Making Change Happen

image change picI was working out at the gym recently when I spied a new piece of cardio equipment. I noticed a few people trying it out and I was curious as to what I might be missing. Finally, I worked my way over to check it out. On my way, I passed one of the employees and I inquired about the machine.


She informed me that she already had used the new equipment and had stayed on this “climbing apparatus” for 70 minutes. Well, if she could do it, so could I. As I journeyed toward the machine, I came across a few other people that had tried it out. They all reassured me that it was very hard. I got snapped in and quickly started climbing. Within seconds, I felt myself struggling to catch my breath— it took all my willpower to stay on for 2 whole minutes. When I got off the machine, I was shaking and gasping for air.


I made it through a whole 2 minutes of climbing. Now, what irritated me about this experience was that I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I bike long distances every weekend and I have built up my endurance. Yet, I struggled to make it through 2 minutes!


I decided that I was capable of much more than that first try. Two days later, I got on the climber and told myself that I was not getting off until it hit 5 minutes. A couple of days after that, I told myself that I was going to make it 10, and so on, until last week, when I made it through 45 minutes on that evil machine.


Now, how did that happen?


Along the way, people would come over to assess my progress. I would listen to their multitude of rationalizations as to why they shouldn’t and wouldn’t work out on this particular piece of equipment. In other words, they had excuses to not take action.


There’s a reason that I’m sharing this story and it’s not to impress everyone with my physical prowess. I don’t think that this experience is much different than anything you attempt to take on in life. The first time you try something new can be quite difficult and to be honest, failing miserably is not a good feeling. I’m betting that you’re a lot like me and you like to feel confident and comfortable in what you attempt in life. However, the key to making it to the other side is being willing to walk through the bad feelings.


You see, the individuals that I witnessed trying it out and never going back could not get past that uncomfortable feeling. They were not able to wait it out for those good feelings that finally kick in when you make it to 45 minutes. They could not see past RIGHT NOW.


And there you have it. Whether it’s a potential career opportunity at work, a new diet that you need to adopt, or the thought of a career switch, the future can look quite unpredictable and downright uncomfortable. However, if you can just acknowledge the way you feel, WHY you feel the way you do, recognize the rationalizations for what they truly are (excuses), and STILL push through the uncomfortable feelings, you’re going to achieve your life goals.

Get Somewhat Happy

image emotionsIf I had a dollar for every time someone has said that they’re “depressed”, I’d be rich by now. You see, being a Mental Health therapist, it’s hard to ignore someone that says that to you. I take it seriously— very seriously. Hearing that word compels me to ask a myriad of questions to get to the heart of the situation. Hearing that word puts me on high alert to closely evaluate the true meaning of their statement.


In today’s world, “I’m depressed” can take on a whole different meaning. Often, they’re trying to say, “I’m sad”, or “I’m very unhappy”. That’s vastly different from “I’m depressed”. Feeling sad is a pretty normal emotion over a lifetime. It’s a given that people will experience situations that will make them sad. However, for many people, the minute that they feel a negative, uncomfortable emotion, they don’t quite know what to do with it. It seems as if having any tolerance for uncomfortable emotions has been drastically reduced for many of us. Our ability to ride the waves— a sign of resilience, has diminished.


Our culture is filled with messages that tell us that life’s expectation is to be blissfully happy. We should strive to find happiness in our careers, our relationships and beyond. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Personally, I want to be happy too. However, I realize that life is filled with normal ups and downs. Not every minute of your life is going to be filled with the good stuff. This belief has become deeply ingrained in our culture, which leaves many of us to feel that we’re losing out on the good life.


The truth is that feeling sad, angry, and hurt does serve a purpose. In fact, it can be very good for you.


Negative emotions spur us on to change our lives. They give us the strength and push to go after that new position we want in our career, or finally take that leap in our business. It’s the impetus for us to sever a bad relationship or finally move out on our own. It protects us from staying in dangerous situations where we can be hurt. It encourages us to have that “aha!” moment in our careers.


The truth is that we need our negative emotions to help us become the best version of ourselves.


Instead of trying to numb our feelings when we’re down or sad, maybe we should search within to discover how we can grow from the experience. Ask yourself this question:


What is my sadness and pain trying to tell me? What do I need to change?

I believe each one of us needs to reset our “happiness meter” a bit. We should consider that being content is a good goal as we ride the waves of life. Emotions are the barometer that helps us gauge what CHANGES we need to make in our life. Learn to walk through your sad feelings and you’ll find that you like what’s waiting on the other side.

















Taken For Granted

image good jobI got up this morning and realized that we had “sprung ahead” and it was now one hour later than I assumed. I began the arduous task of trying to change every single clock in the house. I went downstairs to eat my breakfast and noticed that the dishwasher had run out of any extra space. It was filled haphazardly and completely jam-packed. Accepting that I needed to run it, I sighed and finally pulled out the detergent, starting it up. Of course, I thought. There’s always one more thing for me to do when I’m feeling so tired!


I went to throw something in the trash and realized that it was full and needed to be taken out. I still had clothes in the dryer and another hamper full of whites to go. I began to feel overwhelmed with the number of responsibilities on my list.


And then I stopped and reflected on my situation. These were all the responsibilities that my husband usually takes care of on a consistent basis and he had been gone for the last 6 days.


These tasks usually just get completed and I don’t even have to think about it.


Is it possible that I don’t realize how good I have it? Maybe I don’t tell him enough how much I appreciate everything he does?


It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a situation with our family, friends or in the workplace. It’s all the same. An article by Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review illustrates this feeling perfectly: A worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson revealed that engagement in the workplace is driven by whether or not workers feel that their managers are genuinely interested in their well being and also whether they feel appreciated for their work. The study revealed that 40% of workers today felt engaged.


So why is it so difficult for us to show gratitude and appreciation for others in the workplace and at home? Whether we like it or not, we easily fall into the pattern of taking things for granted.


So how can we change this negative habit?


The first step lies in acknowledging your own actions.

Make a pact to see the world through new eyes. Take a step back at work and at home, really paying attention to what is going on around you. See all the little things that somehow get completed without you realizing it. The truth is that you can get so caught up in your own agendas, responsibilities, and issues that you can miss what’s right in front you. Do an inventory of where you might need to improve your appreciation skills.


Showing appreciation gets easier the more you do it.

You know how the more you workout the stronger you get? The stronger you get, the easier exercising becomes. Showing gratitude for others is the same— it’s a muscle that you need to exercise on a regular basis. If you continue to say “thank you” and show appreciation for others, the easier and more routine it becomes in your life. It’s a habit like everything else.


Say thank you when they least expect it

I don’t believe in Hallmark holidays like Sweetest Day or Administrative Assistant day. In my opinion, this just seems like a forced appreciation day. It doesn’t feel genuine. If you really want to show your appreciation, demonstrate your gratitude when they least expect it. Do it on a consistent basis when it is deserved. This is when it will mean the most.


I encourage you to start your new appreciation efforts today. Look around and say “thank you” to someone that makes your life easier, without expecting anything in return.


Can you Learn from Bart the Cat?

photo Bart the CatHave you heard about Bart the Cat from Tampa? Apparently, on one of Bart’s ritual romps around the neighborhood, he was hit by a car. Bart, an almost 2-year-old cat, was severely hurt in the accident and had multiple injuries. Bart’s owner alleges that the cat appeared lifeless and he was presumed dead. Distraught with grief, he asked his neighbor to bury Bart in a shallow grave. Five days later, Zombie Bart was seen gallivanting around the neighbor’s backyard, meowing for food.


Bart was alive.


The owner was, of course, shocked. Since he didn’t have the funds for a vet, he took Bart to the Humane Society. There, they performed surgery to remove his eye, wire his jaw shut and insert a feeding tube. He’s not quite out of the woods yet, but he’s doing well and making progress.


We’ve all heard the adage about cats having 9 lives. It appears that Bart now has eight left. Bart truly had the odds stacked against him when the car hit him. The fact that he was able to come back to life after being buried underground is another story. Apparently, Bart had quite a desire to live. He fought back with all the energy he had left in his tired, broken body.


Bart is a good representation of RESILIENCE.

image Bart cat


As incredible as it seems, we all could learn a thing or two from Bart’s story. Imagine if we could harness some of the resiliency that Bart has and channel it into our work or personal life. Let me explain.


Bart was quite the problem-solver. It appeared that Bart’s time was up when he was buried in the backyard. However, he was able to figure out a solution to his problem- digging his way out of the dire situation. Bart viewed his dilemma as a challenge, not an obstacle. He didn’t give up; he just assumed that there was a solution to his problem.


Bart took control of a bad situation. Bart definitely didn’t play the “victim card”. He accepted what life had thrown his way and made the best of it. Instead of obsessing on why this horrible experience had happened to him, he focused all his energy into what he could control in his life. He then used the extra energy to dig his way out of the grave. I’m sure he just assumed that his plan would work.


Bart accepts CHANGE. Bart’s environment was a far cry from his favorite chair at home. The Veterinarian that cared for him commented that despite his severe injuries and traumatic experience, Bart was an incredibly sweet cat. Apparently, Bart adapted to each experience and viewed his current life as “the new normal”. He didn’t look back- he just kept moving forward, putting one paw in front of another.


The definition of resilience is the ability to withstand stress and catastrophe. It’s the ability to adapt to everyday changes and recover quickly from change or misfortune. If each one of us could channel a bit of Bart daily as we go about our lives, we would be more apt to find the success, happiness and peace that we are hoping for.


Roadblocks to Productivity

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Feeling stressed, over stimulated, overworked and just plain tired? In today’s world, we all have numerous responsibilities and tasks that fill up our days. At times, it feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.


But maybe it’s not a time management problem.


Maybe the issue isn’t how many hours you have in a day to get all your responsibilities completed. Maybe the problem requires you to step back and get a new perspective on what’s REALLY blocking you from living a productive life.


You clutter your life with tasks and responsibilities that just aren’t important anymore. At one point, they were important to you. However, your life has evolved and over time, you’ve added new responsibilities that are more vital to your current life. However, you haven’t taken the time to let go of the old to make room for the new. It’s possible that you’re trying to accomplish a daily weekly list that is not relevant to your life NOW. Step back and take a fresh look at your life. Do each one of these tasks and responsibilities lead to your overall short-term and long-term goals? Maybe you need to do some purging and throw out what’s standing in the way of your goals.


You have trouble prioritizing and looking at things objectively.

Last week, I was having a conversation with my husband. He informed me that he had way too much to accomplish on his daily list. He had some extremely important paperwork and also had to pick up all the leaves in the yard. He was on his way out to clean up the yard, which I knew would take hours. I stopped him and asked how the leaves could possibly be as important as his required work. Yes, the leaves had to get done, but they could wait another week. The work was much more important. Sometimes, everything seems important in our heads and we have difficulty assessing what truly is priority for that particular day.


Being busy does not mean we are being productive.

There’s a big difference and in order to be truly successful at work, you need to be clear on the difference. You can fill your days with all kinds of activities that get you not even in close proximity to your life goals. Sure, it makes you feel good but it masks the truth. It doesn’t address the fact that without the right kind of activity you’re not going to succeed in your ultimate goal. You’re just fooling yourself into believing that you’re making progress. Be strategic in your daily, weekly tasks and monthly to-do lists.


We feel good about working non-stop but eventually, this backfires.

I know plenty of people that eat lunch at their desk so they can get more done at work. Smart, right? WRONG! Numerous studies have proven that it’s impossible to work at peak performance for long periods of time. Yes, you’re working, but you’re not working at full capacity. Sitting too long depletes your brain of oxygen and glucose. The good news is that a walk around the block or even through the building will reenergize you so you can be much more productive. Take breaks regularly that don’t involve your computer or phone.


We get lost in the hidden expectations and beliefs that we attach to our responsibilities.

Take a good look at your responsibilities and do a self-check. Are you holding on to any unrealistic or unhealthy expectations that you need to let go? For example, a belief that “I must join every committee and attend every event associated with my company in order to be successful” will eventually drive you crazy. Sure, it will make you busy, but does it truly lead to real success? Decide whether your expectations of self are fair and accurate.


With a few tweaks, you can live a successful, productive life.






I had just taken my seat at the IMAX theatre to see the movie. My friend was visiting from out of town and we decided that this was the perfect thing to do on a cold day. Apparently, so did everyone else in our city— the place was packed and as the people piled in, it became obvious that we were going to run out of seats.


Eventually, one of the employees asked if everyone could move to the middle so they could make room for the people still being seated. Quickly, my friend and I stood up and moved one more seat to my left. We sat down and continued to enjoy our time talking. Suddenly, we overheard the women to my friend’s right begin to complain.


“That isn’t fair— why do we need to move when we got here early and they didn’t?” My friend and I heard this and smiled at each other. Five minutes later, she went on. “Why should I be punished for getting to the theatre on time? I shouldn’t have to move and be made uncomfortable!” I whispered to my friend that some people are never happy and she smiled back.


I finally took a good look at the woman who could only view her world half-empty. The reality was that moving over one seat actually improved her visual experience. She truly had a better seat now. However, she couldn’t see that. She couldn’t see anything but misery.


People can focus on the smallest things in life and become unhappy. However, when they take these attitudes to work with them, it becomes everyone’s problem.


Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, studied employee mood and it’s impact on job performance. In the study, she asked telephone customer service representatives from a Fortune 500 company to record their moods during various times of the day over a three week period. They took into account the impact of individual temperament and the moods of their customers. The results proved that when beginning their day, the employee’s mood influenced their mood for the rest of the shift.


It should be no surprise to hear that employees that were happy at the beginning of the day generally stayed that way throughout their day. They responded more positively to their interactions with customers, which resulted in better customer service. Those that came to work miserable tended to continue to feel worse as the day wore on. The important point to glean from this study is that these negative mood shifts resulted in more than a 10% decline in employee productivity.


If you do the math, you can see the implications for revenue loss for any organization. Companies, big or small, can’t afford to have chronic negative employees on their team. Now imagine what happens when the negative employee spreads their bad attitude to the people around them. It’s like an infectious disease that can destroy the culture, productivity and in turn, the profitability of any organization.


Now, back to my miserable friend at the movie theatre. Hopefully, she will change her ways. Maybe it was a one-time thing and I just hit her on the wrong day. But in all probability, she goes to work somewhere every day with this same perspective on life and infects her co-workers with this attitude.


I hope that’s not the case.

Technology Overload

When I get into bed at night, I attempt to review my day. Did I have a good day? Have I been productive? Are there any positive changes that I need to make? This past Monday, I took a good honest look at my last 24 hours. The truth was that it was a day full of distractions. I struggled to focus and I accomplished very little. As I searched for the reason, I pushed myself to be honest with my behavior. The answer came to me…


I was addicted to my smartphone and it was getting in the way of my success.


I decided at that moment that I was going to make some changes. I suppose being licensed as a Mental Health Therapist has its advantages. I outlined a plan for the next day. I would check my email and all Social Media ONLY four times during the day. I would count each time that I had the mental urge to look on my phone or search on my computer. Each time that I would have this urge, I would tell myself to “let it go” and focus on my current activity.


I really didn’t expect this goal to be so difficult for me. I’m shocked to tell you that the first day was much harder than I ever imagined— I counted 46 times. Just think about that. 46 times, my brain signaled me to connect on Social Media. 46 times, my brain ran this loop and instructed me to pick up the phone.


No wonder I was having so much trouble focusing and accomplishing my goals! My brain had learned to be rewarded with the “ding” of an email and the excitement of a like or response from social media. My brain wanted more and more of that same reward.


In a study by the Associated Press, the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. When you spend enough time on the Internet, the neural pathways in your brain change. You can become rewarded, not for staying on your task, but instead jumping to a more exciting thing. In other words, you can quickly rewire your brain.


It has been demonstrated over and over that your brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks. In the long run, multi-tasking causes you to accomplish less and run the risk of making multiple mistakes. On top of that, you have a much lower rate of retention.


If you’re looking at your phone 46 times in one day, it’s safe to say that you have formed a habit. Everyone knows that habits are hard to break since there is a payoff for continuing the behavior. In the short term, my behavior made me feel good. However, I knew that this unhealthy habit had to go.


Having awareness and recognizing that you have an issue is the first step to solving a problem. The interesting thing is that the first day I monitored my use and attempted to stop my behavior, I felt so much calmer, was able to focus and was definitely more productive.


I would be lost without my technology so I’m certainly not an advocate to disconnect. However, as with all things in life, moderation is key.


So I have a challenge for you. Take one day and limit your phone and social media use. Write down how many times that you get the urge to connect, and monitor how your overall productivity and how you’re feeling. Let me know how you do.

Open to Opportunity

images open window


Last week, I was attending a full-day seminar with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. Although I was unsure if the topic would hold my interest, I knew that I would pick up some “nuggets” that I could use in my life. I also looked forward to the training event since I thought I would see some of my old co-workers. As I scanned the room, I realized that I didn’t know a single person other than my old friend. The large room was filled with mostly empty tables and almost all of the attendees were crammed into the back half of the space.


We registered and walked to a table at the front of the room since we both decided that we would be easily distracted in the back. When I sat down, I noticed two women that were sitting together at the table behind me.


10 minutes into the seminar, the trainer started the first activity. She asked us to find a partner that we weren’t seated with and perform the first exercise. My friend jumped up and joined a woman sitting alone at a table. I turned around, stood up with a smile on my face and said to the two friends sitting together, “Would one of you like to join me at my table?”


They both stared at me and said, “NO”.


I turned back around, shocked by the tone in their voice and their firm NO response.


I didn’t personalize this NO that I received. I wasn’t hurt that they didn’t want to be with me. I instinctively knew that the NO had absolutely nothing to do with me. I knew that the NO had everything to do with them.


I was disappointed by the women’s inability to open themselves up to a new opportunity.


Now, you might be wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of this. So what, they wanted to sit together and enjoy each other’s company. However, it IS a big deal and I’m going to tell you why.


Everyday, you are bombarded with situations, problems and issues in your life. Most of the time, you handle situations in a manner that is familiar to you. You have found patterns in your life that work for you and it is easier if you stick to those patterns and habits. When you do this, you probably make life easier for you in the short-term. You feel safe in these patterns and find comfort in them.


However, you are making life harder for you in the long-term. Moving to another table and meeting someone new might seem like such a small thing. However, it might be a pattern in your life to avoid uncomfortable situations. Each time that you get the courage to move to the next table, you build a little more muscle that makes you more RESILIENT. Each time you do something uncomfortable, you develop a little more grit to tackle what gets thrown at you in life. Each time you stretch yourself personally and professionally, you open yourself up to new opportunities—some that you didn’t even know existed.


Building resilience all starts with one small move.





imagesstressI have a weekly ritual that I haven’t changed for 15 years. I make out my grocery list Sunday morning and do my shopping later that day. I never deviate from going to my favorite store that always has everything I need. One of the reasons that I’ve stuck with this store is because I know that checking out is consistently fast.


Anyway, one week, while I was checking out, I noticed this woman working two lanes down. She was ringing people up and talking to them the whole time. There was an energy about her that made her special. She didn’t take the smile off her face and she ended the experience by singing a little song. Not only did the customers seem happy by the time they left but it was apparent that the other workers loved her too.


Four days ago, I needed to run into the store to pick up a few things for dinner. When I came to the checkout lanes, I scanned to see if my favorite worker was there. I spotted her working two lanes down, doing her job with a smile on her face. I proceeded to get in the lane and wait for my experience. However, the person ahead of me was having some difficulty with her order. Many of the cashiers crowded around to try to help as the situation turned into a long process. I questioned whether I should pick up all my groceries on the belt and move them to another lane, but I didn’t want to lose my chance to spend time with my favorite cashier.


The whole snafu probably took 10 extra minutes but it felt like much longer. I watched my favorite cashier keep her composure and handle the situation. I realized that at times, I was feeling frustrated but I reminded myself to have a little patience and let the feeling pass.


When it was my turn to be rung up, she brightly greeted me and started a conversation. As we continued to talk, she thanked me for having so much patience. She shared that she really had to work on her attitude while attending to the previous customer. I admitted that I also had to focus on keeping calm and not getting frustrated. The exchange ended with us laughing a bit and she eventually pulled at my hand, encouraging me to join her in song about her store. I walked out in a really great mood.


When I was driving home, I gave thought to the whole experience. Being a cashier at a grocery store was probably not this woman’s dream career. However, I’ve never met anyone that seemed to have such a great time at work. I believe her comment about working on her attitude had much to do with it. She wanted to enjoy life and live in the moment. She was capable of finding a way to ride the waves and look on the bright side, even when things didn’t go her way. She was aware of her thoughts and feelings and how that translated into her behavior.


It was obvious that she made the best of life even when it wasn’t perfect. This resilient woman CHOSE to live a vibrant, happy life. The effect on others was incredible.


I hope that I get to see her the next time I go shopping.




images brain pictureAbout 10 years ago, I was knocked off my feet with a horrible case of the flu and pneumonia. I ended up missing three weeks of work. We’re talking about three weeks of not even being able to pick my head up off my pillow. I ran a fever daily and could barely eat anything for weeks. Yes— it was really, really bad.


Anyway, it was my daily habit to drink a Diet Mountain Dew around lunchtime. I loved Diet Mountain Dew, especially because it gave me a great caffeine kick. I consistently kept Mountain Dew in my house and not a day passed where I didn’t consume my beloved elixir.


The day that I came down with my dreaded disease, I drank my usual Diet Mountain Dew. I became sick shortly after that. Three weeks later, after I had semi-recovered, I tried to reestablish the habit of my daily Dew. However, when I walked over to the refrigerated case and reached out my hand for the Mountain Dew, something strange happened. I was overcome with a horrible feeling. Suddenly, Mountain Dew was extremely unappealing to me. The thought of drinking it made me feel nauseous. I closed the case and walked away. I’ve never had a Diet Mountain Dew since. I have tried, but the same feelings have stopped me in my tracks.


Apparently, the neurological pathways in my brain strongly linked my ill feelings with my favorite drink. It was now ingrained forever in my brain. My memory now immediately registered the sensations that I had experienced during this time and my miserable feelings of sickness were intertwined forever with Mountain Dew.


The other day, I was working out at the gym when a woman stopped me. She told me she was impressed that she always sees me at the gym when she herself struggles to even show up. She liked the way that she looked when she worked out but it certainly wasn’t enough motivation to get her there. I immediately understood how to solve the problem.


You see, being motivated by your appearance is not enough to keep you going back to the gym. The true secret is in finding the exercise experience pleasurable. If you link bad feelings to working out, you’re doomed. It’s as simple as that. However, if you work out hard enough to release endorphins in your body, you will begin to like the feeling you have when you’ve completed your workout. You will create new neurological pathways that link working out with your reward: feeling good. Therefore, you’ll be more inclined to do it again.


Consider what this concept can do for you in other parts of your life. What improvements do you need to make? Take a minute and consider the feelings that you conjure up when thinking about your needed change. What’s the first feeling that comes to mind? Now, create a positive reward that you can offer yourself as soon as you have completed this task. The first time will not be easy, but if done over and over again, you will begin to reap the benefits.


Do you find yourself procrastinating on any number of tasks? Whatever it is, take into account the sensations that you link to this responsibility. You can take control of this when you learn to link good feelings and sensations to your responsibility.


Just remember the Mountain Dew.