Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Live Life on Your Own Terms

A few weeks ago I had an unpleasent encounter with a lady at the grocery store; the one who remarked, "You forgot to grow."  Recently, on a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, I was admiring some artwork in the hallway at the visitor's center when a man greeted me with a nod and smile as he walked by.  A minute later he returned and gently placed his hand on my shoulder.

"I had to come back and tell you . . .  you have had many struggles, right?" he asked and I nodded, a little wary but not much.  "But you don't let it stop you."  Then his voice cracked and he broke down.  "I think that's great."  Then he walked away.

On the one hand it was awesome that he noticed that it is very hard sometimes to explore the world, put a smile on my face and join in on outings and activities even though I'm tired,  or go out hiking when I've got these short legs and balance issues while my husband, Jim, and our exchange student, Naja, have long legs and an easier time of it.  The elevation at Bryce is a killer for me.  I get so out of breath up there, and not just from the breath-taking views!  I appreciate when people notice that I'm there, I'm trying, I'm doing.

On the other hand, it feels weird sometimes to be singled out as special.  "Oh, you're so brave." "You've got such guts."  You don't let anything stop you."  "You do so well despite your challenges."  I'd love it if they would just smile and say hi sometimes and leave it at that.  It would be nice to be treated like anyone else.

But the fact is, I do have issues.  I do need help on the hills and narrow paths when I explore.  If I didn't get help, I may possible trip on the slightest blip on the path and go tumbling down a mountainside, whereas others would be able to rebound and recover, or may not even notice that blip in their path at all. 

We each have our own path to take in life.  It is important to choose the one that suits us best as individuals rather than going along with the crowd.  Accept and decline help graciously when appropriate.  Follow your own path; don't let others choose it for you due to their own stereotypes or limited views, or even those who think, heck, you can do anything and convince you that you should try death-defying feats.  Listen to your gut.  Live your life on your own terms.  


Monday, August 10, 2015

You Forgot to Grow

I'm back after a bit of a break.  We welcomed Naja, a Danish high school student we are hosting this school year, on August 4, so we took some time off to get acquainted and show her around the area a bit.  We braved the Grand Canyon in the pouring rain, although the sun came out long enough for us to enjoy our picnic lunch outside under a canopy of pine trees.  Checked out a bit of Zion National Park, as well as the desert landscape of neighboring Nevada and Arizona.  Went to a birthday BBQ over the weekend, and, of course, ate a bit of  ice cream too.  :-)    We have so many ice cream places in our area!  The first year we were here (2007), we tried every single one of them to see which were our favorites.  Yum.  :-)  Naja also made us a delicious Danish meal last night.  

It's been a busy, fun week.  She is a lovely girl.  We have had a very nice time.  I think this will be a great adventure for us all.

Now, on to the subject of today's post...

Earlier in the week, Jim and I were at the grocery store, when a lady came up to me and joked, "You forgot to grow!  Bet you have never heard that before."

I was a bit confused at first, but then laughed it off.  I've been laughing this type of comment off for decades.

But it bugged me.  It hit me the wrong way.   Yes, I am short.  I get it.  But, come on folks, yes I've heard it before.  Many times.  You know I must have.  Sooo....

Cut it out!

It's not cute anymore.  It's not funny. 

I am who I am.  This woman is who she is.  Enough said.  Leave it alone and move on.

I'll probably keep laughing it off, being a good sport.  But my message to you is, be sensitive to others.  Chances are, if someone is short, they have already heard every short joke in the book.  Same for tall folks, heavy foks, people with big noses, bushy beards, unique gaits or birth marks, unusual accents or first or last names, and so on.  If they bring the subject up, okay, fine.  But leave it alone otherwise, especially if you don't know the person well.  

Is there something that people are always bringing up to you; that they won't let die? Something that you're tired of?  If so, how do you handle it?  






Sunday, August 2, 2015

Memory of a Thunderstorm

My reaction to Florida thunderstorm--August 21, 1993.
Originally from a video.  Sorry about the poor quality.
Ever since I can remember, I have not liked thunderstorms.  No, let me rephrase that.  I have always been petrified of thunderstorms.  When I was a kid, I laid on the couch with my head covered in pillows whenever a thunderstorm came along.  Even with a house full of people all around me!  

My most harrowing experience with a thunderstorm came when we lived in Orlando, Florida in the early 1990s.  Jim and I decided to take a walk at one of our favorite nature centers (Osceola County Schools).  It was near Kissimmee.  There were boardwalks meadering through lush tropical vegetation.  By the time we got there, the clouds in the sky were that bluish grey that always means trouble is coming.  I even heard a rumble of thunder in the distance.  But Jim convinced me we had time for a walk.

Ha!  We got halfway down the path when the heavens open up.  The rain poured down and the thunder was deafening.  I totally panicked.  I wanted to turn around, but Jim said it was too far to walk back to the car.  We'd have to find some sort of shelter where we could wait out the storm.

We came across a covered overlook by a pond.  No sides, just a roof and support beams.  Oh lovely.  And we were right on the water, one of the worst places to be in the thunderstorm.

I sat on a bench there, covering my ears and praying that I wouldn't be hit by lightning, while Jim delighted in taking videos of the storm.  Jim loves thunderstorms.  He finds them fascinating.  I...do not.  I find them dangerous and frightening.  Whenever there is even a hint of a storm on the horizon, my heart pounds, I start sweating, I unplug electrical appliances, shut windows, and run for cover.  Well, I couldn't do that out in the middle of the park.  So, I just sat there with my eyes closed and feared the worst.  

The rain pelted the usually serene pond, as the wind howled through the trees, and the thunder reverberated off the roof overhead.  Lightning bolts hit all around us.  I was in hell.  I willed the storm to stop, just stop, but it went on for at least an hour. 

And we survived it.  Ahhh!  Relief!

I got my fear of thunderstorms from my dad.  As he was milking cows in the barn on the family farm as a youngster, the barn was hit by lightning, electrocuting the cow he was tending to at the time.  The cow fell on top of him.  For the rest of his life, my dad was also petrified of thunderstorms.  He was a workaholic, but he would not milk the cows if it was storming.  Everyone stayed safely in the house until the storm blew over.

I've gotten better at dealing with storms over the years.  I still do not like them one bit, but I no longer cover my head with pillows at the first sign of a "thunder boomer."  I go about my business, for the most part, but stay inside.  Jim heads for the windows, and sometimes outside, to check out the sky, the clouds, the wonder of the storm.

Thunderstorms are a part of life during the spring and summer months.  We just have to deal with them.  Don't let them take the fun out of life.  If thunderstorms leave you paralyzed with fear, you might want seek help from a qualified professional to get some relief.  

So, do you love thunderstorms or hate them?  Do you spend time worrying about them or looking forward to them all winter?  Have you ever gotten caught in one?  I'd love to hear about your adventure.     








Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Benefits of Volunteering

Jim and I have done a lot of volunteer work over the years, usually at animal shelters (cleaning the cat rooms and socializing with the kitties mostly).  We've also helped out at area sporting events such as bike races and triathalons.  We enjoy volunteering during the holiday season, too, shopping for toys then wrapping them.  

We took a long break from volunteering when Jim's mother died in late 2013.  Our hearts just weren't in it anymore.  We needed a break.  We also came to the realization that we were spending more time at the animal shelters than we were with our own pets who came from shelters.  That's not right.  There needs to be a balance.  We had to regroup.   Our latest volunteer adventure will be hosting a high school exchange student for the school year.  We are beyond excited about this and can't wait to begin. 

You may think your life is too crazy-busy to possibly allow for volunteer time.  But volunteering provides significant benefits, and is definitely worth looking into.   Many organizations rely on volunteers to provide valuable services that would otherwise be done by paid employees.  Friends and neighbors can benefit  from an offer of a helping hand as well.  But they're not the only ones who reap rewards from volunteering. Volunteers benefit greatly from the experience, in mind, body, and spirit.  I'll mention just a fraction of the ways volunteering your time can put you at an advantage.  Here we go.

1.  New skills:  From bookkeeping and computer operation to carpentry and customer service, volunteering has the potential to provide you with opportunities to learn a variety of new skills.  This can not only potentially help you in your current job, but also in discovering a new hobby or a new career.

2.  More time:  Okay, you're probably thinking, "No way!"  But once you start volunteering, you may get the feeling that you're spending your time in a more valuable, productive way, instead of wasting it in front of the TV or on the Internet.  So, you start looking out for more ways to help within your community. Years ago, I interviewed a lady for an article on pillars of the commuity.  She said that if you want something done, ask a busy person who is active in their community.  They will take on more, while others opt for idleness and claim they have no time.  

3. Better health:  Volunteering can help you live longer, reduce heart disease and chronic pain, boost your mood, give your brain something new to process and figure out, reduce depression, and get you moving.  It's much harder to feel sorry for yourself, for example, when you're helping someone who is down on his luck or suffering from a debilitating disease.  Or even volunteering at a marathon or a community festival can make you feel good.  All that energy helps fuel your self-esteem and make you feel happier.

4.  New friendships:  The longer you volunteer at a specific place, the better chance you have of developing friendships there.  You may form strong bonds that last the rest of your life.  Close friendships are a key element to a happy and healthy life.

5.  New business contacts:  Volunteering is a great way to network.  You may get to meet important business contacts that help further your career.  For example, if you have a dream of starting a web design business you may volunteer to help out at a business fair booth and run into another web designer who offers to partner with you.  You never know.

6.  Better social and relationship skills:  Volunteering is a social activity.  You're almost always working with someone for a common cause.  It can help you become a better speaker, ease shyness, relate better to and work better with a variety of people, and feel more comfortable in crowds.

7.  Fun!:  Volunteering can be a lot of fun.  Pick a cause, sporting event, activity, or organization you feel passionate about and ask if you can help.  Knowing you are helping support something that is near and dear to your heart will make the experience more fun and rewarding.  

8.  Break from routine:  If you find yourself on a treadmill of sorts, going to work, coming home, rushing through dinner, and falling into bed exhausted, volunteering might be what you need to shake things up a bit.  Choose volunteer opportunities that are tied to activities you love to do.  For example, if you enjoy camping, you could sign on to help out at a summer camp, if you love animals, you could walk dogs at a local animal shelter on weekends.

Getting Started
  • Figure out why you want to volunteer
  • Decide what your skills are
  • Decide how many hours per week or month you would like to volunteer
  • Figure out what expenses you'd incur as a volunteer
  • Decide what you would like to do
  • Decide where you would like to volunteer
  • Visit local organizations to find out what volunteer opportunities are available
  • Check out volunteer sites on the Internet to see if you can volunteer online from home, if you would prefer that
  • Visit with staff and volunteers at local businesses to see if you click with them
  • Ask neighbors and friends if they, or anyone they know, need a helping hand
  • Talk to your family about possibly all joining in on a volunteer project together

Where to Go to Find Volunteer Opportunities

There are many non-profits and other businesses who welcome volunteers.  Here are just a few:
  • Community theaters
  • Libraries
  • Senior centers
  • Youth organizations
  • Sporting events
  • Religious organizations
  • Animal shelters
  • After school programs
  • Nursing homes 
  • Hospitals
  • National parks
  • Schools
  • Exchange student organizations (host a student)

Considerations
  • Readiness to take on volunteer responsibilities
  • Don't overdo it.  Sacrificing health, sleep, family time, "me" time, and the like to help others can lead to burn out and resentment.  A little means a lot.  Stick with what's manageable.
  • Make sure you pick a volunteer position that you will enjoy
  • Make sure you know what you are expected to do
  • Ask questions about he position before you start and anytime new questions come up
  • Do you prefer to take on a position where you'll be moving around a lot, standing, or sitting still?
  • Accessibility to the venue or office building
  • Move on if the opportunity is no longer fulfilling
  • Commute distance

Do you volunteer?  What do you love about it?  What are some challenges you've faced?  I'd love to hear from you.  



Monday, July 27, 2015

Choosing A Personal Trainer

A personal trainer can help you toward your fitness goals.  She provides accountability, program design specific to your needs, motivation, and professional advice regarding exercise and basic fitness nutrition. But how do you choose the trainer who is right for you?  Here are some tips.

1.   Personality:  Would you rather work with a trainer who is quiet and reserved or outgoing and perky.  Make sure the personal trainer you choose fits your personality preference.  

2.  Location:  Pick a personal trainer who works at a gym or has a private studio close to your home or work.  Some trainers will come to your home for sessions, or work with you via the Internet as well.  If your company has a fitness center, personal trainers may be available on-site.  Your personal trainer needs to be conveniently located to help keep you motivated to show up on a regular basis.

3.  Gender:  Do you prefer working with a man or a woman?  Does it matter?  Take that into consideration when making your choice.

4.  Professionalism:  Choose a personal trainer who is profession.  Make sure she dresses neatly, shows courtesy toward you and others, let's you know at least 24 hours in advance if she has to cancel or reschedule, and shows up on time and prepared for each session.

5.  Certification:  Make sure your personal trainer is certified by an organization that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).  Examples are National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

6.  Cost:  Look at your budget and see how much you can reasonably afford to pay a personal trainer, then research several in your area.  Personal trainers who work at box gyms or community centers are generally less expensive than those who have their own studios.   Be sure to take into consideration what is included in the fees of each trainer.

7.  Specialty:  Do you have a specific goal or issue to consider when picking a personal trainer?  If, for example, you have a specific health issue such as diabetes, you may want to work with someone with experience training clients with health issues.  Or if you're training for a marathon, you may want to work with a trainer with experience in that area.

It's a good idea to work with several trainers before choosing the one you would like to work with on a regular basis.  You have a right to do so.  Many gyms provide a free session with a trainer with membership.  Let each trainer you work with know you're considering other trainers before signing on with one in particular.   Personal trainers at gyms are available to assist members in general, not just paid personal training clients.  And, remember, you can always work out on your own, at home, too.  The Internet has some great fitness resources.  One of my favorites is the American Council on Exercise's website.  They have tons of information, including exercises, workouts, fitness facts, and recipes.  
I hope these tips help.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stay Present

In this crazy busy world, it's hard to stay present.  You're cooking dinner, talking on the phone and answering your kids' questions at the same time.  Or commuting, listening to the news on the radio, and texting at the same time.  Ah, multi-tasking.  You may pride yourself on your ability to do it, but it's robbing you of living your life in the present; of experiencing what's going on around you and noticing how you feel moment by moment. You may also have a tendency to worry about the past or anticipate the future without enjoying the moment you are actually in right now--the only one you really have any control over.  I'm familiar with that one, believe me.

Another name for staying present is "mindfulness."  It involves paying attention to what's going on in your life and inside yourself right this second.  The scent of the flowers outside your open window wafting in, the sounds of your children laughing upstairs, the sight of your cat curled up and napping peacefully on an easy chair next to your desk, the grumbling of your empty stomach, the feeling of being rushed to meet a deadline--anything.   You notice what's going on, enjoy your life, accepting it as it is, not reacting absently or negatively.   It's the opposite of living on "autopilot."  

Getting Started

There's nothing fancy about mindfulness.  You don't need any special equipment.  You can do it anytime, anywhere by taking some deep breaths periodically throughout the day. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, holding for a second between the two.  You can practice mindfulness by silently repeating a mantra as well.  Examples are:  "Breathe," and "I am in a good place."  You can also start by going for a walk and looking at and listening to what's going on around you.  Stay present.   Acknowledge negative emotions that come up but then let them go, and return to the present.  Mindful eating is another great technique to adopt.  Savor your food, chew slowly.  Notice the taste, smell, and texture of the food you're eating.  Are you eating because you are hungry, or because you are bored or worried?  Notice the sensations you're experiencing without judgement, and then let them go.  

Other mindfulness techniques include:

1.  Losing track of time:  Getting totally lost in what you're doing means you are super-focused on it.  You're living in the moment.  This is what happens to me when I write.  I'm so engrossed in what I'm doing that I am unaware of what else is going on around me.  I'm in "the zone."  If Jim come in, bringing me out of that zone, I feel light-headed and admittedly, sometimes a bit grouchy.  I like it in "the zone."  You might be saying, well, I thought losing track of time was a bad thing.  It's not advantageous when you're so crazy- busy that you don't know what is going on around you.  You go from one chore or meeting to the other; you're in hyper-drive.  Mindfulness is different.  When I'm losing myself in my writing, I'm totally into it.  I'm concentrating on the moment of writing, the pleasure of it.  You can't force this state, it just happens.  And, oh boy, does it ever feel awesome!  That's the opposite of crazy-busy.

2.  Move toward, not against, an antagonist:  When you try to fight negative feelings, they tend to keep mounting, am I right?  So, how about trying to face what's bothering you instead?  Accept it for what it is in the present moment, feel it, own it, and then gently put it aside. For example, you've recently lost a loved one and the feelings of grief are so intense that you think you will never feel happy again.  You just want this terrible feeling that has engulfed you to go away.  Again, accept it, feel it, own it, grieve, cry, do what you need to, to heal, then move on.

3.  Embrace the "newness":  Do you travel the same route to work or school every day?  Do you go for a walk at the same park all the time?  This can cause mindlessness.  It's the same old, same old; so much so that you don't even notice what going on around you.  Time passes and you're suddenly at your destination and you don't remember anything that happened on your journey.  It's time to inject newness into your routine.  Make a point to notice changes along the way.  Hey, did the neighbor paint his house?  Wow, look at the way the sun is shining on those mountains!  Doesn't that cloud formation look like a camel?  I love looking at clouds to see what figures and faces I can find in them, by the way.  

Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is accessible.  Anyone can do it.  There are also books and DVDs on the subject if you want to learn more about it. 

There are many potential benefits of mindfulness including improved ability to face adversity; less worrying, over-thinking, and regret; reduced chronic pain and stress; increased happiness, self-esteem, empathy, and feelings of security, improved immunity function and sleep; reduced risk of heart disease; and increased perspective regarding irrational thoughts.  It also encourages alertness and attentiveness and may be used as a weight maintenance tool.  Mindful meditation is also used in the treatment of:depression, as well as eating, obsessive-compulsive, and anxiety disorders.

How about that!  Something so relatively simple, yet it packs a powerful punch when it comes to improving our health and well-being.

Considerations
  • Staying in the present takes practice.  It won't happen overnight.  Be patient.
  • Mindfulness requires letting go of what you want and just "being."  Of course we want rewards, but we need to let go of those desires in order to reach mindfulness.
  • Start out with 20 minutes of meditation and work up to about 45 minutes 6 days per week.
I admit my attempts at meditating and being mindful over the years have not been very successful.  My mind insists on wandering all over the place.  I haven't been able to stick with it for any length of time.  Maybe I'll try it again sometime; or maybe not.  I have the DVDs already.  I just have to decide to do it.  Or not.  That's the way with anything, isn't it?  We can do anything we want to do.  We spend hours absently surfing the Internet, puttering around doing busy work, and  watching TV.  But dedicate 20 minutes to mindfulness?  Nope, too much work; or too freaky.  Okay, I hear you.  But switching gears may be just what you need to shake things up and get on the road toward living a more fulfilling life.

Do you practice mindfulness?  Do you meditate?  For those of you who don't, I challenge you to give mindfulness and meditation a try, and I will too.    I will report back again soon on my progress, and I would love to hear about your mindfulness journey as well.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Goal Setting: Get S.M.A.R.T

To make desired changes in your life, you need to set some goals.  Not just any goals, but S.M.A.R.T goals.  S.M.A.R.T goals can be used to tackle anything you want to change.  Here, I'll give examples of how to set weight loss as well as independence goals.

Specific:  Goals need to be clear.  Pare your goal down.  What exactly do you want?  

Weight Loss--"I want to get fit," is not specific.  There are many ways to get fit.  You'll want to choose something along the lines of, "I want to lose weight," instead.  

Independence--  Compare "I want to be independent," with the more targeted, "I want to find an apartment."  Wanting to be independent could mean many things, while switching to "I want to find an apartment," focuses your attention on the specific.  Key on the specific goal you want to achieve. 

Measurable:  Goals also need to be measurable.  How will you know you've reached your goal?  This involves picking a number.  

Weight Loss--How much weight do you want to lose?  Keep a weight loss journal to log your weight regularly.  Weigh yourself once a day or once a week, whatever you prefer, as long as it's done on a regular basis.  Keep track of your progress. 

Independence--How many apartments will you look at per week?  Two?  Five?  Ten?  Keep track of your progress in your apartment hunting journal.  You can also note in your journal the plusses and minuses of the cost, location, and amentiies for each apartment you look at.  
Attainable: Set a goal that you can reasonably shoot for.  Go for what you want, but make sure it's something you actually can do.

Weight Loss--Say you want to lose 100 pounds.  That's tough and will take a long time. Instead of concentrating on the whole amount, break it down into more manageable 20-pound increments. "I will lose 20 pounds," is attainable.   

Independence-- "Find an apartment that is wheel-chair accessible," is a doable goal, although it might take time.  Be patient.  Also, do some research to find out how much money you'll need for rent, utilities, and any other services you require.  Resources such as grants and special programs may be available to help with those expenses.  If so, check them out and see if you qualify.

Realistic:  Set a goal that you really can commit to.  Choose a goal that is meaningful to you. 

Weight Loss--Losing weight to reduce your A1C level is an excellent and realistic goal, while losing weight because your spouse thinks you should, is not.   You need to want it, crave it, eat it, sleep it, breathe it, own it.  It can't be someone else's goal for you; it has to be your goal for yourself.  

Independence--Similarly, searching for your own apartment because you are ready to strike out on your own and you crave independence is realistic, while doing so because you don't want to be laughed at for living with your parents as an adult, is not.  You need to be ready to make the move.  Don't rush it.  

Time:  Set a time by which you will achieve your goal.  This helps you stay accountable and moving forward toward your goal.  

Weight Loss--If you want to lose 20 pounds, a reasonable deadline would be 4 months since a healthy weight loss rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week is recommended.  It may not seem like much but, added up, it makes a huge difference over time.  Think 52 weeks a year--yep, in a year you could lose 52 to 104 pounds, if needed, at that rate!  That is amazing!  And, you're more apt to keep it off too.  So, I urge you to be patient.  You will reap tremendous rewards opting for slow weight loss.

Independence--When do you want to be settled into your new apartment?  Before Christmas?  By summer?  Six months from now?  A year from now?  Setting a date by which you will be living on your own keeps the goal alive, helps you stay on task, and brings a sense of urgency you wouldn't have otherwise.  

Okay now, how S.M.A.R.T. are your goals?  Have you used this strategy to set goals for yourself?  How did it go?  Let me know.  Comment below or send me an email at amy@acnlifecoach.com.  I'd love to hear from you.  Take care.



Friday, July 17, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Getting Unstuck

Something's different.  Something doesn't feel quite right.  You may have noticed it creeping in bit by bit, or it may have hit you all of a sudden.  It could center on one segment of your life, like a "tired" marriage.  Or it could include a few--your boring job, distant friends, and spiritual crisis.  You may even yearn for a total life transformation; a clean slate.  You feel this incredible need to change, but you don't quite know how to go about it.  You're not even sure what you want.  You're stuck.  So, how can you get unstuck?  Let's take a look at some questions you can ask in order to pull yourself out of the muck and live a more satisfying life.

Why do you feel the way you do?

Find a quiet place to study your feelings.  Where did they come from?  When did you first notice them?  Were they sparked by a person's comment, a song, something you read? Getting to the source of your feelings can help you start to figure out what you need to do to ease your mind.  For example, you find yourself increasingly agitated and unable to concentrate and look back to when it started.  You may link it to an article you read on the Internet about a study reporting that a medication you are on has been found to cause cancer.  That's enough to make you agitated for sure.

What is your goal?

Choose deeply personal goals and think about why they mean so much to you.  Say you want to lose weight.  Decide why you want to.  Is it because you want to control your diabetes, or do you want to be able to have the energy to play with your grandchildren?  Those are solid reasons to lose weight.  On the other hand, setting such a goal because your spouse thinks you should isn't going to provide as much incentive to stick to the healthy eating and exercise plan needed to reach your goal.  Healthy weight loss doesn't happen overnight.  It takes time, commitment, and patience.  So, if your goal is to lose weight, dig down deep to find that solid reason why you want it to happen.


How will you feel when you achieve your goal?

Imagine how it will feel to reach your goal.  Again, let's use the weight loss example.  Imagine how you will feel when you hit your weight loss goal.  Whether you want to lose 10 or 100 pounds, imagine how you'll look and feel once the weight comes off.  Imagine how you will feel when your clothes fit loosely and you no longer get out of breath walking up and down stairs.  How will your life be different?  Looking ahead to when you've accomplished your goals can help you stay motivated to actually make it happen.

Who can help you accomplish your goal?

Sometimes you can get stuck in life because you don't feel you have anyone to help you out of your rut.  If, for example, you want to change careers but need additional education to do so.  You may be paralyzed by the fear of striking out into new territory, or you may not think it's financially possible to pay for the necessary degree.  If making this change is important to you, you need to take action.  Find out from colleges and universities in your area and online if you qualify for financial aid.  Also, talk to your family to see if anyone would be willing to help you out with the costs you'll incur, or even provide babysitting for your kids while you attend classes so you don't have to pay for expensive daycare.  If you do borrow money from friends or family, however, make sure you discuss when the money will be repaid to avoid any misunderstandings.  You can also look into getting a low interest loan.  There is a solution for whatever is making you feel stuck.  Reach out to those around you and let them help you find that solution.

What steps can you take to achieve your goal?

It can be pretty daunting to look at the big picture.  Instead, break things down into smaller steps so they seem more managable.  For example, if you would love to start your own business but feel overwhelmed by all that entails, break things down.  Make a schedule of what needs to be done on each day.  You'll want to start by checking into how much money you'll need, permit requirements, office space, and business loans.  You'll also have to get office equipment and a website, possibly hire staff, and advertise your business.  Take your time, learn the ropes from a mentor, get advice from other professionals you respect, be smart about managing your finances, and you'll reach your goal as a successful business owner.

What or who is standing in the way of accomplishing your goals?  How will you knock down those road blocks?

If you have difficulty standing for long periods of time or have a lot of doctor's appointments, you may think you'll have a hard time finding a suitable job, so why bother. What should you do?  Discuss the issue with your caseworker if you have one. When you go to interviews be straight forward and let the interviewer know that you need to be able to sit down for work, or at least take frequent breaks.  Also, be honest about the times you may have to miss work.  There's a possibility your supervisor can work with a temp service to cover for you in the event that you need to miss work for surgery or lengthy illness.  It won't hurt to inquire.  Another option is working from home.  There are plenty of opportunities for stay-at-home workers.  You may even be able to work remotely (from home) for local companies.  Check with your area job service or online job sites such as Monster.com, SimplyHired.com and CareerBuilder.com.  Make sure you research the validity and reputation of the various websites and employers before taking any jobs online. 

What tools do you currently have in order to accomplish your goals?

It is important, when you're stuck, to take note of the resources you have available to help you break out of your rut and meet your goals.  For example, if you are experiencing a spiritual crisis, you may want to talk with someone from your local house of worship, either a fellow member or the pastor or rabbi.  Or family and friends.  You may also search Amazon.com for a plethora of books and videos on the subject.  Also, consider listening to your heart.  Find a quiet place to sit and think about what you truly believe.  Are you religious?  Do you consider yourself more spiritual than religious?  Do you feel the need to worship with other members of your faith at a church or synagogue, or would you rather speak to your Higher Power amongst trees and rivers and wildlife?  Are you disillusioned by your current faith?  Are you curious about another faith?  Explore those avenues and see which one feels the most authentic to you.  

What tools do you need in order to reach your goals?

Let's go back to the example of starting a business.  You've got your financing, your office, your staff, your business cards, your website, your office equipment, your insurance.  What else do you need?  Do you have a reliable car to use for the commute to and from work?  If you have children, have you arranged for reliable daycare?  Have you bought suitable work attire?  Have you looked into networking events to get your name out there?  And don't forget to work on your confidence.  Be confident that you will succeed.  Take charge of this opportunity you've dreamed of for so long and know that you can make it in business, doing what you love to do.

What's your deadline?

What is your deadline for meeting your goals?  This is a very important question.  You need a deadline to remain accountable and stay on track toward your goals.  Say it's January and you want to start college in August.  You're married with a family and will need a reliable vehicle to make the commute to school.  The cost of tuition and books will drain your savings account.  It's time to start putting away some cash toward that new car.  It doesn't have to be brand new, but it has to be a good one.  The same goes for anything you truly want to accomplish--you need to set a time by which you will hit your mark, lose that weight, pay off debt, learn to drive, make partner at the firm, get your first apartment, make a profit from your business.

Considerations


  • Do what makes your heart sing, both in your personal and professional life. 
  • Surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and celebrate little victories on the road to making those ultimate goals reality.
  • Your journey toward your goals could be a smooth one or a rocky one, or a mixture of both.  Be patient and persistant.  Don't let the rough times get you down.
  • Your goals may change along the way.  That's okay.  Go with your gut and do what feels right to you at the time.
  • Are you stuck or just in transition?  Ask this question before making any major life changes.

When it comes right down to it, getting unstuck is up to you.  Yes, you can seek help but the bulk of the work is yours.  You must commit to making your life as fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting as it can be.  Nobody else can do that for you.

Are you stuck?  I'd like to hear from you.  Email me at amy@acnlifecoach.com or post a comment below.  





Monday, July 13, 2015

Celebrating Being a Loner



I've been a loner for as long as I can remember.  Not that I didn't wish now and then that I was more gregarious.  Sure I did.  But my imaginary world was where I felt best, especially in childhood.  These days I'm kind of caught in the middle.  I love friendship and socializing, but I also love my alone time and solitude.


What is a loner?

According to Merriam-Webster, a loner is, "a person who is often alone or prefers to be alone."  It's a personality trait, a lifestyle, not a disease or something bad.  Being a loner doesn't automatically mean a person is lonely, although loners certainly can have feelings of loneliness now and then like anyone else.  Loners are often shy and quiet. Rather than socialize, a loner would rather be alone with her own thoughts, engaging in activities that are personally gratifying. Loners often enjoy creative activities. (I've heard that loners tend to be writers, for one, which I think is pretty cool.) They can be kind, arrogant, sensitive, humble, nasty--anything.  

Things to consider about loners
  • Loners are not necessarily less happy than out-going people
  • Loners could have been abused or be an abuser
  • Loners tend to live their own lives, not being bothered by norms and social pressures, thus their personalities evolve, and they are often wise
  • Loners may have been brought up to value privacy
  • Loners may not have had many friends while growing up
  • If you are alone and unhappy, if you feel out of place, if you are depressed, or if you have suicidal thoughts, seek professional help

What I like about being a loner
As a loner, I love quiet and solitude.  I can concentrate.  I have a hard time concentrating when there are a lot of people around, lots of calls coming in, lots of things going on.  I love being able to disappear into my work, a book, a creative project, and pretty much knowing I won't be disturbed.  It's my form of meditation.  The words that come to my mind are "revitalizing," "healing," and "cleansing."  I can let my imagination loose and revel there for hours.  Another thing I like about being a loner is not having to deal with other peoples' drama, waiting around for late comers or no shows.

What I don't like about being a loner


Occasional loneliness can be a bummer.  Also, feeling left out.  I get frustrated when I feel left out even if I didn't want to hang out with a certain person anyway.  When I feel detached from the community and friends, I get anxious at times.  When I do see people, I sometimes feel lost because they are talking about things I don't know or am not involved in..  It makes me feel out of touch.  So, what do I want then?  Can I have it both ways--keeping to myself and socializing?  Hmm.  I wonder.

I think the important thing is to live day to day in a way that feels comfortable.  Go with your gut.  If you want a hectic, fun-filled, roller-coaster-ride type of life, go for it.  If you'd rather be by yourself, meditate, and get lost in your own thoughts, that's cool too.  Everyone is different, and that's good.  Be the authentic you, without second-guessing or criticizing yourself.  Hold dear those who accept you the way you are and stand by you through life's trials, celebrations, and changes. 
Are you a loner?  If so, how has it affected your life?


----
Sources:

Psychologytoday.com, Introverts Are Not Failed Extroverts, by Susan Newman, Ph.D.

Healthsearchfunding.org, 3 Loner Personality Traits

Psychologytoday.com, Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insiders, Elizabeth Svoboda








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Friday, July 10, 2015

Positive Thinking: Some Pros and Cons


Being positive is good, right?  Well, yes, it is--to a point.  There are times when it can put you at a disadvantage as well, researchers say.

Let's look at the pros of positive thinking first, because I think positive thinking is pretty cool. 


  • It costs nothing and it can help make you feel better. 
  • Although there are conflicting research results out there, positive thinking may lead to health benefits such as lower blood pressure and heart disease, as well as better coping skills and increased feelings of well-being.
  • It may motivate us to press our own boundaries, explore the world outside our safety zone, and take reasonable risks.
I know that my blood pressure is much lower when I'm not stressed and freaking out.  I have to agree with the motivation part too.  When I'm feeling positive, I seem to have loads of confidence.  I want to explore the world and try new things outside my comfort zone.

Now, here are some cons to mull over:

  • Optimism can be detrimental under certain circumstances, when it keeps us from seeing what's really going on; keeps us from dealing with reality. (For example:  You're living in Kansas during tornado season and you hear the sirens going off, but instead of taking shelter, you say, "Aw, they won't come this way."  Hello!?  The sirens are going off.  Hit the deck!)
  • There are no significant benefits garnered from thinking positively.  Some research suggests that rather than positive thinking making us healthier, being healthier may instead cause us to think more positively.  
  • It's not for everyone.  Some of us are just not positive people and would rather Pollyannas just take their positiveness and leave us alone.  Okay, fine.
  • Regarding health, if we think we can heal ourselves simply by thinking positively and then we don't get better, it can cause us to get down on ourselves, big time.
  • Worrying can actually be a good thing as it helps us prepare for the worst.  The positive thinkers, on the other hand, may be devastated, unable to handle a terrible situation.
  • Being too positive can make us lazy and irresponsible.  We may ignore real dangers.
Okay, I get that too.  There's no doubt that when I am healthy, I am more positive.  And, yes, if I'm feeling too confident I may make stupid mistakes and end up getting hurt.  That makes sense.  But the worrying?  Hmmm?  I've been a worrier all my life and I have never looked at it as an advantage.  As for ignoring real dangers, I hope that wouldn't happen.  Is anyone really that positive?  Yikes!

And what about those positive affirmations we hear about that are supposed to make us feel better and motivate us?  Well, some people respond to them better than others.  We're all unique and respond in our own way to tips and tricks and techniques that are supposed to improve our lives.  Those with high self esteem tend to respond better to positive affirmations than those with low self esteem.  The people in a better place seem to get better, while those in not such a good place tend to feel worse.  That stinks, especially for the ones that really could use a break.  I personally have never had luck with affirmations, by the way.

The important thing is to be realistic.  Hope for the best while keeping your eyes open to the realities of life. Try different techniques to see which ones make you feel good, whether it's exercising, getting together with friends, meditating, watching funny videos on the Internet, volunteering, or any number of other things.  Handle each bump in the road the best you can, either by yourself, as I know people who would rather do that, or by getting help from others.  

So, what do you think?  Is positive thinking a good thing or not?  Has it helped you or not? Let's talk about this.




Sources:  


Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?, by Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, Scientific American

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getting Back to Basics

In the hectic world we live in it's easy to get overwhelmed.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Deal with what you have to head on, pitch what you don't use, like, or need, and spend more time doing thing that bring you joy.

First, start by writing down all the things you want and need to do.

Now, go through and categorize each item with a 1 (very important), 2 (somewhat important), 3 (not as important), 4 (not important).  

Make 4 more separate lists so you aren't looking at all the jumble of things you wrote down altogether on the first list, one list each for the 1s, 2s, 3s. and 4s

Of all the things on your 1 list, which one do you dread the most?  Do that one first.  Get it over with.  Then go on to the rest, crossing each item off the list as you complete it.

If there are some things on your lists that you are not one bit interested in but think you should do, cross them off right now.  Forget about them. Decluttering your life feels awesome, believe me.

If there are things on your lists that have been there for months, even years, and you haven't done them yet but you always thought it would be nice to give them a shot, pitch them, or place them on a separate bucket list and do them whenever you get the chance.

If there are things on your lists that you really, really don't want to do, but you really, really must, then figure out how to best handle the situation.  Research the issue and also get help if you need it.  Just take a deep breath and dive in.  It'll be over and then--hey, it's done! You don't have to think about it anymore.

Getting back to basics is a great way to get organized and reduce stress in your life.  I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  Got any others?  Please share them in the comments below.  Thanks!



Monday, July 6, 2015

Get Some Perspective on Life

In Friday's post, Choosing the Life You Want, I talked about how I finally got the life that I wanted.  Today, I'm going to share an exercise with you that can help you figure out where to start in making your own life the best it can be.  This exercise is called The Circle of Individual Perspective (see example above), and it can help you see where you are now and what you might need to work on in order for those dreams to come true.

First, draw a circle on a blank piece of paper and divide the circle equally into six sections. Don't worry if they aren't even.  Place one of the following labels on the outside edge of the sections (one label per section):  career, relationships, financial, health, spiritual, and well-being.

Now, rate each of the six categories on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "least satisfied" and 10 being "most satisfied."  For example, if your relationships are very satisfying/you have many good friends, you would label that section a 9 or 10, but if you're going through a divorce or you're lonely/don't have many friends you'd probably label that section a 1 or 2 instead.  

Okay next, imagine that the circle represents a bicycle wheel.  Draw a straight line across the "career" section at a point that represents your rating.  Say you rated your career a 6. The line you draw from spoke to spoke on the "wheel" would be pretty close to the middle of the section.  If you rated health at a 9 then the line would be very close to the outside edge of the wheel.

When you've drawn all the lines, color in the sections that are closest to the center of the circle.  Now, what does the "bicycle wheel" look like?  Does it look as if it's pretty even all around?  Is the wheel large, or small?  The bigger the wheel, the smoother your ride of life will be.  If the wheel is even but small, it still might be difficult since you've rated each section of life lower than optimal.  If you've got numbers all over the place, as in the above example, 4, 7, 9, 9, 6, 8, you're looking at a pretty funky looking wheel and thus a rough ride in life.

Look at your wheel.  Are you satisfied with it?  Will it provide you with a smooth or bumpy ride?  Take what this exercise has taught you and begin to make little changes in the areas of your life that you most want to improve.  Set goals, devise a plan of action to begin the journey of meeting those goals, and then make them happen.  Dream, imagine, believe, achieve!

If you have any questions about this exercise, or if you would like to find out more about life coaching, please contact me at amy@acnlifecoach.com.  Take care.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Choosing the Life You Want

Yes we can choose the life we want.  Of course, it takes time, energy, and patience to get it right, but it can happen.

My life has gone through several renovations over the years. 

At first I was perfectly happy to let others take the lead.  I didn't have any ambitions to run the show, become a big shot in business, or make a lot of hefty decisions.  Dealing with my health issues was enough for me.  I did what I had to do, followed instructions, had few friends, and led a pretty quiet life.  It suited me.

Then I got to the point of wanting something more.  I was tired of working anywhere at any job just to help make ends meet.  But I was still unsure of myself.  Nevertheless, I'd had it with working outside the home.  Some of the jobs were fun and the people I worked with were supportive, but I was unsatisfied with the working environment I found myself in most of the time.  I hated to drive, to rely on rides to work, and having to deal with office politics day in and day out.  But I wanted to contribute to our income in some way.  So, I started a typing and design business at home (this was 1995).  It was a big step, and I enjoyed it.  I was able to put my creative talents to work for me, and my human services background helped me become pretty darn good at customer service.  It gave me a chance to be independent, at least in the business world.  It lasted a dozen years.  

In the meantime, another change came.  As I've mentioned before, Jim was badly injured in a fall in late 2003.  That fall was what I needed to become more confident.  I was forced to handle the bills, the closing on our house, a move, talking to doctors about Jim's care, and my own health issues.  I had talked to Jim shortly before his fall about wanting to be more involved in decision making.  I complained that I didn't know what to do should something happen to him.  Then, he fell.  And I found out how ready I was for it.  It was a huge test and, incredibly, I passed!  Was it easy?  Absolutely not.  Was it invigorating?  Absolutely yes!  Do I wish I could have gained confidence in a different way?  OH yeah.  But things happen for a reason.  Jim's fall happened to teach us both that I could stand on my own two feet if I absolutely had to.  If Jim hadn't been so badly hurt, I probably would have been doing the dance of joy all over town, I felt so high on confidence.  

That life changing experience led to the decision to move out west.  I felt closed in by my surroundings.  I hated the long, cold winters we had back in rural New York.  I wouldn't drive in the snow, which limited me as far as work and play were concerned.  I was afraid to fall on the ice, I didn't skate or ski.   The dread of winter bothered me all year.  I was tired of feeling dragged down, limited.  I could work at home, sure, but this didn't just have to do with work.  It had to do with independence and freedom.  I didn't feel as if I had it in New York.  Someone was always giving me rides.  I was always missing out on social, civic, and professional opportunities because I didn't drive.  Enough!

We hit the road in 2007 for southern Utah.  Leaving the place where I'd grown up, my family, everything I knew, was hard, but leaving my doctors was the hardest.  I had an incredible team of physicians back in New York whom I trusted.  But I also had to trust my gut.  I wanted to feel more free to do things, go places, meet people, find myself, be myself, and so on.  The moderate climate of southern Utah made that more doable.  I was ready to give it a shot.

We've been in Utah for eight years this month.  It's my home now.  I've done things out here that I never dreamed I would, met people I never would have otherwise, and become even more independent and confident.  I drive all over the place, I'm working at a job I love, I'm fit, I'm social, I'm healthy, and I'm living life on my own terms.  Life is good.

Never settle for a life that doesn't feel right.  Work at it, bit by bit, until it's the life of your dreams.  You'll get there.


Abilities It Is!


Hi all.  I have decided to go ahead and change special needs coaching services to abilities coaching.  I'll be making changes to my website and online store in the coming days, so look out for those.  I'm excited about the new wording.  I think it better exemplifies the type of coaching I do for this particular clientele.  I hope you have a safe and fun weekend.  Take care.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Abilities Coaching: What'cha Think?



With the talk of labels in Monday's post, Stick Your Neck Out From the Wolf Pack, I got to thinking about my special needs coaching service.  Do I really want that to be the name of it?  "Special needs" is a label, and one that makes others stick out when maybe they wouldn't appreciate it.  I know that when I was younger especially, I wanted nothing more than to fit in, not stick out.  But do we really stick out when we're dealing with health issues?  After all, we all have special needs when it comes right down to it.  Each of us has our own special requirements to be happy, live healthfully, and spur us on toward our dreams.  People don't have to have health issues to have special needs.  We're all special.

I hadn't stopped to think when I chose the label.  People use it all the time to describe individuals who have chronic health issues due to birth defects and other problems.  It's just another label for people who are born with or develop disorders, disabilities, syndromes and the like; similar to "retarded," "handicapped," "crippled," and "mentally or physically challenged," which have been used over the years to discribe the same segment of the population. 

So, if I don't want to call my service "special needs coaching," what should I call it?  I bounced several ideas around in my head--difficulties coaching, support coaching and the like.  But those didn't quite fit the bill either.  Then it hit me--Abilities Coaching!  Okay, so everyone has abilities, but this would be my "label" for the type of coaching focused on helping people who have chronic health issues concentrate on finding, embracing and celebrating their abilities; concentrating on what these individuals can do rather than what they can't do.  

So, did I nail it?  Is this a keeper?  Do you have any other suggestions on what's better to call this coaching service?  Do you think it's a mistake to change it?  Let me hear your suggestions and views on the issue.  Thanks!  I hope you're having a great week.