Archive for the ‘change’ Category

Rediscover the “Elf” in YoursELF!

January 20, 2016

Sometimes I think people put way too much emphasis on being a grown-up. I know it’s a strange thing to say, but the world seems to be full of lots of cranky, whiny folks who must think that being a grown-up means “groaning” all of the time.

I have to admit that like most other people, I sometimes I get my pants in a bunch…usually over something that I have made into a bigger deal than it really is! When I feel myself morphing into a troll, I try to remember that perhaps I am taking myself too seriously and not properly nurturing the elf in myself. That’s when I know that I need a recess. Remember recess? We all looked forward to it because we could break out of the classroom, put work aside and run outside to be free for a while. Then we would have a snack. It made everything better.

So when did we decide it was no longer appropriate to take a recess sometime during a busy and stressful day? When did we cross over from having the wisdom to appreciate the value of taking a play break to thinking it is necessary to drive ourselves into the ground every day?

The transition takes place when we lose our childlike sense of wonder about life. It happens when we give up living in the present moment in favor of worrying about the future and holding on to grudges from the past. It happens when we put limits on our imagination and our curiosity. And it happens when we stop taking recesses!

I know that very few businesses have playgrounds, although I have visited some who do! But we can all take the initiative to take little mini-breaks when we feel we are about ready to either explode or collapse. We can connect with the little kid we used to be by doing something fun every day…not counting going out to happy hour. I mean we should keep things around us that remind us of who we used to be before we started to carry the pressures of the world on our shoulders; things that can provide us with a little mental recess!

I’ve always loved to color and now it is all the rage! Get yourself a coloring book and see how it reduces your stress. Try keeping bubbles in your car and when you’re stuck in traffic, see how many you can blow before you start moving again. Don’t be afraid to act silly every now and then! Remember that we are really just children in stretched out bodies! In chronological years, our childhood may be over, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to play! Will it fix the world’s horrible global problems? No…but it just might get you through the daily frustrations and stresses in your own little world.

If you really want to get it right, follow a little child around and just observe. Of course, you really should know the child you are following! True, they don’t have the burdens and responsibilities that we have, but if we could recapture just a fraction of the joy they get out of simply being alive, we would probably never have our pants in a bunch again…at least they wouldn’t stay that way for long!

Linda Henley-Smith presents keynotes, workshops and coaching on how to find more joy in life. Check out www.lindahenley-smith.com

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Why Would You Want to Have Your Pants in a Bunch?

January 13, 2016

It seems that there is an abundance of negativity floating around these days! You hear people being snarky to one another and there are some who seem to treat complaining as an Olympic sport! They practice it daily and work to hone their negativity to gold medal perfection. Sometimes it even becomes a blaming and whining competition. People seem to be reveling in speaking their minds, with no filters…no matter who they hurt!

Recently, while sitting in an airport, I was struck by the conversations I was hearing all around me. I began to become aware of the number of negative words that were falling out of people’s mouths! Whether on the phone or in face to face conversations, there seemed to be a lot of toxic energy flowing. There was a lot of talk about stress and people explaining why their lives were not satisfactory. I even saw a really angry man pounding on the desk and screaming that the airline attendant behind it was messing up the week for everyone. Hmmm….he was crediting her with a lot of power to be able to ruin everyone’s entire week! My first thought was that she looked too small and quiet to be able to pull that off!

It started me wondering why we often choose negativity over being positive. It IS a choice, you know. We all have to decide how we are going to deal with whatever comes our way. You can be upset or disagree with a situation without spewing venom, so why do some opt for being negative? Does it make them feel better? There has to be some gratification derived from nurturing toxicity, or they wouldn’t wallow in it. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Negativity could be a result of feelings of frustration, jealousy or a sense of inferiority. If a person has low self-esteem, putting down or blaming someone else is a convoluted way of boosting his or her sagging ego.
  • Being cynical makes some people feel special and even “cool.” Think of the high school kid who was the smart aleck and complained that all the teachers were against him.
  • Some people just like drama! They either think it is entertaining or they like being the star of their own soap opera! If they can gather a receptive audience, they will perform.
  • Sometimes, a negative attitude can serve as an excuse for not participating in something that causes a person to face the possibility of failure.
  • Fear is one of the main factors behind a negative outlook. Some people become like animals who lash out when they feel threatened. Negativity can mask our fears and act as a camouflage when we think we’re going to be put on the spot. If we lay the blame on someone or something else, we can divert attention away from our own accountability.
  • Some use negative talk and action to create fear in others; possibly to gain a sense of control.

Most importantly, is the fact that many people just aren’t aware of the negativity they are exuding. They may attract other negative thinkers, but most other humans will run like ants from an ant hill when they see someone wearing the cloak of despair. As a matter of fact, I am learning that the best way to react to someone who has their pants in a bunch, is to just walk away.

I think it would benefit each one of us to regularly assess our attitudes and make sure that we are not carriers of doom, gloom, anger and angst! Negativity sucks the energy out of the air. You can’t fix anyone else’s attitude, but you can sure adjust your own! Don’t choose negativity because even if you get the results you want for a while…it will turn and bite you in your bunched up pants!

Linda Henley-Smith is a speaker, author and coach. Check out her website at http://www.lindahenley-smith.com

Three Habits of Highly Self-Defeating People

July 6, 2015

Most of us have read books informing us of the habits of highly successful people. We know that in order to be successful, we must program our minds for success and we also know that particular mindset doesn’t always come easily. I think it is equally important to know the habits we should NOT embrace. I call these the habits of highly self-defeating people.

  • Always compare yourself to others.  This is a great way to feel lousy about yourself! If you measure your every accomplishment against someone else, you will probably always be successful in finding some shortcoming in your own performance.  This is because you are NOT someone else and someone else is NOT you!  Every one of us has a unique personality, style and talent. Modeling a successful person whose accomplishments you respect is one thing but it is important to realize that you cannot live anyone else’s life because they are already living it, so blaze your own trail!
  • Always expect the worst and you will never be disappointed…and make sure you always panic.  These are trying times and everyone loves to talk about how we’re going down for the count! Watching the news will straighten your hair if it’s curly and curl your hair if it’s straight! You can’t pick up a magazine without seeing a headline about impending doom and it is getting tougher to muster up any optimism.  Now is the time to just say “no” to despair! Panic doesn’t help anything and it makes you look like a deranged squirrel. We attract what we most often think about so if we expect failure and angst to come knocking at the door, we will probably find it on our front porch. Maintaining an optimistic attitude doesn’t mean believing that everything will be rosy; it means entertaining alternate possibilities, fostering creative ways to meet challenges and being proactive in your own success!
  • Keep old feelings of past failure, guilt, fear and other bad things alive and in the frontal lobe of your brain at all times….and don’t forget the negative self-talk!  To maintain that fearful feeling of never being good enough, be sure to constantly conjure up and nurture your past woes. Right? WRONG! You cannot move ahead while looking backward. Don’t allow your mistakes to define your worth or dictate your future.  Fight the urge to relive the past. Get off of the hamster wheel that keeps you on the same track and take a different path with a different attitude! Refrain from reminding yourself daily that you do not deserve any good things and treat yourself with respect. Deal with the situations at hand, glean the good “stuff” from your past failures, do the best you can and don’t rent your brain cells out to negativity! Above all….don’t be your worst enemy! You may as well like yourself because wherever you go…there you are!

Here’s to Better Success!

January 9, 2015

Happy New Year! Here we are, embarking on a new journey around the sun, which will take about 365 days to complete. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people usually welcome the year with toasts and kisses, and in my case; chocolate. In my world, chocolate is always appropriate.

This New Year, I noticed how many people expressed their hope that this year would be better and more successful than the last one. That started me thinking about what “better” really is and how most of us would define “success.” The word better is often defined as “improving on or surpassing” and success usually indicates that one has reached a goal. So how do we have a better, more successful year?

I guess it all begins with one’s assessment of what has happened. If there have been losses, trials, tribulations and struggles in the past, it would seem to be an obvious conclusion that a year without hard times would be better. But looking back on troublesome days, consider the fact that you survived! Anyone who makes it through a dark tunnel usually emerges with a new wisdom and a renewed strength! I would consider that a success!

We do ourselves a disservice when we categorize challenges or imperfections as failures. We all live in a flawed world and there will always be disappointments and losses. When we speak of success, I believe that we often place too much emphasis on the concept of winning. In truth, the measure of our success is in direct proportion to the obstacles we are willing to overcome.

If we want to have a “better” year, we are going to have to go about it with an attitude adjustment. Better can mean that we navigate life’s curves with the knowledge that we have the ability to keep going and not fall apart when things don’t go as planned. Better can mean that we accept the fact that life can sometimes disappoint and even hurt, but we only have one piece of the puzzle. We can’t always see the whole picture, which could very well be more wonderful and beautiful than we can imagine.

I wish us all a new year full of wonderful experiences, abundant laughter, healthy attitudes and of course; lots of chocolate!

Monkeys Don”t Keep Score

December 3, 2014

After reading the title of this article, I am sure that most of you are pleased to learn that if you are planning any activities or sporting events with primates, you need not worry about them cheating on their scores.

Researchers at a primate research center have apparently determined that monkeys are prosocial, which is defined as having the motivation to assist others regardless of benefits. In other words, the monkeys don’t seem to keep track of past favors. They respond to the needs of their companions, rather than responding to the rewards offered by their companions.

So, we can assume that monkeys could teach humans a thing or two about relationships. They may not have the social graces needed to dine in Five Star restaurants, but why would they want to do that anyway? They are pretty content to eat while swinging in trees. But it seems that the little hairy guys have it all over us when it comes to giving to others without expecting something in return. People tend to keep tabs on favors.

Keeping score can be exhausting and it is the opposite of giving with grace. When we expect reciprocity for our good deeds, they cease to be gifts and become IOUs that we expect the recipient of our favors to repay. The truth is that we are not always going to get back as much as we think we have given. And that’s OK because it is almost impossible to balance these things out. The healthiest mindset to adopt is one of finding joy in giving and not expecting anything in return, because only then is your gesture genuine.

There are times when we don’t help someone in need because we know they won’t repay us. Sometimes we pass up an opportunity to make a person’s life a little better because we don’t think they really deserve it. We tire of being asked to donate or to lend a hand because there is nothing in it for us and everyone should make their own way. We hang onto our tally sheets and we keep score.

During this Holiday Season, maybe we would all do well to emulate the monkeys.

What Do You Want?

August 11, 2014

I am constantly amazed by the number of advertisements with which we are bombarded every day. It really is almost impossible to be out in the world for five minutes without seeing a neon sign or a billboard informing us of something that we just can’t live without. Now there are even people standing on street corners twirling signs. As a side note, I wish the sign swingers would understand that as entertaining as they are, nobody can really read the signs when they are being tossed, twirled and thrown into the air. As for television, radio and even movie theaters…. every other word is about some product that will make our lives ever so much happier.

Most of us have accumulated a lot of “stuff” in the quest for happiness. But guess what? The older I get, the more I realize that stuff does not equal happiness; rather, it usually just clutters up our lives and confuses us. The more we get, the more we want.

I have come to the conclusion that all of us; no matter who we are, really are on a quest for one basic thing and that is a sense of peace within ourselves. The problem is that we don’t always recognize that the feeling we are seeking has nothing at all to do with what the world tells us we want. We buy into the sales pitches that driving a great car, owning the best appliances and having the fewest wrinkles will satisfy all of our desires and we will find happiness. Ding dong…that is wrong.

If you want to get off of the hamster wheel and stop chasing illusions, I suggest that you put some thought into what you REALLY want. If it is inner peace, happiness, joy, contentment and appreciation for your life….consider that you may be looking in the wrong places. Having “stuff” is fine as long as you don’t expect it to make you complete and keep you happy, because it will probably disappoint you.

I want to share a story I heard about Alexander the Great, who spent his young life conquering and acquiring worldly possessions. It may be true or may be myth, but there is a valuable lesson in here somewhere! It is said that on his deathbed, he cited his final wishes; one of which was to warn people not to spend their lives pursuing wealth. He asked that all of his jewels and coins be strewn on the road behind his funeral parade; acknowledging that he came into the world with empty hands and would be leaving with empty hands. His most poignant request was to be buried with his hands outside of the coffin, showing that he was; indeed, leaving this world as he entered it. Whether fact or fiction, I like the message!

Nature (and my dog) Hates a Vacuum

June 16, 2014

At the risk of setting everyone off on a “Frozen” song, I am going to mention the words “Let it Go.” Now that the song is stuck in your head and you probably hate me for bringing it up, I shall continue on.

Anyone who has ever experienced heartache, confusion, fear, disappointment or upheaval knows that eventually you have to process what has happened, accept that you have been bumped out of your comfort zone and your life has probably been changed a bit.
And most of us have learned that if we are to continue to move ahead in life, we have to unstick our feet from the wastewater of worldly woe (don’t you love that?) and release any negativity that has resulted from a difficult situation. It is important to turn loose of the emotional baggage that is no longer serving us well. We have to face the negativity, stop hiding behind it, and be willing to let it go.

But there is another part of the puzzle and that is that nature abhors a vacuum. I think Aristotle said that. My dog also abhors vacuums and he hides from them under the bed, but he is not as famous as Aristotle. Obviously, Aristotle was not referring to a Hoover; what he meant was that when something goes away, the place it occupied needs to be filled with something else. In this case, when we release our negative thought patterns, they need to be replaced with some positive ones.

The first step is to introduce some new ideas and possibilities into your thoughts and get in the habit of practicing positive thought replacement. Rather than focusing on what you have lost, try to think of something positive that may have come from the situation. I recently talked with a woman who was trying to recover from a major financial crisis. She told me that until this happened; she never had realized or appreciated how many supportive friends she had. Her words were, “Believe it or not, I have reconnected with so many people who are willing and even happy to help me pick up the pieces and start again. Were it not for what I thought of as a disaster in my life, I would never have known just how blessed I really am!”

The next step is to train your brain to live in the present; not in the past. Your newer and more positive thought patterns will help to pave the way for healthier, productive emotions and attitudes. Whenever an old self-defeating thought or negative self-talk tries to make a comeback, immediately make a list of things for which you are grateful. An attitude of gratitude will get you farther than getting stuck in the mental mud.

Remember than negative thoughts have no power other than that which you give them. You can nurture them or take away their strength by simply capturing them the moment they come into your head and mentally eliminating them. I picture my negative thoughts as balloons and visualize myself popping them. That’s my positive replacement thought and it’s kind of fun.

Finally, understand that being positive is not ducking reality or thinking like a Pollyanna. It simply means that you realize that there are alternatives to sinking into a pit of despair!

Rebuilding With Hope

May 19, 2014

Those who know me well are aware that I often refer to the lyrics of songs to illustrate my points. Sometimes the words of a song or a poem will express what I want to say in far better ways than I could ever present it.

There are times when life throws us some unexpected lemons and we really don’t feel like using them to make lemonade. As a matter of fact, it would probably give us a lot more satisfaction to throw those lemons at the ones who have caused us pain!

When someone or something pulls the rug out from under you and it feels as if your foundation is crumbling, you have a choice as to how you are going to let it affect you. Feeling anger, disappointment and confusion are normal reactions…for a little while. We need all of those emotions in order to process what has happened but if we allow them to linger too long in our minds, they begin to take root.

Before too long, it’s a good idea to replace those negative feelings with something that will actually allow us to heal and grow rather than to keep us feeling empty and hollow. That is where hope comes into the picture. Hope fills up all the broken and empty places and helps to make us whole once again. I like to think of it this way: Holding On to Positive Expectations.

If you replace fear, doubt and frustration with the belief that you can recover, regroup and rebuild; you will enjoy a future of possibilities rather than continue to live in remnants of the past.

Consider these words from the musical “Godspell”…

WHEN YOUR TRUST IS ALL BUT SHATTERED
WHEN YOUR FAITH IS ALL BUT KILLED
YOU CAN GIVE UP, BITTER AND BATTERED
OR YOU CAN SLOWLY START TO BUILD

Resolutions, Revolutions and Revelations

January 3, 2014

Well, here it is again….another new year! Another 525,600 minutes to spend making wonderful memories, trying new things, experiencing a variety of emotions, building and maintaining relationships and eating chocolate. Even though it is just a date on the calendar, January 1 represents a clean slate.

People tend to want to make fresh starts in the New Year, so we make resolutions. I like to think of it as cleaning out a junk drawer and keeping only the things that I need and will serve me well. My problem is that after I have done that, it looks good for about a month and then it once again appears as if packrats were having a party in there. That is because I haven’t really made a commitment to keeping things neat and orderly. So it is with our resolutions….we can resolve until the cows come home, but without action, resolutions don’t mean much. They just end up like my junk drawer.

If we want to improve an aspect of life, we must break the negative pattern that is keeping us out of balance. Thoughts and behavior patterns can become deeply ingrained in us and sometimes, that isn’t a good thing. If you want to change your life, you need to get out of your self-constructed box and then stand up on the box to get a view of all of life’s possibilities. Think of it as a personal revolution…you are revolting against any limiting beliefs and actions that are holding you back.

In this New Year, you will probably experience a revelation or two. It may involve making a decision to try something for the first time, or perhaps adopting a new attitude of altitude. It is possible that you may decide to choose joy over bitterness and laughter over whining. Maybe this will be the year that you put yourself somewhere on your “To Do” list and move away from things that cause you unnecessary stress. The revelation will come when you finally realize that you are sick and tired of trying to fix a problem or change a situation by doing the same things and getting the same results.

I think I will start a new tradition for myself. I am going to adopt the idea of a Joy Jar. I know people who have done this, and I think it is a great way to reprogram my brain and focus on the possibilities. Every day, you write something positive that you have experienced or a joy you have felt and put it into a big jar. After a while, you should have quite a collection. You can either wait until December 31, or dip into that Joy Jar when you need a jump-start. Reading and remembering the good things that have happened to you may help to lose the “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” and have the best year ever!

Are You a Caterpillar Running Around the Rim of a Jar?

November 6, 2013

We live in a busy world. We hurry, hurry, hurry to do things and sometimes, we work ourselves into a state of frenzy and weariness, only to find that we have not really accomplished anything! Most of us realize that the more we work, the more we will achieve; but the problem lies in our inability to recognize the difference between being productive and just being busy.

I once read of a scientist who placed a caterpillar on the rim of a jar and watched as it ran around and around the rim until it finally dropped into the jar out of sheer exhaustion. I cannot imagine why this person decided that this would be a good experiment, and I feel that the poor caterpillar got the short end of the stick in that deal. But the message is clear: running around in circles is pointless and it accomplishes nothing but exhaustion.

We are a culture which promotes the idea that to appear successful; a person must work extended hours, take on too many obligations, deprive him or herself of rest and relaxation, burn the candle at both ends, and above all, live in perpetual stress. We are not machines and we certainly don’t want to become like the caterpillar that fell into the jar.

Sometimes, I think I wear my stress like a badge of courage; as if endangering my health and sanity is a thing worthy of praise. Ding dong…that is wrong. I don’t think I am alone in this, either. It’s as if we feel embarrassed or guilty if we stop and recuperate every now and again. Just listen to a group of people coming out of an office or gathered in an airport. You will hear a “stress-a-thon” competition; everyone claims to be more stressed than all of the others. The problem with this is that if you work yourself to death, just to prove that you are strong and capable of juggling too many obligations, everyone else will say, “She should have taken better care of herself!” It is a losing situation!

Remember that there is a time for work and a time for rest; just as there is a time for salad and a time for a big chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts. But that is another topic for another time.