Category Archives: Life Coaching

Dealing with the “F” Word

One of the realities we all face is not always succeeding at something the way we would like to succeed.  Many times we get results much different than we originally planned.  Unfortunately when this happens most of us call this f…  f…  failure (shudder, shudder.)

I hate the word and all the negative images it garners.  It has turned into a useless word, serving no purpose except to foster pessimistic and depressing feelings.  Instead of “well that didn’t work, what else can I try” has turned into “that didn’t work; I guess I’m hopeless and nothing will ever work.”  In a way, “failure” is a lot like its cousin “can’t,” in that it allows us to give up or quit. 

Like some many things in our life, how we decide to react to this “f” word is our choice.  We can choose to use it as a learning experience to grow or a pit of despair that stops us in our tracks.  While we all would like to succeed the first time through on all of our endeavors (me included), in reality we don’t learn from succeeding; we learn from failing.

If you don’t believe me, think of any invention ever created.  Start to look into its history and you’ll find stacks of “failures” before it was ready to be famous.  What brought each of the great inventions into being was the ability of its creator to see failing as a next step instead of an end step.

You can win at failing too by learning from your experiences.  Choose to have a different perspective; one that finds the opportunities in the situation instead of the giving up.  Trying something that doesn’t work only makes the method incorrect.  It’s not personal.  Method’s not working has nothing to do with who you are; just what you did.   The follow three keys will help you turn “failure” into a means to grow and learn:

  • Keep focus on the method; not the person (you)
  • Look at the situation
  • Learn from the experience

There will be times when you look at the situation and learn, you’ll decide the best course of action is to quit what you were doing and focus on something completely different.  Make it your conscious choice.

Remember, it’s not about how many times you fall down; it’s about how many times you get back up.  The easy part is you only have to get back up one more time than you’ve fallen to be on your path to success.


A is for Attitude

It’s the alpha of success and everybody has one.  A positive attitude can compensate for a lack of knowledge by making it easier for you learn and for others to teach you.  People who cultivate consistently positive attitudes expect great things; work hard for those things and are more likely to achieve them.

Here are some simple things you can do, now, that will help to develop a good attitude:

Use a clock radio that plays music that is soft and pleasant to wake you up. Don’t use a loud alarm clock.  Okay, some of you are laughing at this one because you’re saying that soft and pleasant music won’t help you get up but keep you sleeping.  Guess you’ll have to pass on this one; remember, the loud alarm you need to wake you doesn’t add to your positive attitude.

Allow yourself enough time to prepare for the day’s activities at a civilized pace. Don’t get up at the last possible moment. Yes, this may mean you have to go to bed a little earlier.  What are you willing to sacrifice to have a better attitude and more success?

Think of three specific things you can be grateful for while sitting on the “throne.” Do this every day! Don’t worry about how original you are.  You’ll feel better inside and out.

Think about the positive things you expect to accomplish today. Don’t listen to news of the world’s problems or worry about your own problems while you are getting your day started.  Giving your worries a rest for a few minutes goes a long way in helping you have a better attitude and, many times, will give you new insight into some of those issues.

Eat a healthy breakfast. No, a cup of coffee and a cookie do not qualify as a healthy breakfast.  Studies have shown this not only helps your attitude but also curbs the midmorning munchies and aids in a healthier body.  This one may take a while before you get used to it.

If you read the paper while eating breakfast, skip the negative “stinking thinking” news. Skim the headlines to keep yourself informed. Read the comics before you put the paper away, and be sure to make yourself laugh. Yes, I said MAKE yourself laugh!

When you think positively about yourself, you work harder at what you want to do and give up less easily.  When you think more positively about your colleagues, employees, spouse and children, you build stronger and more productive relationships which leads to greater success at work and at home.

Cultivating a positive attitude isn’t always easy.  However, the more you work on it the easier it gets.  If you think you are already too busy and don’t have time think about how much time you spend watching television or just surfing the Internet each day.  If you reduce one of these activities by just 30 minutes per day you will have captured more than 7 ½ full 24-hour days.

Which will help your attitude and success more – 7 days a year watching television or 7 days a year building your future?  The choice is all yours.


Understanding Self-confidence

Some people have a lot and others very little.  In fact, how much we have can vary greatly depending on time and circumstances.  The more positive it is can drive you to new levels of success and, conversely, the more negative can stop all progress.

You can call it self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth or even self-image and for years psychologists and behavioral scientists have recognized it as the single, most significant force directing and determining your life toward success or failure, fulfillment or frustration, illness or health.

The quality of your life actually reflects the image you have of yourself. Without exception, everything about you, your relationships, your work, your financial position, and even your mental, emotional and physical well-being is powerfully affected by your self-image. The bottom line, how you think of yourself is how you appear to others.  Changing your thoughts will only work if you truly believe them.  You can change your words but if inside you are still thinking something else then that is what will come out.

There never was a winner who didn’t believe that he or she deserved to win – in advance! Winners deserve to win. You have to have a dream if you’re going to make a dream come true. Your real value is in your potential, not just in your performance to date. Successful people believe in their own worth, even when they cling to nothing but a dream.  They can do this because their own self-worth is stronger than the rejection or acceptance of their ideas by others.

Our self-confidence is a journey, not a destination.  It started building in childhood and continues today to change; growing or shrinking depending on our experiences.  Our parents helped us to feel worthwhile and competent in mastering childhood tasks.  Our self-confidence continued to be nourished through achieving competency in areas important to us.

Self-confidence affects our entire life.  In general, the rougher the going gets on the outside, the greater the need for self-worth on the inside.  Your ability to overcome obstacles is enhanced if you have high self-confidence.  You are who you think you are, no more, no less.  That’s why it pays to think great!

If you want to improve your it, try something new and follow through, follow through, follow through.  All attempts you make give you practice toward your goal.  Remember Thomas Edison’s reply when asked about his work finding the right filament for the light bulb, “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.” If you learn something from every attempt you might not have reached your goal yet but you sure have learned a lot; and learning something new is always a good self-confidence booster.


Wring these Worst Words from Your Ways

There are two words in our language that are responsible for destroying more successful plans than any others.  They’re used so often most of us are not even conscious we say them.  On the surface, they are just words.  Subconsciously, they set up a whole mindset that undermines success, creates unhappiness and stifles creativity.

The words are “can’t” and “but”.  Properly speaking, “can’t” should only apply when there is a physical or literal impossibility.  For instance, “I can’t jump from the Earth to the moon”; it is physically impossible to make that leap.  Unfortunately, we’ve grown to using it for a whole myriad of excuses.

We use “can’t” to give ourselves an easy out.  I can’t, so let me go on my way.  I can’t do it so I don’t have to feel guilty.  I just can’t.  There are so many better ways to phrase what is going on that will allow for possibilities.  Here are some examples:

Destructive Statement: I can’t achieve my dreams because I don’t have enough money.
Possible meaning: I don’t want to achieve my dreams and I’ll use money as an excuse.
or   I’m embarrassed by not having the money I need so I won’t do anything.
Supportive Statement: How can I raise the money I need so I can achieve my dreams?
or   I don’t have enough money now to achieve my dreams.  What creative ways can I find to either gain more money or decrease the expenses to achieving my dreams?
Destructive Statement: I can’t do the exercises because I don’t have enough time.
Possible meaning: I don’t think I’m worth taking time to do the exercises.
or   Everything else I do is more important to me than the exercises.
Supportive Statement: What can I sacrifice to allow me the time I need to do the exercises?
or   What benefits will I get from doing these exercises and what is that worth to me in comparison to everything else in my life?
Destructive Statement: I can’t quit smoking.
Possible meaning: I’m afraid if I quit smoking I’ll pick up a worse habit.
or   I don’t care about life that much.
Supportive Statement: What small step can I take today to lessen my dependency on smoking?
or   Who do I know I turn to for help in quitting this addiction?

Realize what you are doing when you use “can’t”; you are allowing yourself to quit.  Is it really “can’t” or is it “I don’t want to”, or “I don’t know how”, or “I won’t”, or “I’m afraid”?  What if you didn’t allow yourself to quit?  What would you be capable of then? Try wringing “can’t” from your ways for a day.  Do you think you can or do you think, “I can’t!”

The other worst word is “but”.  “But” is a little more subtle; it’s the qualifier we use when we want to say something without really saying it or when we really mean something different.  It’s the qualifier we put in that could really be left out.  When trying to determine the real meaning in a sentence try taking everything that appears before the “but” and then listen for meaning.

Destructive Statement: I’d really like to help but I have to work.
Adjusted Statement I have to work.
Meaning: I will be at work instead of helping.
or   I don’t really want to help so I’ll use work as an acceptable excuse.
Destructive Statement: My dreams are important but I have others to think of first.
Adjusted Statement I have others to think of first.
Meaning: Other people are more important than my dreams.
or   I’m afraid to go after my dreams so I’ll focus on other people.

“But” has a much greater impact on our inner voice conversation.  It’s easy to justify being nice to other people when using this word.  However, when you are talking to yourself is when “but” becomes very destructive.  How often do you use this word inside your own head?  Think of the possibilities if you look at your feelings in their true meaning.  Is it time to wring “but” from your ways, for even a day?

While you are wrestling with these worst words, listen to someone you consider very successful.  How often do you hear these words coming from their mouth?  No very many times, I’m sure.


Your day; Your Choice

 “This is the beginning of a new day.  You have been given this day to use as you will.  You can waste it or use it for good.  What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind… let it be something good.”  ~Unknown Author

Every morning we awake to a whole opportunity for us to choose.  We can choose to live today just as we did yesterday or we can choose to live differently.

What did you choose when you woke up today?

I decided do something that I revisit every now and then just to remind myself what’s really important.  As I was walking out to get the newspaper I stopped and just listened for a moment.  Then I smelled the air and looked around.

It was early, just before the sun rose completely.  The air was cool with spring morning dampness.  I could hear a number of birds singing their morning song and an occasional car driving by the house.  Two little dogs barked at something, probably me, and a peacock cried out (yes, I have a neighbor who has peacocks.)  Looking around, all the colors were shades of gray and I stood watching as the day colorized with the growing light.  I took a deep breath and felt the relaxation and the wondrous possibilities of a new day dawning.

It doesn’t have to be morning to do this little exercise.  You can do it right where you are and right now.  Give it a try, stop for a moment and look around you.  Pay attention to the details.

How does the air feel; is it hot or cold?

What do you see that stirs you emotionally; making you happy or sad?

If you go outside to let the dog out, pick up the mail or just take a walk notice the sounds and smells around you.  Take a step, stop, and look around.  Examine your all too familiar surroundings and notice something new.

Why?  Because being more aware of your surroundings will help you to look at life a little differently.  And looking at life a little differently will help you to find new ways to accomplish the tasks on your list.  And accomplishing the tasks on your list gets you one step closer to completing your goals.  And completing your goals helps you to achieve your dreams.

At the end of the day, when your head rests on your pillow, how will you look back on this day?  Did you waste it or use it for good? 

What will you choose when you wake up tomorrow?


Choices, Choices Everywhere

Every day we make hundreds and hundreds of choices, most of which are unconscious and overlooked.  For instance, when you choose to get up in the morning you make the choice of putting your feet on the floor and standing up instead of falling out of bed.  It’s not a choice you give a lot of thought to but it is important and mostly made subconsciously. Okay, sometimes we are not that steady on our feet and we may choose to stand up but your body falls anyway depending on the night we had or other issues.  My point is you make the choice of getting up; it doesn’t just happen. 

Other choices we make have more thought involved with them.  How about driving down the road and deciding to run the yellow light or wait for the next green?  Maybe you’ve run so many yellow lights that it doesn’t seem like much of a choice to you but you are making a choice and the more unconscious this choice is the more dangerous it becomes.

With all the choices you make, three basic rules apply:

  1. Everything in your life is a choice
  2. You, and you alone, have the final say in your choices
  3. There are consequences to every choice you make

I can already hear the arguments regarding the first rule.  I’ve been thinking a lot and every instance I can think of comes back to a choice you make.  Even the death argument holds true.  I concede that you don’t get a choice of when you die but you do get a choice on when and how to live.  There are many choices you can, and I expect do, make that help you to keep living like eating food, staying healthy and avoiding dangerous, life threatening situations.  So even life and death are a choice you make.

Same holds true for the second rule.  Worst case scenario is someone wants to force their will on you; that’s their choice not yours.  Your choice is to fight them or go along and depending on how you perceive the third rule, the consequences, will have a huge impact on how you choose.  We might be influenced by others’ choices, but we decide for ourselves whether to follow their decision or one of our own. 

The hardest of these rules can be the third, every choice has a consequence.  Luckily, most of our choices have consequences that we like and want.  When you choose to pay your heating bill you have the benefit of being warm in the winter.  However, if you choose not to pay for the groceries at the store the consequence will probably be jail time.

What does all this mean?  These rules open up the possibilities in your life.  They mean you don’t have to feel stuck in any situation; you can make a choice and change that situation.  They mean you don’t have to settle for the consequence of a choice; you can choose differently to change the consequence.  They mean you no longer have to feel like someone else is dictating your life; you choose your path.


Perspective: Our Window on the World

I looked at several online dictionaries as well as one hardcopy dictionary for the definition of perspective.  I found essentially two definitions:

  • A method of showing distance in art by making far away objects smaller.
  • A way of judging how something is in comparison with other things.

I’d like to focus on the second description since I work more in life than in art.  According to this one, perspective is how we make judgments regarding our world and everything in it; be that good versus bad, important versus not, or difficult versus easy.

In essence, perspective is an opinion; it is your opinion.  By virtue of this definition, your perspective can never be wrong, unless you make it so.  It can also be changed based on new knowledge or just a feeling.

I love looking at how my own perspectives have changed over the years.  A simple example is how I see the trees and forests while driving down the road.  For a long time I would see the scene as if a picture, the trees were there along with other features of the terrain but it was all flat.  A few months after I started my own business and what seemed like all of a sudden, the trees and terrain became three dimensional.  I started seeing the layers and recognized that some trees were closer than others.  Logically, I know it was never flat and yet in my mind’s eye that is how I saw them.  I imagine a contributing factor was my hurry to get to my job everyday and focusing on that which helped me to miss the world around me.  What’s interesting is that I know when I’m stressed or in more of a hurry now because I start to see the scene as flat again.  It’s a good reminder to relax and refocus on what is important in my life. 

When was the last time you paid attention to your perspective?  Take a moment, right now, and stop – look around; what do you see?  Share your perspective and what it means to you.


Proving a Better Way Isn’t Always Easy

The time for change had come.  The leadership had tried working with the people running the program for almost two years and still they hadn’t made the progress they desired and knew could be achieved.  I was approached and asked to look at the program and see what would be needed to get the desired results.

I began, as I do with any change project, by listening vigilantly to the people sponsoring the program as well as the students participating in it.  What I found was a disjoint between what the sponsors wanted to see learned and what was actually internalized.  The program had been around for over 30 years in similar forms throughout the world and by all records, very successful in accomplishing its goals.  Why was ours not reaching its full potential?

Keeping in mind all I heard from the listening to the people and all I learned from researching these kinds of programs I created a whole new design for the program.  It felt like it was time to try something new.  Traditionally, the program was always delivered in one block of time, usually five days in a row.  My design was to split it across seven sessions, meeting for a full day once a month.

It took a little work to convince the leadership to try the new idea.  Once they were on board, the task become convincing the groups that sponsor the program to support the new design.  I knew presenting such a different format would be met with some resistance.  When it was time to present to the sponsoring groups I thought I was ready.  I had my research, my design and feedback from past participants.  What I didn’t have was data supporting the seven-month format. 

I was not prepared for the vehemence of their response.  It was more than just resistance to change; many people felt the program was working just fine as it was and the change wasn’t necessary.  Others felt the change would make finding participants much more difficult due to the extended commitment.  Still others saw the change as corrupting the tradition of the program and would cause a negative perception for the sponsors.  A few were willing to try it for a year but reserved full support until they saw some results.  After what seemed like hours of discussion we had enough support to go forward with the new design.

The first year saw a small group of participants, all fully sponsored.  The results were better than any of us could ever imagine.  When asked about their experience, all the participants thought they learned more from the once a month format than they would have learned had all the information been presented in a one week program.  The program was, by all records, a huge success.  While we won many more supporters after that first year, there still were those who disagreed with the new format.

The change has been in effect for the past five years and the number of people supporting has steadily grown.  While there are still some who would rather see the format go back to one week, many, many others like it just the way it is.

It took almost five years of answering questions, resolving concerns and graduating successful participants to prove the validity of this programs new design.   While it wasn’t always easy, it was always worth it.  It took a little faith and a lot of confidence.


Winning and Losing

All our lives we are told to win, win, win!  We’re encouraged to be the best student and get the highest grades and ranking in our class.  When we play sports it becomes get the most points or cross the finish line first.  Even into adulthood with our work the drive is to make more money and move up the ladder.  If you haven’t been subjected to any of these I’m happy for you.  I’ve seen it far more often than not and seen the negative consequences it can create.

These win-lose scenarios may create an atmosphere that motivates people to strive to be better but only for a short while.  Once you’ve been on the losing side of the equation the competition isn’t motivating any longer.  In fact, what happens is the “loser” starts resenting the “winner.”  Before too long the person winning the competition can be made to feel like they are losing instead.  In these cases, the win-lose turns into an ugly lose-lose situation.

I have had disagreements with plenty of people regarding win-lose versus lose-lose and win-win scenarios.  I have no problem with friendly competition (win-lose) because it does help drive many of us to be better.  If we are playing a game a lot of the fun comes from trying to win the game.  But, what happens when the same person wins over and over and over?  You guessed it; no one wants to play anymore.  The person who was wining loses because no one will play and everyone else loses because they don’t have a chance; turning the win-lose into lose-lose. 

Not all examples of this are as obvious.  How about in business; how many meetings have you attended that you thought were a waste of time?  Think about one of them.  What made the meeting so bad?  Did the leader care about your ideas, help you to do something better or were they more focused on the leader’s own wants?  Would you say the meeting was a win-win, win-lose or lose-lose? 

I’m sure the leader of the meeting would say they were going to for a win-win.  People don’t generally call meetings unless they want something positive from them.  I’m also sure the participants would say this particular meeting was a lose-lose.  If people attending felt they wasted their time they are going to feel a loss for themselves as well as lessening their respect for the leader.

Striving for the win-win in all situations gets better results.  Games trying for win-win focus on the fun of the competition more than who gets the most points.  In business the win-win comes when everyone can gain something from their work.  Sometimes it’s additional knowledge or feeling respected, other times it’s having your idea be the catalyst for something big in the company.   

On the big scale of life, there is no win-lose; only win-win or lose-lose.  The question is whether to follow the common, easy path which leads to lose-lose or the less traveled, harder path leading to win-win.  The latter will make all the difference.


Patience, Balance, and Relaxation

I’ve been a trainer and teacher for all my adult years.  At the core, it is what I am.  It seems I look at every situation as a learning opportunity – sometimes to the frustration of my friends and family. 

Always trying to find better ways to reach people I developed three basic principles that appear in everything we do: patience, balance, and relaxation.  Before we get twisted in multiple definitions let me define how I use them.

Patience is about waiting for the right moment to act.  You do this automatically in many situations.  An example is waiting your turn to speak when in a conversation with someone.  If you try to speak at the same time as someone else something in the conversation gets lost.

Balance is about knowing what to do when patience has determined the right moment to act.  Knowledge coupled with understanding creates balance. We are learning creatures.  The more we learn the better our lives become.  The more we learn the more balance we have in our lives.

Relaxation is about not trying to make something happen but letting it happen.  When we have patience to wait for the right moment; have the balance of knowing and understanding what to do; and trust to let it happen, all goes well.  The hard part of this is overriding our desire to control everything around us.

Let’s look at an example where you probably already employ our three principles: driving a car.  You’re on the highway and determine you need to change lanes because the car you are approaching is moving slower than you.  Do you just switch lanes?  Hopefully not; first you look to make sure the lane where you want to go is clear.  You wait for the right moment to change lanes.  This becomes especially important the more traffic there is on the road.  Now that we’ve got the right moment we have to know what to do in that moment; turn on the blinker, rotate the steering wheel appropriately, check our speed, and keep an eye on all the other vehicles.  The relaxation is a little harder to see.  No, we don’t just go limp at the steering wheel and expect the car to operate on its own.  Relaxation in this case is being comfortable with our steering; speed and spacing to change lanes.  If you don’t think this is letting it happen try driving with someone who has just received their driving permit.

I have yet to be presented with a situation where these principles don’t apply.  Think of anything you already do well and these three principles will be present.  Think of something you want to do better and at least one of these three will be the reason you still struggle.