Sunday, April 6, 2008

Missing in action

I've been away from my blog for a while, concentrating on my goal list. Unfortunately, "keeping up with my blog" isn't on the list, but maybe it should be.

Since my last post, I've started a small business endeavor with my friend and partner, Tracy J., a licensed marriage- and family-therapist who is shifting her focus from clinical psychotherapy to the more proactive coaching and training discipline. She and I share a deep respect for Victor Frankl, the famed psychiatrist, concentration camp survivor, and author of Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl is known for his ideas on the importance of finding meaning as a conduit to mental health and happiness. Tracy and I also share a similar philosophy on the primacy of self-knowledge and interpersonal communication to successful relationships.

We've called our business, "The People Development Group," and plan to offer personal leadership training to anyone seeking more positive and fulfilling relationships at home or at work. Our schedules are already filling up with couples seeking relationship coaching, and we have submitted proposals to several businesses that have asked for our help to build their teams.

I'm excited about the future, but warn myself to "be careful what you ask for." I know that everything comes at a cost, and so I want to make sure that I maintain focus where it needs to be for now: on my family. In this way, I'll be practicing what I preach: finding balance, living authentically, and focusing on what's most important.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

So, you want to achieve your goals? Start by using your brain.

A recent study by Shackell and Standing of Bishop’s University has shown that “mental rehearsal” (a.k.a. “creative visualization”) is nearly as effective as physical practice in improving performance.

Here’s what the study did:

Thirty male university athletes, including football, basketball and rugby players, were randomly assigned to perform mental training of their hip flexor muscles, to use weight machines to physically exercise their hip flexors, or to form a control group which received neither mental nor physical training. The hip strength of each group was measured before and after training. Physical strength was increased by 24% through mental practice (p = .008). Strength was also increased through physical training, by 28%, but did not change significantly in the control condition.

This data indicates that you should not simply write your goals, but you should imagine yourself accomplishing them. Create as vivid a picture as you can in your mind, incorporating all of your senses (e.g., what will it feel like, look like, etc. once I accomplish my goal?), then re-live those images regularly so that even if you can’t work on a particular goal right now, you’ll actually make some progress toward accomplishing it by visualizing its achievement. Then, once you’re ready to work it, it will feel like old hat.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Regaining perspective

After yesterday's parenting-frustrations, I went to my music to find relief, and listened to a song that always lifts my spirits and renews my faith that everything will turn out okay: Michael Tolcher's song called "Sooner or Later." Click on his name, above, to hear the actual song, and see the lyrics, below...

"Sooner Or Later"

Pull the hair back from your eyes
Let the people see your pretty face
Try not to say anything weird

Save your questions without answers
'Til your old enough to know
that things ain't as they appeared

Before you go out in the sun
Cover your skin and don't get burned
Beware the cancer, it might kill you when you're old

Be first in line, raise your hand
Remember everything you hear
And playing in the rain is worth catching cold

Sooner or later
We'll be lookin' back on everything
And we'll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening
And someday you might listen to what people have to say
Now you learn the hard way

[Verse 2]
We only want what's best for you
That's why we tell you what to do
And nevermind if nothing makes sense

'Cause it all works out in the end
You're just like us without a friend
But you can build a privacy fence (Yeah)

[Repeat Chorus]

[Verse 3]
Somethings you have to learn them all on your own
You can't rely on anybody else
Or the point of view of a source unknown
If it feels good and sounds nice
Then it's your choice don't doubt yourself
Don't even think twice

Pull the hair back from your eyes
Let the people see your pretty face
You know they like it when you smile (Find a reason to smile)

Try not to focus on yourself
Share that love with someone else
Don't let the bitters bring you down (Down)
Don't let anything bring you down

Monday, January 28, 2008

Communication skills and teenagers...

So, my goal is to become an expert at interpersonal communication & conflict resolution, right? Well, my skills were tested this evening when my 14-year-old son came home with a 'warning' issued to him by his bus driver for excessive swearing. Swearing? #@@#@!!

Number one. I didn't even know my child swore! Never suspected it; although, I have to admit that I remember being 14 and trying a few choice words of my own, here-or-there, in a futile attempt to be 'cool.' But HIM?! My baby??? The sweetheart shown in the picture on the right joyfully communing with his puppy?

Number two, I had no idea that if he did swear, he would be so dense (so rude, so utterly impolite) as to do it in front of an adult! Didn't I at least teach him better than that???

So, there I was feeling like a surgeon about to operate on one of her own loved ones (which is never a good idea). Unlike a surgeon, however, I don't have a group of highly skilled partners to pass a case off to. I have my husband who, like me, is too close to the patient. We had no choice - we had to sharpen the blade and prepare to operate.

By virtue of having a Master's Degree in Counseling, I was elected to start speaking first. I immediately began with the "EAR" model I learned many (childless) eons ago from Ken Blanchard's course on Situational Leadership:

E: Explore to make sure you received the right message
("Son, are you saying that you cussed in front of the bus driver?" What words did you say, exactly?" "You said WHAT?!?!")

A: Acknowledge the person's statement so that they'll feel heard. This step is the key to good listening and it's important to note that acknowledging is not the same thing as simply means that you've heard the person.
("You must have felt very embarrassed, son.")

R: Respond. Most people jump straight to this step without first taking the time to explore or acknowledge, and this only makes the sender feel defensive. If you take the time to explore and acknowledge, then the sender will be more receptive to your response, whether it be an opinion, suggestion - or punishment :)
("You're still grounded!")

At the end of this 'session,' my son readily admitted fault and humbly asked for his punishment. But this seemed too easy. Surely there was more ranting that needed to be done. So, the EAR model went straight out the window, and we adopted our very best "predator" parent-stance. Like pro wrestlers, we tag-teamed him:

Mom: "Is that any way to represent our family?"
Dad: "Is this how you want to be known - as a foul-mouth?!"
Mom: "You're going down the wrong path, mister!"

This went on for about 10 minutes, until we were sure he was sufficiently humbled. By the end, he lost the privilege of attending a school dance he wanted to go to this weekend, and we told him that if we ever receive another call from the school for anything other than sterling behavior, he will be out of his beloved soccer for the rest of the season.

Afterward, the phrase "physician, heal thyself," and "practice what you preach" came to mind. Whatever happened to the dispassionate approach during which I'm supposed to calmly highlight the problem, not the person or the mean, old parents? And, once he admitted fault, shouldn't we have stopped?

Ughhhh! Despite all my training and practice, I still have SO much to learn about applying these concepts to my very own family. Indeed, I am "a work in progress..."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

This song helps me focus on my goals...

I love to read the lyrics, and listen to, this empowering, goosebump-inducing song by Natasha Bedingfield whenever I doubt myself and/or whether I can accomplish my goals. It reminds me that I am writing my own page...:

I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else

Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Word of the day: "Memes" (it's not what you say, it's what you do)

According to the book, Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman: "memes [are] ideas that spread from mind to mind, much as emotions do."

The word was actually coined by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, but I like how Goleman writes about the brain science behind "memes" (see his writings about "mirror neurons" in his book, or learn about them at the following link: I find that Science always adds credibility to an issue.

The amazing point to recognize here is that we're wired to mimic. This is amazing because it explains why obesity, fitness, kindness, violence, etc... seem to replicate through people like a gene.

And, as if to highlight this point, I received an overwhelming email response from the friends with whom I shared the concept of writing "the top 110 things to do before I die." Here's what two of them said:

"I for one have been inspired... I shared your LIST with the boys last night. [My husband] and I both are starting ours."

"Thank you for sharing your list! I've just started one of my own."

Goal-writing is an example of a meme, and seems to give legs to the saying: "actions speak louder than words."

Can you tell that I find the concept of 'memes' fascinating? I mean, just look at the number of 'feel good' sites in my list of links. I am enchanted by the idea that we all have the power to make a positive difference in the world, and I have a feeling that the concept of "memes" will play a large role in my future studies on conflict.

photo taken by RebelBlueAngel, and found on the web at:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gals and goals...

Our book club is a collection of amazing women who came together last year after a chance encounter at a local Starbucks. Our common link: we’re all, unapologetically, Moms.

Aside from that, some of us are former military members, ultrasound techs, fitness instructors, reporters, coaches, counselors, artists, business owners, decorators...all very diverse, with much to share.

Our self-imposed assignment this month was a deviation from our normal monthly book-reading. We agreed to bring in something we learned from the internet.

I took a leap and, at the risk of seeming self-promoting, I brought in an entry I made in my relatively new blog. I did this for two reasons: first, because I’m in the process of learning about blogs by actually creating one, so I thought the process might be interesting to share. Second, I wanted to talk about goal-setting since it’s been on my mind so much lately, so I brought my entry from January 13th, titled “Have You Listed the Top 110 Things You Want to do Before you Die?” On the back of the entry, I pasted several of the goals that appear in the right-hand margin of my blog.

I wondered whether the idea of listing the “Top Things You Want to do Before you Die” would get people talking, and was pleased to find that it did. In fact, the rest of our meeting was consumed by the topic.

I witnessed my friends come alive with the scent of possibility. Their eyes flashed as their imaginations soared into realms I suspect many had not ventured in a while. I saw sly smiles as they reached into their hearts and, in conspiratorial tones, laid bare dreams they hadn’t shared with anyone in years.

But just as quickly as it appeared, the spark seemed to quell as reality set in:

“Writing my goals would just make me frustrated if I couldn’t achieve them...and I can’t achieve them because there are too many demands on me as a Mom!”

It was as if they experienced Paradise, took a bite from Eve’s apple, saw their fate, and forlornly banished all hope of ever returning to the Garden of Eden.

Oddly, I’d felt the same way when I created my list. I remember thinking,

"Dreams for myself? Isn't that selfish? Shouldn’t I be thinking of someone else instead? And who IS this person otherwise known as “Mom,” “Honey,” friend, volunteer, shopper, chauffeur, housekeeper, and cook? Where did her dreams go? Better yet, where did even the concept of dreaming go?"

With superhuman effort, I pushed the whining aside and wrote my list, but afterwards I felt embarrassed that it sounded so boring!

“Learn to embrace silence?”
“Accept challenges with grace?”
“Run a 5-K in 24 minutes?”

I mean, if this is a flight of fantasy, where was the sexiness? Where was the “climb Mount Everest,” or “parachute from an airplane?”

Then it dawned on me that I actually might have grown during this always challenging, sometimes difficult, journey. By working to be a good mom, wife, friend, community member – and despite fearing that I’d lost myself along the way – I found that I’d actually become a better self. A new, improved, stronger self. One who can appreciate little things and realize how little I need in life to be happy. Who’s to say that my “Mount Everest” isn’t overcoming “my aversion to running in cold weather?”

Okay, so I added the PhD & UN Committee in lieu of extreme sports but, hey, one can dream, right? And if I never attain these things, the very act of making my list helped me to realize that I'm doing just fine.

I really hope that the next time we meet, my dear friends at book club will dare to dream - and share - lists of their own...