Taking Control

Full disclosure-I had a fight with my husband yesterday. I had just spent the last stressful hour at the grocery store. I thought I had timed it right so it wouldn’t be so crowded. However, the store was packed, which made my trip that much more difficult.


You see, I spent every minute thinking through my every move. Am I getting too close to that person by the onions? When will that man be done touching each potato before I can take my turn? Things that I never had to give thought to, now permeate my brain. I used to enjoy my shopping time and pick up a Starbucks at the start of my journey. However, now I strategically map out every move that I plan to make in the store so I can quickly exit the store.


So back to the fight with my husband. After spending the emotionally taxing time in the store, I drove back to the house and unpacked all my food. My husband reviewed some of my purchases and commented on how they weren’t his preferred brands, among other criticisms.


That was all it took to put me over the edge.


I know this might surprise you, but he didn’t understand my strong reaction. What was the big deal? He was upset because what he was expecting was not what I delivered. Never mind that going shopping these days is hit or miss. Will they have the bread I usually buy? Will they actually have eggs? You don’t always get exactly what you would prefer.


My reaction bothered me enough to give it thought. I wondered why he was being so impossible and why I had absolutely no patience for anything.


The truth is that we are all experiencing a loss of control. And when people feel a loss of control, they often look for a scapegoat, someone to blame their misery on.


This is a difficult time that is filled with uncertainty. As a human, you like certainty and understanding how things are going to turn out. And the truth is, no one really knows where all this is going and where you will end up. This makes you feel anxious and not feel in total control of your universe. You like to call the shots and make your own decisions. Right now, that’s just not happening.


And if you don’t believe me, take a look on Social Media. You can see the loss of control right before your eyes. You can also see a number of people trying to control their world by finding blame. Even in this time of crisis when we should band together, you see way too much division, name calling and blame. My favorite are the individuals that post the loveliest messages of hope and then negate all this positivity with posts of hate, blame and divisiveness.


Now is not the time to post political messages that attack others. Now is not the time to post anger, and hurtful messages for those that don’t agree with you. Now is not the time to fight so hard against our current reality because it’s not’s comfortable and not what you want to accept.


Make an effort to rise above all the negativity that is swirling around you.


Look in the mirror and recognize that you are part of the problem. You are the one that is standing in the way of moving forward.


Just accept your reality.






Taking Control

image taking controlEventually, bad things happen. You’ll lose your job, get passed over for the promotion that you were counting on or botch that humongous deal that was going to change your life.


You will be miserable and think that life is over.


Yes, you will be incredibly disappointed and sad— that’s to be expected. However, your response to this life disappointment will greatly impact what comes next. Your resilience in the face of disaster will determine your success.


The bottom line is that your sense of control in each life event greatly influences the eventual outcome. Do you see life in a reactive mode? Do you feel like things happen to you? Or do you have a strong sense that you can control and manage life in a proactive manner? Do you live your life making things happen? This mind-set makes the difference in your ability to face adversity.


I have developed some questions that might help you take more control in your life and positively change your direction when bad things happen.


Ask Yourself:


  1. How does it serve me to stay where I am right now?


For example, say you just found out that your boss didn’t take responsibility for a mistake, but instead, blamed it on you. You are angry, hurt, devastated and disappointed. You are wondering why this happened to you and why you are so unlucky. However, how does it serve you to stay in these feelings right now? How will you benefit in any way? Sometimes when we’re hit with bad news, we can get stuck in the feelings, and those feelings can spur us on to make some really bad decisions.


  1. What can I control in this situation and what is beyond my control?


This is an important question to ask yourself because it gets you out of a victim mentality and into a more positive, proactive frame of mind. You can’t control what just happened, and you certainly can’t make the whole situation disappear. You have no choice but to accept that this has taken place. Now give some thought as to what you can control. You can control what plays out next in the storyline. You can control what action you decide to take next.


  1. How can I improve the current situation?


Now is the time to brainstorm. I want you to write down all the possible ideas that come to your mind. Don’t leave anything out just because it sounds crazy or not realistic to you. Be creative and write every type of ending you can think of for your storyline. Try not to judge or evaluate these ideas for now— just let your mind run wild and come up with scenarios.


For example, remember the previous situation with your boss? You can have a talk with your boss and calmly ask why. Or, you can confront him and demand answers. Or, you can immediately start looking for another job. There are many, many choices you can conjure up in your mind.


  1. Now evaluate these choices and number them in order of best ideas. Consider the outcomes for each idea. If you are proactively controlling the situation, you will have a number of action steps that you have created on your list.


  1. What have I learned from this experience?


Be sure to not skip this step! Is there something that you would like to do differently next time? There is always a lesson that you can glean from every situation. Do some soul searching and be honest.


Becoming truly resilient is a process. The more you practice, the more resilient you become in riding the waves of life.


The Art of Optimism

image glass half fullI have a friend that struggles to stay positive. Whatever happens in her life, she imagines the worst possible scenario. She has difficulty accepting that her situation is often just temporary and that it’s possible for things to turn around and improve. Frankly, she thinks people that who are optimistic are just kidding themselves. Her belief is that in real life, things don’t work out the way you want.


Do you know anyone with this perspective on life?


Elizabeth Tenney, a Professor of Business Management at the University of Utah, was curious about the role that optimism played in the workplace. What she found surprised her. Her research concluded that optimism didn’t help a person improve their performance as much as she had initially thought. However, the research revealed that having optimism helped individuals to stick with an arduous task and persevere. As you can imagine, this would be an important quality to possess in the workplace.


A show of hands please— how many of you would like to spend your workday surrounded by pessimistic colleagues? How about optimistic colleagues? That’s what I thought.


Martin Seligman, who has done vast research surrounding this topic, explains 0ptimism as the ability to always view the positive side of the situation. No matter how dark and discouraging things look, an optimistic individual has the ability to see the upside and know that things will work out. Pessimists have difficulty seeing the upside of any situation that exists in their life. They assume that things will stay bad forever. Optimists, on the other hand, view their current situation as only temporary. Deep down, they believe that things will improve soon and it only takes some patience to wait it out.


In today’s world, the workplace can be stressful. Whether you’re working in a corporate environment, or as an entrepreneur, the expectations and rules to succeed are constantly changing and evolving. Your ability to ride the wave through the good times and bad is essential to your success. Having an optimistic perspective enables you to see the possibilities and be creative in your problem solving.


Your ability to be resilient is the key ingredient to you and your workers achieving your goals.


There are going to be good days and bad days at the job— sometimes you’ll just want to give up. However, you must learn to persevere and drown out the distracting noise around you. Sometimes the most distracting noise is happening right inside your own head. I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to retrain your brain. With practice, you can learn to view these times as temporary setbacks that will soon turn around. If you’re determined to change, you can become a much more optimistic person.


I’m quite optimistic that things can change for you.

Taking Responsibility

images world responsibility


I was driving to meet a client the other day when a memory popped in my head.  It’s funny how that works— I had forgotten all about the experience and then out of the blue, it was there again.  So much had transpired on my family’s ski trip in British Columbia that I guess it had slipped my mind.


It happened on our third day of skiing.  The three of us were getting ready to take the ski lift up for another run.  A woman a few chairs ahead had difficulty getting on the ski lift and dropped one of her poles in the process.  As we got onto the ski lift, the operator asked us if we would take her pole up and give it to her.  Of course we said yes, and I grabbed it to take it up.


The first thing that my husband said to me was, “Be careful and don’t drop the pole.” As you can imagine, that comment didn’t sit well with me. Of course I was going to be careful— I wasn’t a child.  He offered to hold it but I refused to give it to him.


About ¾ way to our destination, I moved around on my seat and got my legs in another position.  They were cramping from the non-stop exercise.  As I found a more comfortable position, I watched the extra pole fall many feet down and into the deep snow.  I had forgotten in that second that I was holding a third pole.


The three of us stared at the pole as it dove into the snow and then both my husband and son looked directly at me.  I felt pretty stupid. I quickly reviewed my options to remedy this situation but I came up empty.  I messed up and I felt terrible. Moaning about it for the rest of the ride, I was taking full responsibility for the situation.


Yes, my family understood why I felt bad, but they questioned whether I was taking the responsibility thing a bit too far.  They reminded me that it was the woman who had initially messed up and that I was being a Good Samaritan by trying to help.  When we got off, we told the worker what had happened and he said not to worry about it.


As we skied down the mountain, we decided to take the exact same run and ski lift back up.  On my way down, I still couldn’t shake this feeling of responsibility. I felt really, really bad.  When we got on the ski lift, my worst nightmare happened. The woman with one ski pole was in the chair in front of us.  She proceeded to complain loudly about the idiot that had dropped her pole.  She was angry and upset and went on and on about the situation.  I slouched down in my chair, praying that she didn’t know the idiot was sitting right behind her.


Often, the message in my writing is one of taking responsibility for your own actions and decisions in your life.  However, it’s very possible that you can take this responsibility thing way to far.  In fact, you can take it to the point where the other individual no longer has to take responsibility at all. I find myself guilty of this on occasion and this situation is a very good example.  When you don’t let others take their fair share of responsibility, it thwarts their ability to grow and learn in their own life.


Take your fair share and leave the rest where it belongs.















Overcoming the Mountain of Life

image ski


Today, I’m making my way back to the states from British Columbia.  My family had a great time skiing at Whistler Blackcomb Resort and I’m thoroughly exhausted. We spent four days up on the slopes, enjoying the non-stop snow and the fabulous food. On the last day, it dawned on me that skiing is a perfect metaphor for successfully navigating your life.


In the afternoon, we had a late lunch up on the mountain and then made our way outside to enjoy the last couple hours.  Wanting to take advantage of every last minute of skiing, we caught the chairlift for the very last run of the day. Suddenly, as we began our descent, a thick fog moved over the mountain. The fog coupled with my exhaustion was not a good combination.


My legs felt like jelly as I tried to keep up with my family.  It began to take all my energy just to stay upright on my skis. On a steep slope, I lost my footing and quickly went down.  I took the opportunity to remove my goggles, hoping it would improve my vision.  My visibility was almost non-existent— I could barely make out my husband and son halfway down the hill.


I could no longer see each hill— how steep it was as I made my way down, where the turn was, or where the obstacles were in the snow beneath me.  The fog was so thick that we couldn’t even see the signs that showed us the way back to the village.  At one point, we stood at the edge of the mountain having a deep discussion as to which way to go next.


My son insisted that we go straight while I wanted to follow the path to the right. I peered over the area that he pointed to but the fog was so intense that I couldn’t see a thing.    For all I knew, it wasn’t a route but the edge of the mountain.  Feeling a total loss of control, I knew that even the green run (the easiest run) would be difficult and absolutely terrifying.  Finally, we spotted another skier that seemed to know the mountain.  We asked his opinion about whether we should go straight and he informed us that it would be a mistake— it was a difficult black run.


Instead of panicking, I tried to keep my mind present and just focus on each movement I took. I would concentrate on the rhythm of the skis, back and forth.  Focusing on the present and continuing to work toward my goal enabled me to feel a sense of calm about the situation.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy as when I heard the sounds of the village and I realized that we had made it back.


Your career and personal life can often be quite similar to my experience on the mountain: you might not always be able to see where life is going to lead you.  No matter how careful, cautious and diligent you are, you can’t always anticipate each twist and turn, each obstacle in your path and each time you will fall to the ground. There will be times when you will feel panic setting in and a complete loss of control— however, it will serve you best to stay in the present, trust your instincts and just keep focusing on your goals for the future.


All you can do is keep putting one ski in front of the other and make your way down the mountain.







I had a great conversation with a woman the other day. She worked in a male-dominated field and had encountered numerous hardships and obstacles on her way to success. Her professional AND personal life was filled with experiences that might have detoured many others from a path to the top. However, she was able to somehow navigate her life and despite the odds, find happiness and success.  How is that possible?


It’s a little thing called resilience.  Some women have it and some women don’t.  Resilience is the ability to turn disruptive changes and obstacles into opportunities for growth. It’s the ability to deal with change in your life, be flexible and spring back better than ever. Let’s get something clear up front: being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t feel pain, grief, or sadness when bad things happen. It just means that you confront your feelings, weather the storm and find your way to the other side.


Research has shown that some individuals are genetically predisposed to be optimistic and see the positive side of life.  They’re just naturally born with a temperament that enables them to approach their days with a sunny disposition. Research also has revealed that many others receive these desired skills from a combination of environmental factors, including parental interaction. By struggling with obstacles at a young age, they learn to independently handle pressures and stresses in an effective manner.


Women that have resilience take responsibility for their actions in life. When things go wrong, they are inquisitive and try to understand and make sense of the situation. They have strong problem-solving skills and can calmly review the options and find a rational solution.  They believe that they have control of their universe. In other words, they make things happen— things don’t happen to them.


When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mom that encouraged me to be a problem-solver. She led me to believe that every problem had a solution and guided me through the problem-solving process. She prodded me to confront issues directly and get outside support if needed. All of this led me to believe that I had the confidence to call the shots in my life and I could make things happen.


That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t sad with the usual disappointments in my life.  I remember a number of times that I felt anxious and stressed over various jobs, family struggles and friendship break-ups. The difference is that I allowed myself to fully feel, which then led to understanding, and finally making sense and finding meaning in the experience.  I didn’t stay stuck forever; eventually I shrugged it off and moved on.


But what if you didn’t have a positive childhood experience and you’re not genetically predisposed for resilience? Is there a way that you can develop your skills and become strong? The answer is yes. It takes work and commitment but you can take control of your life. It’s a matter of getting more in touch with your emotions and pushing yourself to become comfortable with change.  It involves finding meaning and purpose in the “bad” times in your life and redefining some of your thoughts and beliefs about the world. Yes, it’s possible to learn to soar through your career and personal struggles and come out on the other side better than ever.


It’s just a matter of wanting to make a change.

Showing Grace

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was quite upset.  Her sister had just become engaged and she was struggling with her feelings about the news. Her sister had informed her of the engagement through a text message, when it had really merited a phone call and a nice conversation. However, this relationship has had issues before this new turn of events.


Not only was Mary (not her real name) angry about the way she had been informed, but she was also livid that her sister had picked the exact same style and venue that she had for her wedding that had ended in a broken engagement. Mary believed that her sister had made this choice on purpose. When she called her sister to share her anger about the situation, the conversation quickly went downhill, ending with the bride-to-be sharing that she didn’t expect her sister to show at her wedding.


I spent the next 40 minutes on the phone: First, validating her feelings and then helping her see that this decision was not necessarily made to hurt her. I then reminded her that even though she might be partly right, this really wasn’t about being right or wrong.


I informed her that she had a choice; she could either make the time until the wedding ceremony chaotic and negative or she could rise above all the drama and handle the situation with grace.  I asked her to consider which one she would like as her legacy— her behavior would be etched in everyone’s memory for eternity.


The other day, I had a conversation with a woman, working out some business issues.  There were numerous times during the conversation where her tone and attitude could be discerned as condescending and inappropriate.  During the whole process, I spoke calm and kind, yet firm in my beliefs.  When I got off the phone, I relayed the experience to my husband.  “You shouldn’t have accepted that whole attitude”.  I disagree.


I had a choice as to how I would handle the situation. I felt totally in control and was capable of holding my own.  However, during the interaction, I kept calm and gave it thought.  What do I want to accomplish in this conversation? What do I have to gain by being gracious and what do I have to gain by letting her have it?


You might be thinking, “What do I have to gain by being gracious when I’m clearly in the right?” Consider for a moment that it might not be about who is right and who is wrong.  We often get stuck on this point. However, if you can get past the emotions of anger, frustration, and hurt and focus on what you want the outcome to be, you’ll be on the right track. Don’t look at the short-term gain but consider what you want for the long-term in your life. Maybe you need to swallow your pride and do what’s best for you and others in the long run. Words said in anger can haunt you for many years to come.


I was speaking with a client today who had difficulty doing just that— holding her tongue and considering the consequences.  She took me through a scenario at work, ending with her realization that she had nothing to gain by showing her anger with her co-workers.  For the first time, she was able to think through the situation, have empathy for other’s behavior, figure out her strategy and make the wise choice of having grace. What a confidence builder!


I hope you make the decision to approach your life with the same degree of grace. Frankly, it’s never too late to change your ways.