Thursday, May 25, 2017

100 Days of Rejection-- or-- Embrace Your Fears!

My class at Georgetown, and one of our professors, Marc Busch
I've been thinking a lot about embracing my fears lately. I'm in a master's program at Georgetown, studying International Business and Policy-- a program run jointly by Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service and McDonough School of Business-- both of which are top ranked schools globally. And I'm struggling with something called Imposter Syndrome-- that fear that at any moment people will discover that you are an imposter and don't really belong there. It hasn't happened yet. In fact, my grades are pretty good! But every time I pack my bags to head back to campus, or open a final exam, I have this moment of panic that someone will say, "Wait! What is she doing here? Who let her in?"

And so we come to embracing our fears. Reaching out and grabbing whatever it is we're afraid of and saying, "Bring it on!"
Kingston Family Vineyard, where we were consulting
I mentioned this to my tour guide, Jerson, last week in Belize. On my way home from Santiago, Chile, where I was taking classes and consulting for a Chilean winery with Georgetown, I stopped in Belize for a few days. It was, in case you weren't sure, incredibly beautiful and more laid back than anywhere I've ever been. Best snorkeling on earth, I'm pretty sure. But I digress. As Jerson and I were tramping through the jungle, I told him how I'm working on conquering my fears by embracing them.
The view from my hotel in Belize

As I child, I told him, I was terribly afraid of knives. I used to have horrible nightmares about people trying to stab me. So a few years ago I asked a friend to teach me to throw knives. And I'm pretty good at it! A while later I took on my fear of guns by walking into a shooting range and asking the enormous bearded guy behind the counter if I could rent a gun and have someone show me how to shoot it. Eventually I took private classes from members of the SWAT team. And it turns out I'm a pretty good shot!

Jerson asked what I'm still afraid of, and I said with a shudder, "Spiders. Ugh!" He just smiled. I am quite certain if I had known him better I would have been suspicious of that smile.

We rented inner tubes and carried them about a half mile further into the jungle to where we would tube through caves with Mayan artifacts. Suddenly Jerson stopped and picked a long piece of grass. I watched him straighten it out and asked what he was doing. He just smiled. He knelt down next to hole in the jungle floor and poked the grass into the hole. "Wait," I said. "Does something live in there?" For an answer he said, "I hope it's home."

Jerson and the tarantula
I didn't scream. You have to have air in your lungs to scream. Jerson told me today was the day for me to overcome my fear of spiders. "She tickles when she walks on you," he said. "And she can bite, but her bite won't kill you." He held her out, looking genuinely pleased to be able to offer me such a once-in-a-lifetime experience to embrace my fears! I fought to stay conscious. Only when I told him I was so scared I was trying not to cry did he seem to grasp the depth of my terror and put "her" back in her hole.

I did not hold a wild tarantula in the jungles of Central America. But I took a couple of pictures of one. And I didn't cry or pass out. So, progress was made! Even if Jerson was mildly disappointed in me.
How to relax after an intense week of classes

Tonight I came across this video and it made me laugh out loud, and smile to myself. Who doesn't fear rejection? Here is one man who overcame that fear by embracing it. May we all do the same.

Except... not with tarantulas.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Productivity Cheats

Productivity Cheats

There are only 24 hours in each day, and until someone starts selling time turners on Amazon, that’s all we’re going to get. The good news is that 24 hours translate into 1,440 minutes in each day. And a lot of yours are going to waste.

From time soaking in the shower, to waiting for the toast to pop, to commuting to work, chances are you actually have quite a few unused minutes strewn throughout your day. If you could sweep up all those scattered minutes into one big pile, you’d have a chunk of change you could do something with!

While Amazon may not be selling time turners (yet), there are some handy dandy ways to use those minutes that are just lying about, waiting for you to claim them.

1.     Bluetooth headsets. This marvelous invention allows you to set the phone down (or stick it in your back pocket—just watch out for accidental toilet splashes!) and get things done while you make those important calls. Plan the family get-together with your sister while working out. Decide on your next corporate move while biking through the mountains. The possibilities are endless!

2.     Audiobooks. Similar to (and often in conjunction with) Bluetooth headsets, audiobooks allow you to get through your reading list while getting through your life. Have you been wishing you had time to read the classics, find out what wisdom the bestselling guru is sharing, or catch up with the book club reading? Audiobooks allow you to “read” while soaking in the shower, picking out your clothes, and making your toast. I love the Audible app, since you can get books for no more than $14 each (and often much less) and most libraries have audiobooks you can check out for free!

Toilet Time. Ahem. Yes. We’re talking about all those minutes you spend on the throne. What do you do with them? I mean, other than the obvious. Are you simply… flushing them away? I recommend grabbing your phone (out of your back pocket before you de-robe and accidentally drop it in the toilet) and using this time to check email, catch up on Facebook, and respond to text messages. I know you’re probably already doing this, but since the average person spends 42 minutes per week on the toilet (pregnant women much more), it’s worth deciding what to do with all that time. The one thing I cannot recommend using this time for is phone calls. J

4.     Driving Time.  Americans spend an average of 1,466 minutes each month driving. That’s more than an entire day! Did you realize you have an entire day each month that is, in many ways, available? At least for some things. NOT FOR TEXTING. But consider the audiobooks I mentioned above, not to mention audio language classes (want to learn Spanish? Arabic?), news broadcasts, classical music, audio magazine subscriptions… the list goes on and on. An entire day each month to spend on any audio source you choose.

5.     Lists. I know. This is so old school. But you’ll be surprised how grabbing a sheet of paper (really old school) and writing down the things you’d like to accomplish today can help you find and use those scattered minutes. When you finish one project and realize you have 15 minutes before your next meeting, grab your list and look for something on it that you can knock out in the time you have! I don’t know why paper is more effective than phone apps, but I swear it really is. 

What are your favorite productivity boosters? I’m compiling ideas for future posts and a possible book and would love your input! Please comment!  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Becoming Who You Want to Be—The Power of Positive Affirmations

Stephanie was edging her grass when I walked across the street this morning to say hello after getting back from my trip to South and Central America. She shaded her eyes with one hand and smiled. “You’re home!” We talked for a few minutes and I gave her the chocolate bar I picked up for her in Belize. “Oh my goodness! Ross (her husband) will love this!” she said. “I’m not dieting. I’m trying this new thing someone told me about. I wrote on a piece of paper, ‘I eat mostly vegetables,’ and I read it several times a day. And you know what? It’s working! At night when the kids are in bed, I’m eating carrots now instead of popcorn!” I laughed and nodded, and she said, “Wait, was that you who told me that?”

It was. A few years ago, as a joke (because it was SO not true) I started telling my kids, “I mostly eat vegetables.” After about a week of saying this, I realized—with a shock—that it was true! I was mostly eating vegetables! Thus started my obsession with positive affirmations.

The French psychologist, Emile Coué, first popularized self-affirmations in the 1920s, and they are gaining popularity today for good reasons! Many people successfully use them to lose weight, make more money, and overcome fears. According to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University, positive affirmations guard against the damaging effects of stress on our problem solving abilities. Other studies show that students who practice positive affirmation activities at the beginning of a semester boost their GPAs.

How can you make positive affirmations work for you? According to Dr. Ronald Alexander writing in Psychology Today, there are a few keys to successful use of positive affirmations. 

1.     Identify areas where you want to improve. To find particularly powerful affirmations, think about what you consider your negative attributes. We all have flaws—it’s part of being human. Perhaps you believe you are unworthy. As you do this, notice where in your body you are carrying stress about this perceived flaw. Do your shoulders tense? Does your stomach tighten? Make a note of the things you want to improve and where you are holding the stress.

2.     Write a positive affirmation that correlates to your perceived weakness. Look for strong words that embody what you want to believe about yourself. Rather than simply saying, “I am worthy,” you might say, “I am remarkable and cherished.” Make sure the statement is worded in a positive way, without any words like “not” or “no.”  Write your positive affirmation!

3.      Speak your positive affirmation out loud to yourself several times a day. I write mine with a dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror and say them out loud while I’m getting reading in the morning. Looking at yourself in the mirror as you say your affirmation out loud is particularly powerful. You can also write it out several times a day in your journal.

4.     Anchor the affirmation in your body. As you say it out loud, place a hand on the part of your body where you carry the stress associated with the negative belief.

5.     Have a friend repeat the affirmation to you. This final step helps to reinforce the beliefs that you are fostering in yourself. If you don’t have someone you feel comfortable asking to help you with this, looking at yourself in the mirror can reinforce your new, healthy self-image.

Recently, I programmed my positive affirmations into my phone with a reminder that goes off every hour. When the reminder comes up on my phone, I read it out loud to myself. As with every affirmation, when I first started telling myself I am a successful strategy consultant, it felt like a lie. Now, after about 2 weeks, I nod when the reminders come up, and I think to myself, “Yep! I know that I am.” And I find myself easily taking actions that confirm what I already know.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Resilience-- 7 Steps to Bouncing Back


When hard things happen—and let’s be honest, they happen to everyone nearly every day!—learning to bounce back is key to happiness! 

I’d been married 25 years when I discovered my husband was not who I thought he was. As my heart shattered into a thousand shards on the kitchen floor, tears puddling around them, my husband simply walked away, taking all financial support with him. I had trained and worked for 25 years to be a homemaker, a wife and a mother. Suddenly I was thrust into the male-dominated world of resumes, business suits and networking. I was struggling to survive in a foreign environment at the very moment that my identity was swept away in shame of betrayal and overwhelming questions of self-worth.

Thankfully, not all the hard things we face in life are this dramatic. As I have bounced back (after taking some time to recover), I’ve pulled wisdom from a variety of sources on how to become resilient in the face of all kinds of hard things.

Now, eight years after my ex was arrested, I have my first college degree and am half way through my graduate degree! I am more happy and alive than ever and I am not only surviving, I am thriving. I have learned a few keys to resilience that apply to everything from bad divorces to bad days.

1.     Let yourself grieve. You can’t begin to recover until you take full stock of where you are and how bad it hurts. You don’t need to wallow in the pain, but you do need to admit that it’s real and let yourself feel the hurt. Kind of like looking at a scraped knee before you clean it and get it ready for healing, the first step is letting yourself see how bad it is.
2.     Remember this is about you. It’s not about whoever hurt you. Whether he (or she) is sorry or not, whether he even admits he hurt you isn’t what matters. You are what matters. Take care of yourself and let God take care of the rest.
3.     Claim your story. It may be messy and crazy and may look like all hell broke loose—but it’s yours! Own it! Embrace it! Love it. This leads to loving yourself. <3

4.     Trust yourself. Learn to listen to that little voice in your head, to your gut instinct. More often than not, you know what’s right or wrong. Believe in your own ability to know which is which and act on your gut feelings. When your heart tells you something you mind doesn’t know, take action.
5.     Check the facts on other’s judgment. As humans we have a tendency to assume other people are thinking the worst of us, when in reality they’re not thinking anything of the sort. This is one area where it’s better to check the facts rather than go with your first impression. A simple question, “Are you mad at me about this?” or “Did I just make fool of myself?” gives you a chance to talk—a much harder but in the end happier option than hiding or taking offense.
6.     Pray. Spending a few minutes each day quietly sharing your thoughts with God and listening for the ideas He puts in your mind and heart will bring peace and self-confidence like nothing else. As with your gut instincts, act on the impressions you receive. 

7.     Do hard things. Getting knocked on your butt is hard. Getting back up can feel even harder. As soon as you make yourself do one hard thing, you realize you are stronger than you thought you were. Doing even just one hard thing a day allows you to take back control of your life and prove to yourself that whatever happens, you will rise above it.