GOOD DAY.   And, we can plan for a GOOD DAY. As Abraham Lincoln (an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States) has said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

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If we are committed to having a good day, we will have a good day. Take for example a teller in a bank I recently visited. The teller working next to the one waiting on me entered something wrong in the system creating a delay for his customer. My teller asked, “Problem?” He responded, “No. Just having a moment.” He absolutely has the right approach and attitude to having a good day. If we can all look at situations we might term as ‘bad’ as nothing more than inconveniences, just one of many moments, then bad’ days will be behind us!

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BAD MOMENT VS. BAD DAY

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Frequently heard in my workshops on choices, decisions, perspective and attitude is the following, “There is no such thing as a bad day. You can’t have 24 hours of bad. You may have bad moments, but you cannot have 24 hours of bad.” I have been dispensing this piece of advice for the past 20 some years. I came to this realization when working at a college in the state of Oregon (USA). One of my staff members had been placed on a work improvement plan and this person did not feel there was anything wrong with their work performance. The response to the plan was to fight me tooth and nail on everything. Often, this person would come into my office five minutes before I left for home and say something that would not sit well with me. When I would get home, my husband would ask how my day was and often I would say, “Not good. It was very rough.” But, if I truly reflected on my day I had had a great work day. The last five minutes were the only ones that had been challenging (or as some might way, bad).

It was then and there that I adopted my philosophy of there is no such thing as a bad day; perhaps bad moments, but never 24 hours of bad. In preparing for this post, I came across the following quote which extends my thought: There is no such thing as a bad day just bad moments that we choose to take with us all day long. (Anonymous)

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Indeed! It is our choice whether we carry a bad moment with us for an entire day. Now, let’s generalize this to dealing with change because there are a lot of parallels. When change blindsides us and has us angry or when change moves us out of our comfort zones and has us frustrated or frightened, we might usually first think of negatives or feel that the change is bad.  good-day-curse-words

It is easy to over react when something unexpected happens. It is easy to: blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly to what was, and focus on the negative of what is happening.   In times of change, we must remember that we have a choice. We can choose to be reactive and think the worst or we can choose to be proactive and look at what is happening as an opportunity.  good-in-every-day

Life is about choices. Evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and host of the radio broadcast, Insight for Living, Charles R. Swindoll reminds us that, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”   In dealing with challenging moments in a day or those changes that are thrust upon us, we shouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about that 10% over which we have no control. Our energies and efforts should be concentrated on that 90% which is our reaction. We do have control over how we choose to react to everything that happens to us. If we choose to react in a way that seeks to understand, puts and keeps things in perspective, is helpful and purposeful or moves us forward, we will be much more satisfied with life, better able to deal with and handle whatever comes our way, feel less stressed, and find more joy and happiness in life.

We can choose to have a GOOD DAY.   We can act like we are having a GOOD DAY.   And, we can plan for a GOOD DAY. As Abraham Lincoln (an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States) has said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” In the coming days and weeks, we all need to make a commitment to choose to keep challenging (or bad) moments that happen due to life’s circumstances or due to change in perspective and not carry them with us all day which allows them to overshadow all the good and positive happening in that day. (To help us do this, next week’s post will take a look at ways to keep things in perspective so that we let don’t let those challenging or bad moments overshadow all the positive and good moments each day does contain.)

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GIVING CHANGE THE ‘GREEN LIGHT’

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My oldest godson and his wife decided it was time to start their family When they found out they were pregnant, they were ecstatic When they found out they were having twins, the excitement still remained but it was tempered with reality of having two babies at once. My godson jokingly commented, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

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The delightful twins! Seeing the blesson in the unexpected change.

Indeed! None of us sign up for unexpected news or unexpected change. While some unexpected changes are happy (albeit sometimes overwhelming as in the case of my godson and his wife), there are those changes that are not so happy or welcome.  What is the best way to deal with unexpected change (happy or otherwise) in our lives? Let’s explore some ways.

Acknowledging whatever feelings you have is important. Any feelings you may have are normal. You may feel worried, sad, stressed, lost, confused (insert how you are really feeling). Those are all typical and normal reactions. The key is to recognize them; acknowledge them, but don’t let them take control of you.

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Compartmentalizing thoughts and creating a special place for worry and doubt will help a lot.   Worry and doubt love to rear their heads in changed environments. Will we be able to handle two babies at once? Can I make it here? Will I be successful? Will I be able to move on?   Worrying does nothing but take away today’s peace! Someone said, “Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your joy and keeps you very busy doing nothing.”   Living and working in the changed environment takes energy. Doubt, fear, worry, anxiety – they are all energy zappers; they do nothing more than slow you down. If you can place thoughts of doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety in a special place in your mind, lock them in there, and toss the key you will then have room for thoughts of certainty, bravery, contentment, and a sense of calm.

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Taking control of your attitude is crucial. Motivational speaker and self-development author Brian Tracy tells us, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control our attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” You do need to take charge of your thoughts and actions in the changed environment. Be proactive and not reactive to what is going on. Unless you are dealing with a chemical imbalance in your system, if you want to be positive and happy, you will be. If you want to be negative and unhappy, you will be. The choice is yours, so take control of your attitude and focus on the thoughts and feelings that will help you adjust; that will help get you closer to your goals.

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Taking the time to mourn any losses that come with a change prepares us to move forward in the changed environment. What is lost when change happens? We lose the familiar like routines or ways of doing things. (This is most definitely the case when multiple children arrive at once.) We lose sameness; the comfortable. We lose the certain. We can lose a loved one. We can lose a relationship. We might lose part of a tradition. We might lose our comfort zone; a sense of security.   Some feel they lose a sense of purpose and perhaps even direction. Others feel a loss of control, space, power, social/role identity, or influence. No matter what is lost in the change, it is very important to take the time to grieve that loss. Again, we don’t want grief to overtake us, but we do need to acknowledge what we may be losing with the change.   Working through the grief process in a healthy way sets the stage for a positive new beginning.

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Giving yourself and others the time (and the space) to deal with the change will set the stage for acceptance. The adjustment to any change is a very personal process that takes time. I cannot quantify how long it will take. I can tell you to take it day by day (and even hour by hour within each day if need be). Just don’t rush things.

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Adopting a positive mindset goes a long way to acceptance. It is very easy to slip in a negative mindset when dealing with change: No way can I handle two babies at once! I don’t like it here. This is so different from what I expected. I just can’t do this. Nothing is going right.   Letting your optimistic side come to the forefront will help in putting the negative mindset in perspective.   Look for the bright side in things. Focus on the positive. Being positive will turn into being happier. Look for the “blessons” (blessings within lessons) that come your way.   (OK. I didn’t plan on two babies at once, but I did want two children. Having them at once means we only have to go through all the developmental stages once, be sleep deprived at once, etc.)

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Keeping things in perspective will help preserve your sanity. Stay in the present. Prioritize what is important. When we are unhappy or uncomfortable with the change or with what is changing, it is easy to focus on the past or the future. Neither is helpful because we can’t undo or have a do-over with the past and we have no control over the future. Emily Gibbons said, “If you worry about the future, and dwell on the past, you can’t enjoy the present.” If we keep things in perspective and focus on the present, it will be much easier to deal with the change as it is happening.

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Getting our thoughts and feelings “off our chest” can do wonders in moving us toward accepting what has or is changing. Stay in close touch with the “touchstones” in your life – your friends and family. Let them know what you are thinking and feeling. Work through options with them to deal with whatever adjustment issues you are facing. Your “touchstones” will provide a much needed support system.

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The journey to acceptance is probably the hardest journey you will ever take in your life. Having to let go of what was, having to adjust, having to understand or try to make sense of what happened, having to come to grips with ‘this is the life that I’ve now been given’ all make this journey a hard one. But, with a positive mindset, an attitude of excitement and anticipation, and seeing the change as an opportunity, the journey will be very manageable, worthwhile and enjoyable. Just keep focused on the new beginning and all that that might hold.

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FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN CHALLENGING SITUATIONS

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The following story, The Donkey in the Well (author unknown), provides inspiration for how important it is to look for opportunities when the twists and turns of life land us in a challenging situation, especially one that on the surface seems bleak and hopeless.

opportunity-donkey-in-well “One day a farmer´s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn´t worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone´s amazement, he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.  As the farmer´s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step upward!”

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It is our choice how we deal or react or respond to situations. There is no right or wrong reaction. But, how we react determines what happens to us. We can choose to allow the circumstance to paralyze us. We can hole up somewhere and do absolutely nothing. We can choose to allow the circumstances to get us down, blanketing us in negative emotions (sadness, anger, fear, etc.) turning us into unhappy people. Or, we can choose to make the best of the circumstance, finding the positive in it, and moving onward and upward.

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As Randy Pausch (the Carnegie Mellon University professor who courageously battled pancreatic cancer) said in The Last Lecture, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” If we follow his advice, we will concentrate on playing the hand we’re dealt well rather than complaining about it. If we can remember to always do the best we can where we are with what we have, we will be playing whatever “hand we’re dealt” well.

response-wooden-quoteThose who successfully navigate life’s most challenging circumstances, including major or seismic change, understand that it is their reaction to the events and circumstances that shapes their feelings, actions, and results. Motivational speaker and self-development author, Brian Tracy tells us, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” Your response will define your quality of life (paralyzed and immobilized; negative and unhappy; or, positive and making the best of everything). Do not let what happens to you dictate your response. Take control of your attitude which will control the direction of your response. There are a few things we can do to control the direction of our response, such as altering our perspective, looking for the positive in the negative, moving forward (or upward) always, changing our mindset from defeatist to one that says ‘I can get to the heart of the matter and move beyond this,’ considering all options, flipping the situation to our advantage, and having perseverance.

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A Chinese proverb tells us, “You must persevere to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.” We encounter many things in our lives that at first glance seem impossible. When we feel trapped and as if we are going to get buried (just as the donkey did), it is important to step back, take a deep breath, and tell ourselves “There is an opportunity here for me and I will find it.” If we can remember to be an optimist in the face of adversity, see opportunity in any and every difficulty, and persevere, we are more likely to overcome the challenge, defy the odds, and prevail (just as the donkey did).

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