Dream Big and Choose Joy!

choose-joyHappy New Year 2017!  It seems that everyone that I talk to is so excited and looking forward to a new start this year.  2016 was challenging for most of us.  My year was particularlly difficult because I set my goals high and I had some major challenges and setbacks.  Looking back on my journal from January 2016 I set many goals – as I do each year.  I would like to share them with you because I feel that I am just starting to realize that I CAN create the life that I wish to live.

These are not in any particular order

  • sell house in Virginia
  • buy house in Florida (see details of exact house in dream book)
  • move by July
  • create own business
  • get 3 clients by Sept 30
  • speak at conference in LA
  • speak at ICE
  • celebrate July 4th at Moose Lodge in Anna Maria Island with Angel
  • join a Toastmasters club in Florida

As you can see, this is a very aggressive set of goals for one year.  I had been in the VA house for over 18 years, at my job for over 10 years.  I was comfortable but I was not living my dream.  I had planned to move to Florida, I had dreamed of moving and changing my life – Dreaming and Planning are not doing.

I am not some special person who can make her goals and dreams come true all of the time.  I put a lot of effort into my dreams and plans.  I made smaller goals, I visualized,  I planned to make things happen by a certain date.  Sure, some took longer than I had planned, sure, I had setbacks but I was persistent.  I am now beginning to realize that I CAN create the life that I have always dreamed about.  If I can do all of these things in one year – just think of all of the things that you can do in one year.  My wish to you is to dream big.  Go for that life of your dreams!  And above all else – Choose Joy!  Best to you in 2017!


Happy Holidays – be joyful

happy-holidays-to-all-from_learning-and-reflective-growth-2Learning and Reflective Growth is not just the name for my company, it is my passion.  My number one strength according to Gallup’s Strengthsfinder (C) is Learner.    My wonderful business coach suggested that I put pictures on my blog – people are visual.  My first thought was that I did not have time to create pictures with captions.  I did not wish to learn something that would eat up my precious time.  I actually told her that I feel it would be a “time suck”.

As usual, I listened to her advice and now I am getting pretty good creating pictures with captions for my blog.  In fact, I decided that I would use my own pictures and my own captions from now on.  I create an original quote everyday as a discipline.  Being creative makes me happy, it gives me such  joy!  As I create these pictures with captions I realized that I am not too bad of a photographer.  I now have a reason to use my own quotes that I have been putting in a book for posterity.

I wish you Happy Holidays and challenge you to do something that is your strength.  Using your strength will bring you joy!  I promise.  Be joyful this holiday season.  Best!






Outrageous Abundance

outrageousabundanceYes, self-development is my “thing”.  As I was researching “Mission in Life”, “what is your purpose in life” and other such topics I happened upon a daily quote application from Ester and Jerry Hicks (Abraham).  I’ve read a lot of their books and materials so I opted in.  Little did I know one of these quotes would change my attitude and vision for the future.  The quote mentioned the concept of “outrageous abundance”.

This is what I would like out of life!  I want outrageous abundance.  But, what does it look like to me?  I was hoping that it means: many friends, perfect health, prosperity, much wisdom, the most I can get out of life.  I meditated I focused on outrageous abundance for the last two weeks.  I was not sure how to visualize this concept.  I was a bit stumped but just kept saying the words in hope for clarity.

As I walked on the beach yesterday morning I was thinking about outrageous abundance -then I saw it.  YES!!!  I saw outrageous abundance.  I noticed that that particular day there were piles of shells scattered around the surf.  As I walked I saw shells sparkle up at me.  I bent down and saw what I call the pointy cone shell (I am sure it has a very scientific name but this is my wording).  I love these shells and began to collect them as I walked.  By the time I had walked a mile I had many of these shells in my hand.  I realized that there were so many shells on the beach…it was outrageous how many shells had washed up that night.   I started to connect the dots.  How much water was in the Gulf of Mexico?  Yes, an outrageous amount of water.  How much sand was on the beach.  You guessed it…

I experienced outrageous abundance during that walk.  I saw it with my own eyes.  I can now picture and visualize so much of something that now my meditation and visualization has become so much easier.  For my friends in the north and midwest I challenge you to take a walk in the snow and experience your outrageous abundance (just bundle up).  Sometimes if you think about something and have it in your mind the thoughts, concepts or ideas will become clearer.  Here’s to clearer thoughts for you this holiday season!


I almost died surfing on South Beach or how emotional intelligence can save your life

i-almost-died-on-south-beachorhow-emotional-intelligence-cansave-your-lifeI was teaching a class on Emotional Intelligence to a group of men who were various ages.  The Amygdala hijack and the pause between stimulus and response (Viktor Frankel) were the topics of the moment.  Mike, about 25, was quietly listening in the back of the room when he suddenly burst out of his seat leaning forward almost standing.  “That is exactly what happened to me  – I totally get it” He had so much passion and energy as he told his story to the entire class.

The wave demolished me as I was surfing on South Beach.  It pulled me down, down.  I got caught in the current – rip tide – rocks.  I felt stuck.  I panicked.  I couldn’t breathe.  The current was all around me pulling me, pushing me.  This was the closest to death I had ever been in my life.  Then everything suddenly went into slow motion.  I slowed down – totally – got my head straight.  I knew that I needed to let go and let the current take me – let it pull me out.  Then I had to swim diagonally with the shore to get out of the rip tide.  I made it to the shore.

He then explained that he started meditating about two years ago because of his anger management issues.  He learned how to calm down when he felt his body get tense, hot and angry.  Mike had never heard of the Amygdala hijack – when the emotional part of the brain takes over the prefrontal cortex (the logical part of the brain).  As we were discussing  the emotional intelligence concepts in class his near death experience suddenly came flashing back to him.  This time he now understood what had happened.  He realized that his meditation and training his brain and body to relax had saved his life.

Yes, research shows that for humans there is a pause between stimulus and response.  That pause is usually only lasts for a second – but as Mike described- that second can go into slow motion and feels longer.  We can train our brain to control our bodies to relax so we can think more logically without the clogging of emotion.  I am not saying that meditating can save your life one day.  But, Mike sure did.


I’ll eat that Frog with a side of Big Rocks

3Time management has never been an issue for me until recently.  I find myself getting lost doing the “fun” things and not wanting to do the “boring” things that I really need to do for my business.  So what does a frog and big rocks have to do with time management?  The answer is…SOOOOO much.  Now that I know how to eat the frog and put my big rocks first – time management is a bit easier.

A few years ago I asked a colleague, Michael Wharton, to teach a seminar on time management for Faculty and Staff Enrichment Day at George Mason University.  That is when I was introduced to the book, “Eat that Frog”by Brian Tracey.  The concept is very simple.  You get a big ugly frog at 8am and have until 5pm to eat it.  Most people procrastinate and moan and groan that they have to eat that frog thus wasting valuable time.  If I just ate that frog first… all problems solved.  So, do that tough thing, first thing in your day.  You will be happy it is out of the way and you don’t have to fret or worry. (or moan and groan).  Usually, frogs are not the big projects that you need to complete – they are the phone calls you don’t wish to make, the filing that has piled up or the one task that  seems too boring or difficult.

Big rocks on the other hand are the very important projects or planning that need to get completed or at least – started.  Stephen R. Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective people introduced me to Habit 3: Put first things first.  One of the biggest things (pun intended) is putting the big rocks first.  He has an awesome exercise (volunteer needed) to experientially demonstrate how we should put the big rocks first because these are the most important things.  The little rocks (or not important things) can fall away and we won’t notice much.  Sometimes it takes days to complete the “big rocks” so I break them down into a few big rocks and try to do one each day.

I have a frog on my to do list (literally – a picture of a frog) to remind me to do this thing first thing in the morning or when I sit at my computer that day.  Most days I do eat that frog first thing in the morning, however, my most recent frog has jumped (yes I did write that) from one to do list to another over the course of a week.  I just got busy, I tell myself. There are other things to do today, this week, this month (please not this YEAR!).  So, how do I get back on my lily pad and get things done?  I found 5 things that worked for me.

  1.  I make the to do list simple – only 1 or 2 things on the list – that way I am forced (by myself) to do these things.  I hate a not done “to do” list.
  2. I make those frogs bigger – literally make the picture of the frog huge.
  3. I use the Bridget Method – my most wonderful former training assistant, Bridget, used to put post-it notes all over to remind her (OK… seriously, mostly me) do to something.  I put a post – it note on the screen of my computer.
  4. I ask someone to help me.  My first accountability partner, Patrick is excellent at sending me reminder and summarizing emails.  Then I have Marie who holds me to one thing each week (I choose that thing) and I do the same for her.
  5. I celebrate!  When I finally ate the frog and removed the big rocks I do something that I love to do.  Recently, that has been setting aside time to read murder mystery novels.

Hopefully, when you can’t eat that frog and the rocks are all falling this simple list may give you some ideas on how to motivate yourself to get done what you need to get done.  Now go out there and eat that frog!

Goals: Setting and Getting

3Many people talk about goal setting but I wish to discuss goal getting.  Sure there are millions of articles and coaches who have given us ways to set goals.  There is a ton of literature about goal setting.  I do believe that you must set a goal before you GET your goal.

First, write down your goal in a clear, SMART goal fashion in the present tense.  It needs to be specific – for example, “I need to lose weight” is not specific, “I now weigh 150” (20 lbs less than I weight now) is more specific.  If nothing else make sure your goal is Measurable – “When I step on the scale on December 1st I will weigh 150lbs”.  (I can measure the date and the weight).  Attainable – I know there is no way that I can lose 30lbs in a month.  This is not attainable or realistic (R).  Timely – make sure you have a date that you will reach the goal.

Here are Seven Ways to GET your Goal

  1.  Keep your goal where you will see it each day.  If it is in your journal, on your wall in your office or on the ceiling under your bed.  Sure, if you read the secret you heard that someone put a $100,000.000. check the ceiling so when he work up he would see it each day.  I think it was Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup for the Soul fame.  I keep my goals in my journal (first page) so I see it at least 5 times a week.
  2. Break it down… (OK my musical prodigies are now singing and dancing).  Yes, break the goal down into sections.  If I wish to lose weight I could break it down by time – 5lbs each month for 4 months.  Or I would break down a goal by parts.  Do each part by a certain date.  Go after each part of the goal to GET the entire goal.
  3. Fear!!!!  Some people feel the fear and are paralyzed.  Sometimes I have paralysis by analysis.  I think and think and don’t do.  My coach, Sheri, told me feel the fear and do it anyway. If fear interferes with your Action – just do it.  Face it head on and deal with it.  Make that call.  Go to the gym.  Meet that person.  Go to that meeting.  Once you take the first step it gets easier.
  4. Thanks!  Give thanks for all of the parts of the goal that you CAN get.   Give thanks for those who help you.  Send thank you emails, notes and texts.
  5. Ask for help.  Yes.  This is the one that gets me in trouble.  I hate to “bug” people.  I good friend told me once that I NEVER bug anyone, what I have to offer is always positive and important.  My son would disagree, but I try to keep that advice in mind.  Asking for help when I can’t do something myself (or it would take me forever) is a very important step toward getting your goal.
  6. Visualize what life will be like when you get your goal.  I always do this in the moment right before I wake up or right before I fall asleep.  Day dreaming is good for you.  Close your eyes and take about a minute to see you at your goal.  I also have a possibilities journal where I write what I want in the future — I write it as a story as if I have it already.
  7. Celebrate even the smallest victories.  Yes, I only went to the gym once this week.  But that is one more time than I went all last year!!!  Celebrate with something you love  (note:  not with chocolate if you are losing weight) – Call a friend and share your victory!

Good luck with your goal getting.  Now go out there and GET em!

The meaning of life…your purpose unveiled.

4Recently, I have been on a month’s challenge to meditate and exercise each day.  I have noticed that for some reason I am listening other’s messages better than I ever have before.  Waiting to hear all of what someone is saying – clarifying if i don’t understand and paraphrasing back to make sure I did indeed understand.  That is a the definition of active listening and I have been noticing that I am doing much better in my attempt to communicate since my challenge.  Also, participants in my classes are asking deep, meaning of life questions.  I don’t have the answers but after listening – I blurted out what I thought was something very important.

The meaning of life is to find your gift and your purpose in life is to share that gift with others.

I realized long ago that my gift is to assist adults in learning what they wish to learn.  To facilitate their learning process, ask questions, summarize and motivate.  I hope to share this gift with others by facilitating classes in self-awareness and team building.  Also, through coaching.

Recently, I have realized that many people do not know the purpose of their life.  Most people have not reflected or sought the answer to this question.  Many  people are fumbling with the question and have not made it to the answer and others are stumbling, frustrated to find the answer.

It is quite easy to find your purpose in life, once you know the process.  Take some time to reflect about what you love, what you are good at doing and why you love to do what you do.  Learn more about yourself through self-assessments, coaching and interviews with loved ones and work colleagues.  Once you find your life’s meaning/purpose – share it with others.  If you love art – share your art.  If you love working with children – share your gift with children.  If you are gifted at fixing – fix for others.

Sure, this seems like such an easy solution to an age old mystery.  “What is my purpose in Life?  Why was I put on this planet?  What does it all  mean?”  Once you know this answer – do what you love to do – do what you do best!  Then share that with others.

Please share your gift today.

Do you know your strengths?

2Recently I was teaching life and communication skills to inmates at a Jail in south Florida.  The Sheriff’s office decided that this would be a great idea to learn these skills before they were released.  I have facilitated many audiences in my day (30 years) but this group is very different.  I asked the group of men (about 16 that day) to list 4 of their strengths on the handout; then write down 1 thing someone told you that you do very well.  Other audiences have no problem with this task.  Millenials are usually excellent at this task.  When working at the University the young people  would quickly write such things as: organizing, editing, listening or working with people.   As I walked around the inmates tables reading over their shoulders I was shocked to see listed on the handouts:  eating, sleeping, working out.  Most of them had so much trouble with this task.  And they could not think of anything that someone had said positive about their strengths.

What could I learn from this strange occurrence?  Why would they not either know or list their strengths?  What was going on here?  Fortunately this was the third class with this group.  I felt pretty comfortable just asking them.  “Hmmmm” I uttered, “It seems like a lot of you are having some difficulty coming up with some strengths”.  They asked for some suggestions.  So, remembering some of their hobbies and jobs I mentioned, fishing, cooking, working with boats, construction, making things with wood.  Each one wrote down something that they thought they could do well.  But, it took a really long time and a lot of prompting.

After the class, I was mulling over this odd anomaly.  I asked two of the guards and one of the civilian HR people what they thought was going on with their lack of knowledge about their strengths.  “They usually are hearing what they have done wrong”.  “This is a very negative place – Jail is not supposed to be positive – we don’t want them to come back”.  “Most of these men come from families with drug problems.”

Now, I understood a bit more.  Yes, I admit that I am quite naive when it comes to jails and that lifestyle.  I do realize that it takes a positive environment or at least not a negative environment if one wishes to be self-aware.  Also, being on a “substance” is not a true indicator of a strength or a time to be learning about yourself, emotions, or strengths.  Most of these men grew up in homes without resources, positive words or good role models.  They were at Maslow’s lower levels fighting for survival, food and shelter.  Now, in the classroom they had their safety needs met and began to think of self-development.

I have 4 more classes with this group.  They all participate in class and are genuinely trying to learn the skills.  It does take some time to get their thoughts in order – I have found that  having them think about what they want in the future rather than what “is” presently is quite helpful.  One man pulled at my heart strings when he said, “my strength is that I want to be a good father”.  He told the class that right now he is not –  but he wants THAT to be his strength.  We brainstormed on what strengths make a great father.  Consistency, being present, honesty, loyalty and trustworthiness were top candidates.  He decided that he would choose one of these strengths and really think about it and work toward that strength.

Sure, that is not the way Gallup teaches us to teach strengths to others.  But, sometimes, I have learned, I have to go with the group.  What works for them – works for them.  Self-development takes time, reflection and practice.  If we did not have the best past it will be harder and we may have to strive for a future strength. Remembering the young millennials at the university, I am grateful that they had good childhoods, resources and role models.  Most importantly, I am grateful to know these men and work with them.  I am learning so much.

What have you learned lately about yourself lately?




Those dirty Fishermen!

5Last week, Wednesday, I was surprised when I looked out my office window to see my neighbor and his buddies fishing in the lake.  “It is 10am.  They should be working.  Oh, maybe they had the day off and there really must be some fish in that lake. ” My thoughts were swirling that day.  They fished for about two hours, drank beers ate some food and listened to music (while I worked – writing curriculum).   I went on with my work and forgot all about the fishing escapade.

Two days later I looked out my office window and saw what appeared to be a coke can floating near the shore of the lake where they were fishing.  I saw another red object a few feet away.  “oh great!” I exclaimed, “those fisherman are litter bugs!  What a mess they left in the lake.  Those poor ducks and herons and fish”.  But, I didn’t do anything at all.  The mowing crew for the Homeowners Association will pick it up – I assumed.  I went on with my work and forgot all about the trash incident.

The next week came and I notice that the mowing crew did not pick up the “coke can” and other trash in the lake.  I thought, “I should go and get it myself.  This is really bothering me.”  But, I am seriously afraid of fire ants and they are all over our back yard and the lake property.  I watch out my office window and see people mowing their lawns or walking and doing the fire ant dance.  In case you live in the north, let me describe this dance for you.  First, you bring your knees up and stomp your feet.  You stomp and stomp.  Then you reach down and take off your flip flops and start beating your legs with them while using your arms to swat and swish your feet and legs.  Fire ants are awful if they bite you, it will sting like a bee then it will itch (like you have never felt an itch) for days.  Of course, you will scratch and leave a huge scar.  On my list of worst things in the world – fire ants rank right up there.

After a week and a day I decided I would brave the dangers and go get the trash myself.  I put on my rain boots (ants) and grabbed the skimmer net from the pool.  Gingerly, I walked to the lake shore avoiding ant mounds and anything that did not look like grass.  Yes, it was its own special dance.  Then I saw it, scooped it up.  Not a coke can but a red christmas ornament bulb.  Then I saw the kit kat wrapper along with a green plastic bag that blended in to the  grass.  I scooped it all up and did the tip toe dance back to my house.

I don’t think the fishermen left that trash.  But, then again I don’t know much about fishing.  Maybe red Christmas ornaments are the newest bait in South Florida?  I asked myself, why didn’t I do this sooner?  Did my OCD or social responsibility take over my fear of fire ants?   I often wonder why we as human do or do not do certain things when we know them to be the right thing to do.  Do our fears stop us?  Are we just lazy?  Knowing more about why we behave certain ways (or not) is key to how to get along with others in life.  I am pretty sure that is why I am so interested in self-assessments and learning more about myself and others.

So WHO are you and WHAT do you do?

who-are-youRecently, I was working with a team of people and they did not know each other personally    or professionally.  There was a lack of trust because they had no idea how their jobs related with their “team mate’s” jobs.  This is so amazing to me but once I learned the dynamics — I now understood how this happened and how common and prevalent this type of team is in the business world.

“Sure, I know my job and how to do my job”, said Mary.  I had no doubts.  Mary seemed competent and her boss, Jennifer, gushed about how quickly Mary creates her reports.  In fact, Jennifer said her entire team of millennials was engaged in their jobs and got their tasks done efficiently.  They seemed to always want more to do.  So what could go wrong with this efficient team?  It seems they were not a team.  They were a group of people doing their own tasks and not talking to each other at all.  They also complained to Jennifer about the others.  She heard such things as; Jeff is always out of the office, Mary never talks to anyone – she is anti-social and Greg is always criticizing everyone.

I spoke to some of the team members before our “training” and heard these complaints. I realized that they did not know each other’s personalities or jobs.  The day we met everyone seemed very upbeat and eager to figure out what this “training” was all about.  They all were interested in making the team better but they were not sure how to do this since they did not trust the other members of the team.  We started with a simple exercise just to have each person share a bit about themselves.  It is a creative exercise where each person draws, writes or colors something about their family, work philosophy, what they do at work, and hobbies.  It was amazing how receptive everyone was to get a chance to learn more about their co-workers and teammates.  During lunch (we ate together) people actually asked questions, shared stories and laughed with each other (not at each other).  For some reason, they never had a chance to get to know each other.  They were “too busy” working on their own projects.  Most assumed that the boss, Jennifer, wanted them to get their tasks done and not talk to each other.

Just this one exercise turned the tide on the dynamics of this team.  Of course, I am still working with Jennifer about how to communicate her goals and working philosophy with her team.  But, the team seems happier, they talk and there is not such a trust issue any more.

Say or do one nice thing for one of your team members today.  Don’t expect anything in return.  Just start to build that relationship.  They do not have to be your BFF (best friend forever) but starting a respectful workplace relationship will lead to less stress for you and better collaboration for all on your team.