Amazing…Yes, It Is.

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I was once lost, and now I am found.  Each time we experience awareness we become awaken. We were once blind, and now we see. We experience a resurrection of sorts.  We bow our heads with humility and grace, knowing that we forgive ourselves for being less than perfect.  While we strive to succeed through grit, determination, and purpose….To make this day of life one more fulfilled with kindness, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Some may want to circle thoughts back to shame.  Regret.  Wonder “why it took so long for this awareness” to become present.  My friends, don’t look back with regret or shame.  Wonder, yes, and wonder with curiosity the present day and if we wake again the days ahead.

We remember the pain.  We remember the hurt. We use its energy fuel and propel us forward.  In wonder, you may ask, “How many more awakenings and awakened moments will I experience in a lifetime?” That’s a profound question.  I hope many because the day we cease to become aware and awakened, is as Quinn states is “living death.” Be grateful those moments happen because some never have them happen. Now go out and make this day count because it does!

What do you think?  Share your comments!

Nature and Intelligence

chipmunkNature and intelligence. How smart we humans think we are compared to other animals. With our technology, houses, cars, and adornments. And yet we are ignorant with intelligence compared to even the smallest animals. Take this chipmunk. His/her keen intellect warns of a coming storm, bad weather, danger, and safety. This little animal does not need a weather alert system to warn of a tornado, severe rain, or dangerous threat. It simply knows. I did an experiment with this chipmunk. My walking on a path caused it to retreat in a tree. I stood on the path and talked to it  using my regular voice. The chipmunk came out and I kept talking and I saw a man was watching than called out his young son. The dad and son looked on as I talked to the chipmunk. When I said to it, “I’m not going to harm you”…this little chipmunk moved closer, then stopped, then moved closer and was close that I could have pet it. Yes. I am no threat. We humans can learn a lot from even the smallest animal. We humans are a speck in this vast universe and not of highest intelligence. This chipmunk taught me Awareness of possibilities. A re-check of ego. And a lesson to this dad and son who couldn’t believe what they saw.

The next time we think we know so much, consider a chipmunk and nature knows more then us humans.

What do you think?  Share your thoughts below.

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We meet people from all walks of life, with different education, backgrounds, and careers. Recently, Dr. Deb met with a person who is recently divorced after 50 years of marriage. Throughout the years he relied on alcohol to suppress stress. His question, “Why did it take me so long (to decide to make the change)?”
Awareness can be linked to questioning and understanding. Awareness can also be linked to judgement and shame. After reading his question, how many reading this post when to “questioning and understanding?” How many reading this post went to “judgement and shame?”
This man’s question was both. Dr. Deb’s help to him was seeing the value in both and acknowledging the decision. As Dr. Deb said, “Better today then never.” Thumbs-up to this man. He decided and is taking action.
What are your thoughts? Share them…

Mindfulness, Myths, and More!

I will admit that seeing the title of Mindful Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce, recent email blast: 5 things people get wrong about mindfulness, an immediate thought came to mind, “Yeah, I can think of more than 5.”

Noticing my immediate thought, I made the decision to take a mindful pause from my day and read the article. No expectations; just to see what he says.  See, I have a trigger about mindfulness which is: mindfulness in recent years has become so popular, that it’s also become very distorted.  This distortion increased confusion and does harm to the good that mindfulness practice provides. Also, the distortion and perpetuated myths trigger me.

Mindfulness has become perceived as this “practice” this “thing” that we “do,” and schedule time to “do,” where we sit cross-legged on some fluffy cushion in silence for hours, even a full day, and then go brag about it to the rest of the world.  The sitting on the cushion practice especially irritates me.  As a mindfulness and stress consultant, I practice and teach with the value of inclusion; Mindfulness is for everyone and not dependent on form such as sitting on a cushion cross-legged.  And frankly, images of mindful practice sitting on a cushion excludes people with physical disabilities such as neuropathy from diabetes to paralysis, Parkinson’s, and other physical limitations.  Heck, after the birth of my kids, sitting for too long, my hips start barking and I gladly reach for a high-density foam roller. And yet, I “practice” mindfulness every day. Wherever I am.  In any moment. Cushion-free.  🙂

I was a subscriber to Mindful.  But then with each issue, came again an image of a person sitting on a cushion; Which is an image often associated with practicing meditation.  Well, until I saw Vinny Ferraro, from Mindful Schools. I was thrilled to see Vinny’s head-shot on the cover of Mindful.  No cushion.  Just Vinny.  Just being. Taking classes with Mindful Schools and interacting with their educators and fellow mindful peers, I gave Mindful magazine a second chance.  After all, don’t we all deserve a second chance? Yeah. I believe so.

And in the moment of seeing Barry’s email, all of these thoughts that you’ve just read came flooding into my awareness.

So, I took a mindful pause and purposefully read.  And you know what? He’s spot on. Barry brings to our awareness common myths and misconceptions about mindfulness. He details each myth, calls out why it’s a myth, and then adds his (or Mindful Magazine’s) version of truth and reality. My only recommendation is to be mindful when using the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” with the phrase “mindful meditation.” Clear and concise writing is essential when addressing myths to illustrate the intent because it’s not clear if he intends to use mediation and mindfulness as interchangeable terms. It looks that way, but I am not sure.  Perhaps Barry will address this in his next post.

I applaud Barry and Mindful for their public efforts to bring clarity to a mucky situation. With great wisdom comes great responsibility.  Sometimes that responsibility includes setting things straight.  Bravo! And yeah, I look forward to tomorrow and Myth 3.

The Messy Meaning of Mindfulness

Mindfulness. The word is getting attention.  The meaning of the word is getting attention.  Take Mindful Magazine’s recent response to New York Times’ “The Muddied Meaning of Mindfulness.” I read both articles.  I will admit that my first learning of the two articles came as an email from Mindful Magazine landing in my inbox; I’m a subscriber.  However, as a stress expert, mindfulness trainer, practical mindfulness research-practitioner and Founder at Mindful Effect, the great debate regarding the word ‘mindfulness’ and its meaning is in the forefront of everything I do at Mindful Effect as the meaning – both formally and socially constructed means are more than the 10,000+ lakes in Minnesota.  Maybe that’s a bit embellished but one cannot argue that too many definitions of one word exists.  And that in itself causes a lot of confusion, misconception, tension, and stress.

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Reading both articles, I found myself not siding with one powerful position over the other.  Instead, I found myself siding with both; agreeing on points from Ms. Virginia Heffernan’s as mindfulness has become an “American Brand” and whose cynicism is appreciated as she calls our attention to the shadowed elephant of mindfulness. In as much, Mindful Magazine’s Publisher, James Gimian, and Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce, point out the many benefits and social contributions of mindfulness yet, they do not answer their own question: “Does it mean its meaning is muddied?”

I believe the meaning of mindfulness is more than muddied.  I believe it’s gotten messy. Regardless of what I believe, the proof is in the pudding.  Just Google the words “mindful” and “mindfulness” and see the number of hits related to definitions.  Better yet, for folks with access to peer-review journal articles (yes, I know…my doc side had to include this in here) such as any within the American Psychological Association, conduct a search within any academic database and again, many articles appear with authors positioning a crafted definition.

However, is this really the best use of our time – to engage in an infinite loop of definition positioning? Or should our awareness and attention be directed to the field and practice of mindfulness?

Mindfulness as a field, practice, and industry is unregulated.  Anyone can pick up a book and read works from Drs. Kabat-Zinn or Langer, conduct a Google Search, and the next day put out a shingle and claim they are a mindfulness coach, trainer, expert, consultant…you get the idea.

Where I tend to error on the side of caution is linking everything back to the moral obligation and ethics of “do no harm.” Yes.  As with any field of study and practice, moral and ethical practices exist.  However, mindfulness is a young mainstream modern concept. I am not saying that it hasn’t existed for many years.  I am saying that the term and practice is more in the forefront today than in previous years. Which begs me to ask fellow practitioners, researchers, teachers, and the media these questions:

  1. What and who will establish the ground rules of mindfulness to ensure science and practice upholds “do no harm?”
  2. Will mindfulness become muddied, inconsistent, and lack consensus similar to other professions such as Organization Development?
  3. Will the hording and positioning of “who came up with it first” continue to cloud progress?
  4. How will continued studies, formal and informal, maintain sound methodologies and methods standards to make valid claims and call to attention ad hoc?
  5. Will Cosmopolitan-like (sorry, Cosmo) magazine quizzes pose as valid when in reality make false claims which then readers take as truths and factual information; and then show to their primary care physician/psychotherapist (gasp!)?
  6. What, if anything, will be done to prevent preying “practitioner” behavior as this industry is directly linked to people who may be vulnerable due to mental health challenges such as depression, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and addiction? What about working with children, the elderly, veterans, and people with special needs?

While I can see both sides of Mindful Magazine and New York Times’ articles, I would like to point out, while the great debate continues, perhaps our awareness needs to focus less on the disparities of what mindfulness is and is not and focus more on how we can create a structure to an industry and practice, develop what the structure would look like along with its components, implement standards of practice housed similarly to the American Medical Association, integrate these standards into education and academic institutional programs such as with UMASS, all the while providing a lot of help to people around the globe.

I believe it’s time to become mindful of where our awareness and attention is targeted, identify and understand our triggers which create an auto-pilot of continued confusion and debate, identify the overall purpose of mindfulness, and continue to let our awareness guide us with an ethical practice of service to others.  I mean…what could be wrong with that?

 

Mindful Dressing…and We’re not Talking about the Turkey

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Photo courtesy of411 Top Floor

When building and running a successful business helping people increase happiness, mindfulness, and reducing stress one thing has become crystal clear:

People want to feel good about themselves and people want others to feel good about them.

We all want to be liked.  We all want people to feel good about us.  And right now people are searching for happiness – how to be happy with ourselves, the people around us, our jobs, and our lives! Think about it.  If I asked you the question, “Are you happy?” what is the immediate response?  What would you say?  What thoughts come to mind?  What are your emotions like –are you happy, sad, have any thoughts of regret? Instead of taking a trip down the rabbit hole, how about discovering practical ways that result in a sense of feeling better – feeling better about you and being happy.

There are many ways people can begin developing a better sense of self and increasing happiness.  One of easiest and most effective ways to begin feeling better about you is through mindfully dressing. What’s mindfully dressing? Mindfulness means awareness.  Dressing includes our clothes, hair, accessories, shoes, makeup, glasses, and grooming.  Mindfully dressing is a process of using awareness when dressing; to dress oneself while being mindful (Do I have time, what am I doing); fully present (Are my thoughts wandering, am I distracted, am I focused), fully aware (what is going on today, how am I feeling) fully accountable and responsible (being 100% responsible and accountable is key.  Regardless of the information or what someone tells me, all decisions are mine and I own them – choices, decisions, consequences – everything – 100%; it’s not about the guy/gal who convinced me to buy – it was my choice. Be all in – 100%). This blog is about helping people feel good about themselves thorough mindfully dressing – to walk out the door and it feels right.  First, to me (this is most important). And second, to others around me. Questions we can ask ourselves when looking in the mirror are: What does my outfit say? What does my outfit say about me?  Does it say what I want it to say? What does my outfit say to others? Again, does it say to others what I want to say?

Note: All of this work begins with the self. First.  It’s not externally and then projected back toward the self.  It’s first with you and then everyone else.  Just like on an airplane – assist yourself first before assisting others.  This is not about narcissism.  It’s about developing you for you; for your happiness.  A commitment to self; to feel good about you and then secondly, how your I-feel-good-about-me happiness is projected outwardly toward others.

Most of us are aware of makeovers, celebrity stylists, and fashion magazines with their client-paid pages of pulled together outfits geared toward a one-outfit-for-all message, and retailers with personal shoppers.  But think about it.  With all this information out there, people still don’t feel good about their clothes, hair, makeup and accessories.  The all too familiar buyer’s remorse, closet filled of clothes you wouldn’t wear (OMGish, what was I thinking purchase)…can’t wear (too big, too small), and don’t want to wear (but I hang on to it anyway because mom/husband/partner bought it or because by golly it cost me a $hit load of money). Yeah, we’ve all been there – I’ve been there, and my clients have been there – which is what sparked the idea for this blog.  With all of the “what” information available and the problem still abound – we need a solution.  Solutions come in the form of understanding the “what” and identifying the “how.”  So, let’s explore some of the “what” and move on to the “how.”

What’s

  1. To feel good about myself
  2. For others to feel good about me
  3. Quick and easy “how” that leads to #1 and #2
  4. What information can I trust, believe, and that’s for “me.”
  5. What solutions are available for me – What do I choose.

While most information shares what to do like to get perfect hair, go to a blow dry bar and have a professional blow out your hair, this solution, unfortunately, is not a long-lasting solution; it’s a temporary fix.  And the work we do at Mindful Effect is not about temporary fixes – it’s about long-lasting, self sufficient, happiness.  Having a professional share and teach you how to do this yourself is what you’re looking for. But if they do that, then you will be creating a blow out look all on your in the convenience of your home, saving money – and you won’t need to revisit their blow dry bar and continue to spend money with them, right? Yup, that’s blunt, real, and true.

So what are our options? Remember, there are always options.  Not all professionals have this business philosophy.  For some, it’s about the education, sharing knowledge, and getting pleasure to see clients become self sufficient.  We do this at Mindful Effect and I had the honor and pleasure to interview 4 fashion and beauty professionals for this blog who hold the same philosophy.  Each of these folks is recognized in their industry for their skill, professionalism, innovation, and continued commitment to helping people look and feel their best. They’ve each shared the how-tos that we crave to look our best and feel good about us.

The Celebrity Stylist

“Everything in life…it all comes back to you,” said celebrity stylist, Grant Whittaker, of Grant Whittaker Style. During our first meeting we talked a lot about me; his questions ranged from “share with me about your business” to “what do you like to do in your spare time.” We talked about books, movies, food, travel, family, hobbies, and at one point I was wondering “where’s all of this going?” Grant knows exactly what he’s doing – his approach starts from getting to know the person.  More than “do you have a special occasion you’re shopping for.” It’s about getting to know a person’s likes, dislikes, feel good moments, “blues” days, and  building a trusting relationship where people are comfortable sharing their story…as Grant calls it “wardrobe therapy.”

“Everyone’s got a story…and I help create a wardrobe that defines who you are, is right for your body, is comfortable, and boosts your self-esteem…and you become educated in the process to feel confident walking into any store and picking out what’s right for you.”

How can we do this?  Here’s Grant’s top how-to-do:

  1. Let go of indoctrinated “rules” of fashion – let them go out the window. Your wardrobe grows with you..everything is changing.  You do and so will your wardrobe.
  2. Use awareness.  Make sure to only shop when you’re ready to shop. Don’t shop when you’re feeling bloated, low self-esteem day, or a bad day. Do go shopping when you have time, are feeling great, and having a rockin’ awesome day.
  3. Create a mental look book in a notebook or smartphone of the List of 5
    1. Fond color (what colors do I love? What colors do I think look great on me?) and Fond fabrics (what fabrics feel wonderful? What fabrics do I like their flow, drape, texture?)
    2. Fit and Feel (How does it fit? How does it flatter you? How does it feel?)
    3. Wants (What do I want? These are things for the near future)
    4. Needs (What do I need – a new winter coat?)
    5. Accessories (Handbags, shoes, jewelry, etc.)

Keep the notebook handy and regardless of an opinion from a store “stylist,” shop in confidence knowing you know what’s right for you.  We’ve all experienced store “stylists” and sales associates that will say, “Oh, that looks fabulous on you!” when you yourself says, “Oh, this is awful.” Yup, it’s happened to me, but not since meeting with Grant.

  1. How-to-Example: Say you need a new pair of black pants.  Grab every kind of black pant.  You may try on 25 different kinds of black pants before finding the one pair you love; you know how that feels on you and goes back to the List of 5:
    1. The right color black – the fabric moves with you
    2. The right fit and feel – it looks great and feels great
    3. Fills a need
    4. Fills a want
    5. Easy to accessorize
    6. Have fun! The more you love it, the more others are going to love it.  The more you shop when you have time and know what you’re shopping for (this is your strategy), then the more you’re going to enjoy the process of shopping.  We stop ourselves from having fun and we need to get back to the enjoyment of dressing ourselves because your wardrobe is a function of you

Grant’s final piece of how-to advice is allowing yourself the service of a teacher, a professional stylist, because you are a VIP.

The Luxury Boutique

“All style is good…if we know how to wear it,” says Patric Richardson, owner of luxury boutique Mona Williams. Patric further shares, “pick what works best, shows off and accentuates the best on you, and don’t conform to the trend.”  Arming ourselves with more how-tos with mindfully dressing, Patric shares his top tips:

  1. The goal is to look fantastic, feel confident, and look at yourself in a mirror and say, “I am pretty!” Who doesn’t want to be pretty? Patric inspires people to go beyond looking and feeling pretty with believing you are pretty.
  2. A must-know how-to is the awareness of your immediate first thought when putting something on; whether it’s a new handbag, dress, skirt, jacket, necklace – if your immediate is “I LOVE THIS!” then keep it, otherwise, get rid of it! It’s that simple.  No matter how much money you spent on it, or if mom bought it – we all have great reasons for keeping things in our wardrobe, but if it doesn’t look good then you’ll be miserable.  So, chose and keep those items that having you screaming, “I LOVE IT!”
  3. Know your comfort zone and understand “why” this is your comfort zone.  Basically, this is all about roots.  Where things were learned, where things come from, who told this to you, and why you believe this zone to be the comfort zone.  For example, did someone once tell you that twin sets should be your go to?  Are over-sized pieces used to really hide your body?  Do you loathe yellow because your mom once told you she hated that yellow t-shirt that you secretly loved and now you never wear yellow? Know what your comfort zone is, the understanding of why this is your zone, identify its roots, and ask yourself these questions: What would be out of my comfort zone?  What within that zone would I try on and have a Green-Eggs-And-Ham moment of “I do! I do! I do like _______(this animal print, those red pumps, this jacket that hugs my curves…)!
  4. Trust.  First, trust yourself. Second, find professionals you trust and build a relationship. Why? As Patric shares, “Because a bad outfit can ruin anyone’s day.” And when we’ve been given advice by people who say they’re a stylist but have no clue or history about fashion, apparel, fabrics, designers – our intent to find pieces to add to our wardrobe to look and feel fabulous can take a turn for well, spending money and not feel great at all. Patric strongly suggests finding boutiques and working with the owners.  Why? “We all want to feel pretty and boutique owners know their apparel, they know their clients, and often times will call when new items arrive before the items are placed on the floor.” Patric further shares, “When you look great and feel great, I know you’ll frequent our boutique. It’s when a person goes to a store, buys an outfit, puts it on at home and says, ‘yuk” those people will never return to that retailer. Never.”
  5. Harmony of an outfit is when nothing in particular stands out.  If something glares out, then the outfit is off balance.  This could be a hem needs to be shorter or to move a button.  The prep of finding an outfit is 80%, ensuring its harmony is the remaining 20%..and that 20% is important but is often overlooked or skipped all together.

Patric’s final piece of how-to advice is when in a fitting room, try on clothes facing away from the mirror.  Once everything is put on, then turn around to face the mirror. The moment you turn your head…that’s when it all happens…you look pretty, feel pretty, your body stands a bit taller…and you say, “I LOVE THIS!” That’s the wardrobe to build.

The Unique Boutique

“Fashion fades, style is eternal” says Diane Pawlik, buyer and stylist at 411 Top Floor a unique boutique above it all. Style is all about knowing who you are and what is it that you want to say – all through your clothes.  Our clothes speak for us before we even say a word. Some call it first impressions. Diane’s how tos on mindfully dressing include these top tips:

  1. Identify your starting point and stick to that starting point when building a wardrobe.  Is it to build a wardrobe around a handbag, a dress that I can wear multiple ways, or tailored fit jacket. Find the starting point, then add and build.
  2. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare!  Before shopping, prepare a few key bullet points about yourself; things you’re willing to share about you and your lifestyle.  Then when shopping and when an associate asks to help you, you can share these key points with them.  These snippets of “getting to know you” will help the associate find pieces compatible with who you are and your lifestyle.
  3. Ways to have your wardrobe scream “success” vs. “regret” is to have great key pieces.  For example, find the denim that fits you well, you feel great in, and absolutely love. It might mean getting the waist taken in or the hem shortened but it will be worth it.  Other key pieces: great denim, a fabulous jacket, well fitted black dress, and a great handbag.
  4. People get into trouble when buying the whole mannequin and then they get home, think “I just spent all of this money but I don’t know what to do with it.” Remember the key pieces: great denim, a fabulous jacket, well fitted black dress, and a great handbag.  Start with those and build out.
  5. Invest in quality. “That’s how I buy for the boutique and how I shop personally,” says Diane. Buy great pieces that your budget allows; these are items that will carry you for 10 years.  Yes, it’s an initial investment and you are your greatest asset.  People need to start believing they are a VIP and invest in themselves. By buying quality, whether it’s at the end of a season to wear next season – it is spending money wisely and investing in you.
  6. Shop small.  By shopping at boutiques you’ll have the opportunity to build a relationship (hopefully, a long term relationship) with the boutique’s buyer, owners, and associates.  The more people get to know you, your lifestyle, likes/dislikes, and you get to know them, the levels of comfort and trust increases.  It’s like the Cheers Effect – you shop where everyone knows your name….and knows you.
  7. Copying fashion magazines. Says Diane, “Fashion magazine outfits don’t work in real life.  Know who you are because it’s all about you.  It’s not about the airbrushed-photo shopped fashion picture. It’s about you.” Be comfortable with who you are, what you want your clothes to say, and everything else will follow.  Your audience will take notice.

Diane’s final piece of how-to advice is get the best bang for your buck by buying one quality piece you can wear with 10 different outfits.

The Custom Color and Style

When it comes to mindfully dressing, “A person’s hair color and style…it’s their permanent accessory,” says Justine Hornick, Wella Color Educator and Hair Stylist at Root Salons. A question she asks all clients is, “What do you want your hair to stand for?” As our hair cut and color speaks for us, portrays an attitude, and is an investment choice – what is it that we want it to say about who we are? Justine shares her top to-dos for pulling mindfully dressing all together with our hair color and cut:

  1. Know who you are: What is your face shape, skin tone, hair type (is it curly, wavy, straight), and be honest about your lifestyle (do you have a lot of time in the morning to style your hair or do you have 5 minutes and you’re done kind of person), do you need a “work” style and then another style that reflects the “off of work” you?  By beginning with knowing who you are you’ll be able to share this information with a professional stylist who can custom create a color and look compatible for you and your lifestyle.
  2. Custom color and style is exactly what it is; a custom color and custom cut – custom created and designed… just for you. Coming to a colorist and stylist armed with a photo of your favorite celeb will help them understand something you like but it might not be the best or most flattering style/color for you. As Justine shares, “People really need to be comfortable and open to professional colorists and stylists that create a custom design. When people are closed off, it’s difficult to help anyone with creating a look that builds confidence…and that’s what I do…I help build people’s confidence through creating a custom color and style specifically designed for them.”
  3. Ask questions.  They’re the professional and let them be creative.  Ask questions about colors that would compliment you and your lifestyle, styles that would be ideal,  heck – go all out and ask which colors and styles wouldn’t be ideal – then you’ll know. And ask why questions – why this would or would not be ideal. Then listen.  Stop talking and listen. Listen to their advice.  Take notes of their education – they’re sharing with you.
  4. Be mindful. Mindfulness means awareness and building trust with a professional while being mindful of yourself will create a style that is representative of your authentic self. Know that everyone struggles with something and there are people who can provide help for us to be our best – to build confidence – to portray our best selves. A custom colorist and stylist can create an experience that is comfortable, without pressure, provide the best advice and education (let me teach you how to style your hair so you can do it at home), and create a look that represents the true you.

Justine’s final pieces of how-to advice is don’t choose a style worn by your favorite star, don’t’ use a style or color as a veil and mask to hide, and most importantly, make a connection with a custom colorist and stylist who can create a custom design just for you that shows off your best features and projects confidence.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you will mindfully dress, that you will find your Grant, Patric, Diane, and Justine, that you will create a wardrobe and wear a hair color and style that you love and that screams confidence, success, and happiness, and that you feel great about you!

The mic and floor is all yours.

What else would you include? What’s the one take away you are going to use? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.

 

Practical Mindfulness Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving!

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The holidays.  Just the thought brings up a lot of feelings and emotions. As I write this post, I’m thinking about the person and people who are getting ready for today’s family gathering.  You know, the big family Thanksgiving feast that offers more than just food.  It’s the “dance” of relationships, interactions, the memories of past that haunt, and even can plague a person’s mind.  Yup. I’m thinking of you.  Maybe you’re already experiencing stress just thinking of today’s family gathering which is hours away.  Will sister Sue tease you about your weight/job/etc., or will Uncle Joe make “that” comment which causes your stomach to cramp because his comments are so incompatible with your values and beliefs…but that’s Uncle Joe, right?

Some people say these types of family dynamics are what makes family – family.  I disagree.  These types of dynamics lack responsibility, accountability, and perpetuate a continuation of inherited patterns of dysfunction all which lead to stress and unhappiness.

So, what can we do?  How can people prepare for today’s family gathering and still have a Happy Thanksgiving?

Some practical mindfulness (that means real-time awareness…stuff you can use/do anywhere, anytime…no need to “schedule” to breathe..btw, you’re breathing right now) tips for a Happy Thanksgiving.

1. Be Mindful – Being mindful begins with being aware; knowing your hooks and triggers (aka buttons pushed – what are they? Who knows them?  Who’s really good at pushing them?). Also, be 100% responsible for you and make the best decisions for yourself. Know that the word “best” varies from person to person and here I’m talking to you, not mom, dad, Sue, Uncle Joe – but you.  Being mindful starts with the self; meaning yourself.  It’s internal and then extended outwardly.  So, be mindful, 100% responsible for your thoughts/actions, and make the best decisions for yourself.

2. Decisions – Decisions, decisions, decisions. How do we make the right decision? What if we make the wrong decision? First, not making a decision is really making a decision; it’s a decision of denial. So, make a decision; any decision…just make one. Secondly, fear is our worst enemy.  Fear causes people to worry and paralyzes people into an infinite loop of “what if” and “should.” Find comfort in realizing that making a decision is a first step in being responsible – which is one of the best gifts to yourself and your family.  Arm yourself with making a commitment to yourself before the family gathering. Yes, a commitment to yourself.  For example, how much time are you willing stay at the event – 3 hours, 4 hours?  Make a commitment, set a limit, and stick to it! The sticking to it is a huge part of the decision of a commitment to yourself. Lastly, prepare for decisions during the event – decide now (not when you get there) how you want to respond to Sister Sue and Uncle Joe. Keep in mind that a response does not necessarily mean a verbal response, what it means is what do you want to do and how do you want to behave in situations that can for example push your buttons.  Know now.  Prepare now. Do then.

3. Choices – Choices come in two basic forms: Negative and Positive. For family gatherings, negative choices would include doing the dance with Uncle Joe and Sister Sue by returning the fuel and pushing their buttons, or participating in gossip and drama.  Engaging in these types of choices is fairly obvious as they’ll often be stressful, draining, and toxic.  On the other hand, positive choices such as hanging out with people who you truly enjoy their company and playing with the kids are uplifting and reduce stress.

4. Happiness – Isn’t this what we are try to achieve, feel, and be when getting together with family; especially during Thanksgiving? While gratitude brings joy and thankfulness brings appreciation, we often need to remind ourselves – to be mindful –  to be aware – and to allow ourselves (yes, allow ourselves) to be happy. We can do this by reflecting on what we are grateful for, who we are thankful for in our lives, and by counting our blessings.  We all have blessings. Be mindful, aware, thankful, and grateful for those blessings.  These will lead to joy and happiness!

Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for allowing me to serve you.  I’m humbled to do this work and grateful for the many people who’ve shared what this work had done for them.  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Share your comments, postings, let me know how this worked for you!

Mindful Listening

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Through mindfulness I am a better listener.  I don’t mean some kind of Zen-like hear the sounds of waves, the rumbling of my stomach pre-lunch, or what the air feels like against my ears.  I mean listening as in to pay attention to someone or something and different than before; better than before.  I’d add to this the element of understanding; so, through mindful listening I hear someone or something, am aware of the message, understand the message, and possess the ability to mindfully respond; I experience a new level of listening through mindfulness.

So, what?  Right?  When could this really matter, make a difference, provide value….One practical usage is being caught off guard and asked a question (ever been caught off guard and have someone ask you to volunteer at the kids school that day and you say YES?! – yeah, we’ve all been there and done that!).  Mindful listening helps prepare us with responding…mindfully.  Another practical usage is when someone is trying to sell you something.

Take for example the guy who just called about selling me home improvement services.  I was deep in concentration when the phone rang. I answered the phone and it’s a telemarketer.  Yes, we have caller ID and sometimes when our kids call from school, it’s from an unknown number in a local area code – so, I answer knowing it could be them.   However, this time it was Jim.  Jim was nice and I’ve been there many times myself making cold calls.  I know how difficult this is and figured I’d hear him out.  Jim shared that his company XYZ is doing work in our neighborhood and wondered if we had any projects.  I asked, “Oh, which neighbor?”

Now mind you, before mindfulness it would not even have occurred to me to even think of let alone ask, “which neighbor?”.  I would have thought, “Cool, you’re doing stuff in our neighborhood…yeah, let’s talk.”  But now is different.  I am changed. I am better equipped with tools and skills – that work for me everyday, anywhere, anytime.  I am a better listener because of using my mindfulness techniques; they’ve become a part of me – reflexively.  I don’t even have to think  “Oh, use your mindful listening skills” because I’ve done it so many times it comes naturally.  And I’m fully aware.  Fully present.  Even though I got caught off guard.

Jim’s response though was taken aback.  He stumbled.  He fumbled.  He couldn’t find the words.  And what did come out was his company, XYZ, were not doing work in our neighborhood.

OH SNAP!

Houston, we have a problem.  Yes, a significant problem.  Integrity and trust are gone.  Not only for Jim but also for XYZ Company.  A lost sale – for sure.  It’s too bad and very unfortunate.

Calls like this happen all of the time, however, because of mindfulness I am better listener.  I ask questions that wouldn’t even have occurred to me (autopilot, zombie…distracted/not present) but I do now.

A value of mindfulness is being fully present and aware; beyond hearing someone’s words, thorough mindful listening I was able to uncover a common sales tactic that was dishonest and protect myself, my family, and my home – and my money!

Many telemarketers and scam artists call preying on people.  Some may argue and say, “use common sense.” I’d argue that we don’t know what we don’t know AND we don’t know HOW to do something different unless we’re shown and something changes. For example, saying to people “don’t give personal information over the phone” has no meaning unless we are fully aware and fully present –regardless of distractions.  And con artists are masters at distraction. Now I’m not saying that Jim and XYZ Company are con artists.  I am saying they use a sales tactic that is dishonest – and because of mindful listening – was exposed.

So, invest in mindful listening.  See what does it does for you. We can help; we offer a variety of in person workshops and online classes.

Share your thoughts – let us know what you think of this post and how we can be of service!

Mindful Change

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Change.  Change is constant yet people resist change.  There are many reasons why people resist change; everything from it’s too different from what is ‘normal’ to being forced to change.

Though this is true reality, so are the advantages to change.  I find that many people already know benefits of change.  Heck, I’ve feel the same way myself and can write a laundry list of benefits.  What I’ve found is that in the sea of reasons and benefits, people seek questions to help them with the process of first, deciding on to make the plunge (or not), and second, people are looking for help with knowing what to ask themselves.

I’ve listed a few questions to help with these needs.  These questions are mindful questions; they address surface problems and uncover root causes.  Read them over.  Sit with them for a while.  Write down the first 10 answers that come to mind.  Review the responses later that day, a day later, and then 1 week later; make changes and adjustments to your responses.  After a week has passed ask yourself and answer the question: What do I want to do? Then you’ll have an answer.  For now.  For this moment in time.

  • Mindful Questions to the Advantages to Change
  • What are the advantages? To me, personally?
  • What are the results? What will they be? How would I describe/communicate them to others?  **If the details are unclear, revise to the point where they are clear and you could explain to someone else.
  • How do the advantages fit with my values and beliefs, the stuff I know to be “true” from experience and with my needs?
  • How will this work for me? What is my overall sense or “test” to know that it’s working?

How did this work for you?  Share with me your comments and questions!

Corporate Policies Gone Bad

Corporate policies. Every company has them, every leadership team develops them.  Once developed, employees are spoon-fed and even become cheerleaders of their company’s policies.  Employees take pride in memorizing and knowing by heart these policies! Corporate policies offer structure, a consistent way of doing things, ease of training during the on boarding process, and can even support strategic initiatives.  These all seem within reason and good business decisions, right?  Yes and no.  Yes, when they solve problems, provide guidance and structure, and are adaptable.  No, when corporate policies backfire quicker than Cher’s backhand to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck providing a “snap out of it” wake-up call to both the customer, company  and the company.  Where might , you ask,  does this happen?  In the front lines…in customer service.

Have you ever called a company call center with a problem and were given the candid answer of, “I’m sorry, Miss, but our company policy is……” Yet, what the customer hears is, “I’m not going to solve your problem.”

I experienced two of these situations this week (hence, which prompted me to write this blog).  My first problem that I needed solving was with our home’s HVAC system.  In Minnesota, while it’s not snowing yet (yes, giggle if you will) we did experience a 40+ degree temperature drop.  The day I went to turn on the heat there was nothing.  Okay. Not a problem.  I pay for an extra service with our energy provider that allows us access to 24/7/365 emergency service.  When scheduling the customer service person suggested I check the batteries of the thermostat (that’s nice…thinking of possible solutions) and scheduled us for the earliest appointment on Sunday.  Again, I didn’t think it was a problem…we’d bundle up and get cozy and Sunday was only a few days away.  I did replace the batteries and still no change.

Then in typical Minnesota fashion, the temperature dropped even further.  Regardless if the body feels a drop from 100 to 60 degrees or 70 to 36 degrees, the first time during a season – it’s COLD!  Our house temperature was 65 degrees and tonight the temps are expected to drop even further.  Not a problem, (right?), as I thought I’d just call the utility company back and take advantage of our pre-paid emergency service.   WRONG!  When on the phone with customer service I explained that I’d like to receive same day service and was told, “We are not servicing same day heat or furnace related calls yet as it’s before our winter season service date.  The temperatures are not below freezing.” What?  Then I kindly (yes, I was kind and didn’t turn into Medusa) replied that I pay for this service and would like to get someone out today.  Again, I got the customer service representative proudly regurgitating company policy and she even said, “This is our company policy.” Did she provide me with a solution?  No.  Did she care?  No and that was clear from her tone.  Was she doing her job?  She was doing what she’s been told to do and say. What did I do?  I told her she wasn’t providing me with a solution and asked to speak to a manager.

The manager came on the line, confirmed my account, and then made the comment, “yeah, the recent drop feels really cold.  Would you mind holding for a moment and I’ll speak to a dispatcher to see if we can get out servicing you sooner.”  Wow!  This team lead lady made me feel like at least she heard and understood my problem and was doing something to help to solve it.  When she came back on the line I was told someone would come out today.  Which is great.  Problem solved.

As a business owner though, I cringe at this company policy.  It will deter current customers from renewing this extra option which means loss of customers which means loss of renewing revenue – OUTCH! I’d say to the company leaders: go back and review these corporate policies and create something that solves your customer’s problems (not to mention keeping those renewal revenues accumulating).

The second corporate policy fiasco this week was with scheduling tennis lessons.  While it might seem frivolous, those of you who’ve been reading my twitter feed know that I’ve recently taken tennis lessons which is all part of use-of-mindfulness-for-self; doing the things that you’ve “always” wanted to do is a common outcome of Mindful Living.  For me, one of those things is playing tennis and love it; it helps me reduce stress, I’ve gotten stronger, and it’s a nice way to connect with others.  At my gym, the fall tennis schedule came out and as a mom I’m juggling everyone’s schedules – thank goodness for my iPhone!

I contacted the tennis desk asking about the Saturday morning class.  The time is perfect and right after the kid’s swim classes which to me means let’s-get’it-done-efficiency.  The service person shared that the club wouldn’t start the class with only 1 person registering and the tennis manager would call to talk with me about the class.  Okay.  Cool.  NOT!  After  playing voice-mail tag and talking twice without a solution, then talking to 2 other instructors,  I was without a solution to the problem due to corporate policy.  Corporate policy dictates a minimum of 2 registered people to start a class.  Fine. My husband registered as the second person.  Oh, but wait…the company policies get better…each tennis pro manages their own schedules; one pro was not teaching on Saturday, another could teach but only 1 of the 4 classes, and the tennis manager offered me this, “well, I guess I could do some calling and see if we could get other people to join and then start a class…and I’ll have to find someone to teach….”  All of this back and forth volley was a waste of time.  One thing I don’t like to waste is time.

This company had a customer, not just 1 but 2 practically begging for tennis lessons saying, “PLEASE TAKE OUR MONEY – WE WANT TO BUY” and yet the club lost 2 sales because of corporate policies and because their people could not provide a solution to solve their customer’s problem.  Does the problem still exist?  Nope.  I came up with an alternative and “bought” from someone else.  Would I have preferred buy from my club?  You bet.  But given the situation, I got creative and solved my own problem.  Will I buy from them again?  I’m not sure.  As a business owner, again, I cringe at seeing these types of situations where employees hold to their heart corporate policies that do the exact opposite of what’s intended, that create more problems, provide dissatisfaction instead of a WOW customer experience, and bleed the company’s revenue sources.  Club leaders take note – this isn’t working….

In practical mindfulness, sticking to something that no longer serves its purpose, no longer works, and adds to problems…that’s called “mindlessness.”  Other terms and phrases to describe “mindlessness” are “lights are on but no one’s home,” “zombie,” and auto-pilot.  These corporate policy situations are examples of “mindlessness.”   When employees lack of awareness they become mesmerized (heck, hypnotized) by corporate policies that don’t work and contribute to the already stack of business problems organizations face every single day.  So, be mindful, be aware, people.  Reevaluate corporate policies, reflect, and answer questions such as:  what’s created to work and is it working, what’s being done because we’ve been told to, does it make sense (really?), does it solve our customer’s problems, and if not, then change it!  Create corporate policies where employees can be mindful and aware, that solve customer problems, and provide both financial (renewals) and non-financial (wowed customers) rewards to the organization.