Happier, Definitely Happier

Image

So whatever happened to that Happiness Project?  I’m still committed to my happiness commandments but I fell off the blogging about it wagon.  Focusing on energy for January, marriage for February, work for March and family for April definitely pulled me out of the funk of 2013.  I feel like my old self again!  I am so happy about the results, but the elevated mood, increased energy, better days at work and at home have had a negative impact on my blogging.  Having to stick to a monthly focus made the blog feel like a project instead of an opportunity to just share.  So I’m ditching the official project part and keeping the happiness part.

A quick list of happiness triggers for me lately:

God answering prayers and showing me positive signs, good friends, my Bible Study group, watching my son play lacrosse, a weekend where I felt like I excelled at my role as daughter, wife and mother, expressing my creative side at work, a sunny vacation, my mom’s pancreas biopsy yielding great news, BodyPump classes, gardening and planting flowers, long days, springtime, accidentally leaving my suitcase at home for a 3 day weekend and not freaking out, learning new things about my industry, home-made ice cream, Game of Thrones, helping others, meditation and walks around the block.

Daily Prompt: No footholds here

ImageI had an a-ha moment tonight. I think it is one I’ve had before, but it landed fresh on me today.  I realize that I am not comfortable with anger, whether or giving or receiving, it is an emotion I prefer to maintain a distance from.  Anger breeds more anger which ends up being a slow drip of toxic resentment. I resent that someone made me angry or was angry at me.  This emotion is not allowed, doesn’t everyone know that?  Sometimes I kid myself and think that if I just vent and talk it out, the anger will go away, but that just feeds my self-righteousness and resentment. 

I have definitely lost relationships over this.  I’m a grudge holder.  In the past, I’ve just worked on not getting angry, but anger is not the problem, it is my weird belief system about anger that is the problem.  I wonder what would happen if I focused on forgiveness instead of suppression? 

Daily Prompt

 

Happy_and_successful@Work (part 1)

results

This month as part of my Happiness Project, I’m focusing on improving my work life.

I have outlined 10 behaviors for workplace domination.  I am holding myself accountable by tracking specific actions against each of these in a daily journal. After 1 week, I already feel like I am upping my corporate game. As work is serious business, I’m going to go deep on each area and split this across 2 posts.

Here are my first 5 strategies for success at work:

1. Mentally and physically prepare. Who is kidding who here? I don’t bolt out of bed and dance around my bedroom in the morning overcome by the excitement of going to my corporate job each day. I have a high stress position and I’d rather be on a beach in the Bahamas or playing tennis in Palm Springs than going into the cubicle battlefield.  (and I totally get that vacations cost money)armor

Not to mention, some/many of the people I work with are not exactly in the running for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality.  I have to put on the full armor of God every day to be victorious in my workplace and be an ambassador for the Lord. I’ve developed a new morning routine that consists of 5 minutes of meditation, prayer, simple stretches and then listening to the Bible or an inspirational message on my drive into work. Also, I’m taking my vitamins and eating right. I can’t expect amazing output without amazing input. Garbage in, garbage out.

2. Dress for success. In the modern workplace, business casual has sunken to new lows. It is easy to fall into a trap of dressing for comfort instead of dressing like the future CEO.claire

I have a closet full of beautiful business clothes but have fallen into a rut of jeans, long wrap-around sweaters that could double as bathrobes and comfortable mom shoes. Just like I want to tell people who wear pajama pants to the grocery store I need to also tell myself, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”

I am officially stepping it up with dresses, jackets, beautiful blouses, slacks and skirts. Important people look important. To add to my pulled together look I’m flat ironing my new fierce hairdo versus letting it run wild and curly. I’m also spending an extra few minutes improving my make-up techniques (Pinterest is great for age-appropriate tips and tricks).  Claire Underwood is not my character role model, but she is my new style icon. Note to self:  buy some bigger specs, go even blonder as summer approaches, lose 20 pounds.

3. At the beginning of each week, write down 3-5 strategic goalsThe most successful person I know does this.  prio

It is easy to have your schedule slip away from you with meetings, hallway randomizations and emails.  My theory is that I am not being paid to answer emails, I’m being paid to deliver business value.

I set goals that move my business forward each week and track progress against them daily. This helps me prioritize and connect dots while I’m in meetings or answering those pesky emails. I am not saying don’t answer them, I’m saying learn how to answer the right ones first.  Anything that furthers my strategic goals should be top of mind and top of the priority list.

4. Embrace my inner executive.  This is my version of fake it until you make it. It is important to show up as a confident, knowledgeable person with a clear and insightful point of view.  Again, the company is paying for my expertise and capability. I may not know everything, but I can show up daily as a valuable contributor who is learning and growing.  Some of the ways I demonstrate these qualities include:  speaking up in meetings, asking strategic questions, not being afraid to disagree or offer an opposing argument and showing that I have a bold and strategic vision for our work.  Boardroom

My workplace mantra: “I am in tune with what is going on in the industry and the marketplace. I have valuable experience that I share willingly and warmly.  I am in a senior role and I have not only earned a seat at the table, I own the table.” 

5. Manage up and out.  My boss and my skip-level boss are nowhere near me 99% of the time.  Yet these two people decide my fate at the company. They need to be my biggest fans and I am the only one who can equip them with the data (results) that compel them to join and stay in my fan club.

manage

To create raving fans, I need to know and understand what my bosses and other key stakeholders value and expect out of my role and then find ways to blow their expectations out of the water.

If you are not getting to where you think you should be in your career, maybe it is because you are focusing too much energy on clearing the bar and not enough on inventing a new one.  Meeting expectations is never enough.  I need to demonstrate how my contributions and results are better than my leaders could have done themselves.  I know as a boss, how wonderful it is to have an employee bring me a piece of work that is much better than I could have done and that requires no re-work.  I talk up and reward those who I can trust to deliver these types of results.

Once I’ve exceeded the target, I look for opportunities to market these accomplishments with my leadership and make it simple for them to market them on my behalf.  I have yet to meet a boss who doesn’t want to share amazing results up the food chain.  It makes them look good.  It is easy to focus on activity versus achievement, always prioritize that which drives a specific and exceptional outcome versus that which just takes up time.

Taking My Own Advice

WorryI haven’t posted in a few weeks.  I have been in a bit of a funk.

Nothing too serious, but there are times when my work life can take a toll on me.  I know better and am the first one to tell others to stop worrying.

Today, for the first time in a long time I felt like I had a small, public win at the office. I needed it and I can’t take any of the glory. God is so good.

What made the difference?  I read these four points below.  I wrote these to myself a few months ago when I was feeling very lost. Here was what I focused on today:

  1. God is a perfect father, who doesn’t compare me to his other children, he loves me.  HE loves ME.  He loves the imperfect me.  I don’t need to waste my time comparing myself to others and spending so much time on my flaws and “growth” areas.  God loves me in this moment and he’ll love me when I’ve improved and he’ll love me if I take steps back.  God loves me right now.  Right this minute, right this second.
  2. I can do nothing without God.  When I’m overwhelmed and stressed it is because I’ve forgotten that he is in charge and somehow I think I’m in control.  I’m not in control.  God is in control and I can trust in his plan.  The evil one distracts me into thinking I can control anything and everything.  I am his instrument but I give it over to him to be the controller.
  3. It is ok to ask the Father for favor.  I have been paralyzed by the belief that I must only serve others and God and that I should never expect favor for the seeds I sow.  I spend too much time thinking I don’t deserve favor because I am caught up measuring the way I worship.  Am I reading the Bible enough, getting on my knees or spending quality time in prayer enough to ask the Father for help? God is a loving and giving God.  He will expand his favor on what the evil one tries to take away 7 fold.
  4. God admires boldness.  I tend to take the humility/meek thing to heart and forget about being bold. I put on the breast plate of righteousness to go and do great work in the world.  God has given me the gift of leadership and I will not put it on the shelf because of fear of what others may say about me.  God never fails.

I will be bringing this out more regularly as a self-coaching technique.  I love to encourage and mentor others and there are times when I need to coach myself.

I’m sure many of you can relate to getting yourself out of a funk. What do you do when you need to build yourself up?  How do you overcome criticism?

You Say You Want a Resolution…

How are those New Year’s resolutions going?  happy-new-year-2014-hq-wallpaper-740769

Still working for you?

With the help of my personal Happiness Project, I am tracking towards my best self-improvement year ever.  (just when I needed it most! )

I don’t know about you, but I need accountability and I need the win.  I am a rule follower and an admitted achievement junkie.  Put my name next to a task and it will get done.  If there is a chance there is recognition involved (even if it is with my virtual blog community) it will get done faster and better.  Knowing this about myself, I adopted a scorecard strategy (just like Gretchen Rubin)  for tracking and scoring monthly goals.  My first scorecard for January/Energy is complete and here are the results.

janscore

High Scores:  The mental goals of under-reacting, staying positive and faking energy levels yielded immediate payoffs.  Instead of wasting energy on negative self-talk, anxiety and resentment or feeling like I should save my energy for later (was I going to need to lift a car off of someone in a few hours?) I could choose a virtuous cycle of seeking out the positive, talking myself up instead of putting myself down and faking higher energy levels just to see what might happen.  This left me feeling strong, capable and ready for anything.  Nailing these 3 goals definitely contributed to higher energy and feeling like the old me again.  Life changing.

Above target but not perfect:  These goals ranged from the fun stuff like planting email seeds (sending out love into the email universe and looking forward to what came back to my inbox) to matters of pure discipline like taking my vitamins and not staring at my blog stats all day.  When it comes to the blog, I have to admit that the days I was successful at not peeking until my must-do work objectives were complete were days I was so busy I barely had time to eat or escape to the ladies room let alone do anything personal on my laptop.

Needs Improvement:  The lowest tier consisted of writing things down at work (detailed notes), sleeping, eating and exercising.  Writing things down?  What does that have to do with energy?  Well it helps me learn and also helps me with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  Some days I have nothing but meetings all day and I catch myself taking little mental vacations (kind of like Walter Mitty) and coming back to earth and realizing I have no idea what is being discussed. Even though I didn’t hit target on sleep, I know that having a goal to get good sleep got me in bed earlier most nights.  The days I could put a solid checkbox in the sleep column were great days.  There is just something so satisfying about the guilty pleasure of 8 good hours of slumber.  Even though eating clean and getting my 10K of walking didn’t score as high as I would have liked, compared to where I was pre-January, I have to give myself mad props.  To get 10K steps in 50% of the time is a big deal.  If I had been measuring in December, my score would have been closer to 10%.  So huge jump there.  The eating thing is a day by day journey.  I did pretty good until my supply of Costco peanut butter pretzels was replenished.

All in all, 80% is the target and 80% is my average.   I’m feeling energized by my success and that energy is showing up as more of me to give away (one of my 12 commandments).  I will keep the January scorecard going in February (in addition to February’s goals) to make sure I don’t lose ground.

Have you ever had a New Year’s resolution that landed real change in your life?  What was it and what was your secret to success?

…”Recalculating”

gps…but those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.

Yesterday I caught myself thinking…”Hey, I actually feel good. I feel energized.”

Have you ever checked in with yourself and thought, “I’m doing better and better!”?

This is a far cry from my thought process just a few short weeks ago which consisted of “I must by dying, how could I be this tired all the time?”

I have been working a multi-pronged approach to improving energy. Two areas I’m focusing on are reframing situations to find the positive opportunity and stopping myself from having an emotional overreaction that triggers a physical reaction and sends my body into fight or flight mode.

I am living proof that you can change your energy, attitude and overall mental health by changing your thoughts.  Here is a glimpse at how my new thinking is kicking my old thinking’s butt.

1. My Dad called me on my drive home from work and asked, “Could you stop and pick up a new prescription for pain medicine for your Mom?” (Mom broke her shoulder last week and is in terrible pain)

Old thinking: I work hard, sometimes 60 hours a week. Now I’m the errand girl, too! How did my life turn into this? It is only going to get worse, they are not getting any younger!

New thinking: My parents need me and I’m lucky to be able to help them out. These are the good days where we all live together and work as a team. I can approach these tasks with resentment or with light. The extra time in the car will give me more time to listen to my current book on tape, The Happiness Project. Cool!

2. When I got to the pharmacy, the pharmacist shared, “We don’t stock that strength at this pharmacy anymore, you can go to our other store 6 miles away though. They have it and we can tell them you are coming.”

Old thinking: Are you kidding me! I don’t even know that part of town. What if that’s a bad neighborhood. Forget it, this is not what I signed up for! I quit!

New thinking: Mom needs this better pain medicine and I want her to be comfortable. It’s no big deal. I’ll plug it into the GPS and I won’t get lost. I’ll get to see some new parts of my new city and this will give me more time to listen to my book!

3. Yesterday, I had a meeting scheduled in a building I had never been to before. All of our senior LT would be there and it is important to me to be on time and to show up early enough to get a seat at the table. I allowed more than enough time but with 20 minutes to go I realized I was lost and discovered i had typed the wrong address into the GPS.

Old thinking: You are so stupid, you are going to look like an idiot walking in late. Everyone will think you are worthless and don’t deserve to be there.

New thinking: I still have plenty of time to find it, I need to relax and imagine I have all the time in the world to figure this out. Just take your time and do it right. This is not a big deal. Breathe deeply. Don’t give up. You’ll get there. People are always a few minutes late. More time to listen to my book and get into a powerful mindset for the meeting. (I was on time, too!)

4. This afternoon, I had another meeting in yet another building that  I had been to once before but knew I would have trouble finding. So again, I looked up directions online, and again, I somehow fat fingered the address on the GPS and ended up in the wrong place. I realized my error 10 minutes before the start time .

Old thinking: SERIOUSLY! Two times in two days! Just don’t go. How do you twist these things around every time?  You are losing it!

New thinking: Everyone makes mistakes. It is no big deal. I just passed that building a few minutes ago, I can retrace my path and go back to it. From now on, I need to measure twice and cut once when using the GPS and driving to unfamiliar places.  More time to listen to my book!  (Again, I made it on time!)

Finding Strength

Quote

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31
New International Version (NIV)

Zero to Hero Day 19

Slap Happy

I’m currently listening to Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project.  If you are not familiar with this book I encourage you to check it out.  Gretchen chronicles a year of personal growth where she takes on a new focus area each month all in the pursuit of making a good life even better. 

I don’t think it is by accident that I started a similar journey at the New Year just prior to learning of this book.  Although my focus has been finding the spring in my step and living more intentionally to not get swallowed up by a big season of change, the similarities and winning formula are too great to ignore.  I’m adopting her approach and am excited to join the community of Happiness Project bloggers out there.

Here is my list showing what I will focus on each month.  This schedule aligns to key activities and events and is not prioritized.  They are all very important and I know none of them truly standalone anyway.  They will be interwoven into each day let alone each month.  You get the idea.

January – Energy.  This fits the best with the work I’ve been doing.

February – Marriage. 

March – Work. 

April – Family.

May – House & Garden.

June – Friends.

July – Money.

August – Fun.

September – Faith.

October – Motherhood.

November – Health.

December – Celebrating.

I have been focusing on finding energy this month and it is working!  I keep noticing that I’m not dragging myself to do things.  The funny thing is, I started doing many things at once, right after Christmas so I’m not sure if one item is delivering more energy than the next or if it is a combination.  So I need to keep them all up!  Here is my plan for the rest of the month:

  1. Eat clean.  Avoid junk food and processed foods.  Lots of vegetables and protein. Stick close to the earth. I’ve got work to do here, but I see the cleaner I eat the better I feel.  Telling myself I’m allergic to things really does help. Will power just isn’t enough for me, but when I can physically feel the difference after ingesting something full of sugar and empty calories, it is a strong deterrent.  Incorporated into this should be my Diet Coke addiction.  I’m committing to cut back for now, but I’m not ready to give this up.  I don’t drink coffee, this is my morning routine.
  2. Take vitamins and medicines every day and on time.  I’ve recently started taking a brain function blend vitamin and have renewed my commitment to my adrenal support regimen.  My brain fog is lifting and I’m connecting more dots at work.  Color me pleased.
  3. Get enough sleep and allow for snooze time in the morning.  I have been having trouble getting out of bed in the morning because A. I’m Exhuased and B. it is so dark where I live now. I find if I set the alarm for 30 minutes before I actually have to get in the shower, I can do some prayer, take my time getting up and embrace the day with the right mindset.
  4. Don’t overreact.  I have been diagnosed with adrenal problems which means I have overused my fight or flight instincts and they are out of whack.  In other words, sometimes my body overreacts and I have a very intense physical response to something that shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Did you know it can take up to 4 hours for your body to return to normal when this fight or flight mechanism gets triggered?  I can usually control this with a lot of prayer, deep breathing, re-framing my thinking and quieting my inner critic.  Staying on top of this is key to maintaining good energy levels.
  5. Walk the walk.  I’m addicted to my Fitbit and my target of 10,000 steps per day (70,000 per week).  I’m parking farther away, taking the stairs, walking the dogs and hitting the gym.  I am feeling better physically than I have in months.  Everything I read about adrenal support recommends gentle exercise like walking or yoga.  In the past I have resisted this as “not good enough” and elected to do something more intense that I couldn’t keep going for very long.  Now with the Fitbit, I’m embracing the gentleness of it all and feeling great.
  6. Blogging as a reward.  Having a bunch of incomplete tasks hanging over my head is draining. So I make sure I accomplish what needs to be done at work and at home before I dive into blogging.  Whether it’s reading or writing.  I don’t get to do this until I’ve done all my must-haves for the day. 
  7. Minimize inbox attacks.  Another huge monkey on my back is the overflow of my work inbox.  The culture at my company is to stay on top of it, so I can’t just ignore it until tomorrow.  I don’t mind responding to emails at night but there have been times when I get upset (fight or flight!) by email grenades and I’ve let that ruin my evenings or weekends.  This has been a tough one, but I have recently developed some new habits that find me happy to check email versus dreading it. First off, I’m unsubscribing to any retailer emails or anything not work related that shouldn’t be filling up that box anyway.  Sometimes just seeing 100 new emails are in there can freak me out so I need to stop feeding the beast.  Second, I’m making it a habit to send out seed emails that will yield a wonderful, warm response.  I regularly send out great job!, you are special becausethought you might like this or just thinking of you emails.  People are genuinely touched by my outreach and send back the nicest replies. 
  8. Fake it until you make it.  You hear this one all of the time and now I know why, it works!  The best way to find that energy I wish I had is to just pretend like I have it and press on.  Next thing I know, I’m over the hump and I’m not faking anymore.
  9. Write things down.  My memory just isn’t what it used to be. My new practice is write everything down and save myself the stress of not remembering or not being able to find what I need. OneNote is great for this and I’m becoming a power user.  I’m taking detailed notes and tracking my actions and my delegations. I’m capturing my blog ideas and articles and Bible verses I want to reference. It is a big relief to unclutter my mind in this way. I’m finding that without the clutter I’m actually doing better on my recall.
  10. Turn that frown upside down.  A big drain on my energy is thinking negatively or being around others who are negative Nellys.  Another great bit of advice out of the Happiness Project is to remember, these are the good old days, this is the fun part.  Whether I’m at work trying to get our team to solve a difficult problem or I’m stuck in parking garage traffic with my husband on date night:  we are lucky to be here!  These are the salad days!  Let’s reframe the situation and have some fun. 

 

Reputation Schmeputation — Zero to Hero day 16

ImageWhat is my reputation?  I am not exactly sure of what others think about me and sometimes my inner-critic tells me that people don’t get me at all, but I keep moving forward.  Like Dory says in finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”  I make a conscious effort to be a positive force in the world no matter what the world throws at me.  It isn’t always easy but that’s why reputations are built and not handed out as free gifts with purchase.

If I was a fly on the wall of a meeting where a team of experts had to sum me up, here is what I would hope to overhear:

Loving and Encouraging.  She has an amazing way of acknowledging other’s talents and contributions.  Last week she gave me a sincere compliment when I was having a really rough day.  She is not afraid to show gratitude and love and goes out of her way to make people feel valued.  

Insightful.  She sees beyond the obvious.  Reads people and situations.  She has helped me grow by identifying where I may have a blind spot or growth opportunity and then shared it with me in a way that was non-threatening so I could absorb it.  She sees the cause and effect in situations and helps others avoid the school of hard knocks.  She has great intuition.

Smart.  She is creative, innovative, connects dots and is not afraid to try something new or do nothing when appropriate.  She looks at a situation from multiple angles and tries on different options and then makes a decision.  She doesn’t suffer from analysis paralysis, she takes action. If I had a tough problem to solve, a party to plan or a story that needed telling I would want her on my team. 

Fun.  She has a great sense of humor and doesn’t take herself or most situations too seriously.  She is always willing to break the tension with a joke.  I walked into her office and caught her dancing the other day!  She is a positive and happy person and shares her joy for life with everyone she meets.  I just like to be around her.

Hard working.  She does what she says she will do and gets things done.  She symbolizes excellence and expects excellence from others.  She doesn’t have much tolerance for half-hearted efforts and can be hard to please.  She seems to catch me every time I rush through something just to get it off my plate.  I have learned a lot from her.  When she tells me I did a great job I am very proud.