improve your life

The Dark of the Year and the Dancing Saints

As the days grow shorter and darker, I find myself mentally withdrawing into a kind of warm, personal cave – a cozy one filled with minute lights and small comforts, in which I experience a minimum of demands on me.Over the years, I have come to realize that the Dark of the Year is not a great time to find solutions to big problems, or to make great creative leaps, much less make magic.  It is more like the time experienced by daffodil and tulip bulbs, snug under the ground, quiet, gathering their strength for the big surge that will come as the Earth warms.

No use looking for experiences that will trigger answers to questions – somehow the questions you are asking and answers you are receiving never match. It is instead a time for gathering in experiences that are nourishing and that will fuel that great Springtime leap.

In the spirit of providing ourselves with soul-nourishing experiences, a friend and I went to a Wintersong concert at a church in San Francisco.  The concert itself, consisting of songs from Eastern Europe sung by eight charmingly costumed women, was a revelation.  We were told that caroling predates Christianity, and consists of songs that fulfill that human need to find light, joy and community in the darker months.

As if that were not enough, the sanctuary in which the concert was held was a revelation in itself.  From top to bottom, the walls were covered with vividly colored paintings of saints, as defined by the parishioners, all dancing together.  St. Thomas Aquinas, John Coltrane, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Francis of Assisi, Barnabas, Sojourner Truth, Paul of Tarsus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, and more, all joined hands in the dance. Somehow Lady Godiva was in the mix, too, as were several Seraphim, all similarly clothed (or unclothed). As a friend of mine once remarked, “The Lord certainly loves diversity.  He created so much of it.”

It was a magic experience.  All of these people, spanning centuries and representing a myriad of different belief systems, somehow came together to create a harmonious whole.  It may have been pure fantasy, but it was the most hopeful thing I have seen all year.
May we all dance together as harmoniously in 2014, and may the magic of the holiday season grow in you, and burst forth triumphantly as the light returns.

_______________________________________________________________________

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Simple Gifts

Personal note

Last night I traveled through the first snowstorm of the season to give my new talk, “The Roadmap to Cherish,” to a group of divorcing women. Apprehensive and fearful about the process through which they are going, they nevertheless were thoughtful and even humorous about the plight of the person who has experienced what was perceived as the safety of a relationship, only to find that the floor has been pulled out from underneath.

Their comments made me think more fully about how important it is to nurture and learn to cherish ourselves. If Christmas emphasizes the spirit of giving, the concept doesn’t rule out giving to oneself. Or as one person put it, “Self-care” is not the same as “Selfish.”

Think about it as you acquire gifts for everyone this holiday season.

The Best Christmas Gift of All!

Are you feeling overwhelmed and undervalued? Is a little inner voice saying, “All I really want for Christmas is to be cherished”?

You can get out of overwhelm and turn “undervalued” into “highly valued,” using my simple Roadmap that will take you there in five amazingly powerful steps.

Find out how to feel and be special. How? Give yourself a gift, or nudge a willing Santa Claus, desperate for gift ideas, with this Christmas Special, which includes:

  • The Roadmap to Cherish: a recorded one-hour talk outlining the five clear steps that will show you quickly where you can get on the path and claim the skills to be treasured by others.
  • Your Personal Profile: An amazing short profile that reveals strengths you didn’t even know you had, and why other people haven’t valued them. A life-changer!
  • Deep Dive: A powerful and confidential 1-hour one-on-one coaching call with Lynette to bring you insight, clarity and freedom. During your hour, you will get some tips to make immediate changes and learn the next steps to completely eliminate the behaviors that have been holding you back from success.

Don’t delay! Value: (Priceless, but regularly$197) Christmas Special: $97
Act now!

Simple Gifts

Black Friday has come and gone; frantic shoppers jammed parking lots and then the internet to buy things that speak their love for others – and incidentally to get into debt. But do these things we buy really do the trick? Are they really worth getting financially strapped over?

I was looking over the collection of greeting cards I have received over the years. All of them I treasure for one reason or another; one of them I truly cherish. It is from a friend who is very like me – in some ways. We both enjoy solitude, and can sit together companionably, reading, without having to interrupt or be entertained by the other.

In other ways, such as tastes and lifestyle, we couldn’t be farther apart. I love dress-up events in posh places, such as theaters and fancy hotels. She loves spiritual get-togethers with incense and candlelight. I look buttoned-down and Vogue; she looks mystical and other-worldly. Heck, I am a recovering chocaholic, a taste in which she indulges with admirable restraint. We may at times resemble the odd couple when we go places together, but we are friends, and have been for a long time.

The card that I cherish (and look at frequently) shows a delightful fantasy world, with princesses in pointed caps, a unicorn dipping its horn in a stream, and rabbits dressed in livery and tooting ceremonial bugles while doing balletic leaps in the air, all depicted against a background featuring a large rainbow. (Well, ok, you have to see it, but trust me, it represents my inner world.) The wonder is that she knew this when she saw it and sent it to me.

It took me a few years of gazing at this card to recognize a truth: She knows who I am, and she likes me for it!

How often do we give gifts that we think would complete our fantasy of the other person: an item of clothing a little more upscale or flattering (in our opinion) than the other person would have chosen, for example. A gift that is a little hint, a nudge in what we believe is the right direction.

How much more difficult it can be to honor the real person, but how rewarding.

In these financially difficult times, the best gift of all can be within your budget. It doesn’t have to be a fancy object. How about a card offering to take the person to an event you know he or she would love, but you would not? You might ordinarily be bored to tears by a poetry reading, for example, but you would be generously sharing your time – and finding out more about that person than you knew beforehand. Or you could offer to perform some task that would be very helpful but difficult for the recipient to do.

It doesn’t even have to be the “right” card, one with just the right sentiment. A home-made one will do just fine to express your feelings, as kindergarteners everywhere know.

Your gift could simply be words of appreciation that you realize you have thought for years but have never put on paper or released into the atmosphere. Christmas couldn’t be a better time to do so.

The release of your positive feelings, as your pour them onto paper or into your actions, increases the capacity of your brain to have positive experiences. What could be more nurturing, more cherishing for you?

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

What kinds of assumptions is your reality based on?

Personal note

The big storm of two weeks ago continues to have repercussions on the lives of those of us who were in its path.  Downed trees are gradually being removed, overwhelming email lists, building up during the power outage, have been reduced in size, and life is going on, with a few differences.  The major one is the realization of how much life can change in an instant as everything we assumed would support us disappears, thankfully temporarily.

This led me to thinking about the assumptions we all hold that we believe are “truths” about life; they bolster our concept of reality. They also become the walls of the prison we construct.

What kinds of assumptions is your reality based on?

Sometimes it takes an upheaval – a giant storm, an earthquake – to flip that switch in our heads that makes us see our world very differently.

After a recent storm, followed by a power outage, I met a man frantic to get the fallen tree blocking his garage door out of the way, so he could get his kids to a motel where they could watch TV, because he assumed they couldn’t be happy without it!  If he didn’t actually sit down with them, talk and figure out a way to play without power, he will never actually know the various ways in which his kids can be happy – and neither will they.

The loss of power just when I was really ramping up my business left me disoriented. Rather than moaning about it, I decided to assess my reaction to the loss of power and the subsequent sense of helplessness, and came up with these assumptions, all of which, I am happy to say, were simply illusions:

I can’t work on my business without lights, a computer, or a telephone.

Potentially disastrous response: sitting down and being depressed about inability to get anything productive done.
In fact, I started to clean my files and found important information, including lists of potential clients, that I had forgotten I had.  This information set me off on a new, and productive, path.
When the power was on, I was always too busy to go into these old files.

Since I can’t email, phone, or even open my garage door and get my car out, how can I meet new prospective clients?

Potentially disastrous response: …being depressed about inability to connect with people.
I took a walk in the park to survey the tree damage and met a new neighbor who walked with me.  We had a long walk and conversation in which we shared mutual interests; at the end, she took out her I-phone and put herself on the list for my ezine.
The storm and its damage forced me to take that leisurely walk. Slowing down and paying attention to what is right in your neighborhood is an eye opener.

With no stove and the food in the refrigerator rapidly deteriorating, how am I going to eat? Restaurants that I normally go to were far away – which brought up the no-power garage door situation again.

Potentially disastrous response:  Aaarrrggghh!
Now, I could probably live off my stored fat for at least a few days, so I wasn’t in danger of starvation, but I found on the first day that there were several small restaurants in my neighborhood (that I had, once again, never noticed) with – wonder of wonders -their own generators!   They served up delicious meals, and now I have a whole new repertory of places to go to when I am hurried, hungry, and wanting good nutrition.

Oh, no, the phone on which my business depends has gone out – again – and I will have to go through the telephone company’s tree of options to even speak to a live person.

Potentially disastrous response:  Running in small circles, accompanied by a high-pitched shriek.
Well, I did to through their tree of options once, but then I connected with the repairman for my area, who actually gave me his cell phone number so I could call him directly any time I have a problem with my line.

Life is better than I imagined when all of these events first struck.

Now, the aftermath of the storm almost feels like a little vacation, on which I could regain some good sense after a flurry of overwork.

Wouldn’t it be nice it we could all turn off the power in our heads, stop yearning for something somewhere else,  and be so relaxed that we noticed what was right under our noses all the time?

As Dorothy Gale said, in the Wizard of OZ, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, l won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there I never really lost it to begin with.”

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

What do you say to a Dementor?

Personal note

June ended with a bang; heavy winds and driving rain brought down 5000 trees and left an estimated 610,000 people without power in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area. I was one of them.

Along with the complete lack of light, air conditioning, cooking facilities, refrigeration, phone connections, lack of coffee in the morning, and more, there were some bright spots:

I found three little restaurants nearby, which I had never noticed before, where power was restored more quickly than in my block. Who would have guessed that a little hole in the wall would serve an outstanding Croque Monsieur?

A walk in the park to survey damaged trees brought me a new friend and neighbor, who, at the end of the walk, whipped out her smart phone and signed up for my ezine!

Since cleaning files was my only work option, I did so, and found valuable information that I had forgotten I possessed.

And all that soaking rain made weed-pulling incredibly easy!

What do you say to a Dementor?

In my last article, “Watch who you share your pain with,” I described several kinds of people who only make your pain worse by saying the wrong things.I call them, collectively, Dementors, familiar to Harry Potter fans as creatures who suck all hope out of you. They may magnify your tiny symptom into sure death, or seemingly provide incontrovertible evidence that your dreams can never succeed.

When in a crisis or loss situation, we are all initially gobsmacked by these people and their remarks. Replying smartly on the spot may be beyond most of us, but here are some hints for handling these situations:

Don’t let somebody else write your future!

Remind yourself that the future is still up for grabs. Most of the hurtful things other people say in these situations are really about predicting the future. Why do we assume they have the power to do that? Probably because they are touching a secret fear – about our own mortality, that of a loved one, or of a special quest in life – a fear we don’t want to reveal because to do so will somehow give that fear life. Now someone else has done it for us. Solution? Go back to my first sentence:  the future is up for grabs!! When you are able to slow down your anxious breathing, start to look for the parts of the future that you can control by taking action now.

If you can rally enough to say something, here are a few suggestions:

  • Questions you can ask:
Why would you say that to me now?
Are you meaning to be helpful?
Are you meaning to be comforting?
Do you believe that’s true for everyone, a lot of people, or just a few?
Do you feel I’m similar to that person? If so, how much?
  • Statements you can make:
To the future predictor:
I’m going to stay optimistic because I know it’s better for my health in the long run.To the self-appointed expert who gives you advice, medical or otherwise:
I want to explore every avenue before making a decision.

To the gooey sympathizer who oozes all over you:
I am not a victim – I’m just a human being who has had a setback.

A dear friend I will call Emily told me a wonderful story recently. Her husband had been diagnosed with cancer – a form which can range from mild to severe, and for which there are a variety of outcomes. They had no idea which it was at this point.

Shaken, she told a friend, who said briskly, “What you need to do now is move to a condo so that you won’t have all that trouble when he dies.”

Gobsmacked, she hung up, hurt and furious. To her great credit, she rallied, called the friend back, and said, “I want you to know I was very hurt by what you said, and I considered never speaking to you again.” They discussed the issue, but at this point Emily feels she will never really trust this friend as a confidant again.

Strong friendships are often made or broken on the basis of the sharing and reception of bad news.

When people tell us really bad news they have received, most of us are unprepared as to what to say, so we bungle it. Here’s a tip: If you don’t know what to say, don’t! In fact, grief experts recommend that you use this simple phrase that sums up the enormity of the experience someone has confided to you and your wish to help but recognition that you can’t:  “I don’t know what to say.”

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Have you ever had a psychological sucker punch?

Personal note

Our mercurial weather, with its frequent rain and wind alternating with sunshine, has helped me keep my nose to the grindstone and continue turning out the Workbooks I am planning for my two programs: The Confident Introvert and Be Your Own Best Caretaker.

In these Workbooks, text and worksheets will alternate with CDs to provide the easiest possible path to success, whether you choose to do a home-study version or to combine it with a series of coaching sessions with me. As a coach, these programs will help me place new clients exactly at the point where they need to begin to find serenity and claim their confidence.
I’m excited to be finishing them up. Watch for a very special offer I am going to make to those of you who are my faithful followers when they are finished.

Have you ever had a psychological sucker punch?

Have you ever had someone explain to you, coldly and logically, why your dream or vision is impossible, and can never come true?

Well, I have. Most recently last week.

As it happens, I had stopped focusing on my stress management programs during the last year, while I finished my book, The Confident Introvert, and developed programs based on it.

But I went back to that topic and am now developing what I think will be a new, exciting, and very complete program, combining elements of stress and habit management that I don’t think have ever been combined in quite this way before.

Or so I thought, until an old friend dropped by, and I enthusiastically told her about my plans. Here is what she told me, with cool and seemingly impeccable logic:

  • Everyone is doing stress programs now.
  • It is impossible to distinguish between all the people offering such programs – they’re all pretty much the same, no matter what they say.
  • None of them are really any good; there is no proof they work at all.
  • She, as an office manager, would be very skeptical and rejecting of a stress program for her employees.

I reeled with self doubt for quite a while, unable to collect my wits and think creatively, until I remembered.

  • I remembered her stories of her youth when, as a talented artist who subsequently got a college degree in fine arts, both her parents assured her that no one ever made a living in art, so she must seek other employment (which she did).
  • And I remembered her telling me how her father, also a talented painter, almost always won first prize in every art competition he entered, and sold his paintings for a nice sum, yet he continued to work at another job his entire life, as she continues to do, believing that it was impossible to make a living at painting.

I also remembered, once I came to my senses, the following:

  • More and more articles and research studies, many in medical journals, show the positive effects of stress management on the prevention and treatment of illness.
  • The stressed clients I have worked with who, like storm-wracked ships, made their way into the harbor of new, happier, jobs and relationships.
  • A dear friend, whose prostate cancer was galloping along and who was planning his funeral and giving away his belongings, used a meditation process to such good effect that his tumors have completely disappeared, he has gained weight, turned out two more books since then, and is looking forward to the future. (I can’t claim his success as the result of anything I did, but I do include this very effective meditation process in my own programs now.)

And although I haven’t done a lot of presentations on stress so far this year, I have gotten raving testimonials! Other people somewhere think what I do is important.

Maybe it’s time I remembered to think so, too.

However, that blow to your confidence such as I had is like a sucker punch; it comes suddenly and unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere, often from someone you least expect would use it. It leaves you temporarily disoriented and gasping for breath. Just as a real sucker punch makes you focus only on your present survival, so does a psychological sucker punch. I presented arguments in favor of what I believed; she shot them down.

So I remembered to remember my old maxim: When people tell you what you can’t do, they are really showing you the limitations of their own thinking. Not your limitations, theirs.

Philip Zimbardo, the first researcher on shyness, says that shyness is like a prison in which you are both a prisoner and your own jailer. I think that simile can be extended beyond shyness to include any psychologically limiting state of mind.

In other words, once you recognize the fake prison for what it is, you can rally, step out of the prison door, wave goodbye to the poor souls still in there, and throw away the keys. And pity them for their lack of freedom, which you will have now regained.

Stress may happen to us, but we don’t have to choose to keep it.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Who’s writing your life script?

Personal note

A delightful Easter brunch with a dear friend made up for the fact that it was cold as heck, even on the last day of March, when last year at this time the daffodils were up.

But Spring will surely come, as it always does; there will be daffodils, and lilacs, too.

It’s just as well that it’s late, too, with the flurry of activity that is demanding my attention this Spring: seminars on The Angina Monologue, workshops on Be Your Own Best Caretaker, and my new program, The Confident Introvert, which is shaping up to be very exciting.

So it’s important to get everything in place before those delightful summer days come, with their invitation to throw everything over, say “What the heck,” and go for a walk in the park.

If you want to get your life “tidied up” before the days of summer so that you can relax, consider my free program that I’m offering this month:

April is “Coming Out” month for introverts. What – you haven’t signed up yet for my FREE teleseminar series?

It’s not too late to register. All sessions are recorded, so that you can listen to them later. If you haven’t already registered, do it now, listen to the previous session on your own schedule, and gain entrance to these upcoming sessions:

Coming up on Wednesday, April 10, at 8 p.m.:
Throw off Your Cloak of Invisibility
Aren’t you tired of being overlooked? Seeing other people get credit for ideas and expertise, when you know you have more to offer?

And on Wednesday, April 24, at 8 p.m.:
Questions you always wanted to ask about introverts, but didn’t know who to ask.

Send in your questions about anything about the introvert experience to me (Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com) at any time during the series and I will answer them in this last session.

And be sure to show up for this last session, and stay till the end, when I have a free gift for you and an exiting offer.

They are all teleseminars, and they’re all FREE.

Sign up now!

Links to hear Lynette:
Hear more about The Confident Introvert book and programs in this interview with Mary O’Keefe, of Wellness Within:
http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/2013/03/18/hope-healing-and-wellbeing-the-confident-introvert-with-lynette-crane/

Interview with Lori Campbell, Visionary Gerontologist, in whose book, Awaken Your Age Potential, I have a chapter:
http://www.agepotential.com/category/agepotentialtv/ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJxc4PE7_4

Who’s writing your life script?

We all live our lives based on assumptions – beliefs we are sure are true about what we are capable of doing, what is acceptable for us to do, and what we think is inevitable. So where do those assumptions come from?

I thought of this while attending a play last week. 

The central characters were an 80-year old man and a 70-something woman, who meet in a dog park. It was sweet, it was touching … and it went nowhere. Well, actually, she went off to Milan to hear an opera at the world-famous opera house he had always dreamed of visiting, but never had. He stayed on the park bench.

We could focus on the theme of people who dream but never take action, but for me it was this recurrent theme that two older people have all the elements of a fine romance, but never follow through on them, at least within the play, movie, or television program we see. One of them dies, or goes off to Milan, or the moon, but we never see them embracing. We never, ever, see them consummating their love.

How many of us accept this kind of ending without question?

My question was: how old was the playwright?

A broader question is this: whose point of view are we learning? When we see, hear, or read a drama, we are being moved emotionally (if it is any good). The creator is giving us a snapshot of life – his or her life, NOT OURS.

As I pointed out to a friend who criticized my move back to my home town after years in California, “You Can’t Go Home Again” is a book title, not a universal truth. She was shocked and surprised.

Everything we consume – not just food, but media in all forms – affects us.  We need to pay attention to the beliefs and attitudes we are taking into our interior just as we are concerned about the foods we take into our bellies. So when you are entranced, or even hypnotized, by a work of art, pause and ask yourself, “Who created this?” And then consider the following questions:
How old was this person? What gender? May or may not be relevant.

What culture or sub-culture does this person represent? (Be careful here; sometimes we are most blind to assumptions that arise from our own culture, and therefore prone to accept them easily.)

What trends do you see or hear over and over again? As I’ve pointed out, according to the media, older people don’t make love. Repetition doesn’t necessarily make a concept true.

Anything else you can find out about the creator may help you to appreciate the work in its context, without necessarily making it your context. Because what you believe is what you will live.

We are what we eat holds true here, too.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Don’t go back to sleep

Personal note

Fall is promising to be exciting, with a book by myself (The Confident Introvert) and two books by friends, Lori Campbell and Kristen Brown, to which I have contributed, all coming out in the next two months. You can be sure I will keep you fully informed about the release dates of these books which can help you create an even better life. And there will be special bonuses for early-bird customers.

Don’t go back to sleep

The crisp fall air gets our blood moving and somehow promises excitement.  Are we going to help that excitement materialize, or are we going to let it deteriorate into the winter “blahs?”

Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet, gives us some pointers that are still relevant in the 21st century:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell us
Don’t go back to sleep

Now, I don’t think he is chastising my night-owl friends, who stagger out of bed sluggishly but, once they get up to speed, are still humming energetically along at midnight.  Instead, I think he means to point out that, when we are awake, we should be fully awake – to the present and to all of the exciting possibilities in it.  Drowning mentally in past sorrows and failures, bracing ourselves for future stress, all contribute to helping us miss the exquisite promise of the present.

You must ask for what you really want
Don’t go back to sleep

Are you asking for what you really want?  You may be thinking it and visualizing it; you may even have a vision board in front of your desk to remind you.  But are you actively letting everyone around you know what it is that you desire?

A vision is a kind of dream – it may be glorious, but it you don’t take action, it will always be just a dream.

People are coming and going
across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch

Others are taking those steps to create a better life.  Do you sometimes feel a little envious or even resentful when they get what you want and you don’t?  Look at those successes as a sign that it is possible – for you, too. Then take those little steps – one at a time.

The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep

Enough said. Have a wonderful, bracing, exciting, energetic, wildly creative and entertaining Fall season. It’s just waiting for you to participate.

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

Personal note

This week I’m off to London, Ontario, Canada, to meet with my coach in person, as well as the other wonderful people in my Master Mind group. The very thought of traveling (which makes me more creative, especially at 30,000 feet altitude) and sharing stories with others has lifted my spirits so much that I’m almost giddy.The last week has been a mixed bag: some wins, some losses, but all of it, in retrospect, has had an element of humor in it.  So I resurrected this article from last year…..

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

When bad things happen to good people (you), there is an irresistible urge to share the load by talking about it.  This can have two good results:

You relieve yourself of some of the pressure by sharing
You may have insights into a problem when talking with someone else.

It feels comforting to rush to friends or loved ones to tell them all the bad things that have been happening to you, but it can backfire.  Along the way, you may mentally rehearse everything you’re going to tell them, making sure not to omit any details.  It can be calming to see the look of sympathy in the eyes of someone else, and to hear their consoling words.

When you tell your story in all its intensity, you are reliving the event.  If it was stressful when it happened, your recounting of the story may bring back the same physical stress.   Even your mental rehearsal may do that.

The fact is, an estimated 10% of our stress is due to what happens to us; the other 90% is due to how we think about what happens to us, or how we habitually react to what happens.  So for one real stressful event, you may experience the same reaction many times.  It’s like getting a lot of bang for your buck, except it’s much less desirable than a buck. Each time you go through your story, you are undermining your physical health and your happiness, too, by putting your body through the same raised heart rate and blood pressure, muscular tension, troubled digestion, and mental confusion.

How can you get the release of telling your troubles to others in a way that is healthy?

First, position yourself as a problem-solver, not a victim
Instead of saying something like,  “Why ME?” or “Things like this always happen to me?”, try something like, “This was a real test of my ingenuity.” Or “Once I calmed down, I figured it out.”

Find some humor in the situation – particularly when you’re in the middle of the situation.  When my garage door froze shut, I cobbled together all the extension cords in the house, plugged my hair dryer into the end, and trudged out through the snow to warm up the lock.  No power!  I had to giggle when I realized that I had to go back in and plug the other end of the cords into an outlet in the house, and I giggled even more when I had to make another trip to push the re-set button.

Which brings me to the next point:

The joke’s on you  It happens to everyone, at one time or another – stress leaves us feeling so confused that we overlook simple details and make obvious mistakes. I like to say that Stress Makes Us Stupid.  It’s not the fickle finger of fate poking us once again; it’s a fairly natural and predictable process – but it can be avoided.

When you find yourself blocked at implementing a simple solution during a stressful period, pause, take a deep breath, and think the whole process through before you make a move.  Don’t rush because you want to the stress to end – it’ll just make it worse.

Determine in advance whether you’re asking for advice or help
Be careful who you choose as a listener.  Some people just have to jump in and solve your problems. Other people (often, but not always, men), see the disclosure of your feelings as a call for help

Tell your listener what you want.  Say, “I’m not asking for help in finding a solution at this time/ I really just need to get this off my chest right now.”

Express gratitude to your listener for listening to you
“Whew, it’s great to have a friend like you. Thanks for listening.”

Make it a two-way street
Needless to say, being a good listener who doesn’t make judgments or give unwanted advice when other people tell their stories is a great way to get reciprocity.

When you tell your story the right way, other people will be willing to listen to you again and again rather than avoiding you

Regarding that frozen week of minor crises that I mentioned at the start; I figured I must have told my story right when the friend I e-mailed  wrote back, saying, “That’s the funniest story I’ve heard all day.”

Time Zones

Cars in a traffic jamPersonal Note

 
Last Sunday I spent a delightful afternoon with some of the women from Wired4Life, Dawn Huberly’s organization for women with pacemakers. These women, representing all age groups, have bonded, thanks to Dawn. More importantly, they have learned to live in and truly enjoy the present.
 
Much of my work consists in trying to help people live fully in a supportive present, bolstered by pleasant past memories, and buoyed by inspiring thoughts about the future. So I was pleased to find another example to bring to my readers that I hope will lead you to that happy state.
 

Time Zones

 
The wellness expert I was speaking to after her talk commented that she had almost been late for the conference. “I was stuck in traffic,” she lamented, “and I was really stressed.”
 
I asked her what she was worried about, given that the audience was a group of very supportive women who already knew and liked her. What would they have done had she been late?
 
She didn’t know, but insisted it was a stressful experience. Why? There would have been no dire consequences; someone else might have spoken first, or everyone would have continued to network and socialize until she appeared.
 
She had failed to seize that little interlude to experience what I call an “Island of Peace,” a place and time where you can just breathe and center yourself, free from distractions, knowing that there is nothing you can do about the current situation, which will adjust itself when it is darned good and ready.
 
In the meantime, she had placed undue stress on her body, the very topic on which she was about to deliver a talk.
 
In  The Time Paradox, Doctors Philip Zimbardo and Jim Boyd explore the psychology of time and how it shapes our thoughts, feelings, actions, and ultimately our destinies. They describe the different mental time zones through which we move: The Present, Future, Negative Past, and Nostalgic Past.
 
Zimbardo and Boyd explain that it is sometimes appropriate to be mentally in the future, for example when you are planning and setting goals. And while the Negative Past can solidify beliefs about the barriers that have held us back, and continue to do so, the Nostalgic Past can be a support in the present, when pleasant memories can evoke feelings of well-being and high self-esteem to sustain us during difficult times.
 
The agitated speaker could have reflected on the group of women with whom she was about to meet, and the friendliness and support they had shown her in the past. Instead, she leaped into anxiety about the future – a future in which she was imagining criticism and rejection that was unlikely to occur. Remember, 10% of stress is due to what happens to us; the other 90% is due to what we think about what is happening.
 
This tendency to dwell too much in the future time zone seems to be a national disease in the United States, forcing us to feel rushed all the time.
 
What if you could draw on the Nostalgic Past for support, dive into the Future to inspire yourself, and savor the present – all at will? That’s great stress management, and it’s not impossible to achieve. It is said that balancing your mental time zones feels like being on a prolonged vacation.
 
Want to find out if you have achieved a healthy balance of mental time zones?
 
Go to http://www.thetimeparadox.com/surveys/ to take their interesting survey.

More On Luck

Personal note:

A week in San Francisco with the support of loving family and friends was extraordinarily refreshing.  Reconnecting with an old dance friend – unexpectedly – brought an added dash of excitement.

And a week away from my office made me reflect on many things.

There were many responses to my last article on luck.  Some people commented on the importance of being in the right place at the right time, others mentioned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I decided to address some of these concerns in today’s article.

Oh, and by the way, just as I advised in a recent newsletter, I did talk to strangers on the trip.  Guess what?  I made new friends!

Here are some of the reasons that you can be in the right place at the right time, but still not experience luck.

You don’t see the opportunity even though it’s right there in front of you:

Have you ever had someone you knew pass you right by, even though you greeted that person loudly?  The other person was preoccupied, and didn’t even recognize your existence.

Yup, the same thing happens with us and opportunities.

Stay alert and be in present time.  You can’t grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round if your mind is somewhere else.

You see it, but don’t recognize its importance:

Countless actors, directors, composers, etc., have turned down participation in such projects as “Gone With the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz,” on the grounds that the projects weren’t important enough for them to waste their time.

There were probably many people who thought investing in a company that made big plastic hoops you could put around your middle and, with a practice, keep them spinning in the air, was a downright waste of money.

You can’t follow up on every opportunity in your environment; in fact, peak performers know how to select from the many choices they encounter.  But it is important to consider what is being offered to you before you reject it.

A good way to connect with great opportunities: show your enthusiasm for what you do (and attract like-minded people), and pay attention to the enthusiasm other people have about what they do.  They just may have a vision to which you should pay attention.

You’re too timid to step up to the plate:

You’re standing right there, on the right corner at the right time, when the opportunity waltzes by, but you don’t recognize that it’s calling to you.  Your inner voice says, “They don’t mean me,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not ready yet.”

You’re offered an opportunity, but think the other person is not serious, or is even joking:

Take the risk of asking, “Are you serious?”  It’s better than being haunted for years, wondering if you missed something important.

And as for the “luck” of “knowing the right people”:

How are you ever going to encounter those people who will bring you luck if you don’t get out and talk to strangers?

People who will improve your luck will probably not spot you in a crowd, deliberately walk over to grab you by the collar and pull you out of the crowd, in order to improve your life.

You have a choice as to whether you are lucky or not.  It’s up to you.

Quote of the Week:

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending ~ Carl Bard

 

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