Balance is Bull; How My Son Got Me to Get Life

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Having a 21 year old son as a mirror, reflecting certain aspects of my personality can be quite annoying. I am never sure whether to be proud or afraid that our personalities are so similar on several counts.

Physically we could not be any different: I am 5’ tall, maybe 100 pounds soaking wet and fair skinned (he has called me translucent). He is over 6’ tall, very athletics and maintains a perfect tan in the wintertime.

We have a unique communication style having many lively conversations that provide great entertainment to those around us. We are both straightforward, direct and appreciative, devoted students of effervescent witticism. We are a couple of smartalecs.

For all the grief I give my son, and I do so quite a bit in seminars and blogs, I will be the first to admit he has taught me more life lessons than any mentor or idol.

His points are poignant due to his delivery. It is normally a short, direct statement that cuts through any bull, fear or distractions.

I read an article the other day about work-life balance, which I believe is a bunch of bull-hooey. Balance implies equality. I have yet to meet the person that has perfect equality in both professional and personal worlds. The phrase implies some sort of perfectly balanced scales. I don’t own any scales.

This is not to say that you cannot have it all, in my opinion you most certainly can – just not all at one time.

My problem was not that I was trying to make those scales balance; I was on a different extreme. I used to devote myself to only certain areas of my life completely ignoring others.

A few years ago he put it into perspective for me. We were discussing my work and he simply looked at me and said, “When are you going to have a life?”

I backtracked and tried to provide proof that I did, in fact, have a life. Obviously he was mistaken.

He just shook his head and said, “No you don’t.”

He told me that when he was growing up, my life was focused on him; when his dad was diagnosed with cancer, my life was focused on both of them; and when he moved out my life focused on my business. He said he wasn’t talking about relationships, he was talking about me. He asked when I was going to focus on me.

He told me, “Mom, I think it is your turn.”

He was not mistaken.

Damn kid.

That is the day that I began to realize balance is not equal and the each side of the equation are actually multi-part subsets. It is not a perfectly balanced scale; it is a teeter-totter with different size and shapes of aspects sitting on each end.

The Teeter-Totter

One the work end you have your peers, bosses, clients, prospective clients, vendors and every person you come into contact with during the working day.

On the life end you have all the things that mean most to you personally: your family, your community, your faith and your passions.

A teeter-totter is a basically a plant anchored on a fulcrum. According to the dictionary, a fulcrum is the point or support on which a lever pivots. What is the fulcrum in the work-life teeter-totter?

You.

You can counter the feeling of being dropped on your bum when someone jumps off the other end of the teeter-totter by enlarging your fulcrum.

In work, realize that everything is not a means to a financial end. There are interactions, lessons and people there for you to get to know and enjoy.

Understand that everyone has their own path. Careers are rarely a straight line; more often than not they are winding, twisty, topsy-turvy crazy lines that takes you where you are and where you want to go.

On the life side things are sometimes messy. Other people’s actions create fears, insecurities and doubts about ourselves and our abilities as partners, parents or friends. We feel pulled into other people’s stuff.

It is a natural inclination to be all things to all people as a leader, worker, provider, business owner, parent, partner, sibling, family member, friend and volunteer. In doing so you forget the fulcrum holding it all together: you.

This was my son’s point. I had forgotten me. My teeter-totter had no balance point. That is when I hung up then burned my superwoman cape. Here is how I built a better teeter-totter.

Me time

I began scheduling, yes I had to schedule, me time. I started with an hour in the evening where I completely disconnected and did something just for me. Not filling this time with things to check off my list.

At first I felt guilty. I should be using this hour to clean the bathroom, give the dogs a bath, research an article, call a friend, do laundry – anything but mindless, time wasting activities.

If I do not take care of my mental, physical and spiritual health what good am I for all other components of the equation? I needed the time that I gave to others, without it I could still do all things for all people but I was a worn down, exhausted hot mess.

Forgiveness

I began forgiving myself for taking me time, for saying no and for mistakes. I am human and I provide forgiveness for others yet rarely for myself. This led me to the next step.

Treating myself as I do others

We encourage, support, love and appreciate the people in our life, so what if we started putting ourselves in that mix? What if you started treating yourself as you do all others in your life?

What if you started giving yourself pats on the back for a job well done? What if you told yourself that it is okay that you did not get everything checked off your list today? What if you told yourself that you did the best you could do and that is all anyone can do? What if you told yourself that you are amazing? What if you started complimenting, genuinely complimenting yourself? What if you stopped holding yourself to a higher standard, an impossible standard, and gave yourself support, empathy, encouragement and love?

Appreciation vs. Gratitude

Now I was starting to really get a life, and one I liked. Now my dogs started getting into the act.

Then I stopped looking at the didn’t haves and lack ofs and started focusing on what was right there in front of me and around me. I started the practice of appreciation rather than gratitude.

Gratitude is being thankful with an element of something not having happened yet. I am grateful for the balance of my bank account although it is not where I want it to be right now.

Appreciation is being thankful for that exact moment without regard to future needs or wants. I am appreciative for what is in my bank account right now. Period.

My dogs helped me learn appreciation. Every morning I sit outside watching them. It is the same yard, same trees, same grass, same flowers and same smells; but not to them. Every morning they bound out the door to discover the backyard world with fervor of discovering it for the first time.

I started approaching every one of my mornings the same way. Sitting outside with them I started with the little things: appreciation for the beautiful flowers in my yard, the birds playing and the dogs’ curiosity.

I really took notice of where I was sitting and gave appreciation for the deck that my family built and for the house that is my home. I gave appreciation for my clients, for the work I do, the conversations we have and how they inspire me.

Mulligans

If any nagging thoughts come in about not checking things off my list yesterday, I give myself a mulligan. I go back to forgiveness and the natural tendency to beat myself up and state out loud “Today is a new day” What can I do today?

Play

I try to incorporate play into my day, every day. This gives me my greatest release: laughter. I play with my dogs, I play games that challenge me mentally trying to beat my score, I play loud music and dance while I clean.

Disconnect

Throughout the day I completely disconnect. I turn off the sound on everything from my phone to my email notifications. Even if it is for 15 minutes I completely disconnect. This allows me to become acutely aware of my current state. If I have become tense, in stillness I can identify it and release it. Meditation, deep breathing or exercise – whatever it takes to release it.

Time Stingy

I started saying no. I have the opportunity to fill my days to the brim with family, clients, networking, friends, new opportunities and more; however, I started being stingy with my time. I started putting me time on the priority list, as well as time for things that are important to me.

If this week is incredibly busy, then I schedule a couple hours devoted to my dogs. I take them each out on their own walk, I turn off the phone and I make sure I am absolutely present in that time. I schedule time to walk with the girls and make sure my time with them is all about them.

Implementing these things helped me build a better teeter-totter. I went from that stationary center point fulcrum into a fluid, growing, vibrant curve that extended to each side giving me control of a balance that works for me.

–Lisa

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Work With What You’ve Got

Going outside your comfort zone can be overwhelming.  Even if the step you are taking is a tiny one, it can still cause quite a bit of anxiety.

 

I was asked to give a four-minute talk at a networking event called Sparks.  It is a similar format as the TED Talks with two four-minute presenters and a ten-minute presenter.  The talks are focused on ideas worth sharing – not about promoting your business. 

 

This would not seem like a problem for me, as I am a talker.  I love facilitating workshops and speaking so I was thrilled to present.  It also let me be creative in what I wanted to talk about.  I’m a creative person so again, this shouldn’t have been an issue.

 

I chose to talk about gratitude and for the metaphors use one thing I love: dogs.

 

It is all sounding good and I was getting excited.

 

But here is the thing: I wanted it to be good and what I found was I was running over on my time.

 

If that were to happen I would immediately be clapped off the stage – so it is a strict four minutes.

 

Now the anxiety started creeping in, it was getting out of my comfort zone because I was not able to control all the factors. 

 

Do I trim the talk to make it fit but loose some of the punch?

Do I start over thinking of a new angle but loose the excitement of what I want to use?

Do I adjust my talking speed in the middle to account for the timing?

 

AHA!

 

That’s it!

 

I realized that there is no way that I could really say what I wanted, in the format and flow that I wanted in a “normal” way in four minutes so what I needed to do what use one of my other talents – the ability to talk really fast.

 

If I sped up in the middle of my talk the cadence would throw people off and possibly loose them.  But if I started and stayed at high speed it would be consistent and just might work.

 

People can listen to fast talking and get what is said.

 

The result – about an eight minute talk in four minutes that was very well received.  Oh sure, the speed talking was entertaining, but people also got the message; they heard it, they understood it and hopefully someone got it.

 

This experience reminded me of a line of thinking that I believe my dad instilled in me: use what you’ve got.

 

I was a short kid, a skinny kid and a girl.  I was also a tomboy so all the prior qualities were kind of detriments to that.  But he taught me to use what I’ve got to do what I want.  No excuses, just alternatives.

 

Instead of looking at a problem or goal and thinking about how you cannot accomplish it because you lack certain things, he taught me to look at it and figure out how I am going to succeed based on what I have or know.

 

Whether you are stuck in a situation, take a step back and think about using what you’ve got to solve the problem.  You may not have the education that a company is looking for in hiring for a position, but maybe you have the experience or life skills that compensate or outshine that diploma.  Use what you’ve got.

 

And use it to your advantage.

 

Here is a link to the video of the talk, I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Lisa K McDonald – Gratitude: Three Legged Dogs and Piles of Poop

 

 

I think my dad would have, but he certainly would not have been surprised by the speed talking.  He got used to that many years ago.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Just Ask For Help Already

Image  I love tomatoes.  My favorite food in the summer is a salad made with avocados, black olives and tomatoes.  I love picking tomatoes off the vine and eating them like an apple for a snack.  I also make a killer cucumber and tomato salad.

 

For these reasons, I need fresh tomatoes.  Yes, it is a need.  Not want, need.

 

Sounds simple enough. 

 

I looked outside at what used to be my garden and see two of my dogs chewing on the grass that has taken over.  I also catch them fertilizing the weeds that have invaded.

 

Not an ideal tomato patch.  It needs a lot of cleaning up.

 

But before I can clean it up, I need to cordon it off.  The two big dogs have a way of trampling, fertilizing and marking things; but the little one, well, she was trained by my old pack leader how to pick tomatoes off the vine and eat them.

 

So before I can plant, I need to clean it up; but before I can clean it up, I need to create a crazy-dog proof fencing.

 

I say crazy because one dog scales six foot privacy fences and the other can pretty much open any latch man has made.

 

So I have to build something.  I decide a fence with added features on the corners will cure the scaling dog and a couple contraptions on the latch will slow down the other.  I need to build a six foot fence and gate that match the existing fencing and gates.

 

Which means I have to prepare before I build, before I clear, weed, prepare and plant. 

 

Post holes need to be dug, things have to be measured off, materials have to be purchased without the risk of returning because they are the wrong things.

 

All I wanted was tomatoes.

 

One simple thing that has turned into a huge to-do list, an overwhelming to do list.  The first thing is dig the holes for the posts.  

 

After a couple of weeks, and only being able to dig down 12 inches and they kinda looked in line; I finally gave in and asked for help.  I had no choice.  If I was going to get my tomatoes this year, then I had to admit I was out of my element here.

 

I called for backup.  I called one of my best friends.  I even made the request more urgent by telling him that our 21-year-old son was going to help me build the fence. Yes, my son’s father is one of my best friends. 

 

He is also an expert at cars, building and well, sometimes everything – but that is another story.

 

He built the deck on the back of the house and many moons ago used to build desks and privacy fences.  The man can build.

 

Yesterday the rest of the post holes were completed then two eight foot and two ten foot posts were set in concrete.  I helped, I just want to say.  I carried lumber, poured concrete mix, held things straight, strung twine and masterfully added water to the concrete. 

 

I was so excited at how much progress was made in a couple hours with help that when my little buddy (my two year old neighbor) popped his head up and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I had to tell him about the fence, gate and garden.   Hey, I was excited and he asked! 

 

Then he asked why, I think a natural response from two year olds, so I told him to keep the doggies out of my tomatoes.  I completely lost him then because I said the magic word “doggie” (he loves my dogs) and he was off trying to see them between the fencing. 

 

Today, the bracing goes up and probably the fencing.  This means that soon after the gate, clearing, tilling and preparation can be done for planting this weekend!

 

Now, had I not asked for help, this project could have stretched out indefinitely, which means no fresh tomatoes for me this year. 

 

I am not a person to ask for help easily.  I am stubborn.  I could justify this not asking by saying other things like I am independent, my dad and ex taught me how to use tools, blah, blah, blah.  But let me just cut to the chase – I am stubborn.  I want to be able to do things on my own.

 

It burns me when I cannot.

 

I put my big girl shoes on and asked for help because I needed it.  Sure, I could have done it all myself.  It would have taken me a crazy long time to complete and honestly, may not have been as solid as what it is now.  I would have wasted a lot of time, money and energy only to have to have it all fall down after I did it on my own.

 

I’m still breathing after I asked for help.

 

That’s the other thing – it didn’t kill me to ask for help.  No price to pay, no begging, crying, pleading, humiliating sucking up; I just simply had to ask.  It was so easy.  Why do we set it up to be so difficult?  Why do we force this “I can do it all on my own” attitude on ourselves and then when we realize we are out of our league we have to compound the problem by “having” to ask for help?

 

I didn’t have to – I wanted to.  We work well together, he does awesome work and I always, always learn something.  I also let him know how much I appreciate his help and expertise.  He felt good about being able to help.  It was a good thing all the way around.

 

We are not made to do all things ourselves.  We need help.  People like to help.  We just need to get over it and simply ask.  Then those that need the help are connected with those that like to help and guess what – it is a win-win situation!

 

Where are you stalled?  What is some hurdle that you cannot get over to move on with a goal?  What is it that you are lacking in order to accomplish this goal?  For me it was two things:  knowledge and brawn.  Look, there is no way I was heaving four 50 pound bags of cement to the back yard.  Just wasn’t going to happen.

 

Figure out where you need the help, get over yourself then ask for help.  I know part of it was ego, luckily being only five foot tall there isn’t a lot of ego to get over, but I had to; and once I did, I can see the vision coming together.

 

I think I might have to put this into practice more often.  It feels awesome to know that not only will I be able to plant tomatoes soon, but the gate and fence are going to be solid, well build and look great.  What else can I accomplish if I just ask for a little help?  What can you?

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

The Only Time It Is Important To Look Back

I had dinner with a very good friend last night who always inspires me and never fails to make me laugh at myself and the world in general.  She is my very wise friend whom I admire and respect greatly.

 

At one point in the conversation, I was telling her about a little fit of doubt I was having in myself based off a situation with a past client.  I asked if she had every gone through that and how did she get through it.

 

She told me to look back.

 

I am not a fan of looking back.  Normally.  Too often we look back and instead of seeing what we have accomplished, we tend to look at the woulda, coulda and shouldas.  Then we fall into the trap of “if only”s and “why didn’t I do it this way”s. 

 

I am a fan of looking at situations from the perspective of what can it teach me for next time then letting go.  Learn and grow, do not dwell and get stuck.

 

But her advice was perfect because it was specific.  You have to look back at your successes.  So one client or boss or interviewer thought you stunk.  It happens.  To all of us.  But that is when you need to look back to the ones that thought you were the cat’s meow.  That helps you remember why you do what you do and that you bring great value to what you do.

 

After saying goodbye a couple of things hit me: an email I received from a client saying they have been offered a job from a prestigious company and asking to set up a time to tell me all about it.  Another very excited email from another client telling me that she got promoted and gave such gratitude for helping her through the transition and to be able to see that she could do really well in this field.  An email from a client who was writing after an interview to let me know the interviewer told me they felt compelled to interview him after reading his cover letter and resume.

 

At first blush you may think it was the compliments on my work that helped me re-center and refocus; but that wasn’t it.  It was the excitement from all of them.  That they came to me from a much different place and together we were able to identify and communicate the value that already existed.  From there, they were able to fully own it and make happen what they wanted to make happen. 

 

It was their joy that made me beam.

 

That’s how I chose to look back, remembering the process and their journey.

 

If you are feeling stuck in your position, frustrated with the job search process or a little self-beating up over lagging sales; look back at the joy.  Why do you do what you do?  How have people benefited from what you do?  How do you define your wins?  What have been your wins – and what did you do then to make them happen?

 

Rediscover the feeling of the wins, remember how you approached it, remember why you do what you do and remember the value you bring.

 

Not everyone is going to think you are amazing, that’s a fact of life.  You know the old saying: you can’t please everyone.  We all hit the blocks of a bad interview, a down period, unhappy client; those come and go.  When they happen look back at the joy and you will find that the lows are not quite as low as you first thought and you have a lot more wins that you thought.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Thanksgiving is Over – Does This Mean No More Daily Gratitude?

daily gratitudeFacebook can be such a fun thing – a place to share pictures of your family (two and four legged), funny stories, interesting news tidbits and the occasional lists.  A tradition, it seems, is for the month of November for you to post every day something you are grateful for.

 

I watched closely this month out of curiosity and trying not to have a hypothesis proven.  Unfortunately, it was.

 

The month started with the robust proclamations of gratitude for God and Family.  They posts were really lovely and heart felt.

 

During week two we started to see some cracks in the wall, people having to make up because they forgot to post the day before.

 

Week three it seemed to be getting to a stretch people trying to put down something “meaningful” to be thankful for.  My favorites were my friends who were completely themselves and thankful for what others might have thought as silly or meaningless.  Thanks is thanks.

 

Week four it was a sad dwindle; only a fraction of those who started had completed this “task”.   Yes, task, because unfortunately it seemed that maybe it felt like a task there at the end.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all about gratitude.  But more importantly for myself I am more about putting the “hey that’s a great idea” into practice.  I took a different approach several months ago because I wanted to take it to another level.

 

You have all heard the inspirational quotes and mantras what you praise grows, happy people aren’t grateful/grateful people are happy etc.  I wanted to take that initial feel good and see how far I could take it.

 

I’m a list maker anyway, so on my daily To-Do list I made a small change: I added a Gratitude section.  Right there on the top of the page.  The night before I add to the next days to-dos but leave this part blank so first thing in the morning before I start my day I write down three things I am grateful for.  Yes, three.  I wanted to really stretch myself.

 

At first it was easy: my son, my family, my friends but I stretched it out: I listed them out individually.

 

Then it started getting a little harder.  Why?  Because I was putting some expectation on myself that no where in any of those happy positive inspirational quotes or mantras does it give rules.  But I had imposed rules.

 

I thought that my gratitude should have meaning, big meaning:  Thankful for my freedom, my family, my faith – things like that.  I couldn’t possibly put down that I was thankful for finding a new scent for my wax burner.  That seems silly, insignificant and well, unworthy.

 

How could God or the Universe bless me with more to be grateful for if I wasn’t appropriately thankful?

 

About a month into the daily gratitude it hit me – I was being an idiot.

 

Gratitude isn’t a competition sport.  It was a feeling.  And your feelings are not wrong – they are yours. Period.

 

So I started putting down the “silly” things: the scents, the sale on fresh asparagus, the new recipe for avocado/black olive salad, my friendly mail carrier, finding a five in the pocket of my jeans the night before.

 

I also started putting down characteristics in those I love that I was grateful for: the playfulness of my big puppy, the sometimes irritating way the little dog noses her way up on my office chair to take a nap while I am working, my son’s humor, my best friend’s grace – things I admired and were lucky enough to experience.

 

I start my day out this way for another purpose: sometimes I need a reminder.  Sometimes my day seems to turn into a black hole of crap that I can then look over at my overwhelming to do list and see three things that I recognized in the morning and it helps.  It helps me give myself a little kick in the butt to stop being so negative and suck it up.

 

You know most of my blogs come back around to job searching or business building – so here is the tie-in: start making your own list for yourself.

 

When trying to get hired by the right company or the right client we tend to focus on the bigger things and only the big things.  When we come to a lull in progress we tend to get a little down on ourselves or the situation.  This is when you need the list the most.

 

You have more to offer than just your big ticket items.  Beyond the expertise, length of experience or job title: you have your personal qualities.  The little things that make you – you.

 

If you think making a gratitude list every day is hard try making a self-appreciation list.  At first you are not going to like me too much for this.  But hang in there.

 

Every day start off by writing three things you appreciate about yourself.  Yes – make it all about you.  Step out of that comfy little box and give yourself some love.

 

That is going to be the hardest part because we are not used to doing it.  Especially women.  We really suck at it.  I tell all my female clients I get it, as a woman we are used to putting everyone on top of the list: first our family, friends, community, job, home…and somewhere at the bottom of the list, behind the dogs is our name.

 

I have four dogs, I was way down there.

 

Do it anyway.

 

Be uncomfortable.

 

You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t even have to tell anyone you are doing it.  If you have an amazingly supportive spouse or best friend you might want to tell them so they can help you identify some things to get you going, but that is up to you.

 

Write the darn list.

 

Give yourself permission to recognize and appreciate you, your qualities and your attributes.

 

Then here is something that will start to happen.  You will start to see a connection there with those big ticket items and it will give you an additional layer to add when talking to those prospective companies or clients.

 

When you discuss your expertise you can add a layer of how you do what you do and now that you have full appreciation for the details of how you do it you will be speaking for a place of excitement, admiration or love.

 

Let’s give an example to help with this.

 

I am an analytical person, no, let me rephrase that – I am a very over-analytical, research the hell out of it, break it down, dissect it gotta know all the details or death kind of girl.

 

At first blush it doesn’t sound like a positive, right?

 

But it is.  I have come to love this quality about myself.  Here are some things I could say on my Self Appreciation List:

 

  1. I love the fact that I have been called “a dog with a bone” when there is a problem to solve.
  2. I love the part of me that is so inquisitive that I keep digging to find out all that I can.
  3. I love the fact that I won’t settle for surface information.
  4. I love that this is a quirk about me – it makes me unique.
  5. I love it when I get so involved in it that my best friend has to say things like, “sweetie – you really don’t have to know every single detail about this, it was just a thought.”
  6. I love the fact that I still get excited to learn new things.
  7. I love the fact that I feel brave in reaching out to ask people to help me understand and I have grown up enough to realize that ignorance is curable, stupidity is not.
  8. I love the fact that I have a best friend that supports me in my ridiculous efforts and lets me share with her what I found out.
  9. I love the fact that I can take a mountain of information from digging and then put it into a simple way to understand when explaining it to her.

 

Now, if I were job searching or networking in my old playing field of compliance in the financial industry I would definitely use these things to support and sell my expertise.

 

In talking about rules, regulations or compliance requirements I would add in that in working with my brokers I don’t just tell them this is what needs to be done because the Fed said so because I am a very analytical and communicative person.  I personally want to know the whys so I can them work with them in incorporating the new regulation in a way that makes sense to them, doesn’t detract from their business and allows me to protect and serve them better because I have all the behind the scenes “whys” to make the “have to-s” possible.

 

Sounds a lot better than: “I’m good at compliance – I have a decade of experience in it and hold five series license and two insurance licenses.”

 

Not only will you gain a greater appreciation for yourself, but you will have solid, positive examples of how you do it better than anyone else.

 

In the end, isn’t that what you are trying to sell to the prospective employer or client?

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Why Does It Take a Disaster?

open armsI woke this morning to a news report about the devastating loss of lives in Oklahoma, they began with the children. Immediately a quote from one of my favorite shows flashed in my mind: “the streets of heaven are crowded with angels…”

This morning I observed an enormous outpouring of sympathy, prayers and condolences on Facebook for the victims and survivors.

I imagine by this evening there will be an abundance of postings and pictures about appreciating what you have right now, live for the moment, tell those that you love you love them because tomorrow is not promised. All very valid.

But why wait until a disaster to remind ourselves of these things?

Because we get stuck in our own little, self-enclosed, safe world.

It is easy to tell the people we love that we love them and often say in as a casual, non-emotional, expected ending to a sentence. “…ok, I’ll talk to you later, love you.” Click.

When a disaster strikes it is easy for us to say, gee, I am so thankful for all that I have and I am going to make sure everyone I love knows how much they mean to me. But then life happens and the best of intentions are spread by positive quotes and happy pictures on Facebook.

The positive in this is, they know. Those you love, most of them, they know. You do show them, the way you talk to them, tease them, give them a hard time, check in on them now and then and can pick up just where you left off when it has been some time. They know.

It would be nice to give them a reminder, but they know.

It is the things left unsaid that are really the heart of this matter. The opportunities we let slide or didn’t fully pursue. The jobs we wanted to go after, the ones we wanted to love but were afraid of rejection, the new skills we wanted to master but didn’t want to look foolish in trying, the silliness we long to have but are too afraid of what others might think.

Why wait for a disaster to sit back and think, “I really want to do this, I should really get on it because life is too short.”

You think?

Go do it. Take the class, make the call, apply for the job and for goodness sakes go look foolish!

You may fail, you may be rejected, you may even get hurt a little – but guess what, you may not. You can succeed or you can fail, and if you fail then fail fabulously! Either way it is called living – and we need to do more of that.

“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.” James F. Byrnes

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
http://www.CareerPolish.com

What Becomes Comfortable

sleepytimeMy dogs snore.  Each and every one, in a different register, at varying volumes and accompanying noises.  This isn’t just a cute little puppy snore like you have seen videoed and posted on Facebook.  On no, this is all out, wake themselves up, complete with yips, yaps, convulsions and seriously thinking if there is a testing for dog sleep apnea snoring. 

Times four. 

I was married, we were together for 10 years and that man snored so loud that it could wake the dead.  Even the subtle occasional elbow or foot jostle didn’t help.  But I got used to it.  

I also grew up near train tracks.  The trains would run in the middle of the night – I never knew this until my grandmother stayed the night and asked how we could sleep through all that train ruckus.  I got used to it. 

The only way I can sleep through the dog snoring is if I fall asleep first.  Last night they all fell asleep before I did and it was a long, noisy night.  

That’s when today’s blog hit me.  How we can become comfortable with certain things.  I guess I am used to falling asleep before the dogs and didn’t realize just how loud they are – oh, and they fart while they sleep.  Bonus. 

When we get comfortable in our job we get comfortable in what we do and take for granted what it is that we really do, the value we bring to the table.  That is why it is so difficult when talking to others explaining what we do.  

We have gotten so used to it that we don’t even think about it anymore.  

Time to wake up. 

Even if you are not preparing to look for another job it is a good idea to stop in midday and evaluate what it is that we are doing.  Think back to how you got to where you are now.  What skills did you master to take that next step. 

Who do you serve – is it clients, teammates, a department or division?  How do you serve them?  What tasks do you do that add value to others?  

How do you perform those tasks?  What skills are needed in order to perform those tasks well?  How did you learn them, how do you improve them and what have you done to get better at what you do? 

What do you enjoy doing?  Why do you enjoy it?  What does it involve?  Who does it involve?  What are the outcomes that you have contributed to? 

These are all great questions to ask yourself when thinking about looking for a new job but they are also great to help you rediscover the great aspects of you as a contributor.  This in turn will give you a sense of gratitude for where you are and what you are doing now.  

These questions will help shed fresh light on your current job from a positive perspective and bring back some of the joy that you may have become comfortable with and get you excited about your job again. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to fall in love with your job again and bring that sense of purpose, excitement and enthusiasm back into your every day?   

Bring back the gratitude and joy and leave the comfortable for snoring dogs. 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Know What You Are Getting Into

I recently contributed to an upcoming article about college degrees and real world jobs.  College students, whether right out of high school or adults returning to college commonly share one factor: not knowing what to fully expect once you earn the degree.

 

This week is Nurses Week and it made me think about my misconceptions about the profession.  Until about a decade, I honestly did not know the full extent of the work that they do at costs mentally, emotionally and physically.

 

What I had previously known of nursing was the people that came in, gathered relevant information, took vitals and occasionally poked me with needles.  They were always very pleasant, even with me having a thing about needles.

 

But when my son’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 that changed.  These dedicated professionals still did the information gathering and vitals, but they did so much more.

 

They were the ones that when family was not there to provide support gave him encouragement.  They listened sympathetically to the heartache of the pain when there was nothing that they could do; they cheered for each positive step that achieved as much as the family.

 

They took the time to get to know the family, they would talk directly with my son, not to him or down to him or ignore him – but engage him and gladly answer any question he had.  They learned our routines and how best to communicate with us.

 

They supported my son and I as much as his father.  They were patient and kind even when we weren’t due to fear or frustration.  I used to bring in treats for them every week just as a simple gesture of saying thank you.

 

They all came in to give hugs when he was released with good news.  And they all came to visit him a few weeks later when he was admitted into the CCU.  Word spread quickly that he was in dire shape and every single nurse that had taken care of him through the battle with cancer each came to spend time with him and watch over him during their breaks, before or after their shifts.

 

Again, they gave support, encouragement and hugs – even when he wasn’t technically their patient anymore.  But that is another thing I learned, he would always be their patient.  I saw the worry and concern on their faces, answered their questions about how he was and the family.  They were my second support system.

 

They again cheered and gave hugs when he was again released with good news.

 

It has been 13 years and I still have such deep gratitude for these wonderful professionals.  It went well beyond medical care – it was empathy, compassion, concern, encouragement, faith and hope.

 

When considering a career or career change make sure you do your homework to really understand not just the duties, but all the affects of the job.  It will give you a clearer direction in your path.

 

And this week – be sure to thank any nurse you know.  A lot of us have our sanity and health thanks to them!

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Try a Little Tenderness

lexi lovingI am definitely a dog person.  No matter what my day it is made better with my dogs.  If I am having a horrible day they know.  That’s when they nuzzle and look up at me like, “Your day may be bad but you’re awesome.”  You just can’t beat that.

When my day is great – they make it better.  I think they know that too.  It is almost like they are saying, “Congratulations!  I think we should play to celebrate!”

I am also a big believer in gratitude.  Every day I give thanks for all that has come into my life, is in now and yet to come.  I also believe in kindness and positive behavior.

Have you ever told your dog or any dog that they are pretty?  If you are a dog person you know exactly what I am talking about.  They can be across the room and you tell them “you are a pretty boy” and what happens? They wag their tail.  They know.  They can sense your kindness and tenderness.  They accept it and it makes you feel good.

What I find amazing is people, even non dog people, are more willing and free to tell a dog that they are pretty before they would even consider giving themselves a compliment or nice word.

We do not praise or recognize ourselves enough. When was the last time you accomplished something and told yourself, “Self, you did good.”?  If you had to ask what year it was that is a bad sign.

Not only do we not tell ourselves that we did good, we also really, really stink at taking compliments.

Dogs aren’t like that.  When you tell them they are pretty they don’t turn around, put a paw over their snout and say, “oh no, I look like hell today and I know this collar makes me look fat.”  They just don’t do that.  They wag their tail in saying, “thank you.”  Simple.  The end. Period.

Try living a bit like your dog today.  Give kindness just because you are there and accept compliments with a simple thank you.  We all deserve a little tenderness.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

As I wrote this I had the song from the title running through my head.  It is from one of my favorite movies of all time – bonus – can you name the artist and movie?  Double bonus – do you remember the scene?

You Are Not Going To Please Everyone

Alone in a CrowdJust get that through your head right now.  No matter if you are job searching, building a business or just  living every day life: you are not going to please everyone.  Ever.

Don’t even try.

Just let it go.

Once you complete embrace that thought then you can focus on the matter at hand.

What is going to make you happy?

What a trite little sentence – huh?  When someone asks me this I have to fight the overwhelming urge to reply with something sarcastic like, “rainbows and butterflies and sunshine”.  It is a hard battle but I normally win.

I used to think that making it all about me made me selfish.  After all, I am a mother, a daughter, an aunt, a friend and so on – it is my job and duty to think about everyone else and make sure they are happy, safe and secure.

On the list of priorities my son and family were at the top and I fell somewhere near the bottom after the dogs.  Somehow it gets ingrained in us that we are low on the list.  This is especially true for mothers.  Once we give birth that “last on the list” instinct kicks in.

But then I realized, if I am miserable than how can I best serve anyone else?  How can I tell my son to do what makes him happy if I am not leading by example?  How can I encourage my friends to go after their dreams if I do not do the same?  Isn’t is just some big repeating example of “pot kettle black”?

Yes, it certainly is.

So I stopped.  I stopped the world and locked myself away and had a long, hard look at where I was, who I was and what I was doing.  Was what I was saying really match up to what I was doing?  No.  Was I living true to myself, in making myself happy?  No.  I vowed that it was time to change.

Then I became afraid.

What if I alienate someone by putting myself as a priority?  What if I hurt someone’s feelings?  What if they think I am selfish or I miss out on helping them because I am being selfish?

Those are called reactions and those are things that are out of your control.  The bottom line is by being happy as a person individually you bring more value to those you love.  You are allowing for all the positives in your life to start with you and this allows you to serve as a megaphone for others.  You increase the good for everyone else to allow them to see and feel that positive in you and be able to bring it into their own world.

If someone alienates you then perhaps they were more concerned with their own welfare and not yours.  If you hurt their feelings because you are trying to be happy then how did they see you in the first place?  Being selfish – damn straight, but in a positive way; and when you are happier you will be able to help them even more.

Your family and friends may not approve of the job that you are going after or the business that you are running; but if it makes you happy than isn’t that what they should really want for you?  Isn’t that what you want for them?  So why shouldn’t you want the same for yourself?

You may loose contacts, associates, friends or family in putting yourself and your happiness first.  You are not going to please everyone.  But remember, it is the quality that counts, not the quantity.

Start today, do one small thing today just for you that makes you happy.  Treat yourself to a foo-foo coffee, or a new book or a new toy.  Say no to a request for your time and give yourself that time uninterrupted.

Just do one small gesture just for you.  You will probably feel lighter, happier, more relaxed and a little bit of peace; which is a much different feeling than when you are trying to please everyone.

What small gesture will you do for yourself today?

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com