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What’s on Your Summer Reading List? Add “The Little Book of Hygge”

Never feel guilty about lazing at the beach or lounging by the pool, when you’re recharging your batteries with great books from my summer reading list.“You cannot buy the right atmosphere or a sense of togetherness. You cannot hygge if you are in a hurry or stressed out, and the art of creating intimacy cannot be bought by anything but time, interest and engagement in the people around you.” 

~ Meik Wiking

Every summer I long for quiet moments where I can be alone with my thoughts and a good book (and usually a cat or two). If you’re planning on recharging your batteries, at the beach or on your patio, a great book can help you reinforce your commitment to living more fully. On my website, I have a Resource Page that lists many of the books that have meaningfully impacted my life in one way or another. Any one of them would be great to add to your summer reading list.

Ten of my all-time favorite books are:

What’s on Your Summer Reading List? Add “The Little Book of Hygge”If you want a short read that makes you feel really good, I suggest you start with “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. and “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga) is the Danish concept that encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. That’s a concept we all can benefit from embracing!

Isn’t it sad that in today’s fast paced, entrepreneurial world, people do feel guilty about slowing down and “smelling the roses”?! We’re told to always HUSTLE if you want to succeed. I believe there’s a time and place for hustling, but there’s also an equally important time for embracing hygge.

“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things”, Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” 

When was the last time you felt comfy, cozy and safe? Was it just this morning, last night, a week ago, or so long ago you can’t remember? What I love about the Danish concept is that it’s their way of life. They build their lives around good relationships that create these warm, intimate feelings. They don’t just try to squeeze them in at the end of the day or on the weekend.

How can you introduce hygge to your home and life?

Soften your lighting. According the Wiking, candles are a must. Think about how much more intimate and enjoyable your dinners will be when you turn off the overhead lighting and use candles. Your family will sit down and take notice that this is a special occasion. What a nice way to spark conversations. And, at the end of the day, make time to soak in the tub by candlelight. Pure heaven!

Create a cozy reading space. Reading is so good for you. Studies show that it reduces stress, promotes comprehension and imagination, alleviates depression, helps you sleep and may contribute to preventing Alzheimer’s. So, making a place that draws you into a daily practice is reading is a win-win!

Spend relaxed time with loved ones. Picnics in the park, backyard barbeques, bonfires on the beach, and outdoor movie nights are all fun summertime activities that promote a feeling of hygge. And instead of hibernating during the winter, invite friends over to play board games and music in front of the fireplace.

To me, hygge means appreciating simple things with the people you love. I’ve found that a practice of mindfulness really fosters this intimacy within yourself, between friends and with your surroundings.

While I take some time off to enjoy my summer, I hope you, also, are making time to enjoy your summer and your life! And if you’d like to, please come over to my Facebook page and share what books are on your summer reading list. I’d love to hear about your recommendations!

What Is the Purpose of Life — For YOU?

Young woman out in nature contemplating what is the purpose of life“The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.” ~ Terry Orlick

Humans have always sought the answers to life’s big questions: Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What is happiness? For inanimate and most animate objects there are finite and fairly straightforward answers to these questions. The purpose for each object is very limited.

Of all the living things on this planet, homo sapiens are the only ones that ask these questions and spend a lifetime searching for the answers. If the search is successful, the person is profoundly rewarded with a sense of well-being, happiness and fulfillment. If a person doesn’t find the answers he or she seeks, there can be an underlying sense of emptiness, helplessness, hopelessness and dissatisfaction with life.

What’s immensely freeing is recognizing that the answers to these questions are never exactly the same for each person. Nor are they bound by time, since your purpose evolves as you live. It’s not defined by what you have or don’t have. It’s not dependent on age, gender, race, status, location, situation or experience. It’s simply you being YOU, in this moment of time!

So ultimately, the answer I’ve found to the question, what is the purpose of life, is for each one of us to live the life you have authentically, without regrets, without shame, and without apology.

We have endless possibilities of what we do, where we go, what we see, who we become. The thing we all have in common is that we lead a purposeful life when we become aware of how we impact the lives of others. You may not think you’ve done anything noteworthy, but your smile brightens another’s day; your kind word starts a ripple of kindness; your example inspires; your wisdom provides guidance; your love strengthens the connection between all living things. You don’t have to be like Melinda Gates, Sonia Sotomayor, or Oprah Winfrey to fulfill a vital purpose on this earth. However, if you’re ambitious, go for it!

Perhaps it’s because we have so many choices, living with purpose becomes more challenging. We can second guess ourselves, wondering constantly if we’re making the best decision, worrying about what we’re missing out on. Just remember what Michel de Montaigne said, “The soul which has no fixed purpose in life is lost; to be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

As you live your life’s purpose, you will experience the gamut of emotions — happiness, joy, gratitude, sadness, anger, disappointment — none of which are “good” or “bad.”  They are simply fleeting states that inform you about the moment you’re living. Mindfully embrace each experience and learn what it’s telling you about yourself.

Try not to get caught up in pursuing happiness through escapism or hedonistic pleasures. Yes, they have their place and can be very enjoyable, if they’re used to refresh yourself. However, focusing solely on them exacts a toll on finding your deeper mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It isolates you from close social connections that are critical for nourishing you. A gutsy, strong woman, Helen Keller, came to the same conclusion. She said:

“True happiness…is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

There are a multitude of studies that show that living YOUR purpose will benefit your long-term health and well-being. Here are a few of the benefits of living in alignment with your purpose:

When you take the time to find YOUR purpose and express it, you’ll absolutely love your life!

So I ask, “What is the purpose of life – for you?” Have you discovered it yet? Do you jump out of bed, fired with passion to live another day? If so, I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page. If you’re still in the discovery part of your journey, I can help. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Recovering from Burnout — 18 Tips for Restoring Balance

Burnout syndrome endangers many people who work in high-pressure jobs. Learn to recognize its symptoms and how you can start recovering from burnout today.“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lou Holtz

The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, except for a little high blood pressure and fatigue. But you know there’s something seriously off. You’re not yourself. You drag yourself out of bed. As you walk around the house, you mutter “I’m just so tired,” but you can’t figure out why. Could it be you’re suffering from burnout?

Are you uncharacteristically short-tempered? Has your positive attitude been replaced with critical comments? Do you exercise less? Drink more? Have you lost touch with friends?  What should take minutes now takes hours. Sounds more and more like burnout!

No, it’s not all in your head. Less than a week ago, the World Health Organization posted their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, listing burnout as an occupational phenomenon. They state that:

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout syndrome contributes to heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and premature aging. This is not something you want to ignore and hope goes away!

Some professions, (e.g. medical, legal, teaching, social work, entrepreneurship), are more prone to causing burnout, because they demand all you have to give and then more! You could be fulfilling responsibilities that are clearly out of the bounds of your job description, without being compensated for them. You may be working in an unsupportive or toxic environment. Perhaps you’re asked to compromise personal values and beliefs. On top of that, you may have unrealistic expectations of yourself.

Did you notice WHO said burnout results from “stress that has not been successfully managed”? That should give you hope, because you can learn to manage stress and start recovering from burnout, with a few adjustments to your life. Right now, you may feel like you can’t do one more thing! But, please, take steps to get your life back in balance.

How do you start the process of recovering from burnout? It all begins with a practice of mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Here are some other suggestions:

  1. Learn stress management skills. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, reconnecting with nature, and utilizing the power of gratitude are all helpful.
  2. Tune into body sensations. Focus on your body’s response to movement. For example, stretching releases tightness and tension.
  3. Talk to someone. Find a good listener who isn’t going to try to “fix” you or judge you.
  4. Rekindle friendships. Phone someone and schedule a lunch date, or better yet, go for a walk with your friend and get some exercise, too.
  5. Limit contact with negative people. Your may have to work with them, but you don’t have to eat lunch or hang out after work with them.
  6. Learn to speak Positivity.
  7. Reframe the way you view work. Focus on how you help others.
  8. Set boundaries that support your valuesLearn to say “no!” and rediscover your happy place.
  9. Develop curiosity about emotional distress. Think of it as a learning tool.
  10. Take time off and get away. Ovid wisely said ~ “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
  11. Stop the tech addiction. The world isn’t going to end because you completely disconnect from your devices at the end of each day!
  12. Feed your creative side and find a hobby.
  13. Get restorative sleep
  14. Make exercise a priority. Aim to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes/day. Mix it up with activities you like.
  15. Eat healthfully. Just cut out one harmful item and add one healthful item at a time. It makes a difference.
  16. Avoid narcotics, nicotine and alcohol. Stimulants and depressants alter your brain chemistry. The temporary euphoria isn’t worth the negative effects.
  17. Find a better job. It took courage, but I have never regretted shifting my practice to coaching women!
  18. Work smarter. Hone your time management and organizational skills.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie reminds us, “Say NO to the demands of the world. Say YES to the longings of your own heart.”  Are you ready to make that shift? Does recovering from burnout feel too overwhelming — you don’t know where to start? I’d love to help you create a plan that gets you to where you want to be. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Healing Toxic Shame to Rekindle Hope, Confidence and Courage

Healing Toxic Shame to Rekindle Hope, Confidence and Courage“Shame is a soul eating emotion.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

What’s your secret? You know…the thing that causes you such intense shame and embarrassment you just know you’ll die if anyone else finds out! It might be that thing that happened years ago that you can’t ever live down. Or it could be an undefined feeling of failure because authority figures in your past used shame to “discipline” you. Whatever the cause, this kind of toxic shame can be healed.

Toxic shame gnaws at a person. It can consume you and destroy your self-worth and self-confidence. It makes you feel unlovable and unworthy. You become so busy beating yourself up you can’t be fully present in the moment or see the opportunities right in front of you. I appreciate how Brené Brown likens it to a corrosive element like rust or acid:

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

A milder form of shame isn’t necessarily a problem as it simply informs you that you can learn from the experience at hand. However, toxic shame is insidious and keeps you trapped. Let’s clarify, too, that toxic shame is different from guilt. Guilt arises from a negative evaluation of your behavior, while shame arises from a negative evaluation of you as a person.  Guilt is the feeling of doing wrong, and can motivate you to change your behavior. Shame is the toxic feeling of being wrong leading to the hopeless cry of “Why try?” You end up saying things like:

  • I’m so stupid.
  • I can’t do anything right!
  • I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing. 
  • What’s wrong with me?
  • I’m so fat and ugly. 
  • I can’t go, because I don’t want anyone seeing me like this.
  • I’m such a mess. 
  • I hate myself.

Toxic shame is responsible for worsening anxiety, depression or other mental and emotional disorders. It triggers unhealthy and destructive behaviors, such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and drinking, self-harming and cutting.

If you find yourself in a cycle of ruminating and reliving shameful episodes in your life, what can you do to break out of this destructive toxic shame pattern?

  1. Call the bully out! People who shame others are bullies. (Note: You could be bullying yourself with shame-filled, negative self-talk.) No, you don’t have to confront the bullies in your life. Simply reframe their abusive remarks as bullying, not truths. In that way you begin the process of being objective and you can lessen the power that episode has over you.
  1. Expose toxic shame to the light. Shame thrives in secrecy, but can’t survive in the open. If you try to suppress it, it grows. However, if you think or talk about whatever is making you feel ashamed, although painful at first, you’ll soon feel much less ashamed. Just be cautious of who you reveal your shame to. As Brené Brown says, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”
  1. Write it out, if you can’t talk about it. Without censoring yourself, let your thoughts flow onto the paper. It’s especially helpful if you write it as if you’re writing a letter to the “shame bully”, although you won’t actually mail it to them. Then put it away in a safe place and go for a walk and review how you make life better for those around you. When you come back, review your written words objectively. More often than not, some of the sting will have eased.
  1. Ramp up your positive emotions. Fill up on gratitude, hope and courage. It will leave little or no room for sadness, fear and disgust, which are the negative emotions that produce shame.
  1. Turn your toxic shame into healthy pride. Focus on the good person that you are and all the good things that you do. If you have trouble seeing good in yourself, ask trusted friends what they most appreciate about you as a person.
  1. Be compassionate with yourself. You are a work in progress. Trust that you will get better at letting go of shame the more you mindfully practice your shame-busting skills.

NLP reframing is a great tool for ridding yourself of toxic shame and rebuilding confidence, hope and courage. It works best when a skilled, caring person helps you. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you add this tool to your life skills toolkit.

Choose Personal Responsibility Over Blaming Others or Taking Offense

Choose Personal Responsibility Over Blaming Others or Taking Offense“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” ~ Steve Maraboli

A husband and wife were driving through an unfamiliar section of the city.  She read the map and told him to turn left or right at the intersections. He faithfully followed her every direction, until finally she wailed, “Now YOU”VE gotten me lost!” True story? Yes. (It wasn’t my honey and me, it was an acquaintance of mine.) It just illustrates that we, as humans, are quick to blame others for the results of our own actions. We take offense instead of taking personal responsibility.

People have become very confused about how to respond to life, because of conflicting messages they’ve received since childhood. For example:

  • It’s common to praise children for everything, which can inflate the ego and instill a mentality of, “I’m entitled. The world owes me”.
  • Parents make excuses for their children and blame the teachers, when the child gets in trouble or under performs.
  • Rather than learning that actions have consequences, many young adults get bailed out of their problems, so they never learn resilience or what their own strengths are.
  • We’re told “you’re entitled to your feelings and to let it all out”, without learning how to responsibly manage those emotions productively.
  • We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not be doormats. However, by not giving an inch we hear feedback as criticism from which we must defend ourselves.

We’ve lost our sense of humor and take ourselves too seriously. Becoming offended over real and imagined slights has grown into a problem of epidemic proportions. We see evidence of this in the irritation, sarcasm, hostility, resentment, pouting, grudges, rants, rioting, assaults, road rage, “going postal”, school shootings, and even terrorist attacks.

Here are some things people say in order to avoid taking personal responsibility:

“It’s not my fault!” While excusing ourselves, we hold others to an impossibly high standard.

“It’s not fair!” Because we fail to develop gratitude, we compare our life to others and become embittered and perceive the good others experience as a personal grievance.

“It’s his fault!” Shifting blame, when things go wrong, is easy.

“He started it!” When someone slights you, you respond by giving him the cold shoulder. Your own hurtful behavior is okay, because he did it first.

“He’s out to get me!” It’s all about us. We don’t make allowances for others’ good intentions. Instead we cynically search for their “sinister” reason.

If you want inner peace, cultivating the habit of personal responsibility is vital. I love how Iyanla Vanzant puts it:

“One of the greatest challenges in creating a joyful, peaceful and abundant life is taking responsibility for what you do and how you do it. As long as you can blame someone else, be angry with someone else, point a finger at someone else, you are not taking responsibility for your life.” 

Taking personal responsibility for the good and the bad in your life is one of the most empowering things you will ever do. Only then can you shape your future. Consider this: the word responsibility is made up of two words…response and ability. That means you have the ability to mindfully choose your response to whatever happens. As Viktor E. Frankl said,

“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

Taking personal responsibility is a habit you can cultivate over time. It’s like a muscle memory. You do it often enough, it will become automatic. So it’s up to you to decide. What kind of person do you want to be? If taking responsibility is important to you, start with these suggestions…

  • Before responding, honestly ask yourself, “What part did I play in this situation? How did I make it worse? How could I have made it better?”
  • Recognize your own limitations. You’re not perfect, so give yourself some slack and avoid becoming defensive and prickly, when others point out your “faults”. Accept it with grace and humor. And give others some slack too.
  • Sincerely apologize for your actions or your lack of actions.
  • Welcome feedback and learn from it. Even if you think it’s undeserved, you can find something positive in it, if you look hard enough.
  • Look for the good in others and don’t impute wrong motives. If you’re suspicious, respectfully ask them why they said or did something, rather than jumping to negative conclusions.
  • Accept your life, without judgment and resignation, rather than wishing things were different. View today as a starting point from which you can create something better.
  • Let go of the past. You have the choice and the power to change your future.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re not taking personal responsibility for our actions. If you’d like to enhance your emotional intelligence and communication skills, so you can turn even the most trying situations into positive outcomes, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). You can do this!

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