Happier, Definitely Happier

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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.

New in Town | Daily Post

ImageI just moved to a new city and I’m keenly aware of the need to make new friends. This is my second move in 8 years for my current company and I have the benefit of what worked/didn’t work in our last city to build upon.

The biggest lesson I learned was to make sure and have lots of friends outside of my job. In our last teeny tiny city, my co-workers became the cornerstone of our social network. They were amazing, wonderful people for the most part. I’m still dear friends with a few and Facebook friends with many, but there are many problems with the friends@work thing.

Problem #1: Non-stop talking shop during social gatherings. Painful for spouses and not the best stress reliever.

Problem #2: Gossip. What happens after work becomes fodder for discussion at work.  With everyone.

Problem #3: Awkwardness as you/they move up/down the ladder or move around the organization.

Problem #4: Crazy awkwardness when people get fired or are performing poorly.

Problem #5: Double crazy awkwardness if those mentioned in Problem #4 suspect/believe that you had anything to do with their situation.

Of course there are good things about work friends, too.  My favorite benefit is when I’m having a work-related crisis, they can come up to speed on my issue and offer advice or empathy quickly because they get it.  The short-hand of someone who knows they lay of the land is a huge help when the going gets tough.

Outside of work, here are my recommendations based on my experiences the past 6 months:

  1. Join a church. Some of our favorite people and deepest relationships in our last city were friends from our Bible Study small group. Knowing we could find a church and connect in this way was one of the things that gave us confidence to move again. We have landed in a small group and are enjoying getting to know this new set of brothers and sisters in Christ. They are wonderful people.
  2. Say Yes. We have been fortunate to have received several invitations and I/we have consciously leaned in and said Yes to the following:
    1. Bunko
    2. Zumba
    3. A neighborhood Christmas party
    4. Attending the annual homeowners association (HOA) meeting
    5. Volunteering to serve on the HOA board (my husband thought I was CRAZY!)
    6. Hosting the quarterly HOA board meeting
    7. Going to a brand new neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party based on an email blast to the HOA
    8. Attending all of my son’s lacrosse games
    9. Going to a new acquaintances restaurant
    10. Coming Soon (Hot Yoga!)
  3. Throw a party. We were inspired by the new neighbors who moved in Christmas weekend and then managed to host a New Year’s party just a few days later. They motivated us to put our last few unpacked boxes in the garage and start entertaining. We have hosted a small new acquaintance dinner party in February and then a larger party with about 20 neighbors for St. Patty’s. We also had a pot-luck with our new small group. We are looking forward to summer barbecues and keeping the festivities going.
  4. Rekindle old friendships. One of the biggest blessings of moving here has been the opportunity to reconnect with a childhood friend who just happened to move to this same metropolitan area 6 months ahead of me. (thank you Facebook!) She is everything you would want in a dear friend and I can’t believe we haven’t been hanging out the past 40 years.
  5. Don’t forget about your old friends. With Skype, texting, Facebook and hands free cellular built into the steering wheel of my car, it is easier to stay connected with my geographically challenged friends than ever. As much as I look forward to the new friends God puts in my path, I treasure the oldies but goodies, too. Occasionally when I feel lonely and wonder why I’m not beating new friend requests off with a stick, I think about the people I hold near and dear and the mutual respect and love we share. I must be doing something right to have these amazing people in my life.

As part of my Happiness Project I will devote the entire month of June to the quest for new friends.  So I have two months to devise a game plan. One resource I hope will generate multiple new ideas is my next audio book.  Looks like a fun listen!

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Daily Post | Why Can’t We Be Friends

en-Listed | Daily Post

ImageI think my fascination with lists started as a teenager when my parents would leave me home alone for a few hours and would write a list of (super easy) chores to complete before they returned.  Once I had conquered the list, I was free to talk on the phone, watch TV, raid the refrigerator.  As long as each item was done, no questions asked.  My love affair with lists continues to this day. Lists complete me.

Here is my Top 10 list of tips for getting things done:

  1. Make a list of the task at hand and the sub-tasks that go with it. This will help you find manageable chunks of smaller tasks and will also highlight where you may have dependencies on other people.  Get busy asking those people for what you need ASAP. Give them plenty of notice and ask nicely. Your emergency isn’t their emergency. Yada yada yada.
  2. Put yourself in jail. “I can’t leave this office until I create that pivot table.”  “I can’t lay down on this bed until I fold the clean laundry.”  “I can’t have a glass of wine until I hit my 10,000 steps on my Fitibit.”
  3. Do a mind map. Sometimes trying to write an orderly list is a barrier to getting started. You may need a less structured way to brain dump and find a path forward. If you haven’t done a mind map before, check this out. A great tool!
  4. Set a timer. Shut out all distractions and set a timer for 10 minutes. You are only allowed to work on the 1 project for that 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, decide whether or not to do another 10 minutes. You’d be surprised what you can get done in a short sprint. I’ve written this list (so far) in about 10 minutes!
  5. Get down and give me 20. Write down 20 things that will help you achieve your goal. Don’t give it too much thought just keep writing until you have 20 ideas. Getting to 20 is often a struggle. You will have to think outside the box to complete the list. Warning! Be on the lookout for breakthrough ideas.
  6. Imagine if. Tell yourself a story of how the world will look when this project/task is done to perfection. When I don’t know where to start or don’t have all the details I just close my eyes and imagine that future place when this seemingly impossible project or problem is finished and I’m accepting an award for my outstanding achievement. Who is there? What are they doing? What has changed?  What am I wearing? Writing myself a few paragraphs on what that imaginary place looks, tastes and smells like is both motivating and productive. Once I’ve glimpsed a better place, I have to get there!Image-Eat-a-frog
  7. Do the most unpleasant task first. It may be that this 1 painful thing is prohibiting you from getting started, so just get that 1 thing out of the way.
  8. Reward yourself. Sometimes hard work is its own reward and sometimes you need a fro-yo or a mani/pedi. Right-size your reward with the task and make them both happen.
  9. Outsource it. Is this really yours to do? Can you trust someone else to do it? Can you hire a service to do it?  Many people (guilty!) bury themselves in tasks because they can’t give up control. Maybe your husband can be trusted with your fine washables. Maybe someone else on the team would be willing to arrange that meeting. Maybe your son is old enough to write out his own birthday invitations. Maybe you can bring lunch for a month and hire a professional painter versus spending two weekends on a DIY project.
  10. Don’t do it. Will this matter in a year? What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Could this possible be a nice-to-have? Will this jeopardize another priority? Sometimes we are reluctant to start a task because we don’t see the value in doing it. Not doing it is always an option. Like the song says “Let it go.”

Daily Post | Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Who’s a Good Boy? | Daily Prompt

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Daily Prompt:  Make Me Smile

There are many things that make me smile.  Overall, I am a smiler!   Being greeted by these two faces when I walk in the door always lifts my mood.  I like to take my coat off, set my purse down and immediately lay down on the living room rug and let them kiss my face.  Sometimes I “fake” fight them off.  It is a great ritual and a fun transition from my work life to my home life.  My family isn’t bad either, but they don’t literally jump for joy when they see me.

 

 

 

The Good Wife

Happiness Project - Marriage MonthI remain committed to my happiness project and this month’s focus is all about my funny Valentine.  I’m upping my game on my marriage.

My husband is a wonderful man.  Like so many (ALL) of us, he isn’t perfect, but he is the answer to my prayers.  He is a Godly and humble man with a positive outlook.  He would lay down his life for his family and will do anything to serve or protect us.  He is smart, capable, considerate, selfless and funny.  He has a level of integrity that continues to amaze and inspire me and at 48, he is still a total hunk.  What’s not to love?

He deserves a month of extreme good-wife-y-ness and I’m going to give it to him.  Here are my new habits for February.

  1. Don’t nag, my schedule isn’t his schedule. He is going to do it when he is going to do it.  I tend to notice a task needs to be done around the house and I ask him to do it without respecting what he’s doing.  We talked about creating a better system to get things done and settled on communicating about the honey-do list via email.  I’m pleased with the results so far.
  2. Check in each day via a text, email or phone call.  My husband and I have very similar, self-sufficient personalities and we don’t need to talk several times a day. But a phone call or text to say I’m thinking of you would be a bright spot in the day. I need all of the bright spots I can get!
  3. Show affection coming and going.  Hugs and kisses hello and goodbye are such an easy thing. I realized a few weeks ago that somehow this had become a not every day thing.  It is back on the everyday list now.
  4. Make him laugh.  We have always had similar senses of humor and we find the same things funny. I’ve challenged myself to share/do/observe something chuckle-worthy every day. I also, make it a point to laugh at his or my son’s jokes. The sound of all of us laughing is music to my ears.
  5. Choose grace.  My significant other has his moments. Trust me, I’m no picnic either. For the month of February, I’m burning my membership card to the legion of the easily offended and am biting my tongue.  I don’t care what he says or does, I’m going to react with grace, humor or worst case scenario walking into another room.
  6. Just do it.  I admit that I am guilty of procrastinating when my hubby asks me to or suggests I do something.  “I’m so busy” has been a handy excuse to ignore requests.  I’m focusing on doing it as soon as he asks and with a smile.
  7. Listen and give him my full attention when he’s talking.  I am sure I am not the only one who sits with the laptop open and pounds away at the keys thinking I’m somehow participating in family life. I miss a lot doing this.  On all fronts.
  8. No complaining.  My husband is an amazing cook and cooks me dinner almost every night (I am the primary breadwinner).  However, some nights I turn my nose up at the dinner I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare.  Too fattening!  We just had that!   So ungrateful, That is just bad form.  Another thing I complain about is his questionable taste in television shows. Why are reality shows based in Alaska so popular all of a sudden?  I don’t win the battle for the remote control anyway, so I’m not going to complain about it.
  9. Praise him.  This is an easy one.  He does great things every day.  I’m proud of the man he is every day. Consciously expressing it makes me happy.
  10. Serve him.  My husband is a true renaissance man and he can do just about anything.  He can cook, manage our finances, install new flooring and carry a new toilet up 2 flights of stairs so when he needs me to help him, I will be his willing and eager helper.  I am committed to proactively finding ways to serve him and lighten his load.

All the Single Ladies! — Online dating advice in time for V-Day

As we head into Valentine’s Day, I thought I would play Cupid by offering my personal online dating tips.

This is what worked for me and maybe it could work for you, too.

I am an educated and driven career woman who wanted a husband and a family to share and enjoy life with.  I realize that not everyone wants this, but I sure did and I would love to help anyone out there who is in the same situation but maybe needs just a little nudge to go look.

I didn’t settle on who came across my path, I went out looking for him…and I FOUND HIM.

My husband and I met during the pioneer days of internet dating sites.  It was a weird, untrusted and unknown phenomenon, with no track record yet.  Most people who participated did so under a cloak of secrecy, me included.

The ramblings below are the result of numerous tips from my best girlfriends and 1 year of personal trial and error online.

Figure out what you want in a man.  This is the hardest part. Understanding what you want and don’t want and what is good for you and NOT good in any way for you is critically important.  You hear nightmare stories of divas with superficial checklists.  I’m not saying make a list, I’m saying get your priorities straight.  Hint: Character is key.

Put yourself out there.  Find a site that is reputable and treats its members with dignity and dive in.  First thing you’ll need after a valid credit card is an accurate but flattering photo of yourself.  Great relationships are built on honesty. You want a man who is interested in you today not you 20 or 30 pounds or several laugh lines ago. Choose an appropriate and current photo.  It’s tempting to use that one photo from that time you had a stomach bug for 2 weeks and dropped 10 lbs that shows your cheekbones, but don’t.  He needs to be able to recognize you when you meet him in person.

Write a great profile.  Your profile should scream  “You want to meet me!  I’m a great catch!”  Be witty, be clever, be YOU.  Have a friend (or 2) review what you’ve written and give you feedback and then LISTEN TO THEM.  Remember that any man reading your profile already likes your picture so you need to keep his attention. Your words should show him you have your act together.  Be direct, be confident. Be careful not to sound bitter or jaded. Be positive. If positive doesn’t reflect who you are or where you are in life right now, should you be seeking a mate?

Who picks who?  Sites have different features that allow women and men to notify each other to express interest.  You will be tempted to select guys who you find interesting. Calm down missy. This is when you need to step into the feminine.  Let him pursue you.  You have made yourself available and that is all you need to do.  For the first 60 days, you can look all you want but you are only to interact with men that select you.  Yes, you read that right.  If, after 60 days of waiting, no one has picked you or you have no reasonable prospects of a date, please start over with a new picture and/or profile or try other sites.  Maybe one of the niche sites (Christian Mingle, Our Time, something local to your city) would be a better fit.  If you are truly drawn to someone and the 60 day waiting period has gone by, then gain the consent of at least one level headed girlfriend before contacting him one time.  Then, sit back and let him do the pursuing. No chasing.

OK, you’ve got some “hits” now what?  Evaluate carefully who you plan to respond to. You are not obligated.  I know this sounds harsh, but don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings at this point. As a woman you overly empathize with how it would feel to take the risk and pick someone and how awful it would be to never hear back from them or to be rejected.  But he’s not you and he’s not a woman. He can handle it. The guy you are stressing about letting down easily may have used a shot-gun method and picked 100 different women.

Also, keep your superficiality in check and get beyond the pictures.  Read profiles carefully and read between the lines. Once you have someone you’d like to engage with, run it by a friend. This serves two purposes:  it gets you a second set of eyes looking for red flags and it creates a built-in delay.  You are an amazing woman with a full life, you are not sitting and staring at your screen waiting for any form of contact. Give it a few hours girl.  When you do respond, resist the urge to exchange life stories via email and send a brief but warm and witty note.  Without being reckless, your goal is to minimize back and forth email chit chat and exchange phone numbers ASAP.  You are not looking for a virtual pen pal or a texting buddy. Once he follows through with a phone call (and can speak intelligently) suggest a meeting.  Don’t dominate the decision making but a cup of coffee or a glass of wine sure does sound nice.  Remember to meet someplace safe and public with lots of other people around.  More tips on safety later.

Prepping for the first meeting.  Pull together a first date outfit, one that your girlfriends approve of.  You want something that you feel feminine in and that a healthy male will appreciate.  A wise girlfriend once told me to always wear a dress or a skirt on the first date and to wear soft, touchable fabrics on top.  Don’t dress like Miley Cyrus but No Turtlenecks.  In addition to a great outfit, you need a great attitude for that first date, too. Establish a first date mantra and use it to get pumped up:  You are a great woman with much to offer. You are the whole package. You are going to rock this date!

During the date.  Break out the witty banter. The lighter you can make this, the better. Remember this is a mutual decision point where you both have the right to say Yes or No to another date so relax.  Ask him about himself and make sure he asks (and is interested) in YOU.  Conversation starter: Talk about the online dating experience. Trust me this topic alone can fill an evening. Steer clear of traditional first date taboos: old boyfriends, ticking biological clocks, your Pinterest board for your someday wedding and any discussion of more than 1 cat.

Who pays?  As the date comes to an end, let him pay. This may sound old fashioned but again, this is my strategy for finding a man and men pay for first dates. If things work out, you’ll have your entire lives to split things 50/50. Don’t emasculate him. If it looks like there will be a next time, offer to get the next one.

Do I kiss him?  I leave this entirely up to you but I remind you that you don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t tell him to order the $100 dollar bottle of wine (this story will have to be a future post!).  Also, remember that he may be going out on 10 dates in 2 weeks (as was the case with my husband — again another future post) so don’t do anything that feels unnatural to you and your values. Personally, I don’t kiss people I’ve only known a few hours but I do hug them. I’m a hugger.  I could work up a hug for my worst dates.  It was nice to meet them, I wished them well on their journey and they were helping me on mine. Totally hug-worthy.  I may never hear from them again (nor want to) so my philosophy was to not give away kisses but to embrace the hug.

What next?  You decide if you are Yes, Maybe or No on going on a second date.  You may know immediately or you may need to talk it through with a girlfriend.  You should know what you want to happen before you consider what he wants.

You think Yes, he never contacts you again.  With online dating, he can find you if he wants to. There is no “maybe he lost my number.”  If you never hear from him, it’s his loss.  Learn from it if you can and move on.

He says Yes, you say No.  If you don’t want to see him again and he reaches out for that second date, then end it gracefully.  Don’t waste his time or yours.  Isn’t that what you’d want?  My process involved a nice email note via the site a day or two later that said it was great meeting you but I had met someone else with serious relationship potential that I wanted to focus on.  (see how nicely this is set up by discussing the online dating experience on the date!)  You did not start this process to find new friends so I do not encourage remaining “friends” with any of your online dates.  He has expressed interest in you that you don’t have for him.  Is that the basis for a valuable friendship?  Wish him the absolute best in life, but don’t take him on as a friend.

When the Yes and Maybe guys reach out  (bonus points for timely contact and double bonus points if they compliment you or reference something you said on the date) say Yes and set up the next meeting.  Again in a public place.  Don’t forget to offer to treat.

Safety tips.  Unfortunately, safety concerns are a top reason people view online dating negatively.  It is understandable because the one thing an online date typically does not have that most regular dates do have is a mutual acquaintance.  Someone who says this guy checks out.  Because of this, I highly recommend using sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google to verify what your online prospects tell you about themselves.  With a few keystrokes you can verify a lot. Once the internet search criteria has been cleared, make sure to meet in public places, meet friends and family of theirs as appropriate, call them at the office or go to their place of work (a great way to do this is to offer to pick him up for a date near his workplace).  Have your friends meet him by inviting him to a group activity. Steer clear of anyone that does not want to share their world with you or be part of yours.  Also, as you suggest ways to meet in public that make you feel comfortable, he should encourage and embrace this versus poo-poo your concerns. Any man worthy of your time will bend over backwards to make you feel safe.

And then what happens?  After several dates, you may just have a budding relationship and the start of your forever romance.  Trust your instincts on when to take your profile off of the site. (a true sign that you are investing in him is taking yourself off of the market)  More bonus points for him if he does it first!

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.

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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?