Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Business-Building: Identify Your Market

Being happy in my work involves two main things: loving what I do, and loving the people I work with.

The second group I consider my market. So how can I simply and easily identify my market?

I start with these questions:

Who pops up in my brain when I think of who I want to work with? What kind of person do I resonate with? Who can I imagine spending time with? Who in my experience listens to me, values my opinions, asks me for advice and counsel?

That gives me such a great visual of who is in my market.

The second step is to write down all the descriptive words about these people: Their age and gender, financial situation and education level. Their concerns and hopes, their mindset and how they think, what they value and want out of life, the problems and challenges they face, the needs they have. The first part is "demographics" and the second is "psychographics."

Hopefully the people you describe are people with whom you will happily spend a lot of hours. If not, they are not your market.

Let go of any judgment. There are no "shoulds" in deciding your market. Either you resonate with these people or you don't. So surrender to what you already know and let yourself move to the next step of building a business - identifying those needs and challenges you want to meet with your product or service.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When Overwhelmed, STOP!

Since Saturday, I've had a very bad flu. I'm not surprised that I got sick, when I look back at what my mind set was in the prior weeks.

I was feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by good things - opportunities, good results, fun times, creative inspiration, friends. I've cultivated wonderful relationships and pursued great activities. And they are all coming up trumps! This is a good thing.

At the same time, however, I've had significant physical pain and a lot of physical tiredness. Yet, because I am so hungry for community and success and results, I have chosen to do things instead of staying home. There were times I could have said "no" and instead said "yes." I stopped listening to my body, my higher self.

Then I began to get thoughts like "I just want to sleep" and "I want more time to draw" and "No more phone calls!" And I began to fall into some very old habits - specifically not answering the telephone or returning phone calls.

Finally, I got the flu. And so for this entire week, I haven't had to show up for anyone or anything. My job is to heal and get well. My job is to avoid contact with others so I don't pass this on to others.

Getting sick is an old, old behavior for me. I get sick because it's a reasonable excuse or reason to be unavailable. It's a legitimate way to get time alone, time off, time with no responsibilities. It used to also be a way to get sympathy from others. That no longer works for me - people may feel sympathetic but I know that I did not have to get sick if I didn't want to get sick.

My awareness is so sharp now. What do I take away from this episode? There are a number of lessons:

1) When I get the thoughts of "help me escape!," I need to shed obligations. Specifically, I need some time where I am completely unscheduled.

2) I am able to do much less than I wish I were able to do. That is my 100%. My 100% is not what anyone else thinks it is. My job is to do my 100%, and to handle what I can handle.

3) There is no "right" time frame for me reaching my goals. I am on the path, and will get there. When I feel panicked or rushed, it is a sign that I am gauging my progress by other people's time frames, not my own.

My goal in life is to be happy, not to meet anyone else's goals or dreams for me. When I get caught up in someone else's agenda, I lose myself, lose touch with my own rhythm and needs, and create a dis-ease within me - that then manifests as an illness. I haven't been sick for a long time because I've paid attention to myself and keeping myself feeling at ease within myself. That went out the window over the summer, when I got so caught up in the excitement of new friendships and new possibilities. My brain got the better of my gut instinct, that voice that told me I was overwhelmed and needed to SLOW DOWN or STOP.

I dislike being sick because I can't do all that I want to do. I wish this week I could have drawn, or picked out paint for my bedroom, maybe cooked some new recipes, repotted plants and cleared out some of the magazine clutter in my dining room and sunroom. Because I was/am sick, I can't do any of those things. I got the peace and quiet at such a high price.

Next time, I'll take it easy before I become dis-eased. I know how to be happy; now it's time to put those lessons into effect.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Changing My Beliefs for the Better

Perhaps the most valuable achievement of my life is overcoming old beliefs about myself and my life. I highly recommend doing it.

At some point, after years of frustration, I realized that I could transform my life - that in fact I was the only one who could. I alone had the power to build up a toolbox of ways to create a more fulfilling and happier life.

For many years, I didn't know that I am the one who must decide to do something different. When I realized that I actually have that power - to make the decision and then follow through on it - my life began to look completely different to me. I'll say it again: I am the one who has the power to have a happier life. No one else. Not my parents, not your friends, not my significant others, not my coach, not anyone else, not even God. It all comes down to ME.

I don't know how I finally made that connection - I'd been hearing things like this for years and thinking that it was all BS. Here's how my thinking went:

"That's easy for you to say. But there are too many things out of my control - how can anyone say that my life and how I feel is all up to me? That's just unrealistic, not to mention that it feels like I'm being blamed for how my life is. Do you really think I'd be in this position if I didn't have to be? You're saying I chose this, and all I can think is that I hate being here - how can you say I want this when I am so miserable?"

I kept thinking about it, though, because I knew that what I resisted most was probably the area where there was most potential for me to learn and grow. It's those things that I defend myself against that tell me where I hurt, where I have fear, where I think I have something to defend. It became like a puzzle: why AM I so angry when I hear that I am responsible for how my life is? Why do I resist the idea that I create my own life? What pisses me off about the idea that I can tell what I want by looking at my life? And that if I wanted something different, I could have it simply by changing my thoughts? Why am I SO angry about this way of thinking?

Certainly, I hated the idea that I had brought bad things down on myself. Why would I do that? It made no sense, and sounded like "blaming the victim."

At one point, I put that question on the back burner because I couldn't figure it out. I'd periodically come back to it; in the meantime, I decided to try some of the tools I was gathering - just to see if they would make any difference. Why not try it? As the saying goes, "contempt prior to examination" will keep me in ignorance.

Gradually, I started to notice that I did have the power to make things happen - often for other people instead of myself. However, I did have some power. I started seeing that I could walk away from an argument instead of engaging in it. I could stop indulging in the negative thoughts that plagued me - two were "I'll never have the money I want" and "I just can't get out of debt." Instead I substituted positive thoughts: "I always have all the money I need" and "I am on the path to being fully solvent."

I found I immediately felt better when I said the positive things to myself. I noticed that a heavy weight lifted from my shoulders. I found that I could hold my head up, I didn't feel so much darkness around my eyes. Everything seemed brighter somehow. And I liked feeling better. I allowed myself to like it, to enjoy the feeling of "I'm on my path! I'm headed in the right direction, the direction I really want to go into."

Finally, I had some evidence that I could make a difference to myself. Finally, I could see that I had some power to improve my life. Had my circumstances materially changed? No. Was I more able to handle the challenges? YES! Because I felt better. I was able to get out of bed, first of all, and then show up for things. And I felt more capable. If I could change my mood with some simple changes in how I talked about a situation, then I could figure out how to deal with external things.

Today I know in my bones that I am in charge of my thoughts, my beliefs, my actions and thus my results - the state of my life. If I ever want to know what I really want, I look at what I'm doing. If I'm not happy with something in my life, I look at what I'm NOT doing. Then I either take the next logical step and action, or look at the beliefs and feelings that are in the way of my taking action. I dig them out, expose them to the air, and examine them to see if there's anything tangible embedded in there about which I can DO something. Again, the process leads to action.

Conquering my own mind is probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. I just didn't want to accept that there is a connection between my thoughts and beliefs and the circumstances of my life. I didn't want the responsibility, I think. That was the reward for being miserable - that I wasn't really responsible and didn't have to be responsible. I got to stay a kid, I guess.

I write all this to say I KNOW you can make a change in your attitude and beliefs. I've been there. If I can do it, you can do it. Really. I am no different than you, except that I have taken control of my thoughts and you are just starting down that road.

Think about what it would mean to put yourself first. Think about what it would take for you to commit to doing something different. Take a risk. You can make the life you want, if you really want it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pace Yourself

A new Executive Director of a large NYC non-profit is completely swamped, and is not taking time for coaching - even though she knows it might help her. Here's what I reminded her about:

"When you started in this position, you and those around you understandably felt like the problems now can finally be solved...and fast! My experience is, however, that anything that doesn't get resolved probably didn't really need to be resolved yet. In fact, as time goes on you'll see that more information will be revealed related to the issues - information that will make even better resolutions possible.

Remember that it is CRITICAL for you to take care of yourself so you stay centered, solid, calm, and above all don't burn out. Pace yourself. And trust that you will know what to do first. The rest can wait. As long as clients are getting service and you're not being evicted, all other deadlines are fungible."

When I'm off-center, out of balance, over-stressed - I am a terrible leader. I'm not happy and neither are the people around me. Taking care of ourselves and pacing ourselves may seem like a selfish thing to do, and it certainly does anger some people who fail to see a bigger picture. How important is that, though? It's more important to be able to calmly explain to them what you ARE doing and why, what the other priorities are, and asking them for their help in managing the priorities, expectations and work load.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Motivating Quote from a Funny Man

I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it. ~ Jonathan Winters

So often I have thought I needed to have something perfected, praised, complete, and DONE before I can unveil it. Meaning I wanted my project or writing or life to be a success BEFORE I go out into the larger world.

Of course, nothing is ever totally complete or perfect. Thus, I could wait forever to get in the game of life.

What I can do is put myself and my work out there, and expect feedback. Even more, I can welcome feedback, that will allow me to continue improving myself and my product.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's Your Emotional Set Point?

I have reset my natural emotional set point to "happiness."

It used to be set for depression and hopelessness. When things were hard or didn't go my way, I immediately thought "I quit!" or "I'll just kill myself." They are sort of extreme responses to what are really small events or occurrences. As the saying goes, "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Over time, I got sick of feeling depressed and hopeless. And I got some perspective and information that enabled me to start to change my attitude, change my mind, choose to be happy. I am no longer willing to feel terrible. And I no longer have to! I am free to be happy.

Will I have difficulties and pain? Sure! I'm human, and actually I welcome these feelings. It reminds me I'm a human being, and I also get more material from which to grow. I use the feelings as information about where next I will go on my path.

Most important, with a "happiness set point," I now gravitate toward what will make me happy. I am motivated to use the experiences to become happy. It sure feels better than the alternative!

Is your emotional set point at happiness? It can be, and it's totally worth it.

Changing a Light Bulb

Last spring, my amazing brother renovated my sun porch, making it a bright, soothing place for me to write, read and make art. One of the improvements was putting in "can lights" - the overhead spots in the ceiling.

Today I changed a light bulb using my telescoping "light bulb changer." It was incredibly easy: turn, turn, turn to remove the old light bulb; then turn, turn, turn to put in the new one. Was I happy?! Yes, I was. I absolutely loved having exactly the right tool for the job.

So what is the right tool for you to use on a project today?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vertical Farming Makes Me Smile

What an amazing idea! Imagine: Vertical farms in cities, using soil-less and water-frugal growing methods like hydroponics and aeroponics. Dickson D. Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, has written a fantastic Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on just this topic.

Hydroponics allows us to grow plants in a water-and-nutrient solution, while aeroponics grows them in a nutrient-laden mist. These methods use far less water than conventional cultivation techniques, in some cases as much as 90 percent less.

We'd have beautiful glass-clad buildings growing green and red, blue and yellow, purple and orange fruits and vegetables. These rainbows would help city dwellers get healthy and stay healthy. And what a pot of gold for entrepreneurs, markets, chefs, cooks, schools...!

I thought green roofs made me happy but this takes to a whole new level the combined concepts of green roofs, urban farms, community gardens, and increased access to fresh food. It's a dream well worth having.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Celebrating Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin was to the United States and the world what Leonardo DaVinci was to the Renaissance and the world. Maira Kalman's visual blog celebrates invention and invites us to do the same.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We are Perfect, Now

God is the way out. Ultimately Reality awaits us there, in the arms of God. Yet to embrace God, we must embrace ourselves -- for we are One and the Same. We must love ourselves exactly the way we are. We must tell ourselves that it is okay just to be us; just to be who, and how, we are. We must tell ourselves that we are perfect, in the very way we are "showing up" today. There is nothing to be fixed, nothing to be corrected, nothing to be improved. We must understand that the path we are taking, and the way we are taking it, is perfect.

- Neale Donald Walsch, e-mail on December 3, 2006

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Using Experiences to Grow

In the depths of winter, I finally found there was in me an invincible summer.

- Albert Camus, author

Hard times can yield great strength. I think of the weed that grows from concrete - what a hard task that is! And yet there it is green and flourishing and constantly growing back no matter what we try to do to eradicate it. It is strong perhaps because of the adversity. When I expect an end to the trial and look for the light resulting from it - I have hope and greater ability to accept my response to the difficulty as a part of the growing and strengthening process.

How you do anything is how you do everything

Don't be afraid to give your best at what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.

- Dale Carnegie

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Concrete Ideas for Reducing Fear of Failure

For all of us afraid of "failing," I found this great little article: Secrets for Turning Failure Into Success. It contains the most useful ideas I've seen in a long time on how to recast failure as an asset and a goal instead of something to be avoided.

I'm going to try some of them, like "Set 'No' Goals" and "Intentionally Increase Your Failure Rate." Pretty radical reformulation of failure, isn't it?

It fits completely into my philosophy of using every experience as a learning opportunity and a chance to help other people. The more I "fail," the more I learn and the closer I am to my own goals.

This is what I mean when I say "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly." I'm learning as I take action, and action moves me further along my path, leaving no chance for stagnation, entropy, stuck-ness.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My message to a VERY unhappy woman

I am glad we had a chance to talk and to hear that you are still keeping on keeping on. Sometimes life does feel like a slog.

Perhaps you do need to make a radical change. Consider some of the possible radical changes you could make, and weigh the options. Just a reminder: radical change can involve actions, attitudes and situations. Everything is a choice and I've found that I feel less "at the mercy of" when I actively make a choice instead of feeling like I'm powerless and just have to submit.

I hear a lot of powerlessness in your venting, and I'm hopeful that by venting, you release some of that powerlessness and see that you are making choices. Yes, your choices are limited by circumstance. And yes, that sucks.

So what are you going to do about it? Choose how you want to feel. Choose how you want to talk about your life. Choose how you're going to approach your circumstances. Choose the goal toward which you're working. That means to articulate it - what ARE you working toward? Financial independence is not enough. What is your PURPOSE for being here on earth? And how are you fulfilling it?

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Someone told me "guru" spelled out is "gee, you are you."

AHA! This coincides with my belief that real gurus hold mirrors up so we can see ourselves clearly. They encourage us to find our own path, rather than blindly following theirs. Gurus have found a way that works for THEM. I can learn and use their tools and truths without giving over my being and power of choice.

Any guru who insists that I do everything the way they say is simply after power over me and others. True gurus help me learn how to find my own internal power, to govern myself according to my own life circumstances and the many universal truths and values I learn to live by.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Choosing my perspective

I'm building a new life based on the lessons I've learned over the past few years - and I'm not done yet. My perspective is that I'm fortunate to be someone who can learn, who can pick myself up, who can keep going and turn my fear and sadness into motivation. I don't deny my feelings, I channel and use them to keep me going on my path. And I choose to focus on all the positive aspects of my path - that by going through all I've experienced, I get to help other people who are on similar paths, facing similar challenges.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Positive thoughts & tweets

I get tired of negative, angry, grinding axes...so I am the change I want to see. That means not complaining about other people's negative and angry thoughts and attitudes. Those are none of my business.

My business is to focus on positive things, have a positive attitude, look for the good in everyone and everything, and emit kindness and love. At least this is what I have control over. I don't always FEEL positive, yet I end up feeling better when I focus on what's good in the world instead of what's not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is it wrong for me to love grammar so much?

I loved reading the post reached by clicking on this post's title, and the nearly 500 comments it occasioned. Many comments are substantive, and often I laughed out loud reading them. Language is so much fun! I enjoy knowing the "right way" to use words and grammar, and am equally pleased to laugh at my own pedantry.

Actions Speak Loudly

My actions tell me exactly what I want; if I truly want something, I take actions toward it. Or I don't really want it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Job Search Sites

Twitter-related Job Search

Tweetmyjobs.com is a new service that brings recruiters, hiring managers and job seekers together on Twitter. There are Twitter Channels for major cities and job types, and it's really easy to subscribe to those channels. They send job notices as text messages to your cell phone, and you can follow them on Twitter. They also send e-mail notices. They say they will "showcase US Stimulus Jobs."

Green Jobs

From our friends at Mother Earth News comes greatgreencareers.com to help you find meaningful work in the new green economy. Per their site:

All job seeker services are absolutely free. And remember, if you post your resume in the next 30 days, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Finding a Green Collar Job, our new e-book!

Sustainlane.com/green-jobs is the job search function on Sustain Lane, the "People-Powered Sustainability Guide." You can search hundreds of listings on their "green-collar jobs board."

Job-hunt.org has a great list of green industry job search resources - job boards and "green color" employers. Job boards include EcoEmploy, Green Career Central, Greenjobs, GreenDreamJobs, PowerPlantPro, Renewable Energy World, Environmental Career Opportunities and Solar Jobs. "See Job-Hunt's state jobs pages for links to many more employers in each state, including those specializing in the green industry."

Hospitality Jobs

Hcareers.com has a great line-up of jobs throughout the hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants, catering, tourism, and more.

Hospitalityonline.com is another site with hospitality jobs nationally.

Don't "Should" on Yourself

When I let go of what and who I think I should be, I can accept who I am and become who I am meant to be.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I am safe and strong at my healthy weight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Envy is a soul-destroyer

Having experienced envy and been the focus of envy, I get how destructive it is.

Envy usually appears in my hating someone who has an asset that makes them stand out. It's a signal to me that I need to look at my own life, and that I probably want that thing in my life.

Rather than want to take it away from them because I don't have it, I need to focus on being grateful for what I already have and do.

I can also start working on developing that quality or ability, if it's within my reach. If I can't, then stop comparing myself to others - I will always come up short when I do that. Today, I choose not to be so unhappy.

Friday, April 24, 2009


YET - stands for You'll Experience This.

Set your intention and have faith that you will realize it. If it hasn't happened, it just hasn't happened yet.

That's the promise of Y.E.T.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

using Twitter happily

Great "don'ts" for using Twitter. I totally ignore one of them - tweet no more than 5 times an hour or 10 times a day. Sometimes I just can't help myself. It's an addiction...what can I say?

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Green Jobs search site

From our friends at Mother Earth News comes greatgreencareers.com to help you find meaningful work in the new green economy. Per their site:

All job seeker services are absolutely free. And remember, if you post your resume in the next 30 days, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Finding a Green Collar Job, our new e-book!

Managing Up - a boss, a Board member, any authority figure - even co-workers!

Click the title of this post for a great article on how the author's 4 year old daughter provides examples of how to manage up.

I'm especially impressed because the 4 year old is not manipulating her mother, she's simply doing what works to get the results she wants. She's paid attention and is using information strategically to improve her chances for success. I also note that she has multiple desirable outcomes, one of which is to maintain harmony with her mother. Perhaps that's the most important one.

Sometimes I suggest that people behave strategically at work to improve their relationships with bosses and co-workers, and my listener objects because it feels inauthentic and manipulative.

I don't buy that interpretation. If you're an unethical person, you won't be concerned about that in the first place. I think it's simply hard to change one's behavior. It's easier to object on so-called moral grounds than to actually observe oneself and do something different.

When you adjust your own behavior, you are exercising control over yourself. You still have no control over the other person's behavior or attitude. My experience is that if I'm trying to get something over on the other person that doesn't make good sense, then all my sweetness and light will come to naught. My nice attitude, delivery and behavior is more likely to get me a hearing and to result in cordiality all around in the event of a "no." That's it, though. It won't necessarily get me what I want.

Me, I'm always happy when things end cordially. I'd rather have that outcome than hard feelings, or a situation where I may say or do things I'm ashamed of later. If managing my own behavior can achieve that outcome, then I will do what it takes to achieve harmony.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Using Tweet Deck for Twitter

OK, you've decided to use Twitter. Now how do you work the darn thing?

I believe the easiest thing to do is to download Tweet Deck (go to http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/) - you have to also download something called Adobe Air which makes internet applications (like Twitter) function optimally on your desktop (don't ask me why or how, I just know that it works).

Tweet Deck has 3 columns - one is the feed from all the folks you follow, the middle is any @juliaerickson replies you get, and the last is any DM juliaerickson direct messages you get. It literally tweets if you have the sound on, so you hear when a new tweet comes in. It also notifies you of any incoming tweets (according to type - friends, replies, DMs) via a little black box on the upper right corner of your computer monitor. To send tweets, you need to click the little box on the left top next to the words Tweet Deck that looks like a cartoon text balloon. That makes the text entry box appear below it. A nice feature is that you have only to hit "enter" and the tweet will be sent.

The advantage of Tweet Deck is that it allows you to RT people's tweets automatically. When you move your cursor over someone's picture, you'll see four small boxes - clockwise from top left, they are: Reply, DM, Other, RT. So if you like a tweet, you just click on RT and the tweet will automatically be posted to the text box on top with the @xxx name and RT in front of it. You can make a comment if you like. Also, I edit to fit RT into 140 characters, which is OK as long as you don't mess up meaning (I use 2 for to or two; c for see; u for you; l8 for late, 4 for for, etc., and eliminate "a" "that" etc.).

Otherwise, to RT on the Twitter website, you have to copy their tweet, paste it onto the box where you tweet, add RT to the tweet and add @ in front of their name. Twitter will make the @ link live.

If you are posting a web link, Twitter only recognizes http://xxx addresses (not www.xxx). A very cool thing that Tweet Deck does is shorten long web addresses. Below the text box is a box labeled "shorten url" and you simply paste your long url in it, click the box to its right that says "shorten" and it automatically shortens the url AND pastes it right into the text box.

You totally can RT a tweet from someone YOU follow. People love to be ReTweeted, and this will bring you to their attention so they may follow you.

You can't Direct Message (DM) them, however. You can only DM people who also follow you.

FYI, regarding # (hash mark) posts - these belong to affinity groups and topics that people have started on Twitter. To find them on the Twitter website is quite tortuous and I can't really figure out how to do it consistently. It is easy on Tweet Deck. Simply click on the button along the top that looks like a magnifying glass and then enter #followfriday or #tweepletuesday or whatever group looks interesting to you. Tweet Deck will automatically add a new column to the right that shows you tweets posted to that topic. On the bottom of Tweet Deck is a white bar on a black background - click on it to get over to the next column. (I don't remember what that thing is called but you'll know what I mean).

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's OK to Learn Something New

"The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand." Frank Herbert

Permitting ourselves to learn something new is very powerful. What are we naturally drawn to do? When backed up by a powerful "why," that is where we can make the commitment. Then we can tolerate not knowing, doing something badly as we learn it. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly." That means if something is important to me as a step toward achieving my vision, I might as well go ahead and give it a go and allow myself to do it badly because it's new to me. I don't know how to do this new thing, and the only way I'll learn is by doing it. I don't have to be afraid of doing it badly if I accept that I probably will.

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." Audre Lorde

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hourly Work Search Engine

If you're looking for hourly work, try Snagajob.com. It has listings of hourly employment across the country.

The site also has a section called HireLearning with articles about getting part-time jobs at various life stages, getting ahead, various jobs and industries, and doing resume and interview preparation.

One interesting function is the Wage Calculator that gives a range of pay for specific job titles. It can be customized to your experience and location, if you enter in a bunch more information about yourself (sort of a mini-job application).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kids need recess - Grownups too!

The New York Times article today provides evidence that children who have more than 15 minutes of recess behaved better in the classroom than those with less recess time. It allows children to rest their brain's "directed attention" and thus be able to return refreshed to tasks that require directed attention.

I'm sure this applies to grownups, as well. We need to get outside, play a little, allow our brains some rest from constant focus, constant attention, constant work. When we do take a walk or do some exercise, play with our pets or kids, or simply sit outdoors, we're resting a very important part of our brain. Just as sufficient sleep allows our bodies to function optimally, so too does a break from focused "directed attention" allow our brains to function optimally. It reduces mental fatigue and permits a renewed concentration.

While this study proves the efficacy of getting out into nature and/or playing for children, I've known it for a while. When I'm tired, I get outside. There's only so long I can spend writing or talking to people about their work issues or personal issues. Sometimes I just need to be what I call a "vegetable" - just sit without reading or watching TV. I do it best in a bubble bath or sitting and petting one of my cats. I love holding a cat and petting it, putting my ear close to its warm furry body and hearing that wonderful purr. It just calms me down and refreshes me. Playing with the neighbors' dogs also works wonders for my spirit. I feel more alive and able to get back to something that requires my focused attention - a puzzle, a book, a blog post.

What do you REALLY want?

My actions always tell me exactly what I really want...whether I tell myself differently or not. If there's a disconnect between what I say I want and what I'm doing, it's good to become aware of that misalignment. Then I can start to align my actions with my wants.

For example, if I want to be thin, I know what kind of actions I need to take to reach that goal. Specifically, I must expend more calories than I take in. There are different combinations of actions to take - one is "eat less, exercise more" and another is "exercise a whole lot while eating the same amount of food" while another is "eat a lot less while exercising the same amount." Different payoffs come from each of these combinations.

The point is that if I don't do any of these things, I won't reach my stated goal. In which case, my true intention is the immediate gratification of my appetite and hunger. My actions tell me all I need to know about what I truly want.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stop The Silence - For Our Children's Sake

The Maverick Mom identified a very important non-profit cause Stop the Silence - a nonprofit that is completely focused on the heartbreaking work of dealing with the sexual abuse of children. www.12for12k.org is raising money to support its work.

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, at least one out of four girls and one out of seven boys are sexually abused by 18 years old. Nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults are against girls aged 15 or younger. As a mother, these are statistics I can hardly bear to consider.

The life victims live if they are not properly treated is full of shame, poor school performance, depression, psychosis, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, prostitution, drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, homelessness, suicide and homicide, and chronic disease.

Stop the Silence has a three part mission to stem this epidemic. They are committed to exposing and stoping child sexual abuse and help survivors heal worldwide. The charity’s overarching goals are to:

1) help stop child sexual abuse (CSA) and related forms of violence;

2) promote healing of victims and survivors;

3) celebrate the lives of those healed.

Through their work, Stop the Silence aims to address the relationships between child sexual abuse and the broader issues of overall family and community violence, and violence within and between communities.

www.12for12k.org has made it their mission to raise money for this uncommonly worthy cause during the month of February. Even $10 will make a difference. I have made my contribution. I hope you will find a way to offer your support, too.

For our children’s sake, we cannot afford to ignore Stop the Silence. Join me, won’t you?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Michael LeBoeuf's The Millionaire in You

Michael LeBoeuf shows that there are four things people need to know about money: how to make it, how to save it, how to invest it, and how to enjoy it.

The key is LeBoeuf’s Law: Invest your time actively and your money passively. These are LeBoeuf’s ten strategic choices aligned with the Law:

* Live the life you want instead of the life others expect.

* Stack the odds in your favor instead of against you.

* Be a supersaver instead of a big spender.

* Increase the market value of your time instead of working long hours.

* Do less better instead of trying to do it all.

* Capitalize on the unexpected instead of being derailed by it.

* Own the market instead of trying to beat the market.

* Limit your losses instead of letting bad luck ruin you.

* Listen to those who know instead of those who sell.

* Do it now instead of regretting it later

5 Ways to Be Successful and Happy (even rich!)

Barbara Reinhold's article on Monster Five Habits of Millionaires tells us that millionaires have these common characteristics:

1. Avoid the Earn-to-Spend Mentality
2. Focus
3. Do Whatever Is Necessary to Meet Your Goal
4. Take Calculated Risks
5. Be Generous

As the article notes, "[t]hese five habits are a pretty good prescription for living happily even if you're not a millionaire."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Using Color

In the New York Times article Reinvent Wheel? Blue Room. Defusing a Bomb? Red Room, there is wonderful information about the effect of color on our brains, our productivity and our abilities.

Red promotes accuracy, dominance (and therefore winning), recall, attention to detail, attractiveness (at least to men), hunger, thirst and sociability.

Blue promotes creativity, brainstorming, imagination, problem-solving and lingering at parties.

Interestingly, people in a yellow room ate more than people in a red room even though the red room people reported being hungrier and thirstier.

My kitchen is yellow and my dining room is red and blue. So I guess...my guests are hungry and thirsty, want to hang around, and will eat the leftovers in the kitchen.

Get in the flow of happiness

Contrary to what most of us believe, happiness does not simply happen to us. It's something that we make happen, and it results from doing our best. Feeling fulfilled when we live up to our potentialities is what motivates differentiation and leads to evolution.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning, Page 38

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Writing with Non-dominant Hand

Non-dominant hand writing is a powerful tool for revealing and releasing old no-longer-useful beliefs and old hurts.

I suggested to someone that she use some information she got from a psychic about someone yelling at her, and therefore keeping her from reaching her goals. This is all happening on an unconscious, energetic level. So addressing it at a conscious level won't be effective. The method for finding out what's keeping her stuck is one I adapted from Dr. Brian Alman, a brilliant psychologist whose method allowed me to forgive a former employer for the nature of my ouster.

1. Use your non-dominant hand to give voice to the screaming woman. What is she saying? What messages does she want to communicate? What does she have to say that requires her to yell? What's the content of the yelling? Why is she saying it? What are her reasons? Just scribble rather than focus on forming legible words, as long as you keep her voice in your head as you are writing. You are channeling her messages onto the piece of paper. This takes about 10 minutes, or until she's done yelling.

2. Next, with your non-dominant hand, write down all your inner voices that are reacting to the screaming woman. Those are the voices that criticize her for what she's saying, how she's saying it, why she's saying it. There are voices that are afraid of her, and others that are disgusted. Some may be gleeful, glad that she finally got to talk. Whatever comes out, channel through your writing. This takes about 10 minutes, or until the inner voices are finished with their critique (with the non-judgmental meaning of "commentary").

3. Finally, with your dominant hand, write down whatever comes to your mind. This will be the observer of your process, and the truthteller - the voice that tells you what's really going on, and what the stakes seemed to be, what's behind the yelling, what's being protected.

I'm really curious to see how this works for my dear one. It certainly worked for me, but each person is different.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What is procrastination telling YOU?

The Popular Practice of Putting Stuff Off by Alina Tugend in this weekend's New York Times lays out this really interesting point about procrastination:

"But chronic procrastination can be a symptom of a much deeper problem, one that does not respond to “just tweaking a variable,” Professor [Timothy A.] Pychyl said.

“It could be a symptom that you’re leading an inauthentic life,” he said. “You should take a look at the goals in your life and say, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ ”

So a key question to ask is what may be causing you to put off doing something. It may be as simple as not having enough information or it may be as big as no longer having the energy to invest in continuing to do the same unfulfilling things.

My own experience tells me that I put things off when I don't have enough information to move forward. The article makes this point as well when it tells the story of students who had to either briefly describe the type of person who opens a bank account, or define what's needed to open a bank account. Both would be paid $5, yet money proved not to be a motivator here. The difference was in how abstract or concrete the assignment.

The first group had to think, had to ruminate about a concept and then summarize their thoughts - and it's so true that it takes longer to write something short than it does to write something long. The second group simply had to list things, in no particular order. That's easy to do quickly.

My guess is that the first group might have been better able to act quickly if they had some guidelines to follow. "List characteristics of people who open bank accounts" might have engendered fast responses, as might "Briefly describe the type of person who opens a bank account. Use a friend or family member as your model." More information - either as explicit instructions or hints as to how to approach the task - makes the job easier to accomplish.

I now approach "procrastination" as a diagnostic tool rather than a character flaw. When I put something off that really needs doing, I know to ask the "why am I doing this? What additional information do I need? Or, is this really what I want to be doing?" Either way, I move off the dime and progress.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Take the action, let go of the result

"You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result."
– Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ben Franklin strikes again!

"While we may not be able to control all that happens outside of us, we can control what happens inside of us."
- attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Support for doing the difficult things in life

Sunday, I talked to a woman who has worked 30 years for New Jersey's Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS pronounced Dye-fuss). It's the place that monitors child welfare and helps kids who are being abused. I wondered how she kept going, since it is a place that could kill one's soul through all the terrible things you must see. She acknowledged that you do see the worst of people but also the best. And above all, she said the people who last there have a) a calling to do this work; and b) spiritual support. She said they belong to a church, synagogue, ashram, mosque - some community organized around spiritual lines that offers consolation, comfort, and love.

It made so much sense to me, because I have survived devastating circumstances only because of the communities to which I belong. I have grown physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in communities. They may have been communities of two - me and my therapist - or communities of millions - on-line groups like Sparkpeople.com - or communities of shifting numbers - 12-step meetings or my Executive Directors' Roundtable. The number doesn't matter; what matters is that I was not alone. I was accompanied on my path, and accompanied others. I still am part of many communities, because I can't, don't want to, and don't have to travel this life alone. As John Donne said, "no man is an island" and this gal ain't one, either.

Then I thought about the term "self-help." What an unfortunate term, so profoundly unhelpful. It implies that the best way to achieve one's personal, professional, and emotional goals is to do it by yourself. That's what "self-help" means, right? Helping myself?

Don't get me wrong: I love self-help books. I own thousands, and have given away hundreds more. They - and the countless self-help CDs, DVDs, videos, pamphlets, workbooks, films, websites, and articles - contribute to my growth and development. They are useful tools. But that's what they are, tools. They do not constitute community. When was the last time a book returned your late-night phone call? Has a CD ever put its arm around your shoulder? Or a DVD answered your question? What article has asked you questions and then listened intently to your answer, showing excitement at your development or dawning awareness?

Without a community, I would stagnate and die. Self-help tools are not enough. I don't know what else to call them, but would love to figure out how to talk about them as the stepping-off point toward a community of people who also use these tools. There are many communities arising on the Internet now, the Web 2.0 phenomenon. People do gravitate together around common needs and interests. We humans are social creatures who crave community, but don't always know how to build it or participate in it, and often are afraid to risk exposing ourselves. It's so much easier to buy a book and into the illusion that "I can heal myself with these self-help materials." I wish that "self-help" didn't imply that we don't need community in order to grow.

Networking works

“Three-quarters of people find jobs through being out there, engaged and meeting people,” said John A. Challenger, C.E.O. of Challenger Gray & Christmas, the outplacement firm. www.nytimes.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I celebrate small stuff

Over the weekend, I cleaned up my tools and screws, putting similar things together and in one place. This is step by step organizing with no deadlines. It's been my intention to organize things, gathering from many locations into one central place - & it is happening!

So I celebrate, and file away the experience as an example of having patience with myself and confidence that I will fulfill my intentions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Great values to live by

Judith and Jim (www.judithandjim.com) sent an e-mail with these wonderful guidelines from Anna Weber:

I open my heart daily to a life of prosperity and happiness by...

1. Creating quiet time for reflection, gratitude, prayer...

2. Exercising so I experience my best physical self.

3. Organizing my environment to keep my life flowing and uncluttered.

4. Nourishing myself for vital health with appropriate food, water and rest--and removing toxins from my life.

5. Interacting with people I love and enjoy that are uplifting, inspiring and supportive.

6. Mentally stimulating myself with reading, writing and other creative activities.

7. Being deeply connected to and through The Universe.

8. Affirming, with great clarity and passion, those things which I desire.

9. Honoring my commitments--to myself and others.

10.Being open to all possibilities as I nourish myself, empower my mind, and uplift my spirit.

They suggest applying these principles over the next 7 days and see what happens. I say strive to incorporate them into life every day, in little ways, and see how much happier, content and serene you become and remain.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vinegar solves problems - low-cost, ecologically sane

I love these tips from This Old House (Jan/Feb 2009)and Woman's Day (Nov. 11, 2008) magazines regarding uses of vinegar.

Yesterday, my sister and I tried one out - using vinegar and warm water to remove 1970's wallpaper from her kitchen - and it worked extremely well. When we used a scraper, it seemed the paper just melted away from the wall - big, long, satisfying strips of paper peeling off. The trick was to thoroughly saturate the paper. Also, we had to use it on two layers of paper - the pretty outside stuff and the bottom gluey stuff. Her 6 year old joined in, it was so easy. And with my physical limitations, I had to sit - but that didn't stop me from contributing huge swathes of paper removal, with this technique.

Before I list the tips, I have a comment on apple cider vs. white vinegar. Apple cider is in most households, so you probably won't have to go out to buy it but it stinks - literally. You may have to go out to buy white vinegar; however, it is equally inexpensive as apple cider vinegar (you don't need the organic kind for cleaning!) and it doesn't smell very much at all. It's up to you as to which you use, except when one is recommended.

These are the tips:

1. Peel off wallpaper. This Old House recommends equal parts of vinegar and water. We used mostly water and about two tablespoons of vinegar per spray bottle. And we used white vinegar to avoid a smell.

2. Clean dirty windows. This is my own tip based on personal experience. Years ago, I cleaned New York City kitchen windows with apple cider vinegar and warm water and used newspaper. The solution cut through decades of city soot and grime and left the windows sparkling clean. It took two or three applications and wipings. The newspaper eliminated streaks and lint residue - plus cost nothing (and we recycled it later). Sure, it smelled, but no worse than a glass cleaner and it was a LOT less expensive.

3. Revive old paint brushes. This Old House recommends that we soak gunked up nylon brushes in hot vinegar for up to 30 minutes, wash with soap and water, rinse and dry. I have to try this with some old brushes I have. I take it that this method may not work with natural bristles. And I'll bet it will work only with latex water-based paint, not oil-based.

4. Woman's Day reminds us that we can clean coffee makers by brewing up 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water. They recommend doing this every three weeks.

5. Kill grass and weeds. Obviously, this means unwanted grass and weeds, specifically those between bricks and flagstones. I have experience with this Woman's Day tip, finding it to work pretty well. It only works with weeds that already are apparent, and I had to repeat many times that summer. I love organic solutions and am willing to do the ongoing maintenance required by such an approach.

6. Remove decals and stickers. By daubing vinegar onto the sticker, it loosens the adhesive. You still have to scrape with an appropriate scraper (single edge razor blades works well, IF you keep them out of reach of kids). Like This Old House, I have gotten stubborn adhesive residue off with all kinds of vinegar.

7. Avoid moldy cheese. I am eager to try this Woman's Day suggestion, because I love cheese and hate when it gets moldy. Now that I'm on my weight-release program, I eat less cheese and it goes bad way too quickly. For this, I'll use white vinegar.

8. Whiten grout. If you have white grout that now is yellow or stained, This Old House suggests dipping a stiff toothbrush in vinegar and then scrubbing. This tip helps me use those old toothbrushes that are completely unsuitable for brushing teeth because they rip at my gums!

9. Keep paint from peeling. Leave it to This Old House to have two paint-related tips for vinegar! In this one, they refer specifically to painting galvanized metal or concrete. If you are one of those who might do so, use a lint-free applicator to wipe the surface down with vinegar and apparently the paint will last longer. How much longer, they don't say. It can't hurt to try adding this extra step to what must be an unusual paint project.

10. Prevent colors from running. In the "extra step" department that might pay off big, Woman's Day suggests soaking new clothes or towels for 15 minutes before washing in equal parts vinegar and cold water. I'm going to try this, because I have had too many colors run onto things I don't want them to run onto. I wash in cold water, so I assume wrongly that colors won't run. But they do!! Dark colors somehow get a dark shadow from the darker article of clothing. My bright pink shirt got a very slight red pattern from its red laundry mate. It's very annoying. Vinegar to the rescue! It's a good use for my bucket, too.

11. Dissolve rust. If any of you are like me in forgetting garden tools outside in the rain, this tip is for us. This Old House suggests soaking old tools and corroded nuts and bolts in vinegar for a few days, then rinsing with water and watching the rust disappear. I will try it come spring time when I can limit the smell and mess to the outdoors or garage.

12. Test soil pH. Finally, an inexpensive way to tell whether my garden will produce pink or blue hydrangeas! This Old House tells me to put a handful of dirt in a small container and sprinkle vinegar on top. Alkaline soil will fizz. I guess acid soil does nothing. Now I just have to find out what color hydrangea is produced by what kind of soil and decide what I want.

13. Freshen wilted vegetables. I eat at home all the time and still have wilted vegetables. I buy a lot of produce when I shop and simply can't/shouldn't eat all of it in the short time frame before wilt sets in. Woman's Day says I can at least salvage the leafy vegetables by soaking them in 2 cups of cold water mixed with one tablespoon of vinegar for 10 minutes. Leafy vegetables to me means lettuce and greens. Personally, I've extended the life of my lettuce by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and storing in a plastic bag. I don't know how necessary the vinegar is.

14. Remove mineral deposits from showerheads. I've read this tip before, but This Old House improves on it by suggesting using warm vinegar in a resealable plastic bag. Completely submerge the showerhead holes in the vinegar and then seal the bag for an hour. After rinsing and wiping clean, the showerhead should run clear once it is reattached. I don't know if my showerhead is clogged by mineral deposits, but if it is, I'll try this.

15. Remove wax or polish build up. This Old House says you can remove build up on wood or leather. For wood, use equal parts water and vinegar and wipe with the wood's grain. Leather requires 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar and a circular rubbing motion. I'd want to make sure I have build up on my wood before I try this, as my sense is that water and vinegar can be very drying to wood. I plan to try it on my leather car seats.

16. The last tip is counterintuitive to me, for This Old House says I can protect my hands from irritation when I'm using concrete, drywall and other building materials. Rinsing with a mix of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water before washing up will neutralize the caustic alkaline content of such materials and reduce the possibility of skin irritation. Hmm...I'll suggest that my brother the handyman try this one.

There are so many other uses for vinegar - low cost, ecologically safe, easily obtained. Perfect for this time in our world!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Website Magazine says:

Google has found the most effective formats are the 336x280 Large Rectangle, the 300x250 Medium Rectangle, and the 160x600 Wide Skyscraper. Keep in mind that while these ad formats typically perform well, you should use the format that best complements your pages.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Action every day

Zig Ziglar said...

"People often tell me that motivation doesn't last, and I tell them that bathing doesn't either. That's why I recommend it daily."