How to Listen So That People Will Speak

Excellent blog on how to listen which will lower your stress!

Free Thoughts of a Scattered Brain

Last month I was working on a project with my coworker, Mike, when I came across something that I thought was unusual.

It was something I’ve never seen before, and I wanted Mike’s opinion on what we should do.

I wanted to talk it out and get an explanation of some sort. About two sentences into my speech, Mike cut me off.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s not important,” He said.

That was it.

No explanation of why it wasn’t important.

Mike cut me off before I had a chance to explain. His short, abrupt response didn’t help me whatsoever.

I’m trying to learn and figure something out. And all he could say was that it wasn’t important.

His half assed response infuriated me.

I didn’t have any resolution. He made my job harder because not only did I not know why this didn’t matter, but I had to…

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What’s the Use?

Christmas tree with presents and fireplace with stockingsAre you at that breaking point in your holiday preparations?  Or haven’t you reached that point?  Or are you one who hasn’t even started thinking about it?

It seems that no matter where we are at this time of the year many are beginning to feel stress, exhaustion, lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm and a minor bit of panic. wind up down I tip my hat to those who come through the holiday season unscathed and calm.  In some cases it is because you have learned to let others do the work for you…I know a few like that or you truly have found a way to be at peace with all the frantic rushing around and crass commercialism either ignoring it or accepting it.

I think I am somewhere between ignoring it and accepting it.  After 60 plus years of participating and watching the yearly frenzy as well as being a willing participant in creating my own holiday from hell, I can wax philosophical and say “it is what it is…because we make it what it is.”MM900283898

Disappointment at Christmas is not the end of the world.  One less dozen cookies will not change Hallmark’s approach to Christmas.  Spending less will hurt the stores bottom line but not mine.  Not having the perfect tree or the most beautifully decorated house in the neighborhood isn’t going to stop December 25 from arriving.  So what is the use?

I say that not as a cynical question but as a realistic one.  Do what is realistic for you.  Do what brings you joy.  Do what serves a greater good than simple aesthetics or unrealistic expectations.

Christmas is a time to learn that what we expect isn’t always what we get; and yet, what we get may be so much greater than we ever expected if we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the heart to understand.

One recent Christmas I spent the day in the Emergency Room with my daughter.  Fortunately, she was not experiencing something life threatening just something to make her feel awful and in need of medical attention.  While I sat there I realized that there was another whole world I never see on Christmas day.  Doctors, nurses, aids, janitors, secretaries all working to keep people alive and healthy.   None of them acted like this was a big inconvenience for them.  Working wasn’t ruining their holiday and I realized that sitting in a hospital wasn’t ruining mine either.  They were giving the gift of healing to my daughter…best present ever that box

And yes, there were presents that didn’t get delivered and food that didn’t get prepared and eaten and decorations that didn’t get seen – all of which cost me in time, money and rest.  But what was the use of being disappointed by the loss of a few dollars and sleep when my daughter’s health was at stake?

What’s the use of being in a panicked state at Christmas when the things that make us crazy are just window dressing on what is really important?

May you have a wonderful celebration of what is important this Christmas.


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exhausted carA friend and colleague just sent me this piece and although it was written 25 years ago, (sorry, I don’t have the source), it rings true today.

I erode my Inner Woman (Man) when:

~only accomplishments gratify me
~symbols of accomplishment pre-occupy me
~I am caught up in uncontrolled pursuit of expansion
~I tend to take pragmatic shortcuts at the expense of moral integrity
~my people skills remain undeveloped
~I become increasingly competitive
~I can be potentially given to anger
~I am excessively busy

The last sentence sums up most of my coaching clients and many of my friends (myself included at times) and is the overarching reason for most of what comes before it.  Excessive busy-ness ramps up the speed of our lives so that anger increases, moral integrity decreases and people are often seen as impediments to getting things accomplished.woman at computer to do list

Perhaps the piece should start with “I am excessively busy and therefore…”.  Busy-ness has invaded every aspect of life.  Children flounder trying to grab a toe hold in the chaos that is their home environment as they are rushed from one thing to the next.  Relationships fall apart due to lack of time or energy to strengthen them.  Empathy goes out the window as we plow through our to do list like a bulldozer in a field.  Laughter rings with snarkiness and mockery rather than joy.  And at the end of the day our accomplishments are hollow victories as our inner self, soul, spirit, or whatever you call it, asks us “was it worth it?”

A question that, if we are honest, causes us to toss and turn at night as we ponder to what end are we pushing ourselves.   To what end? If we are not completely honest, then the tossing and turning spins a new list of things to do hoping we will end the next day feeling better about more accomplishments.

It is an unending cycle that tricks us into believing that we are not good enough, not working hard enough, producing enough, being enough. It is an unending cycle that erodes our essence, our sense of self, and our peace of mind.   In the long run it destroys rather than creates.  It denies life rather than affirms it.  And it is a road that leads to situational depression, despair and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.

And it is a choice.

Making different choices creates a counter cultural shift that can be hard to navigate at first.  Everything and everyone tends to work over time to make you shift back to the norm of overwork and busy-ness.

But what if, just what if, the shift toward ease, rest, renewal, relationship building, team work, partnerships, collaboration, sharing the load, and the pursuit of peace and serenity drove your life?  What would that be like?Return on Investment - Arrow and Target

As I said, it is a choice.  I’m off to re-examine some of my choices right now.


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A New Way of Thinking

iStock_000024086772LargeHave you ever noticed that when some very successful person steps off the hamster wheel of the driven life they have created, it is usually because they have had some epiphany, crisis or illness that makes them re-evaluate how they live their lives?  Sharing their lives with each otherSuddenly, they have seen how fruitless and unfulfilling the rat race to the top is.  It makes headlines.  It is analyzed and parsed as the pundits and op-ed writers try to figure out if those folks have had some kind of a breakdown and what made them lose it.

It makes me smile and usually I do a head slap as well because the world’s sense of success has never really appealed to me.  The driven-ness of business gives me a major cramp in my brain and the need to have the most toys at death seems like folly since you can’t take it with you.

work-life-balance-Website websiteHowever, I also understand that I am in the minority on this.  If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have a business working with stressed out people who desperately want to have some work life balance.  It would be nice if we could all be like the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, and make it terms of our employment.  But most of us don’t have that kind of power.  Too bad really.  (Secretly, I hope the new Speaker has started people thinking in new ways; but I seriously doubt it, and based on his voting record, he only seeks this for himself).

We really have created a self-fulfilling prophecy that our stress will continue as we seek the elusive market share of life.

And two psychologists have just published a book on this very topic.

Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur have just written a book that has helped me to understand my frustration (and reassure me that I am not alone).  In their book, Collaborative Intelligence:  Thinking People Who Think Differently, they suggest that we have been trained to think Marketshare rather than Mindshare.  Marketshare thinking is marked by scarcity thinking and whoever has more is better and successful.  Mindshare is based on sharing of ideas and building collaborative relationships as key to value in life.

They explain that Marketshare uses power to win, perceives differences as deficits, thinks in terms of right vs wrong, have vs have not, keeping up with the Joneses and who has more wins.  Mindshare focuses on connection, differences as resources, what is possible, sharing that creates more, interdependence and value measured in ideas.

Transforming our thinking from a Marketshare to a Mindshare will take a lot of work for some and not so much for others.  Mindshare requires attention, intention and imagination.  When they work together there is an unstoppable power unleashed that benefits all instead of the one.

In a day and age where the stress level created in the need to survive and not just to be “successful in terms of wealth, power, and influence”, it might serve us all well if we paid attention to the possibilities inherent in the switch from the market model to the mind model.

woman at computer to do listTrying to get people to stop and take some time for themselves in order to lower their stress is  met with a Marketshare mindset.  Stopping means falling behind.  Falling behind means that someone will have more than I have or be more successful.  Falling behind is frowned upon and unacceptable.  Falling behind is deemed wrong.  With all these preconceived notions in our very DNA it will be next to impossible to tame the stress that is killing us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

However, making the switch to Mindshare just might save us, our planet and create a life worth living making us all stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

7 days a weekHmmm…time will tell.



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Eating Alone

Two Familes Enjoying Meal In Alpine Chalet TogetherDo you remember your dining room or kitchen table when you were a kid?  Do you remember where everyone sat?  Yeah, me too.  Do you remember the feeling you had at these dinners?  Yeah, me too.  In my case, it wasn’t a good feeling.  In fact, if I had to give a color to describe those feelings it would be black.

Meal times in my family of origin were dark times for me.  This is when and where my stepfather chose to ‘discuss’ my brother and I.  During dinner we heard how stupid we were – his favorite phrase was “idiot” when describing us.  We were dismissed for stupid ideas, bad politics, poorly formulated replies.  Well, you get the picture.  It wasn’t a picnic to say the least, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that my brother and I have had digestive problems for years.

I soon began to look forward to meals alone when I could simply be without any feelings of anger, angst or anxiety. iStock_000014942013SmallAs a result I am one of those few people who doesn’t mind eating alone.  It is a relaxing time for me rather than an anxious one.

Eating alone can be a wonderful time to just breathe and relax without the need for conversation or explanations.  Many people dread eating alone and if you are one of them I am probably not going to convince you that it can be a way to lower your stress.   However, for those who don’t mind, this can be a great way to get some time for yourself in the midst of your busy day and yes, lower your stress.65147-stock-photo-blue-relaxation-dark-style-moody-art

Regardless of your dining proclivities, here is some good news and a tip that I wish I had known years ago.    Before, during and after your meal take some deep breaths.  The addition of  deep breathing will send more oxygen to your digestive system so it works better.  It will lower your stress levels while increasing your mindfulness and it will allow you to savor each bite rather than rushing through it to finish quickly.  Eating too fast and eating while stressed can add on the pounds very quickly by slowing your digestive metabolism to a crawl.

So eat, breathe and be merry these days…your body and mind will thank you.


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Just Depends

I saw a quote recently that made me stop and think. It said, “it just depends on what mood my body is in.”

Hmmmm.  I know I have a wide range of moods emotionally but I hadn’t thought of moods as related to my body as well.  And yet, as I thought about it, my body certainly has moods – many of which affect my emotions.  grumpyBody mood #1:  Tired.  off to work exhaustedWhen my body is tired and I decide to push it beyond the point where it is screaming at me for rest, my emotional center disappears and I am in full-blown “get out of my way or someone is going to get hurt” mood.

Body mood #2:  Hungry.  This is a body mood that I have either ignored to draining my mental, physical and emotional energy levels or have indulged with the same results.  Like Goldilocks this is body mood that I need to maintain at just the right level otherwise, my body mood is more like the bear who discovered Goldi hanging out in his house.

Body mood #3:  Sick.  Oh boy, how many times have you gone to work sick Young Woman Blowing Her Nose in Bedbecause the company or home cannot run without you, you fear for the results if you don’t show up (company and/or home), or there is too much to do to stop and be sick?  Infecting those around me is not a consideration (well, maybe a bit) but they will thank me for coughing and sneezing all over them because I am being productive.  And besides they will know how I feel about this when they are sick and can’t possibly stay home either.  You are welcome.

iStock_000024086772LargeBody mood #4:  Achy.  Now this mood could be a result of working out and making my body healthier or it could be the result of sitting too long at my computer, lack of toned or stretched muscle groups, overwork, overweight or over-stressed.  If it is a good ache, my mood might suffer a bit but overall I’m feeling good.  If it is a bad ache, then I find myself having a little pity party and being angry at my circumstances or myself for letting it happen.  Too much achy and my mood breaky.

Body mood #5:  Strong.  Super businesswomanWhen my body feels strong and healthy my mood soars and those around me are pretty darn happy I have done the work to maintain this mood.  I am woman hear me ROAR.  I am invincible

Of course, this is the mood my mind tricks me into thinking is how I am all the time…strong and happy regardless of what is going on in my body.

However, I know better.  It just depends on the mood my body is in.  The quicker I can identify my body mood, the quicker I can do something to change it.  However, the paradox is that it just depends on what mood my body is in.

Bottom line: I just have to be more aware, more conscious, of my choices and my circumstances every day in order to be on top of my body mood.  If I’m not, well….it just depends…


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Are You Sleeping?

Many busy people have trouble getting enough sleep either because they are over-scheduled and sleep is the second thing forfeited with eating a balanced meal the first, or because they just can’t turn their minds off even though their bodies are totally ready to shut down.laundryIf you are having trouble sleeping, chances are you having trouble losing weight too.  A recent study by Brigham Young University shows that a consistent sleep cycle will go a long way to help you lose weight.  Going to bed and getting up at the same time affects the amount of body fat you either lose or continue to carry.

Why?  Well, it seems that if we don’t get a consistent 8-8 1/2 hours of sleep each night we reduce our energy levels to engage in physical activity.  That makes sense, right?off to work exhausted  If you are physically tired and lacking energy, the chances of working out are slim to none.  However, there is more beyond the basic “well, duh”.   Our physical activity level affects our hormones which in turn determines what foods we crave…like sweets.

The study showed that those who got 8-8 1/2 hours each night and who went to bed and got up at the same time each day (with no more than a 60 minute variation) had the lowest body fat while those who got more than that or less than that had the highest body fat levels.

Sleeping is important.  alphasphere

So what is your bedtime routine like? Is it one to induce sleepiness for 8-8 1/2 or is it hit or miss with more ‘ups’ than ‘downs’?

For one week try going to bed at the same time each day and getting up 8-8 1/2 hours later.  Create a sanctuary-like space in your bedroom.  Cell phone womanTurn off all electronic devices or at least put them on airplane mode.  Make sure your room is dark with no LED lighting bouncing around the room.  Use some nice relaxing aroma therapy to set a sleepy mood.  Take a hot bath or shower.  Drink warm milk.  Meditate or practice deep breathing.  And sleep soundly.

Who knows, maybe like those in the BYU study, you will lose some body fat, gain energy and feel more alive than you have in a long, long time.Running and Carefree

Sweet dreams (yawn)


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Fifteen Minutes

65147-stock-photo-blue-relaxation-dark-style-moody-artThe coffee break seems to be going the way of tea time – out of sight and out of mind.  There was a time when stopping for a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon was a ritual for many people. It was the time to stop and take a breather from the work of the day.  Not so much anymore.

It seems we just don’t stop to take a breather at all feeling like we are so busy that to stop would somehow ruin our progress and stop our momentum.  “Too much to do, too much to do” as a mantra has replaced that long “ahhhhh” that came with the first sip of tea or coffee as we stepped away from the demands of the day for 15 minutes or so before returning to finish up our work.

Fifteen minutes out of the day, silent, pause or break time hand gesturea break, a breather, a warm, cozy cup in our hands and our minds have a chance to settle and our breathing a chance to slow.

When you think of it that way, you have to wonder if a 15 minute break is an impediment to progress or an improvement.  If 15 minutes can make you less stressed, more focused and relaxed, why have we traded that for 15 more minutes of stress, busyness and over functioning?  iStock_000010338713Medium

Fifteen minutes do not seem like a lot of time when you get that kind of return on investment, do they?

Maybe it is time to reinstate afternoon tea or the coffee break or whatever will help us to relax and renew ourselves.

Maybe it is time for another tea party revolt only this time fill our cups instead of Boston Harbor.


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At a celebration recently, a friend and I were lamenting about how often we have chosen not to attend a celebration or be part of a milestone because we were too busy or felt we had better things to do with our time.  The lament came as we confessed that we had learned the hard way that you cannot get that time back.  There is no way to do a ‘do over’ as kids say.  Once that celebration is over, it is gone.  The clock has moved on…tic-toc.  Multi-tasking woman

We knew we had missed significant things in the lives of family and friends and probably our own lives as well justifying missing it until it was too late to get it back.  Since relationships are important to both of us it seemed a bit of a contradiction that we would chance damaging a relationship in order to do some catch up.

For example, have you missed a wedding in order to catch up on lawn work saying you can go to the reception?  Or, what about missing that graduation of a special niece or friend because you don’t think you could bear sitting through another boring graduation speech and ceremony?  Or, how about not taking that trip for a relative’s retirement or birthday party because you felt you couldn’t possibly leave town?  Tic-Toc.calendar active

And once those events are over what do you have?  A mowed lawn, an afternoon without friends, a justification that leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth…and no way to get that time back and no memories to store in your heart and mind.  Perhaps you also have some strained relationships.  Tic-toc.

Wedding PegAt the end of your life what do you think you will miss most?  The times you mowed the lawn or the look of joy on the bride’s face?  The non-boring afternoon without friends or the look of gratitude from the graduate when he/she sees you in the audience?  The thrown away invitation or the laughter of a celebration for a life well lived.  Tic-toc.

The funny thing about time is you can’t turn the clock back.

It’s tic-toc not toc-tic.

Don’t regret the time you didn’t spend.



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Once again I find myself in the midst of cleaning out and de-cluttering. I thought I had accomplished this two years ago when we moved out of our home into a condo.  However, although my space is bigger than I had before and because it is arranged differently, I find I am coming face to face with some very bad habits that keep me from being clutter free.iStock_000014942013Small

Paper, Paper everywhere!  Because I have a workshop and coaching business, I have handouts, articles and information that I use over and over.  However, when  do I decide to go through all of the paper and throw out what is no longer usable or unimportant for the current market?  From the looks of things not very often. As a result I have file drawers brimming with so much stuff that just thinking about the clearing out process gives me a major headache.just do it tomorrow

Pictures and frames seem to multiply in our home.  Of course, having 7 children and 11 grandchildren will naturally produce a slew of pictures.  How do I decide which ones to display and which ones to discard?  Obviously, I don’t because I have boxes and boxes of photographs, framed pictures and drawings.

Memorabilia is a major downfall for me in decreasing the volume of plastic tubs and boxes in my basement.  I still have my own Kindergarten report card along with my children’s.  Graduation announcements, prom programs, band trophies, even financial aid letters litter several boxes.  My children don’t seem to care about these things so why am I saving them?  After all, the memories are in my mind and heart and not on paper.

So, with the help of a home organizer who is logical and skilled in her sorting process, I began once again to weed out.   I am happy to report that I have made great progress.  I have downsized from 11 packed file drawers to 6 drawers where the files actually move apart from each other!  I have emptied 9 plastic bins and have not refilled them.  My basement has never looked so open and organized.  And I am not done yet.

And, one of the biggest tips my organizer gave me was this:  Begin by emptying out the entire area.  Then, after going through each box, bin or file decide what you want to put back in.  Once that is done remember that each time you put something new into one of your storage spaces it is going to be one more thing you have to empty out the next time you begin to de-clutter – oh, yes, it is an on-going process.  “Do not”, she instructed me, “keep anything that you don’t want to have to clean out next time.  stop signAnd, if you do save it, is there something else that has outlived its usefulness that you can take out before you add something new”?

As I do the physical work of de-cluttering I am thinking her advice is useful for all aspects of my life from my business, to my relationships, to my every day choices.  “Don’t add anything that you will have to spend a great deal of time getting rid of later”.  Good advice.

Now to apply that advice and see what happens.



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