Exploring the Possibilities in Your Life: Questions and Quandaries, Part 1 of 5

Question 1: Who am I?

I’m a great believer in possibilities. After all, I named my company The Power of Possibilities. Part of the work I do is to help individuals explore the possibilities in their lives, careers and businesses.

We often limit the possibilities in our life because we convince ourselves that we don’t have the ability or talent to make them happen or that they are impractical. After all, we have a lot of responsibilities and obligations. We’ve got families to raise and a job to maintain and a mortgage to pay. And we are tired from all that work.

Pausing to take a look at our life – where we came from and where we are going – is a good way to reconnect with the major patterns of our life and to uncover what possibilities we may have eliminated because we got so caught up in the day-to-dayness of life.

A good place to start this exploration is to ask yourself what it is you know about yourself. Who are you, exactly?  This is a process. For many of us, it takes a good part of our life to uncover the hidden truths about  our gifts, our talents, our calling, and then learn to embrace those gifts and talents joyfully  – what people call being authentic.

Some of this work of discovering ourselves is like peeling back an onion, layer upon layer. Peeling onions makes a lot of people cry, so they don’t like to do it. Yet onions provide flavor to otherwise bland food, just as knowledge about ourselves enhances the flavor of our life.

One of the tools I have found extremely useful in this self-exploration is a journal. The idea of a journal turns off some people, thinking they have to be a prolific writer starving in an attic to find a journal useful. Actually, any notebook, three-ring binder or your computer can serve as a journal and provide a repository for your thoughts, ideas, reflections and possibilities. The process of reflecting on paper can be surprisingly empowering.

One journaling technique I teach is called One-Page Autobiography.

This technique helps you revisit certain time periods in your life or capture your life in a snapshot. Doing it in chronological order is probably the easiest way. I tell my workshop participants to just start writing and try to summarize their life on one page. I always suggest including a sentence that begins with, “What I’m most proud of in my life …”

If you enjoy this written exploratory exercise, you could follow up by writing a page each on specific topics such as My Elementary Days, My Life as a Teenager, Life in My Early Twenties, My Education, My Work, My Family, etc.  These one-page word-pictures help you get a sense of what you thought, felt, did, accomplished, and dreamed about in those years.

These are powerful exercises which can help you explore that timeless question: Who am I?

So, Who are you? Examining that question is the first step in looking at the possibilities in your life.

Try it!

Stop Dis-sing Yourself and Get Back on Track (Part 5 of 5)

Step 5: Reduce the Distance to Your Goals

Want to get better at reaching your goals? Start by writing them down.

Each year I create goals in seven categories: health & wellness; emotional & intellectual; personal finances; spiritual; social; writing; and business. Then I write measurements of success and tactics to achieve it.

For instance, an emotional & intellectual goal for this year (one of three) is to “be curious and creative and a lifelong learner.” One measurement: “constantly learn new things or explore new areas of knowledge.” One strategy: “to read about science, history and creativity.”

I’m not suggesting you get as detailed as I do, but once written down, goals are easier to prioritize, act on and accomplish.

Here are the steps I use in my goal planning process. They require an investment of time, but even a scaled-down version will help you be more intentional.

  1. Dream big. Define your ideal year. Imagine what you will do and how you will be. If your goals don’t contain a sparkle of stardust, they won’t excite you. You want to stretch your skills and knowledge and enhance your contribution to the world.
  2. Narrow your focus. Once you describe the ideal year, narrow your focus. Prioritize. Which goals are most important? Which are most motivating? For me, increasing the number of personal development workshops ranks as one of the highest.
  3. Plan realistically. The next step is to rank the strategies by their impact on the goal and to attach the strategy to a time frame. I find it helpful to plan on a quarterly basis. For me, offering monthly journaling workshops was my top strategy. Yet when I considered the time, money and energy that strategy would require, I decided two workshops per quarter was more realistic.
  4. Stage your actions. At the beginning of each month, I look at my quarterly goals/strategies. Once again I create a prioritized list of goals and choose the strategies that will have the biggest impact on accomplishing those goals. At the beginning of each week, I create a to-do list which includes the actions required to implement the month’s selected strategies.
  5. Balance professional and personal goals. It’s essential that you maintain balance in your life – for your emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. Over the course of each week, in addition to focusing on your professional goals, pay attention to mental and physical health, friends and family, creative pursuits and community involvement. Be sure your life force isn’t sucked dry by an obsessive pursuit of financial, business or career success.

How do you reduce the distance to your goals? Make them worthy of who you are, and who you want to be, then take small actions every day to turn your dreams into reality.

 ADDED FEATURE – Want to have access to a free worksheet to help design your 2017 goals? Click here to download it.

Up next – Procrastination Part 1: Types and Reasons.


Stop “Dis-ing” Yourself and Get Back on Track (Part 4 of 5)

Step 4: Defeat Discouragement

Do you want to douse yourself with discouragement? Just watch the news.

Twenty-four hours a day – bad news at your fingertips. Murder and mayhem. Death and destruction. Natural disasters and pocket-lining politicians. Who wouldn’t be discouraged?

And then you’re supposed to go about with a smile on your face, bubbling over with enthusiasm for your career or business?

I’m a self-employed entrepreneur. Discouragement is a death knell. I’ve got to be self-motivated, a self-starter and surging with enthusiasm. But discouragement is a natural part of life.

Got a bright idea? Ten people will tell you it’s pie in the sky. Dreaming big beyond your current economic or life circumstances? “Be realistic kid. That’ll never happen.”

If you want to get your mood out of the dumps, then you have to consciously make an effort to defeat discouragement.

Here are five tactics you might use:

  1. Recognize your natural ups and downs. Everyone has a mood cycle and a circadian rhythm. Discover your daily and weekly slumps and do something fun to counteract them. Work with your biorhythms, not against them.
  2. Limit your news intake. I read the daily paper and several times a week watch the evening news. I listen to a news station in the car. I used to be a journalist, after all. But I don’t have a news feed streaming on my phone. And I try not to watch the news at bedtime. Balance your news intake with some uplifting, positive stories – yes, they exist.
  3. Hang around upbeat people. Moods are contagious. If all of your friends and coworkers are doom and gloom people, it’ll be hard for you to stay positive. Getting a healthy dose of optimism is like getting enough sunshine to enhance your Vitamin D level. Find some people who like to laugh, who see the glass half-full, not half empty. Soak in their upbeat outlook.
  4. Take a break. It’s true: All work and no play make Jack (or Jill) a dull and discouraged boy. If 24-7 news is a downer, so is 24-7 work. When you are tired, it’s easier to get discouraged. Build some rest and relaxation into your daily and weekly schedule. A five minute virtual trip every hour to your favorite vacation spot will make you smile; a weekly day of play with friends and family will boost your mood and your health.
  5. Put things in perspective. We all face challenges. But there are positive things in our lives. Try counting your blessings instead of sheep at night. Help someone else who is facing huge challenges – with an encouraging word, a listening ear, a helping hand or an anonymous donation. Helping others always helps lift your mood.

Yes, discouragement is part of life. But it doesn’t have to overwhelm you or paralyze you. With some effort, you can make a habit of being more positive. You can defeat discouragement.

ADDED FEATURE – Want to have access to a free worksheet to keep discouragement at bay? Click here to download it.


Up next – Step 4 in the Stop “Dis-ing” Yourself Series: Reduce the Distance to Your Goals



Stop “Dis-ing” Yourself and Get Back on Track (Part 3 of 5)

Step 3: Control Disorganization

There’s a theory in mathematics called “chaos theory.” Mathematicians and scientists study systems that react to small changes which create large, but unpredictable results – the “butterfly effect.”

I propose an additional theory: “screaming meemie effect.”

Failure to make small, daily efforts to organize your office quickly leads to a predictable result – a hair-pulling, nerve-wracking search for a name, a file, or a location that you need right now, all while screaming, “Where did I put that *&%#$@ thing!”

Disorganization is one way we hinder our success, whether we run our own business or work in Corporate America. The good news is disorganization can be managed. Whether you are a piler or a filer, you can deal with your personal paperwork predicament.

Pilers – I have good news and bad news. The good news is you can stop trying to morph into a compulsive filer. The bad news is you still have to do some filing, but in a way that makes use of your piling personality.

File in piles. Four to be exact. Dedicate a bin, shelf, basket, or drawer to each pile. Label them:

(1) Today (urgent).

(2) This Week (pressing).

(3) Soon (pending) Includes planning, possibilities, long-range planning and important reading.

(4) Whenever (get-around-to-it) Includes interesting, but not important reading.

Buy a 3 x 5 inch spiral notebook. Keep it with you. Use this to write down ideas, contact information, to do’s, one page per item or topic. At the end of the day, tear out the sheets. Put them in a small “in-basket” where you also put the day’s sticky notes, envelope backs, or note pages that you scribbled on throughout the day.

Each morning, transfer all items from your in-basket to the appropriate pile. Next, select things from the This Week bin that need to go in the Today bin.

First thing Monday select items from Soon that belong in This Week or Today. Then Tuesday through Friday transfer notes from your in-basket to one of the four piles and select items from your This Week pile for your Today pile.

Once a month, peruse your Whenever pile. Is there anything that should to go into Soon, or that can be discarded? This will take a little longer. Give yourself 30 to 45 minutes.

Filers, you already know what to do. You just have to do it! Make a 10-minute appointment on your calendar every day to file. Also, make a weekly 30-minute time to do more extensive organization. Every month, schedule a 60-minute time slot. Do it consistently, and you’ll keep chaos at bay.

Pilers or filers – the key is to simply use your natural organizational style. Daily.

Just one other thing. Take your mother’s advice: “Put it back where you found it and the next time you look for it, it’ll be where it’s supposed be.”

So, cage those screaming meemies and unleash the beautiful, bountiful, and well-behaved butterflies!

ADDED FEATURE: Interested in a free worksheet to help you make use of your natural organizational style (pilers or filers)? Click here to download it.


Coming up next: Step 4 – Defeat Discouragement


Stop “Dis-ing” Yourself and Get Back on Track (Part 2 of 5)

Step 2: Stop Disconnecting

 We live in a realm of instant communication. In a few seconds we can contact a client across the ocean, e-mail a colleague in another country, or facebook our friends in the next town. Yet, instantaneous wired communication does not guarantee connections. We can be isolated even as we are connecting and as a result disconnect us from the passions which fuel our creativity and the people who inspire our dreams.

I found this to be especially true when I went from working in a “cubicle farm” in a large agency to being my own boss in a home office. I am an introvert by nature and thought I’d relish this new world of peace and quiet. In fact, for many years I took a week-long silent retreat to recuperate from office politics and the extroverted nature of my job.

Unexpectedly, I missed the camaraderie and collaboration. Though I now had time and space to dream and be creative, I lacked the feedback and synergy of coworkers who helped me find practical applications for my creativity. Without this interaction, I found that I was faltering.

I was disconnecting.

Clearly I needed to re-connect, not just to people, but to my passion. Though I had known I would need to reach out to find coaching and training clients, it wasn’t going to be easy. Put me in front of strangers with a training curriculum or a presentation that I’ve developed – I’m very comfortable. But the idea of going to networking events gave me a stomach ache.

Besides, it wasn’t just clients I needed. I needed connections.

It took time, but it happened. Here are several strategies that I’ve found helpful:

  • Reconnect with your passions. Start the day with silence and solitude. Sit in a comfortable chair with your morning beverage and reflect on the day’s possibilities. I journal ways to connect my to-do list with the things I love – teaching, coaching and writing.
  • Find a brainstorming buddy. Since I work from home, I need someone to help me evaluate my flights of fancy. An acquaintance has become an encouraging, yet honest source of feedback. We call each other once or twice a week for focused 15-minute conversations or a brain break.
  • Create or join an accountability group. Every three weeks five of us meet for an early morning session at a local café, giving updates, developing strategies, and offering encouragement.
  • Network for connections first, clients second. I now enjoy these occasions because my goal is to meet new people, not find new clients. I follow up with a “nice to meet you” post card and later an email asking for a get-to-know you coffee date. (No selling, just conversation!) I have made wonderful connections as well as fast friends this way.
  • Get outside. Reconnect with nature by taking a walk or having coffee at an outdoor café. It will help reignite the passions that fuel you.

Do stay wired, it’s important in the 21st Century, but reconnect to the passions that fuel you and the people that inspire you.

ADDED FEATURE: Interested in a free worksheet to help you stay focused? Click here to download it.

Coming up next: Step 3 – Control Disorganization



Stop “Dis-ing” Yourself and Get Back on Track (Part 1 of 5)

Step 1: Reduce Distractions

If you’re like me, you know you have potential for a successful career, a contented home, a brilliant life. Yet we constantly put up barriers to our own success. We’re like marathon runners doing a 5K backwards or tennis players competing in scuba gear. We are just more subtle; we disable our prospects by “dis-ing” ourselves.
We allow distraction, disconnection and disorganization to confuse us. As we lose focus, we become dysfunctional and disregard opportunities. Thus we disqualify ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can get back in the game.
The first step is to overcome distractibility.
I work from home, so losing focus is a huge issue. I can’t even blame the kids or the dog because the kids are grown and we don’t have a dog, though my husband says if I ever leave him, he’s going to get two huge golden retrievers and name them after his first two girlfriends.

But I digress. See – I got sidetracked in the space of a paragraph!

There are endless options to divert my attention: call a friend, play computer solitaire, do the laundry, organize my office, talk to telephone solicitors, weed my garden, play golf. I wish I was a golfer so it could be a distraction!
However, it is possible to overcome distraction. Here are five techniques I use:

Have a plan. Each Monday I make a weekly to-do-list for work and home. Then each day, I make a daily prioritized list. Having a plan gives you a specific place to get restarted when you get distracted.

Build in breaks. When I worked in an office, those breaks were part of the schedule. At home, I can be more flexible. I build in exercise by going downstairs to refill my teacup, but those are quick diversions. I make sure to take ten-minute brain breaks every two hours and take longer breaks for lunch which are never eaten in the office.

When you think it, ink it. Those random thoughts or brilliant brainstorms can be very distracting. I jot them down on sticky notes. (Or use the task list on your computer or smart phone.) At the end of the day, I file them or add them on my to-do list.

Turn off your email alert. Those email alerts are HUGE distractions. Instead, check and respond to your email at scheduled times–first thing, before lunch, mid-afternoon, and end-of-day.

Limit non-work conversations. People who know you work from home assume you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs. Tell non-work callers you have five minutes. If the issue demands more attention, call them back during non-work hours.
You can reduce distraction, but it requires effort. Consider an accountability group or partner. Knowing you have to report on your progress to someone else helps you focus on your tasks.

Don’t get discouraged. You can reduce distraction and get refocused.

ADDED FEATURE: Interested in a free worksheet to help you stay focused? Click here to download it.

Coming up next: Step 2 – Stop Disconnecting

Possibilities – They Have Power

I confess – I’m an optimist. And now I’m a blogging optimist. Twice a month I plan to blog about possibilities. And I’m optimistic enough to believe I’ll have some readers!

Admitting to being an optimist might be a strike against me in some people’s minds. I just believe positive things can happen. Guess that makes me an optimist and a dreamy-eyed idealist. Well, strike two.

That’s okay in baseball – you get three strikes.

However, I am a realistic optimist. I recognize that the Cubs may not get to the World Series this year. I mean they almost did last year. And they currently have a fabulous record. My husband, who lived in Chicago as a teenager, is beside himself with excitement. It’s early September, so you can’t write them off yet, no matter what happened last year. If you did write them off, you’d miss all the fun and agony the season yet holds.  What matters is the possibility that this could be the year.

It’s the same for our lives.

If we write off our personal possibilities, we disengage in the very activities that could turn those possibilities into certainties. Yes, it is difficult to hold onto that World Series dream for the Cubs, and it’s often difficult to hold onto the dreams for our own lives. “Get real,” people say if we dare to speak our dreams out loud – dreams of starting our own business, making a living at what we enjoy doing, escaping the office politics. Funny how no one dreams of working at a mind-numbing job that eats at your soul.

Yet we allow kids to dream and imagine. In fact, we encourage them to do so. We want them to think creatively; unplug from those electronic devices and plug into their imagination. But eventually we expect children to grow up: be responsible, get a job, pay your bills, toe the line. And, give up their dreams.

I believe differently. I believe that we can be grown up and still dream, still consider that there are new and different and wonderful things waiting for us. I believe possibilities have power, give power, and unleash power – the power we have in our minds, hearts, hands, and souls.

When we examine our possibilities, consider what they represent, and find ways to begin living them, our lives blossom. Possibilities become concrete when we act on them, one small step at a time. We dream of being a best-selling author: we start writing. We long to go on stage: we take an acting class. We crave travel: we make friends with people from other countries.

In other words, we don’t wait for Tinker Bell to show up with her magic wand – we wave the wand ourselves.

Guess I forgot to tell you, I believe in fairy tales.

Opps, strike three.

Well, I won’t get to the World Series, but here’s to the possibility that the Cubs will!

Upcoming blogs: Is there a possibility that you are ‘dis-ing” your success? That’s a possibility that you DON’T want. Look for an upcoming blog series on five ways to avoid that tendency, starting with Reduce Distractions.