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Time For Your “Mind Gym” – How Well Have You Fulfilled Last Year’s Self-Promises?


new year wishes

It gives me the chills when I consider that this is my last post for this year. Oh boy, time flew by real fast; and to realize that there are things pending still on my 2014 to-do-list makes me almost shed a tear. How did that happen when I know and practice what I preach about principals of high productivity? How is it possible to be so clear about my yearly resolutions and still fail to perform despite my relentless activity?

At this moment in time, I empathize with myself just like I do with my clients. I certainly was not “wasting” time. That’s more like pseudo-science. Urgent situations came up and necessitated my dealing with rising tension. New opportunities surfaced and required my attention. Some projects were too overwhelming, so I deferred some and put others to suspension.

No, I wasn’t slacking off during the past year. I was, rather, engaged in re-shuffling my priorities based on situational pressing demands. At different times, I found myself exploring novel life territories and adapting to unknown lands.

Yes, I did my best to accommodate without totally losing focus of my principal mission. I truly did maintain an eye on my guiding life vision. Yearly new resolutions are ideal when coupled with a clear plan to accomplish and move toward; and it’s perfectly okay to continuously consider their feasibility, be flexible with some, forget about others, and add a few new with greater reward. Can you similarly assess how much on that to-do-list you’ve scored?

My earlier plans were not meant to be engraved in stone. We have to keep in mind that a martyr cannot do much in a combat zone. It’s like we’re in a battle field out there and we need to remain vigilant to any upcoming rival; and in the end, allow no defeat to be ever final. Adjust the sails when the wind blows; slow down the wheels upon surfing the slopes; and fly higher when the sky is clear and before it, again, heavily snows.

At the verge of a new year, I cannot but give thanks and acknowledgement to how far I have, till now, reached. I would like to silence my inner critic for a while and resist the temptation to self-reprimand. These only leave me painfully impeached.

In my last note for this year, I am calling your attention to differentiate between excuses you may have for leaving things undone and truly exploring reasons for things you haven’t begun. I, hereby, call on you to focus NOT on the losses of the past year, but on all the gains you’ve gradually acquired my dear…

Next year will similarly be like a game of hide and seek. The good and the bad things will remain to bubble and squeak. And aren’t those what flavor life with its special mystique?

Wishing you a new year filled with earned success and best of fortune…

Your Personal Coach (who favors forward motion)

Dania

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Time For Your “Mind Gym” – Which Battles Do You Fight?


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Doesn’t it seem to you that you’re in the middle of a war zone facing several other fronts all the time? You wage a battle here to face a problem & unknowingly get attacked there by yet another issue from behind; & then all the fields are on fire when it’s the least you aspire…

Battles drain all soldiers (brave or not); and whether you’re self-selected or recruited to engage in a fight, you’re more prone to be in the quagmire even if you win, at last. with a grin. Major & minor challenges eventually exert their toll therein…

Back to my main question: Which life battles do you fight? You know… the ones you choose (not dragged into)? The old adage “choose your battles wisely” is so handy if you are to have energy to stand straight & not succumb to just any bait….

Matters of the heart leave you weakest; & therefore, any battles in that direction have a spill over reflection on everything else you do. No wonder you’d go great lengths in overprotection of what you most cherish & behold dear.

Your heart, & what’s in it, may be the reason for the most daunting battles you lead. They’re loaded with your emotions. The question is: Is all “what’s in it” rightly placed? Sometimes, “what’s in it” is just misplaced & perhaps the right battle ought to be to have it replaced….

“Not all things we place in our heart are worth the fight. The fiercest battles would be to extract some out of sight & fit in only what’s right.” ~3Ds

Downsize their importance, shrink their dominance, re-shuffle your priorities, & leave like a knight. That’s the better way to change your plight!

Choose to place instead new things, people, or goals to pursue. All it takes is one firm decision & some determined intention to follow through….

Label this time “Heart Under Constructions”, commander, & give your instructions…

Basic plan ready at hand? Let’s make the new one grand!!! 🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Work-Life Balance (before you go off edge)


ImageOne of the first things I do with my clients at the beginning of a “Coaching” contract is to examine their wheel of life (see picture up there). I consider it an “eye opener” to start the process of progress. It gives a bird’s eye view of the levels of satisfaction (from 0 to 10; with 10 being most satisfied) on their: Career, finances, health, friends and family, romance, personal growth, fun and recreation, and their physical environment. These identify life areas that are not working well and needing change to live life more fully. Great deficits in fulfillment in any one area can spill over to the rest; hence, negatively affecting general well-being. We cannot neglect any one area. Just as a house cannot be built on one pillar, so is life satisfaction. It’s a whole; and cannot be reliant on only one source.

The concept of work-life balance is common and implicitly warns people not to get too consumed in having a career at the expense of nourishing the rest of their life support systems. It is a known fact that most of the working force spends their entire day on the job. They become so busy making a living that they forget to live their lives.  Even non-working house-wives assume the career of a “full time mom” or a “full time house-wife” that they sometimes drift in the mundane neglecting vital life ingredients until they feel a huge void. If you give it some thought, each of us has multiple roles (especially the sandwiched generation): the true self, career role, son/daughter, parent, spouse, friend, community volunteer, etc…. The true self, sometimes, suffers the most. Every so often, competing and conflicting roles and priorities can be very difficult to handle. We become defocused and find ourselves thrown off balance suffering health problems, depression, poor performance, stress, strain, or complete burn-out.

It’s not so simple to balance it all, but at least we can be more aware of maximizing the use of our time. Time being the most valuable, yet limited, asset we have which once used cannot be retrieved. Life can easily slip us by; and if we’re not alert to how we’re investing our time, by the end of our path, we may find ourselves filled with regrets. Just imagine you’re at your “death bed” contemplating your life. What would you be saying? Scary thought to many, huh? So, how can you best balance before everything hits the fan?

Here are some few guidelines to face the challenge:

  1. Fill in the wheel of life: Find out which life areas you’re very dissatisfied with and need your attention most. What can you improve? What are you willing to improve? (see? there’s a difference between “can” and “willing”). The first step to any change is awareness. It has been said that 50% of solving any problem lies in knowing what it is, so get clear on what’s not working for you. Then, start getting focused on taking serious gradual steps to implement changes. Things will never get resolved on their own.
  2. Set SMART Goals: Once you nail down the opportunities for improvement, set the baby steps to rectify. The acronym SMART for goals refers to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed. These ensure rectifying the dissatisfied areas and having a map for a clearer journey ahead. For instance, if you found that you are not so content on the area of family and friends perhaps for being over-worked on the job, specify that you need to “spend more quality time on the weekend with family or friends”. The way about it may be to arrange for gatherings, or more outings. Always get specific: “how”, “when”, “with whom”, “number of times”,…  and make sure it doesn’t conflict with others’ plans. Gather your SMART goals with the specifics on a sheet of paper and read it every morning.
  3. Manage your time: Make the best use of those 86,400 seconds each day. Managing how you spend your time can be the key to your productivity on all levels. Many claim they don’t have the time, for instance, to read (i.e. feed their personal growth), or generate more income (i.e. feed their finances). Well… that’s not very accurate. You can always make the time for important things. It’s just that you may not have taken a deep decision to actually commit to doing things of importance. Why would most people adopt a certain regimen as per their doctor’s advice when their life is threatened? Suddenly, you find them having extra time, right? Think hard of that wheel of life. What should you do to become happier? Incorporate it into your schedule. This is when the SMART goals’ sheet needs updating to specify “when” to get things done.
  4. Establish healthy rituals: It can be difficult sometimes to kick off new habits when you find out that these are needed to feed into better balance. Take exercise for example. To kick it off as a habit requires a lot of planning and self-discipline in the beginning. Most research suggests a period of at least 21 days to establish habits. This is when the neural pathways in the brain become strong enough to make the behavior automatic. The habit, then, becomes an addiction that you cannot easily do without. The constellation of healthy routines (e.g. sleeping patterns, eating right, social media use, responding to emails,..…) eventually provide structure and make a big difference in your life. Rituals and habits are automatic acts you don’t spend much mental effort on; thus, allow you to have more energy to spend on other worthy and effortful tasks. So, what healthy routines can you plan among your goals now?
  5. Use a journal: Be it for your personal, or professional life, having a journal to plan your days in line with your goals will provide the necessary structure, clarity, and commitment. It facilitates organizing your time and taking the necessary steps to balance your life. Journaling your “to do list” will enable you to become more realistic in what you can achieve in one day, throughout the week, or for the whole month. Avoid writing one “to do list”. The sight of it may be overwhelmingly scary that many end up procrastinating about it. A dated journal has the advantage of allocating your targets over a period of time while ensuring you take care of urgent matters first. Remember to remain flexible as you proceed throughout the days and shift what you couldn’t do on a specific day to a later time. Your journal will eventually reflect your productivity and help you keep things on track.
  6. Manage your stress: Keep an eye on your life stressors and take measures to reduce their effects. After all, too many stressors can throw you off edge all of a sudden. When faced with stressful situations, focus on changing either the situation, or your reaction. Changing the situation means you either alter it (e.g. change your job) or avoid it (e.g. take a different route while commuting to escape traffic). When changing the situation is not possible, you can only change the way you feel about it. You need to stop fretting about what’s bothering you and accept that it just is (e.g. a negative colleague working in the same office), or adapt to it (i.e. looking at the big picture of what truly matters). It’s important that you avoid bottling up any tension by using quick stress-busting techniques frequently; like: deep breathing, positive self-talk, music, seeking social support, etc…

These are only the basic steps when your aim is to have a more balanced life. To really work it out, you have to have a whole hearted intention to have a new mission. Writing things down and organizing your path is a pre-requisite to succeed in doing that. Research after research documents that those who thrive have clear well written goals. You can assess and revise these as you proceed. Finally, and to add new things into your routines, entails giving up some other things in place. Why don’t you start off by making a “don’t do list” to identify your life “time-wasters”? Then, continue to MAKE the time to do things of greater value to balance it all….

Waiting Out The Storm


“To fight the storm may not be the wisest decision and by no means is it surrender when you wait it out” so I told myself just recently. That’s how I self-pacified as I found myself battling external forces beyond my control. You see, I am a “big picture” person who’s also a fan of goal setting. I get to achieve a lot by designing baby steps to reach my final objectives. I had earlier formulated some plans to grow professionally during the summer. Lo and behold, those plans were consistently obstructed; thus, got detoured. I was thrown off balance as I found myself drowning in arranging outings for the kids, meeting up with friends who came to visit from abroad, and getting involved in numerous other social obligations that usually intensify during the season. There I was involved in the plans of others; not my own. I was fighting and resisting just keeping up with meeting my own deadlines. It felt as if I was struggling in a storm of opposing forces pushing and pulling me astray. The fight drained all my energy; thus, leading me to feel entirely frustrated.

 I had to step back and revisit my agenda. It makes no sense to keep grappling for something at the expense of other equally important endeavors. It’s futile to expend all that effort and choke under my own pressure when it’s not the right time. It’s brilliant that I aim for the stars, but so what if I miss. I can still hit the moon and then aim at the stars again. Why would I need to be too dogmatic and strictly abide by any schedule when there’s a need to pause for a reality check? Why not reorganize and reassess my agenda? When the circumstances are all too powerful, flexibility is a sign of strength, not surrender, isn’t it? All storms in due course subside; and the sun shines again. I can then easily swift into my routines and stay on track of plans. I’ll have to be content with whatever I can achieve when the surrounding conditions are beyond my control.

 When you think about it, this resolution can be generalized to many other life situations we face. If we consider implementing most decision, good timing is a highly contributing factor to their success. For instance, would it be a good idea to approach a fumingly angry person for a favor? Consider your desire to quit your job amidst unemployment. Would it be the best idea if that job supported your living expenses at the time? You certainly would not leave on your arranged vacation if your best friend just got devastated at losing a loved one, would you? As long as we maintain a clear picture of what needs to be done and don’t defer it repeatedly on our agenda, rescheduling is more sensible when the going gets tough. It does not imply ditching our aspirations, nor does it mean we lost the battle. We just wait for better moments in time to carry out certain choices. Again, “to fight the storm may not be the wisest decision and by no means is it surrender when you wait it out. Action is best during the right climates.” ~ 3Ds

 

Your Attention, Please!


I always looked forward to celebrating my birthday; and just last week I did (Yay!!! I am one year wiser!). What I like most about my birthday anniversary is the sing-song like excessive attention I receive – one that stretches a few more days many times. Family members recall and make the effort. Very dear friends call, send messages, and write on my Facebook wall. It feels so darn good to wear the crown and be in the spotlight. Give it a few days and that attention levels off again, but so what? It surely makes a lot of difference on that exceptional day; even if it was for just one day. Get that sort of attention every day and it will have a counter effect akin to what celebrity figures suffer.

Most of us crave attention; yet, we give and receive it sparingly. Do we have to wait for occasions to provide others with such a positively mood altering doze? Think of those people you love to associate with. Aren’t they the ones who are most attentive to you? Those skilled communicators you admire; aren’t they those who make you feel really engaged? They look you straight in the eyes as you speak and their gaze shoots very deep that you feel the connection touching your very soul (it sometimes gives you the creeps). Among the crowd, they address you by name to relay the message that “you’re not just a number”. You’re gently forced in sync to any point they relate. Compare how you feel then, with what conjures up when someone is only partially involved in your conversation – being too busy with his/her mobile (answering messages or emails) for instance. What a disappointment that would be especially if you were the only two out there.

 Almost everything in life responds positively when given sufficient attention (e.g. plants, work/business, pets) especially us, humans. It’s an energizing force that triggers a host of positive emotions; and has a spillover effect in different walks of life. It embeds a lot of meaning: care, respect, responsiveness, love, appreciation, presence, and the like. Get deprived of it, or lose it, and a state of distress precipitates. It may transform into jealousy, anger, de-motivation, sadness, or feelings of ostracism. No wonder we witness people retaliating, siblings engage in rivalry battles, marriages collapsing, employees becoming less productive, and friendships breaking-up. I am not suggesting we overwhelm others with too much attention. That sort of obsession-like focus can lead to similar problematic byproducts.

 But is it easy to provide others with our undivided attention all the time? By no means is it that simple. We come equipped with limited attention spans and are easily distracted. But at least we can train ourselves to be fully there in our interactions. Be aware of what others are saying (and even not saying). Many of us filter out all sorts of sensory information – especially listening – as others try to make a point. We engage in mentally preparing our arguments instead. We fail to consider that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen more than we speak.

 What about the targets needing our attention? Can we possibly be fully attentive to all people we know? Again, our mental and time resources are limited. We can’t but be selective and prioritize as to who deserves our attention most. Never mind those with sufficient support. They may be saturated enough to develop a flight reaction. Clearly, people dear to our hearts come first; others who appear to be receiving little attention come second. They do need that extra push. It’s worthwhile to seek them out if you’d like to make a difference. You might just be their catalyst for positive life changes. Your life must have been de-toured by someone else somehow. Wouldn’t you like to leave a fine mark in somebody else’s journey?

 

 

 

Go Ahead, Blame it on “No Time”


How often do you hear people saying “I don’t have the time to do this or that…”. If we scrutinize the idea of lacking the time, more often than not, it’s just tossing around an excuse to escape doing something. In reality, we are not MOTIVATED enough to make the time for it. We inadvertently scan the significance of our actions as we decide if something is worth attending to, or not.  What’s the alternative? How important is it? Is it a priority? Is it my sole responsibility? What’s the yield for me? Can someone else do this instead? We are in a race against time and it’s enough that much of it gets devoured by external forces. We are taunted and goaded into action by duties and obligations, so we’d rather be very selective in  spending whatever time is left for us (rightly so); thus, relegate many things to the periphery of “no time to deal with it.”

The main concern arises when we succumb to habitual patterns of not doing, and blame it on lacking the time. Take for instance the infamous argument of not having the time to exercise (hear it all the time, right?). How come those who have a serious ailment, and were advised that the best way out is to incorporate exercise in their routines, would miraculously fit it into their crowded schedules? They’d get up earlier in the morning, expend the extra effort after working hours, or even interrupt their day for a jog here or there. Look at how productive those working mothers are when compared to home-stay moms. They effectively manage their time and efficiently deploy their energies to make all ends meet. Aren’t you amazed by those who multi-task and are constantly fired up to self-improve? They jump from one thing to another, planning ahead, setting goals, and are in a relentless battle against inertia.

What makes those people different is their ability to CREATE the time even if it meant doing nothing more than recharging their batteries. They are more focused on what they want, make conscious choices, and are experts at time management. In the end, what we carry out expresses either our obligation or motivation. We can blame in-action on lacking the time, but the truth is we have ample time. Twenty four hours at our disposal; the week is abundant with another 168 hours; we can stretch it out further to count the hours per month, months, and even years. Go ahead, fool all others; sugar-coat the truth and beat around the bush, but at least let’s be frank with ourselves: Doing is an active choice. “It’s not about not having the time to do this or that; it’s about not being motivated enough to make the time to do this or that…” ~ 3Ds.

 

Do You Want FOCUS? Try The “Mini Hulk” Exercise!


It has been said that around 65,000 thoughts cross our minds daily. It is no wonder, then, that we find many ideas wondering about in our psyche each calling for attention. Some of these seep into conscious awareness and succeed in being recognized; others just creep up to the surface and then retreat unnoticed. Normally you wouldn’t mind it, but if you’re pressed with time to have a specific mental task done, you find that the more you toss away irrelevant thoughts, the more they forcefully fly back. What needs to take an hour, is now consuming two. You can’t concentrate and that gets you more inundated. You may have too many things on your plate and there’s no running away from multi-tasking. You keep thinking of the next things you need to be doing, but you still haven’t finished what you’re working on. Whether you’re down the wire, or not, it is total absorption in an endeavor that differentiates those who are efficient from those who are not. They have insurmountable “focus”; always at the heart of what they do. So how can you stop this mental chatter?

 Here is an exercise I offer my students to help them through the drudgery of studying for multiple exams. You can use it for any other time consuming project that necessitates you to be both fast yet efficient in your mental capacities. The exercise takes you about 8 to 10 minutes, but it could save you hours of inefficiency. I use the analogy of the well proclaimed “Incredible Hulk” hero. You might have read about him in the comic magazines, or seen the movie. It’s about this scientist who upon trying to experiment accidentally becomes subject to radiation. Eventually, whenever his body is highly aroused, he gradually transforms into a green hulk with omnipotent physical powers. You need to have such mental invincible powers that render you all-too focused. No distractions; only full mastery and time efficiency. Why not make time to play a bit before the hard work? Let’s start:

 Sit in your work area and start visualizing that you are about to deploy and attract the entire world’s energy through the top of your head. That’s right…take it easy…. Focus… It’s all coming to you from different directions….pouring…. filling you up with green energy….That’s it…. You’re filling up from your toes, going up your legs, knees, thighs, up to your abdomen, chest, and spreading to your arms, hands, shoulders, neck, and up to your face. Your color has changed into green radiating energy and now you start transforming slowly…Each part of your body is growing and specifically your mind has doubled in size. It became immune to any noise’ and hears only the sound of your firm voice speaking affirmatively. Things like:

–          I will start now on this task and will stop only when I consciously decide to.

–          I have total focus on this and will be wading my way through with utmost energy.

–          I have put away all distractions (my mobile, my computer, turned off the landline phone, etc…). So, my internal force is the guiding hub for action now.

–          I will be doing a great job in having this done perfectly, in no time, and will have full mastery over this.

 Tailor your self-talk to the specific task you’re handling and keep talking. Imagine further that you have shut the doors to any extraneous thoughts that do not serve what you’re working on. Are these doors locked? Look at you…..Now you are the “Mini Hulk” and you can have that full focus you need. You have gong-ho pace and kick-ass energy. Start working on what you set your mind on doing.

 Take your time to do this mental exercise and then assess your focus. You’ll see the difference. You can also condition yourself to be in that state without taking those 8 – 10 minutes later on. In neuro-linguistic programming, it’s called “anchoring” yourself. That means, as you repeat the exercise a number of times, give yourself a pat on the shoulder at the end of each ritual (alternatively you can choose to say any word or statement you like; for instance I am a “Mini Hulk”). Simply associating that pat on the shoulder or that statement repeatedly at the end of the exercise would make a link in your mind. When you will it, and in no time at all, just give yourself that pat; and alone it would render you in that invincible state of focus without having to go through the process. It just needs some practice. Many of my students have implemented this exercise and reaped the benefits. Call it an investment. I call it a gift for all of you; would you turn it away?

 

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