Thursday, December 4, 2008

Top Time Saving Tip for Working Moms



Learn my number one time-saving tip for busy families. If you implement this consistently into your life, it will save you time, money and your sanity - I guarantee it!

And if you would like a modified version of our menu and grocery list, send me an email at nicola[at]executivemomscoach[dot]com and I'll gladly pass it along.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Present AND Productive

So I've got these long to-do lists for every area of my life. Even when I am not working on one of the items on one of the lists, I am thinking about the lists and what needs to be added. I've gotten where I am in life because I can and do GET STUFF DONE. In fact, on a really good day (and even on some bad days), I can get multiple things done at one time. Yep, I am a multi-tasker.

And I am guessing you are too!

We are rewarded for being multi-taskers. We are proud of being multi-taskers. We survive by being multi-taskers. And all of this technology; well, it just enables us to be even greater multi-taskers.

But here's the challenge. As a spiritual, grounded person, I am also practicing mindfulness, which involves being present and in the moment.

Present and in the moment. Master multi-tasker. Can the two go hand and hand?

I am hearing from more and more busy, high-achieving, professional working moms that their desire is to be able to be more present when they are with their kids, AS WELL AS productive at both work and at home so that they can continue to be successful and things don't fall apart.

I do think this is possible. In my life and in the work I do with my clients, it's achievable by applying the following equation.

Simplicity + Structure + Self-Love = Serenity

Simplicity comes from simplifying our lives. This means getting clear about our priorities and then removing all the things from our plates (or our house or desk or car or ....) that don't fall under those priorities at this point in time. You don't have to do it all right now (and your kids don't have to either).

Creating a structure or routine that allows you time to be highly productive and knock things off your to-do list, as well as undistracted time with the kids, is key. Following a structure that says, "okay, it's Sunday evening; now is when I focus on getting the house tidied up," allows you to be present in the task at hand. Because you have a structure in place, you don't have to be thinking or worrying about when you are going to tidy up the house when you are playing a game with the kids after dinner. You know it's going to get done.

Self-Love is about having compassion for ourselves. It's about giving ourselves a break, cutting ourselves some slack and taking some time to focus on our needs. When you give to yourself (even if it's simply a 20 minute bath), it allows you to be more productive when you want to get things done and more present when you want to just BE with your kids.

When you simplify and you apply structure around your priorities and you provide yourself with self-love you will experience greater serenity in your life. You will feel more productive, inspired and motivated during the times of being productive, whether at work or around the house. You will also feel more present and in-the-moment when you are with your kids, as you will know that there will be time later for you to GET STUFF DONE.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Qualities of a Great Man

In honor of my husband's birthday, I thought I would dedicate this blog entry to him and share some of the qualities of a great man (which he is).

Last year I interviewed nearly fifty professional women on the topic of having "the best of both worlds" for a project I am working on. The one common denominator that influenced whether the women felt that they did, in deed, have the best of both worlds was the level of involvement from their spouse or partner. Those who felt that they were doing a good job at, and enjoying more, both their career and motherhood said that they had a man at home who was either just as involved, if not more so, on the home front.

I am blessed to have one of these men in my own life.
  • He understands the value of family time: My husband shares with me a desire for regular family meals. It is uncommon in our house for us to have dinner without all family members around the table. This doesn't mean that we eat late. Instead, my husband makes it a point to be home around 6:00 p.m. so that we can all eat together. This is his choice and is based on he and I communicating about our shared vision for our family. He could choose to work later, but he knows that the consequences of doing so are lost time and memories with his kids...and the wrath of his wife who would not be happy with a different choice.
  • He strikes a nice balance between playing with the kids and parenting the kids: My husband is happy to get down on the ground a play with the girls, whether it's Tickle Monster or doll house. He will take them to the park and play tag or try out the equipment. However, he does not leave all the discipline and tougher parenting issues to me. He is right there, by my side, when we need to give time-outs, have a difficult conversation, or enforce the rules. He often reminds me that boundaries and consistency - and play - are the keys to raising happy, healthy and well-balanced kids.
  • He wants to protect and provide, but not dictate: In my previous life, I had a hard time not being in control of everything. I also had a hard time letting someone else take care of me. Over time, and with the help of my husband, I've learned how wonderful it can feel to have an actual partner; someone who shares the load, steps up when the other is down, and makes it clear that he has my back and is watching out for the best interests of our family. He's not dictating or controlling any part of our life, instead he is sharing the responsibility of life.
  • He really listens to me and hears me: Just the other night, after he came home from work and I shared with him how exhausted I was feeling, he immediately told me to get in to bed and let him handle dinner and baths. My "I don't want to be weak" side struggled with this, but I allowed myself to receive the gift. After he got the kids settled he came in to talk to me and find out more about what was going on. In that moment, I felt like I was so loved and cared for. He really heard me when he came home and supported me in taking care of myself.
  • He does his fair share (if not more): I can't tell you how many times I have heard a fellow mom tell me that her marriage was saved by the cleaning lady. From what I know about other men and relationships, I understand that the topic of cleaning the house can be one that sends many marriages into turmoil. That is not our case. Again, my husband sees our house and the chores that go along with it as a joint responsibility. We share the value of a clean and healthy house and a vision of working together for it to be the way we like. We have a list of all the house related tasks and we've easily divided up who does what. It's become so relaxed that now we may even switch chores from week to week, but without much conversation or issue around doing so.
I could go on and on. But I think I'll stop for today.

Consider this: What qualities and actions are you grateful for in your own husband or partner? Focus on those first. If there are things that aren't feeling okay, get really clear about why they are bothering you (is it about respect, difference in parenting styles, not feeling loved) and then set up a time to have a heart-to-heart with your partner about how you are feeling and what you'd like to see change.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Who needs sleep? I DO!

I think lack of sleep is one of the biggest challenges moms in leadership face.

Regardless of whether a kid was up sick during the night, you had a presentation to get ready for which kept you up late, you laid awake pondering your next business idea, or your husband's snoring kept you up, the reality is that no matter how many hours of shut eye you get, the next day you still have to get up and function as a mother and a business leader or owner.


Despite my own children sleeping through the night, kicking the dog out of the room so I don't hear her active dreams, and my husband's snoring becoming non-existent due to him dropping 20 pounds (Thank God!), I have not been sleeping well lately. I am tired of trying to figure out why and trying to figure out what the magic "thing" is that I need to be doing (or not doing). I am just plain tired.


And yet, this morning I was up at the crack of dawn to get my little girl dressed as Cinderella for her school costume party and to prepare for an important obligation to facilitate a staff retreat for a client of mine. Simply, these things needed to be done. Tired or not.


So what is my point here? I am not even sure...I am just so tired.

But I guess I just wanted to take moment to acknowledge that there are times when we need to slow down, listen to our bodies, say no to certain things in order to take care of ourselves, and do what we can to get more sleep because it is so important to our health and happiness.

And I also want to acknowledge that when you are in the role of an executive mother, there are also those times when you just have to dig in, find the energy from some deeper Source, get as centered as you possibly can, do what needs to be done, and trust that it will be good enough.


For me, today was a day when I needed to do the latter. However, I have Thursday penciled into my calendar as day to catch my breath...and hopefully some ZZZZZZZZZZZZs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Blend Like No Other

So the new buzz word these days seems to be work/life "blend" rather then work/life "balance". I actually like the word blend and can see how it's definitely a more accurate description of what I strive for within my own life.

It's not just a blend between work and the rest of life, it's a blend between caring enough about things and not too much. It's a blend between being present and being effective. It's a blend between my professional self and my personal self. It's a blend between functioning from the heart and functioning from the head.

Well, last week I had an interesting "blend" of business owner and mother as I attempted to have some professional photos taken that I will be using on my new web site and various promotional pieces. I had the photographer, Ashley Forrette (whom I highly recommend), lined up for weeks, the outfits picked out, and the expectation that this would be a quick and painless process since she was coming to my house and there would be no distractions.

It just so happens that on that day, my daughter needed to stay home sick. She was on the mend, but she deserved a day of rest and I thought, what the heck, I've only got a little photo shoot.

When Ashley arrived I my daughter was just finishing her breakfast, and although I was dressed and ready to go, I was surrounded by peanut butter fingers and a needy child. As Ashley got her stuff set-up in the backyard, I attempted to get my girl cleaned up and distracted so we could get going with the shoot.

I kid you not when I tell you that THE moment I sat down in the chair for Ashely to start taking pictures, my three-year-old came to the backdoor and announced that she needed to go poopy.

Embarrassing? Yes. Reality of a mom? Yes.

Now, my kid can go to the bathroom herself, but for that type of...um...activity, she still needs some assistance with the...um...clean-up. Usually, a trip to the bathroom for this type of activity takes my daughter less then two minutes.

Not today.

As I stood in the bathroom tapping my toe asking her, "are done yet? now? how about now?" I could not help but laugh at the timing and the reality of the blend between work and motherhood.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finished up in the bathroom, I stuck in the movie Aladdin and I didn't hear from the little one again until I walked in the room after the shoot.

I am a big believer and teacher of decreasing the multi-tasking so that you can be more present for the things that are important to you. But let's face it. Some days you have to do a little extra "balancing" and "blending" in order to make the executive mom thing work.

Interested in how the photos turned out? I'll post a few later and let you vote which one you think I should use on the web site!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Unfortunate Reminder

I just got word that the father of one of my step-daughter's best friends died earlier this week.

Wow. Talk about a blow. Talk about a WAKE UP CALL.

My mind can't help but wander to the heartache that his wife of ten years must be going through. Or how his 8 year-old and 5 year-old daughters are doing.

He was only a few weeks older then my own husband. Unbelievable.

It's times like these that zap me back to what's really important.

It is reminder to:
  • Tell your spouse and children how much they mean to you.
  • Take the time and effort to stay connected to your spouse and not let the relationship run on "auto-pilot".
  • Check in with yourself and ask, "Where am I settling? If I die tomorrow, what would I regret? What changes can I make today to start living a more passionate, authentic life?"
  • Make sure that you have talked through the unthinkable with your spouse and have taken the actions that will support either one of you if, God forbid, something like this happens in your family.
  • Focus on all that you are grateful for and all that is good in the world.
  • Choose to be present and engaged with those around you. STOP multi-tasking and consciously BE in the moment--those are the moments that you, your spouse and your children will remember.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just BE it!

We are a society of 'doers'. Yes, achieving what we want in life does take action--you do have to do things in order to get where you want to go. However, we are also a society that tends to focus much more on the doing and less on the being.

What I teach my clients is that in order to achieve (i.e. attract) that which you want, you've got to align the doing with the being. Taking action for the sake of "making things happen" or out of fear can actually be at the determent of achieving what you want.

However, getting clear about what you really, really want and why you really want it and then choosing to be the type of person you really want to be will lead to inspired action, which comes from a place that feels good and feels easeful (this is my made-up word meaning, full of ease, which is different from 'easy'.)

Part of my job as a coach is to help people take the action that will bring them closer to that which they want. I am all for goals, plans and taking action, but the real magic really happens when the doing is in concert with the being.
  • How do you want to be in the world?
  • What type of mother do you want to be? Regardless of what you do for your children, how do you want them to remember you? Do you want to be present, warm, loving, engaged?
  • What type of leader do you want to be, in your business or in the company you work for? Regardless of all that you do to get the job done and keep the business going, how do you want those who work with you or for you to remember you? Do you want to be present, inspiried, creative?
  • How can you incorporate more being into your life today?

Taking action and feeling miserable while you do it doesn't make you more successful, it just makes you miserable.

Connecting with your being and how you want to feel first, and then taking action that aligns with that will not only lead you to greater success, but you'll be better able to enjoy the journey and the success along the way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Making Molehills Out of Mountains

We'll see if I can make this title work. Humor me for a minute....

How do you work towards a BIG goal when you are already very busy and trying to juggle so much? How do you make some BIG changes that you know will lead you closer to where you want to be in your life when you already feel overwhelmed just from getting through life?


Often times what stops us from doing what we really need to do to get where we say we want to be is the feeling that the goal is unobtainable given your current situation.


Here's the (not-so-secret) secret.


You must turn your 'mountain' goals into mini 'molehill' goals.


Here's an example:


I was working with a client earlier this week on some life and business strategy planning. The primary reason she hired me is because she really wants to be working less hours so she can have more time for her family and for herself. One of her goals is to pick her daughter up from school at 3:00 p.m. each day. At this point in time, that feels totally overwhelming and unattainable since she's so, so busy with her business.


As we are in the midst of creating a strategic plan for her business and building up the infrastructure to take her from home-based, small business mode to office-based, multi-million dollar mode, she just can't get out of the office each day to pick up her daughter and feel good about it.


The mountain: picking up her daughter at 3:00 p.m. each day and being free enough to be present and enjoy the time in mommy mode.


At this time, the mountain feels insurmountable to her.


So, we've made a little molehill to start the ball rolling.


The molehill: picking up her daughter one day a week at 3:00 p.m. and taking the rest of the day off to enjoy time in mommy mode, and perhaps even do something just for herself.


Once we looked at starting with one day a week, my client felt more optimistic (and excited) that what she really wants is achievable.


In order to really support her in taking this day off, we came up with a structure that would help her make this change in her weekly schedule.

  • She chose a day of the week to commit to that would be the least likely to be impacted by travel and meetings (for her it was Wednesday).
  • She shared this commitment with her husband and would also be sharing it with her daughter so that they could help hold her accountable.
  • She asked her husband to support her in this goal by agreeing to take on the Wednesday morning routine with the kids so she can get out the door a bit earlier on the day she needs to leave the office early.
  • She agreed to block out the time on her schedule and hold it as a Very Important Playdate (VIP) with her daughter. This means not scheduling things over it and making sure she gets off calls and wraps-up projects so she can get out the door by 2:45 p.m.
  • She agreed to tell her employees about her commitment so that they too could support her by not forwarding on phone calls later in the day that day and encouraging her to get out the door when she needs to.
Now that she has a made a mini molehill goal out of her larger mountain goal, with some very specific support to help her make this change in her schedule, I am confident that she is on her way to achieving that which she really, really wants (more days of picking up her daughter from school).

Got a mountain of a goal that feels too big and insurmountable to achieve based on your current situation? Want some help finding a good mini molehill to get you started in the right direction? Contact me today to discuss how coaching can support you being your best in both worlds.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Worth the Four Minutes

I am a big fan of dancing. I love dancing. Dancing makes me feel happy. I don't dance nearly enough.

One of the things I hear from clients over and over is a desire to "lighten up"--in their work, in their parenting, and just generally in life. There's a desire to stop taking things so seriously, to laugh more and have more fun.

Hopefully this short video will help...at least for four seconds.

When you are done watching the video, I encourage you to do whatever it is you feel inspired to do in the moment.

Enjoy! I know I sure did.



Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life Lessons for Kids and From Kids -- VIDEO

video

Think you are the only one who feels uncomfortable meeting new people and trying to remember names? Think again.

Check out how a five minute conversation with my 3-year-old daughter ended up being a perfect opportunity for a important life lesson for her...and for me.


P.S. Still trying to figure this video thing out. There's got to be a way to make the initial freeze-frame a little more, um, glamorous or something.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tips for Taking the Challange Out of Finding the Right Preschool

From the stories I heard from friends and the comments I read on the mommy message boards, finding a new child care/preschool for my daughter was not only going to be a challange, but perhaps even torturous. After ignoring my maternal instinct long enough that it was time for my daughter to move on from her current child care situation (a pit in your stomach each time you drop off and pick up your kid is a pretty good message from your own Internal Guidance System that it's not the right match anymore), I prepared myself for what I had convinced myself would be a long, frustrating and tedious process of finding a new school.

With an attitude like that, it's no surprise that that is just how my experience began.

I wanted the prefect place to just magically appear one day, but from what I was told, that is just not how preschool shopping goes around here . I started asking around, I called a few places, and eventually I visited a few places. Each time there were things I liked and things I didn't; sometimes it was more of a feeling that it wasn't right then anything else. There was even one place that I really wanted it to be the "right" so badly that I went back to observe twice. After witnessing a near disastrous bathroom situation with twelve 3-year-olds, I walked out of the building in tears that I would need to yet try again.

After a few hours of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to apply my own coaching techniques and what I know about the Law of Attraction to help me make this frustrating process much more enjoyable and easier.

I am happy to say that in less then a week we found the perfect place for my daughter. It's not a place that is heavily advertised in the area. In fact, it had not come up on any of my previous searches I did for area preschools and I hadn't even heard of it until a friend mentioned that her friend's children went there. Once I looked into the place, nearly everyone I mentioned it to either had children who had gone there, were going there or knew someone whose kids were going there. Which is particularly amazing considering they only take twelve kids at one time! My daughter's transition to her new school two weeks ago has been seamless and I drop her off and pick her up each day with a feeling of joy, peace and gratitude.

Below are some tips for taking the challange out of finding the right preschool or day care for your child.


1. Focus on what you want, not what you don't want:
This is the fundamental principle behind the Law of Attraction. What you focus on is what you get. The more I focused on the process of finding a school being challenging, frustrating and hard work, that's exactly what I experienced. As soon as I shifted my perspective and got very clear about what it was we really, really wanted for our daughter, it really did just magically show up.


2. Get really, really clear as to what you want:
Sit down with your spouse or partner and make your wish list for the most ideal place for your child. Paint a picture of what the place will look and feel like. Think in as much detail as possible and consider questions such as:
  • What is the size of the place? How many children? How many teachers?
  • How do the teachers/child care providers treat the children?
  • How far away is the place from your house?
  • What's the price range?
  • What's the ideal schedule for your family? How many days? How long each day?
  • What type of activities would you like them to offer?
  • What type of outdoor space do they have?
  • How do they handle communication between teachers and parents?
  • What is the primary learning philosophy? Play-based, Montessori, something else?
  • What's the interaction like between parents?
  • What is the age range of the children?
3. Know your deal-breakers: Creating your wish list is a key part to easily finding the right place. However, just like many wish lists, some items on the list carry a heavier weight then others. Prioritize your list and indicate which items are essential (i.e. the deal-breakers). Know which items must match up with the place in order for it be a clear YES.

4. Spread the word:
Once you have a clear picture as to what you want, tell as many people as you can what you are looking for. Let the options come to you as opposed to thinking you have to go on a mission to find the places yourself. The clearer you are as to what you are looking for, the easier it will be for people to pass along places they know about.


5. Pay attention to what you hear and feel:
Trust your own Internal Guidance System when talking to others about possibilities and when you start contacting places to interview. Listen to what is said, but also be aware of what is not said and what your gut instinct is telling you.


6. Check places against your deal-breakers:
Don't waste your time going to look at places that do not meet your essential list. Interview the owner, director or child care provider over the phone before scheduling a tour or meeting them face-to-face. It's too easy to lose sight of your deal-breakers when you are in the midst of viewing a place or meetings someone in person and your emotions of wanting it to be the right place or person kick in...only to find out later that they don't have space for the days you need or their pick-up time is too early for schedule.


7. Take some action, but don't force it to happen:
Taking inspired action is also a key component of helping the Law of Attraction work in your favor. But there's a difference between inspired action that comes from doing the previous steps versus taking action out of fear that you won't find something. Take action that keeps you feeling positive about the process. If you start feeling negative, take a break and recommit to your intention of this being an easy and enjoyable process and reconnect to your vision of what you want.


8. Trust:
There are many great preschools, child care facilities and nannies out there. Your perfect match will show up. Don't settle for anything less then what's on your essentials list or that doesn't feel right to you. If you do, there's good chance you'll be back doing this same search sooner then you'd like.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm ba-ack....

Twelve days away for a family vacation. Actually, I am going to stop calling it a vacation, because it was anything but that. It was a family trip.

Seven of those twelve days my step-daughter had a fever, which prompted two trips to the doctor and one trip for a chest x-ray. Ends up that she developed pneumonia. Not fun for her and not fun for us.

We did have many moments of fun throughout the trip, but between a sick kid and at times ten people under one roof, there was a constant current of worry, frustration and tension running through the beach house.

This trip was such a reminder to me about the impact of ones attitude. We had no control over my step-daughter getting sick. And as hard as we tried, we really had very little control over whether she felt good or was getting better. What we did have control over was our attitudes and how we chose to deal with the situation at hand.

Don't get me wrong, there were times when my attitude wasn't even close to the positive end of the spectrum. There was more then once where I felt sorry for myself, felt frustrated with my child, and felt mad at my husband. But the majority of time I chose to take things as they came. My husband and I found a pretty good balance between taking care of one sick child and at the same time being available for our other child and the other family members we were "vacationing" with.

Last night I met up with some mom friends for drinks and catch up. After sharing about my trip--challenges and all--they each in turn shared about their weeks. Interestingly enough, each had their own challenges along the way, some related to traveling, some related to home renovations, and some related to family pets dying. We all spent some time giving words of encouragement and sympathy, and then, we all started laughing.

For this is life. Life is the highs and the lows. Life is challenges and the victories. It's not about doing everything perfect, striving for being happy at all times, or "just getting by". It's about knowing that life happens; that people get sick, home renovations don't always go as planned, and pets die. And it's choosing to be grateful for all you have and are in those moments; choosing an attitude that raises you through the tough times, and then being about to look back and laugh--at yourself and at the situation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why?

If you have a three or four year old then you are familiar with the question, "why?" Children this age have a curiosity for why things are the way they are, how things work the way they work or why they do what it is they do. Either that or they just know that the asking the question multiple times to their parent will nearly push them over the edge.

For argument sake, let's assume that the question comes from curiosity. That curiously can drive even the most patient parent nearly crazy partly because we don't always know how to answer the question...or we are answering the question with a pre-programed answer that doesn't really serve us or our child.

As I've heard my daughter ask "why" more frequently these days it has occurred to me that part of what she is doing is questioning the assumptions or beliefs that us adults are living by.

Why can't she have dessert before dinner?

Why can't she jump on the bed, even when I am standing right there?

Why can't she sing in the grocery store?

Why can't she wear her hat, gloves and scarf to school, even when it's 60 degrees outside?

When she asks me these questions, I have found myself stopping and really questioning the why. It is a safety issue? Is it something that will negatively impact someone else? Does it really matter? Is it out of fear of how others will view me or my child?

More often then not I am finding that the 'rules' I am stating or facts that I am teaching (i.e. dessert is for after dinner only) are actually just opinions that I can choose to pass onto my child or not. Unfortunately, usually they are things that I am concerned will reflect poorly on me or her.

Heck, sometimes I like eating dessert before dinner. Is it going to harm her or someone else? Nope. Does it really matter if she eats the Hersey's Kiss at 5:00 p.m. rather then 7:00 p.m.? Probably not.

This leads me to you. Do you ask "why" to the rules, beliefs and facts you tell yourself or others tell you? Are you questioning that which doesn't sit right or feel right for you?

I have a client who is a very successful business woman. In a relatively short period of time she has created a well-respected, financially healthy and interesting business. However, now that she has two young kids she is clear that she can not keep working the way she has been working and have the type of personal life she'd like. When I asked her
why she had started her business in the first place and why she wanted to continue the business into the future, she found herself a bit stumped.

On some level she had lost sight of the "why" behind her choice to start her own business, and in fact when she checked in about it, she realized that why she started it in the first place was different then why she wanted to continue it into the future.

Why are you making the choices you are making?

Why are you holding back from doing work you love, or spending more time with your kids, or reconnecting with your husband?

Why do you want to be a leader, a mother, a wife?

Why do you want to have it all and what does that mean to you?

Asking the question may be the easy part. Answering the question can sometimes be scary. But usually we are scared of that which must be revealed in order for us to grow and align with that which we really, really want.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why We Need Children's Books

Upon a recommendation from a friend, I just got the book I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont for my daughter.

After just one reading, it was clear that this book has am important message for not just for our kids, but for all the adults in the world as well. It's worth having a copy around the house to read to the kids, or for yourself!

"I like myself!
I'm glad I'm me.

There's no one else
I'd rather be.

I like my eyes, my ears, my nose.
I like my fingers and my toes.

I like me wild.
I like me tame.
I like me different
and the same.

I like me fast. I like me slow.
I like me everywhere I go.

I like me on the inside, too,
for all I think and say and do.

Inside, outside, upside down,
from head to toe and all around,
I like it all! It all is me!
And me is all I want to be.

And I don't care in any way
what someone else may think or say.

I may be called a silly nut
or crazy cuckoo bird--so what?
I'm having too much fun, you see,
for anything to bother me!

Even when I look a mess.
I still don't like me any less,
'cause nothing in this world, you know
can change what's deep inside, and so...

No matter if they stop and stare,
no person
ever
anywhere
can make me feel that what they see
is all there really is to me.

I'd still like me with fleas or warts,
or with a silly snout that snorts,

or knobby knees or hippo hips
or purple polka-dotted lips,

or beaver breath or stinky toes
or horns protruding from my nose,

or--yikes!--with spikes all down my spine,
or hair that's like a porcupine.

I still would be the same, you see...

I like myself because I'm ME!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Definition of Success

Wow. Has it really been nearly a month since my last post?

Seems so.

Life has been keeping me on my toes lately. Between children out of school, searching for a new preschool, family visitors, family health issues, business growth and summer fun, time to write here dropped down on the priority list.

But I am here now, and that is what matters. My business success and life enjoyment is not dependent on how many blog entries I post per week or per month.

The theme of Redefining Success has been coming up a lot lately for many of my clients. It seems as if there are many women who are realizing that it's time to look at the idea of success in a new way.

As women, we've been told over the years that we can "have it all". However, we've also been told that to have it all we must be Super Women, working crazy hours at work and home, tending to everyone's needs but our own, and sacrificing our health, relationships and fun. Is that how you want to define success?

What if success looked something like this:
  • I do work that I really, really enjoy and which I know I am good at.
  • I make good money doing work that I really, really enjoy.
  • The time I spend on my career/business supports my professional goals, but is also a means to support my personal goals. Therefore, I have a schedule that allows me time for myself, for my family and for my relationships.
  • I am physically, emotionally and mentally healthy and I've found ways to support myself in these areas in order to maintain that health.
  • I am a present and active mother, but I am not defined only as a mother.
  • I have a productive and engaging career, but I am not defined only as my career.
  • I have a fun and fulfilling relationship, but I am not defined as only a wife/partner.
  • I operate from a place of what is best for my highest good (and the highest good of those around me) as opposed to what I think I SHOULD do or based on what others are doing.
How are you defining success these days? If you are operating from an old definition of success, or someone else's definition of success, there's a good chance that you are constantly feeling like you aren't quite as successful as you'd like to be or should be.

Begin creating a new definition of success today and see how it shifts your life.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tips for Nurturing Your Relationship

Life with kids is busy, right? You barely feel like you have enough time to get the necessities done (feed and clean kids, take care of house, work, appointments, etc.). For many people, the two areas of our life which have the greatest impact on our overall happiness and satisfaction fall to the very, very, VERY bottom of the 'Life List'.

1) Time to nurture self
2) Time to nurture your love relationship

Let's talk about the relationship piece here.

Of course, over time and with more responsibilities added to the mix (i.e. kids), there is going to be less focus on 'couple time'. However, when we choose to let everything else in life trump nurturing our love relationship, we are asking for trouble.

Parents wonder why the spark has burnt out or why in a few short years they have gone from being connected and in love to not even knowing who they are married to anymore.

It's called a lack of nurturing.

Take a plant for example. A really strong, hearty plant may be able to survive for awhile with no water, attention and nurturing. But that's really all it's doing: it's surviving. And over time it becomes weaker and weaker and less able to handle the tough times (extreme weather, a move, being trampled, etc.). Give a plant with good roots even just a little water, attention and nurturing and that can be the difference between it surviving versus thriving.

However, a less sturdy plant may not last long at all without these essential elements.

So it is for a relationship. A relationship with strong roots (foundation) can usually survive without the needs of both people being met continuously; without active love, attention and nurturing. But you are simply surviving, not thriving.

A relationship that doesn't have strong roots or is already weak may not be able to survive without the essential elements of time, connection and nurturing.

A little, consistent nurturing can go a long way and help deepen the roots of any relationship.

Nurturing is what helps a plant grow stronger.
Nurturing is what keeps a plant alive.
Nurturing is what helps a relationship grow stronger.
Nurturing is what is keeps a relationship alive.

What are you doing to nurture your love relationship? You don't have to spend a lot of time to nurture it, but you do need to give it some heart. This is one of those areas where the idea of "quality over quantity" is really true. Your nurturing acts or moments do not need to take long.
  • It's the small things like little notes to simply remind your spouse that you are thinking of him/her.
  • It's the conversations beyond, "what's going on with the kids?" and "what's the schedule for next week?"
  • It's the few minutes of snuggling before you fall asleep.
  • It's taking a few brief moments to actually look in your partners eyes when they walk in the door and greet them with warmth.
  • It's making one night a week your night, whether you have a babysitter or not, to eat dinner together (alone), sit on the couch and talk, or work on a project together; to connect and interact on a deeper level then the practicalities of life and parenting.
Tips for success:
  1. Set the intention now to nurture your relationship each and every day.
  2. Be open and inspired by what ideas you have (big or small) to support this intention.
  3. When a thought comes to mind ("I want to call Mike and tell him I am thinking of him"), act on it if you can in that moment. Don't over-analyze it or rationalize it away. Take the inspired action. Those are the ones that usually take the least time, are the most pleasurable for us, and have the best results.
  4. Start each day with the reminder and intention to notice and act on small ways to nurture your relationship.
  5. End each day checking in with yourself as to what you did to nurture your relationship.
  6. Better yet, discuss the idea of consciously nurturing your relationship with your spouse/partner and do the checking in with each other at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Step'n Up and Step'n Out

There's been a consistent theme amongst my clients lately and even in my own life.

It's a calling, nudging and knowing that it's time to own who we are and more fully express ourselves in the world. It's been said that we teach that what we still need to learn. I find it no surprise that as I feel called and moved to "step up my game" and stop "holding back" that those around me, clients in particular, are experiencing the same thing. It's an honor to support them in doing so and it's a reminder for me in what I am still learning.

Where are you holding back? Is there a quiet (or perhaps not so quiet) nudging or knowing inside you that it's time to start living in a more authentic way? In a way that expresses who you are, without apologies or excuses?

If so, consider this:
  • If not now, when?
  • Which will you look back and regret more: step'n up and step'n out and learning along the way...or "playing it safe" and holding back until it's too late?
  • What are you more afraid of: success or failure?
  • What will others be saying about you at your 80th birthday party if you do start living in a more authentic way and owning your power and voice today? What will others be saying about you if you don't and nothing changes?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with others who are building you up and will support you in expressing yourself more fully? Or are you surrounding yourself with others who "keep you in your place" and remind you that you being more in the world is not possible?
  • What one way can you support yourself today in more fully expressing yourself and owning your voice in the world?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Applying Leadership Principles to your Personal Life: Priorities

John C. Maxwell outlines “Priority Principles” in his book, Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. There are many books and resources which teach us about becoming effective and powerful leaders in our professional lives.

What about taking some of those same principles and applying them in your personal life?

Let’s look at some of Maxwell’s Priority Principles and focus them in the direction of our personal roles as mom, wife, partner, friend, family member and community member.

  • Priorities never “stay put”: Depending on where you are in life and what you want in life, your priorities are ever-changing. On a bigger level, before you have children, perhaps your career was at the top of the list. Once you have a family, perhaps that moves up and the career moves down. If you have health issues, that may move to the top. On a daily level, your priorities also can change based on which family member has what going on, what big work project is in front of you, which friend is going through a rough time, etc.

As Maxwell suggests, there are three pieces to the priority puzzle which can help you determine what priorities need to be where at any particular time.

  1. Evaluate your priorities on a regular basis (weekly, monthly). I encourage you to not only evaluate your priorities on a regular basis, but also get in the habit of discussing and evaluating your family priorities with your spouse/partner on a regular basis. Often arguments arise, resentment occurs, and disconnect sets-in when couples fail to share and discuss their individual and collective priorities, goals and dreams.
  2. Eliminate the items from your list that can be done by someone else. Where can you get help? What are the things you don’t want to do, don’t like to do, or aren’t good at doing? You can have it all, but you can’t DO it all. Delegate what can be done by someone else faster, easier or better then if you try to squeeze it in with everything else on your plate.
  3. Estimate how much time you want to spend of your top projects and priorities—now double that—and then work it into your schedule. As multi-taskers, we often underestimate the amount of time it will take to do things, but we also underestimate the amount of time we want to do things. If you end up saying yes to everything you are invited to on the weekends, thinking that you can just stop by this party for thirty minutes, and then catch twenty minutes of your kids game, and then spend an hour having coffee with a friend, only to find out that you would have loved to have stayed at the party longer, and then you were running late so you showed up at your kids game right when it was over, and then you had to end your great girl time talk with your friend in mid-conversation to make it to your next appointment….you see where I am going with this. How would it feel to say yes to less things so you have more time to enjoy your priorities.
  • You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything: What are the things that you can overlook? What details matter and which ones don’t? Do you feel like you don’t have time for everything because you are spending time on things that don’t really, really matter? Perfectionism and the desire to control everything are two vices that I see working moms struggle with again and again. Breaking perfectionism and letting go of some of the control, especially on the things that aren’t that important, will be your saving grace.
  • Too many priorities paralyze us: You know the feeling. Everything feels important and needs your attention and therefore nothing fully gets your attention. I see this over and over again with high-achieving, professional, successful moms. They are organized and effective at work, but then they get home and let things fall apart. They get home and feel exhausted, thus making decisions based on what's easiest, not necessarily what's best for them or their family. Overwhelm from the rest of life kicks in and chaos unfolds. This is why creating success strategies and solutions in your home and personal life can dramatically increase your overall life success, not to mention your sanity.
  • When little priorities demand too much of us, big problems arise: This is inline with overlooking what doesn’t really matter. When we don’t overlook the little things and they take our time and attention away from the big things, that’s when all chaos breaks loose. If you focus on the cleaning needs of the house in the moment when your children really need a few minutes of your time and attention, often the demand for your attention will increase. Stop. Give your kids (the bigger priority then the house) even just 15 minutes of your attention and love and I promise they will then give you plenty of time later for the house. Ignore their requests for your attention and the bigger their demands will become.
  • Time deadlines and emergencies force us to prioritize: Have you ever noticed that the times we have deadlines looming the more effective we tend to be the more we get done? Then there are those times when you have no deadline in sight and it seems as if the project or priority could just go on and on waiting for you to give it your attention. Deadlines do help make us effective and kick us into gear. However, because work deadlines seem to be more readily available then personal deadlines, I often see clients bump the personal priorities because of the professional deadlines. How can you start setting deadlines for your personal priorities in a way that helps motivate and kick you into gear to deliver on your word? If you’ve been saying over and over again that you and your husband need to start going on monthly dates, set the date and plan an event that requires tickets to be purchased or a reservation to be made. This will push you to find a babysitter and make whatever arrangements need to be made to follow-through with the priority. Same thing with taking time for yourself or your kids. Make a reservation for a day at the Spa and send an email to co-workers immediately letting them know you’ll be out of the office that day. Sit down with your child and look at the calendar. Set a date for your event and start making plans. Use the Law of Deadlines in your favor to help you make time for your personal priorities now, rather then later…later…later.
  • Too often we learn too late what is really important: As Senator Paul Tsongas said, “Nobody on his [or her] deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business [or cleaning the house].’ Unfortunately, for some, emergencies eliminate the chance to make different choices and set different priorities. Don’t wait for the emergencies or Wake Up Calls to occur to start making time for what really matters to you now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It IS Personal

I have heard on more than one occasion that you shouldn't mix the personal with the professional. Well, that's a bunch of B.S. The two are so inter-mixed, especially for those who are moms and who are doing work they love or feel they are doing what they are called to do on a professional level.

And what about the fact that when one is working, they are still a mother, a wife, a partner, a daughter, a friend, etc. Those aspects of your personal life don't just magically disappear when you are working.

Life--work and all--IS personal. It's an expression of who we are, what we love and what we stand for.

So thinking that there's some magical balance or line between your professional world and your personal world is part of what makes working women feel even more crazed. We are striving for something that is an impossibility.

Instead, think about what Total Life Success means to you. How do you want to define success on a personal and professional level? What would feel good to you? How do you want to feel as a mother? As a wife? As a leader? As a woman?

Use how you feel as the barometer for your success. If you have a nagging feeling about working through dinner a lot lately and not eating with the family, make a different choice that feels better. If you've been thinking a lot about wanting some time to do some work outside the home that supports your professional interests, but haven't out of guilt or fear of how it will impact your family, make a different choice that feels better.

It's not about defining yourself in this box or that box and expecting you to only be this during these hours and that during these hours. Yes, we do need some time when we focus on just one thing, otherwise we end up feeling less productive or like we are not present with the things or people we most care about.

But we are multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, dynamic woman. It's okay to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the personal is mixed in with the professional and the professional is mixed in with the personal. Perhaps if we stop resisting it so much, things would flow a little easier. And we could each experience our own Total Life Success based on who we are, what we love, and how we feel.

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Interested in defining your own Total Life Success based on who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to feel? Contact me at nicola[dot]trueinsightscoaching[dot]com for a complimentary coaching consultation, which includes a twenty minute sample session.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Got sleep?

It’s no secret that getting sleep is a good thing, and the impacts of not getting enough are huge. It’s also not a secret that many people don’t get enough sleep, especially working moms. Although it’s one of the most important ingredients to living a happy and healthy life, it often falls to the bottom of the list when you are a busy parent juggling the complexities of both the personal and professional areas of your life.

On a personal note, last night I had a crappy night of sleep. I had trouble falling asleep, I had trouble staying asleep, and when I was asleep my brain was still going a mile-a-minute, which made me wish I wasn’t asleep. So, while I laid in bed this morning wishing that I felt a bit better rested and wondering how I was going to get through the day without snapping someone’s head off, I made a mental note of my plan for tonight based on what I know has worked for me in the past.
  1. Commit to being in bed by 9:30 p.m. and light off by 10:00 p.m. NO MATTER WHAT! This was my intention last night, but darn that laundry needed to be folded and then I got sucked into American Idol (which I never watch).
  2. Turn off the computer and stop all things work related at least one hour before going to bed (which means 8:30 p.m.). You know how it goes, you plan to do “just one more thing” for work and then that turns into that and then you remember that and the next thing you know you’ve spent two hours on the computer instead of the thirty minutes you intended to just finish a small project. Last night for me it was getting caught up in figuring out how to set up a feed subscription for my blog (Note: which you can now do on the right!). It was not surprise that my dreams where about RSS feeds and my half-awake-half-asleep thoughts were in trying to figure it all out. My brain is working on overtime enough when I am awake, I don’t need it trying to work when I am asleep.
  3. Drink a warm (not hot) cup of milk thirty minutes before bedtime (which means 9:00 p.m.). Note to self: this does not mean a cup of warm milk with chocolate in it and whipped cream on top, which is what I had last night.
  4. Exercise in the morning, which improves my sleep by the end of the day.
  5. Allow for at least twenty minutes of no-brainer reading before turning out the light (which means 9:40 p.m.). I often use this time to read a coaching, professional development or self-help book for work purposes. The problem with this is that my brain then starts swirling with ideas and it’s hard to calm it down. On the other hand, when I pick up a no-brainer book or magazine, I find that I can barely keep my eyes open ten minutes later.
  6. Crack window to allow for cool fresh air in the room, which always helps with my sleep.
  7. Spend a few minutes with the light out, my head on the pillow, and my eyes shut to visualize how I want to feel the next day (i.e. healthy, happy, present, energetic, focused, etc.). For I have come to learn that regardless of what my sleep looks like from night to night, the point of my desire for good sleep is to feel a certain way. Sometimes I can feel this way with a night that hasn’t gone so great. And other times I can sleep through the entire night soundly, and wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus.
As a parent you know that nights can sometimes be unpredictable. Creating (and sticking to) a sleep plan for yourself that supports you in feeling the way you want to feel during the day is a valuable exercise. But that’s only one piece of the equation. If you haven’t helped your child(ren) learn healthy sleep habits, it will be challenging for you to stick to yours.

I’ll get on my “Children Need Healthy Sleep Habits” soapbox in the next post. Until then, I dare you to put a plan in writing that will help you get more and better sleep. Try it for two weeks straight and let me know how you feel!

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And
If you’re interested in a blog all about sleep, check out Snoozester. It's got some great links to recent and relevant articles and studies around adult and child sleep.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photos Tell Powerful Stories

A client of mine just shared with me this piece she wrote as a way of expressing her deep emotion around the recent disasters in Asia. I was moved to tears by it and asked if I could share it here. I am happy to say that she said yes.

Photos tell powerful stories, and I have been struck in recent days by three sets of photographs. All feature similar subjects but in vastly different circumstances.

In one group of photos, taken by teachers in my daughter’s daycare, the toddlers are busy doing art projects, reading books, and going on walks in the California sunshine. The kids are adorable, engrossed in the water fountain on campus and making paper flowers for Mother’s Day.

In another set of photos, a similarly adorable group of young children gathers around a tent, a makeshift shelter in central China. Their orphanages were deemed unsafe following the earthquake and its aftershocks. The teachers and nannies care for not only their current charges but also incoming children, newly orphaned by the disaster.

In the final set of photos, the most disturbing, children’s gray-blue bodies are washed up on the shores of the Irrawaddy River or lined up for identification in the hard-hit area of Burma’s delta.

These scenes strike a chord professionally and personally. I work with an organization that researches human rights abuses and attitudes toward justice and social reconstruction following mass atrocities. Close colleagues were in Burma when the storm struck, and they saw the devastation firsthand. They helped deliver supplies and assisted local organizations to monitor the sham referendum choreographed by the junta.

China’s tragedy also hit close to home. We adopted our daughter from the stricken region nearly two years ago and spent a week in Chongqing, breathing diesel fumes in the sweltering heat. I look at her in the photo with her current classmates and imagine how easily she could be among the children now sleeping in tents, or worse.

The events in Asia seem overwhelming and beyond any one person’s capacity to assist in a meaningful way. So what can be done?

For my own sake, I am motivated to do three things:

  1. Give what I can to relief efforts. I am grateful to people on the ground providing what aid and comfort are possible.
  2. Actually make an emergency plan with my family. Earthquakes and powerful storms are imminent possibilities here on the edge of the ocean.
  3. Squeeze my daughter a little more, tell her I love her and I am glad she is part of my life in this fortunate part of the world.
Written by Camille C.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Movement vs. Momentum


mo•men•tum: the impetus to go forward, develop, or get stronger*

move•ment: the act, process, or an instance of moving*


Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s been a lot of movement, but not necessarily much momentum. I’ve felt busy, but not necessarily like my goals have been moving forward. When this happens, I realize that I feel less productive and present at both work and home. My time is taken up by often small, random tasks (movement) without the intention and focus of really moving my goals forward (momentum).

With the help of my own coach, I’ve started focusing on three High Pay Off Actions per day. These are actions that I determine the night before and list day-by-day for each work day. These are actions that are the smaller steps to my bigger goals.

I’ll admit that it’s felt a bit uncomfortable. Not the concept, because I totally get the process and recommend it to my own clients. Instead, the discomfort has come in the amount of time and energy this has freed up. By focusing on the High Pay Off Actions during my scheduled pockets of time, I find that I am wasting less time “trying” to be productive. So I am spending less time and energy on my work, but the actions I am taking are things that are building momentum, rather then just simply being movement.

Sometimes my High Pay Off Action is just sitting for 10 minutes with my eyes closed connecting to my vision. These ten minutes of visualization does more for me than two hours of pushing papers or responding to emails.

Here’s the analogy: When you are running, you can move your body and expend a certain amount of energy and not really get very far. If you waste a lot of movement in flailing arms or upward motion, you are moving, but not necessarily building momentum to help you move forward. You may finish your run or make it across the finish line, but it’s going to take you longer and you’ll have used a lot more energy.

Compare that to running with a form that supports your intention to move your body forward. You’ll be using yours muscles and movement in a way that builds momentum and with less energy the momentum will propel you forward. You end up finishing at the same place, but in less time and using much less energy.

Are you making choices and taking actions that take your time and energy, but just feel like movement? Or are you making choices and taking action that take your time and energy and which builds momentum to continue to move you forward? It’s your choice!

*Definitions from Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Different Approach

I was sent this article earlier and found it very interesting. Patty Wipfler, of the non-profit organization Hand in Hand, recommends becoming a "Vigorous Snuggler" when your children are "caught up in a behavior that isn't working for them or you." Upon the first read, I was a bit skeptical. How does making light of the times your child is not listening to you or doing (or not doing) what you have requested beneficial? Don't they need to know that you are serious? And who has the time to get into a snuggle-fest each time your kid doesn't listen?

But then I tried the approach with my own 3-year-old this morning who has gotten into the habit of whining and making the same request over and over and over, regardless of how many times and how stern I give her the answer.

Following is a recap of our usual breakfast conversation.

Me: "Do you want crunchy cereal for breakfast or toast with peanut butter?" (Note: using two choice option, which I've come to learn doesn't necessarily always work).

Lindsay: "I want you to decide."(spoken in whiny voice)

Me: "OK, I choose toast with peanut butter."

Lindsay: "Nooooo....I don't want toast with peanut butter." (spoken in even whiner voice)

Sound familiar? Then you probably know how the rest of this goes.

But this morning when I asked her what she wanted and she said "You decide" I got down to her level, I "snuggled" her in my arms and and in a funny and light-hearted voice gave her three choices, one of which was a bowl of mud with flies on top. She immediately started laughing and said, "Ewwww...that would be yucky." And then she proceeded to quickly make her choice between the two non-yucky options.

Maybe it was just a fluke this morning. But I'll tell you something, I found myself enjoying the morning much more with her after that interaction. The Vigorous Snuggler concept encourages parents to have a bit more fun in their parenting, lighten-up and see that sometimes you can get the results you want by choosing a communication style that better resonates with children.

If you try this yourself, please share you comments!


Monday, May 12, 2008

Peace Be With You

I thought that I’d want to sleep in yesterday, being that it was Mother’s Day and all. However, instead I found myself wide-awake before anyone else was up. I took this chance to start the coffee and have some quiet time in the house before the other bodies started stirring. What a pleasant feeling. I now understand why a number of moms I know purposely get up in the early hours to get some alone time before the kids wake up.

My time alone yesterday morning was relatively short, but the gift I received during that time was timeless.

I sat down at one end of the couch. A place I don’t sit very often, especially since we’ve moved the living room furniture around. But on this morning, I sat down and immediately my gaze went to the window to my side. Ordinarily this window’s view is nothing other then the side of the neighbor’s garage. But not yesterday.

Yesterday the view was of one dove perched on the top of the garage. For ten minutes or so I sat there and watched this bird puff up its feathers and then “deflate”. And all I could think, over and over again, is that this is what I want to feel in my life—in all areas of my life: PEACE.

I want to feel at peace with my career; at peace with my relationship with my husband; at peace with my relationship and parenting of my children; at peace with my friendships and community; at peace with my body and health. I want to feel a certain peace and contentment and ease. What these things look like is less important to me. How these things feel is everything.

If peace is my feeling of choice, then my next step is to ask myself, “What choices am I making that support that feeling in my life? Which are not?”

We each get to choose how it is we want to feel in our lives. There are many other things I want to feel: happiness, passion, joy, connection (just to name a few), but at the core of all of those, for me, is peace. There are many choices to make in life. There are many paths to choose. I believe that the choice and the path matters less then the peace you feel about the choice or path.

When you are faced with a choice or a new path in front of you, ask yourself these simple questions.

Which will feel more peaceful? Which will bring me a greater sense of peace in my life?

The simple part is asking the questions. The more challenging part is to listen to the answer and then to act accordingly.

I will hold the image of the dove on Mother’s Day as my reminder to choose peace.

And may peace be with you as well…

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Put on your oxygen mask first...

I wrote about the topic of 'Paying Yourself First' previously. Here's another excellent article just in time for Mother's Day that reiterates the point so eloquently. If you haven't read the blog Half Full Blogversation: Science for Raising Happy Kids, it's worth it.

An excerpt from A Different Mother's Day Gift Guide, written by Christine Carter, Ph.D., executive director of Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

I say take the advice of the airlines: put on your oxygen mask first and THEN help those around you. I’m not saying don’t help those around you, but rather, that should you become faint from lack of oxygen, you won’t be much good to anyone at all. Speaking for myself, I’ve found that a certain core of peace and centeredness is necessary before I can really be engaged in raising happy, compassionate, and altruistic children.

So if you are thinking of buying the mother in your life gobs of stuff this Mother’s Day, consider this: stuff won’t make her lastingly happy, but there are other things that you can do that can. And if you are a mother, consider taking the matter into your own hands rather than waiting for a present to make your Mother’s Day a good one. Here are some things you can do to that are more likely to bring you real joy:

(1) Go out with your friends and have a few laughs.
The most persistent finding we have from 50 years happiness research tells us that our well-being is best predicted by how connected we feel to other people. Do we have lots of friends? Know our neighbors? Are we close to our extended family? Care about our co-workers? People with a lot of social connections are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness (duh), low self-esteem, and problems with....(read entire article).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Designate a Date Day

Remember what it used to be like before kids when you could wake up on a weekend morning and know you had the whole day ahead of you to play around with your spouse or partner? You could sleep in. You could fool around (wink, wink) in the middle of the day. You could go out for a leisurely lunch. You could take in a movie without worrying about rushing home. You could get out of the house and the day-to-day life management stuff and just enjoy being together…for an entire day.

Why not do that now? My husband and I had a date day on Friday. Yep, an entire day. Well, from nine in the morning until four thirty in the afternoon, but when you’ve only had a few brief hours alone over the course of months, nearly eight in the same day feels like an entire day.

How did we do it? We both took the day off. Yep, he took the day off because he knew he was going to have to work over the weekend and, being self-employed, I cleared my own calendar for the day. After dropping the kids off at school and day care, which they would have been going to if we were working, we started our date day together.

Did we feel guilty? Mildly.

Did we do it anyway? You betcha!

And what did we do? Well, after kissing in the car wash (yes, we felt like teenagers), we spent the first three hours of our date day negotiating the purchase of our car at a dealership. Were we thrilled with the length of time we were there? Not necessarily. But we were happy to be there together taking care of something we needed to do without two young kids in tow. (Can you even imagine trying to entertain an eight-year-old and three-year-old at a car dealership for three hours?)

After that it was off to a relaxing lunch at a restaurant we’ve been meaning to try. The hostess must have known that this was a special day for us as she sat us at the back table for two, tucked away from the noisy crowd. We’re use to being put in the back of a restaurant, but it’s usually because we have the small kids in tow. Not this time. In fact, not only were our kids not around, but no other kids were either!

Next, we killed some time wandering through a bookstore before heading to a movie. We agreed that we could easily spend an entire afternoon browsing through a bookstore, especially without children asking to buy things or climbing up the shelves.

And then there was the movie. We got a good chuckle when we walked in to an entirely empty theater. Hmmm….perhaps another opportunity to steal some kisses? Not quite, because a few others did show up, but the thought made us both smile.

I can honestly say that I really did feel more connected to my husband at the end of the day. We held hands more. We kissed more. We talked more. We definitely laughed more. And we came home feeling happy about our day, happy about our relationship, and exhausted from a day spent focused on us.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Your Relationship Deserves More

Over and over again I hear from women who I am talking to about the concept of having the best of both worlds—a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life, with the energy to enjoy it—is how hard it is to stay connected in their marriage with young kids.

Having a successful career or running a successful business takes time, energy and attention. Raising healthy, happy and well-adjusted children takes time, energy and attention. Having a fun and fulfilling relationship takes time, energy and attention. For whatever reasons, the first two usually trump the last when it comes to where you choose to put your time, energy and attention.

However, if you really do want to have the best of both worlds, which includes having a loving, fulfilling and connected relationship with your spouse or partner, you need to start giving that relationship some of your time, energy and attention now. If you don’t, the best case scenario is that you’ll be in a relationship that doesn’t particularly feel good to you. Worst case scenario is that you’ll both feel so disconnected over time that you’ll forget what even brought you together in the first place.

I am going to start offering relatively simple tips and suggestions on this blog for giving your relationship even just a bit more of your focus. Try those that interest you and let me know what you think. Also, if you have any other ideas to share, please email me at nicola(at)trueinsightscoaching(dot)com (using the appropriate symbols instead of the words).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If you don't think your energy influences others, read this

A couple of weeks ago my three year old daughter had two of the biggest tantrums of her life. Perhaps they would be better categorized as melt-downs. Whatever we call it doesn't really matter; if you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. If you are not a parent, imagine high-pitched screams, clenching of fists, repeated yelling of "NO!", lots and lots of tears, kicking legs and flailing arms. You get the picture?

The point is not really about the tantrums, but rather about the timing of the tantrums--which just so happened to occur the night before and the morning of an important speaking gig I had with a large, well-known company. Not only was it an important speaking gig, but it was my first one with them and so there was the added pressure of making a really good first impression.

My daughter is a very happy, usually good-natured child. She has an occasional melt-down when she is hungry, over-tired, or as I've come to realize more often, has different expectations then what is or isn't going to happen (hey, that sounds like me!). So when she does have a melt-down it tends to throw my husband and I off because they don't happen very often. Sometimes we don't know whether to cry because she's so over the top and bringing her down from the ledge is an emotional and physical endeavor we just haven't been training for or to laugh because she's so over the top and, excuse me, can someone please tell us when the devil traded places with our sweet little girl?

But on these particular days I was stressed out.

Bill was across the country for a business trip. On the day he left for the trip I discovered a rodent of some sort had decided to use one of our kitchen drawers as a nest. The landlord had not gotten back to me and the exterminator had also failed to return my phone call. I was feeling under the weather and trying not to think about the fact that I had a horrible sore throat the day before I was being paid to speak. And on top of all of that, I still hadn't decided what I was going to do for my workshop the next day.

Husband out of town + rodent nesting in kitchen + no foreseeable male coming to the rescue (this is where my feminist streak left my body) + important talk + confusion over what I would be saying for important talk + threat of sore throat impacting important talk + need to get to important talk by 8:15 a.m. in the city + no help to get child out the door in the morning + a failure on my part to communicate to child that we would need to get out door in the morning = mommy being a big ball of stressed energy = child being a little ball of stressed energy.

My big ball of stressed energy was not mine to enjoy alone. For along the way this energy disseminated throughout our house and before I could even see what was happening my daughter was expressing her stress in the only way she knew how--two back-to-back tantrums that nearly made me call and cancel the very important speaking gig.

What did I learn:
  • That it's helpful to have a good, local exterminator's number on hand in case you ever need it. It took me multiple phone calls to find one, but when I did, I immediately felt my stress level go down.
  • How important it is to prepare children for things that are not part of their routine. My daughter is hardly ever woken up in the morning. We head off to day care once she wakes up on her own and leisurely gets ready for the day. Communicating with her the night before about the plan for the morning probably would have changed everything.
  • To trust myself when it comes to preparing for a talk or workshop I am leading. Part of why I was so stressed and unsure what I was going to do until the last minute is because I allowed a comment from another speaker to unnerve me, which I then began to question my focus.
  • That sometimes what seems like a simple physical ailment is really a rather simple emotional or mental ailment. As a dear friend pointed out when I shared with her my concerns around my throat and the talk, her question to me was, "what are you afraid of saying?" Once I determined that I needed to just say want I wanted to say, my sore throat was gone.
  • How I handle my life directly impacts those around me. I may be thinking that not talking about something that is stressing me out protects my children, but that is simply not true. My attitude, focus, perspective and energy is shared with those around me, whether I say the words or not. Making choices that decrease my own stress means that I am making choices to lessen the by-product stress to my loved ones.