Friday, December 30, 2011

Balancing Work and Life: Gratitude

More and more, I am convinced that if we take a few minutes to find gratitude early in our day, each day is more balanced. If we do this each day, that adds up to weeks, months, years –  and a life – of balance.

I like to watch the morning news as I get ready and dressed for the day. Unfortunately, most of it is bad news for breakfast. So what can we do to Scotchguard ourselves from the bad news around us? We can immerse ourselves in plain and simple gratitude by creating a mental – or even written – list of the good in our lives. Hey, just being thankful for waking up and putting our feet on the ground is something!

Years ago, when I realized I was having a “feel sorry for myself” day, I would MAKE myself drive by the local hospital on the way home from work. Yes, it was perhaps 10 minutes out of my way, but I consciously knew I had to snap myself out of it and make room for gratitude. Now, I start my mornings with a breakfast of gratitude to make sure every day is in proper perspective.  

Gratitude is like attitude in that it’s contagious. The more you focus on the positive, the more positive comes your way! Plus, you have the power to spread it around.

As we enter 2012, be powerful in your gratitude and see how your day, week, month and new year goes! Watch how it spreads around you. And, a bonus is that someone in your world will have you on THEIR grateful list.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Balancing Work and Life: Rekindle Your First Love

Think back to your first love. Are you visualizing a much younger version of yourself in a special time of your life?

Last night I was on my last cell of energy, feeling half ill from the weeks of pushing myself, driven through the Christmas season, and now finding myself dressing for a formal party which I had previously looked forward to, but was now just dragging towards. My body, nor my heart was in it and every move felt exaggerated. The couch looked so much better to join – not a party!

Arriving and making my hellos through the crowd, I was doing my best to be myself enjoying the festive crowd. A lovely dinner was served and the conversation went well. At least I was getting to sit down, I thought, which was a great consolation for a much tired me. 
And then the most rewarding, uplifting and renewing experience happened. My first love arrived at the party. I sat up straighter, my heart beat a bit faster, my dull headache faded, a warm tingling feeling raced from my toes to my cold fingertips. A genuine smile even spread across my face and the tired lines disappeared as a younger version of myself appeared. I felt the love. I had pushed back this feeling for so long. I realized immediately I had not be attentive to my own needs.

A fabulously talented pianist sat down and filled the air with piano music – my first love. My heart felt joy and I was also mentally playing every note, remembering what my first love and passion was. I had been a professional pianist for 20+ years and had thrived and survived on expressing myself through music. How remiss on my part to neglect my first love.
As I filled my cup by the end of the evening, I walked away with the knowledge that I had forgotten to feed my passion. My current work self, who never gets the list finished, had not spent any time restoring the life me. I had a new attitude on balancing my life and work.

Have your spent time with your first love lately? As you can see from this story, it is not cheating on your present self. Set aside some quality time to restore yourself, and may your days be merry and bright. God bless.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Givers and Takers: The Balance

The holidays are a time when people are fixated on giving. We shop for presents to give our friends and family. We search for the perfect gift and enjoy the emotional response of them liking it. There has to be some endorphin released doing this because so many people love to give. Give, give give!

Many years ago (which I refer to with my friends as BL as in "Before Larry") I was a big giver. The giving I am speaking of, though, is not physical gifts, but relationship giving. I was wearing myself out trying to please people and give, give, give. 

I have a friend who who recognized my imbalance of giving and taking. When he approached me about it - and did and intervention of sorts - I was in total denial. Eventually, he gave me a book, The Givers & The Takers, to read and absorb. This book explains that being a giver is not all good, that we needed to find times and relationships in which to take.

Needless to say, this 25-year-old intervention has stuck with me. I have thought about it and worked with the idea for years, and find that a balance means not only reaching a good place, but it has also grown in other parts of my life.

Givers and takers. I hope today you can take with you this lesson and apply it to find more balance in your life.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Turning Off the Workaholic Mindset

At certain points in life, we find ourselves working very hard on our careers. Whether we’re working toward a promotion, looking for a new position or even relocating, it’s during these times we need to be especially mindful of our work life balance. I came across a great post on the Work Awesome blog by Nathan Gilmore that shares a number of pointers about how to create balance – and happiness – at work and home.

Here are 10 key points that Nathan shares:

Work fewer hours
Thanks to smartphones, many people feel they must always be connected and ready to work. Gilmore also suggests establishing a four-day work week.

2)     Spend time with family and friends
Create a similar work schedule to the important people in your life so you can enjoy free time together.

3)     Save work for the office
Having a “working environment” is crucial, but equally important is having a “non-working environment.” Make your home a place of rest, not an extension of your office.

4)     Keep your eyes off your phone
Do you have that itch to “always be connected?” Set a regularly scheduled day or timeframe to turn it off. It’s important to spend quality time with your family and friends and keep your focus and attention on them during that time.

5)     Find a few hobbies
Enjoying hobbies will help you get out of work mode. It’s especially helpful if those hobbies can include friends or family because it helps you stay connected.

6)     Enjoy relaxing
It’s okay to relax and take time to recharge your mind and body. If you don’t take time for yourself, you won’t be as productive at work or at home.

7)     Accomplish personal goals
Think of all the time and energy you put into reaching goals at work. It’s equally as important to have a few reasonable life goals to work toward.

8)     Only think about working while at work
Again, shut off that phone! Be in the present and focus on what you’re currently doing. Only think about work when you are physically at work.

9)     Help your friends and community
Donate to a charity, give back to your community or help someone you know. You will feel better about yourself when you do something for others.

10)  Don’t wait, do it now!
When you physically punch out of work today, mentally do the same thing. Don’t check anymore email for the day. Shut off your work mind and focus on everything else going on in your life, because there’s always plenty to think about.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Balancing Life Financially: Excellent Payout!

As the holiday shopping season is officially underway, what better time to think about – and act on – balancing your life financially. When I was a newlywed, my oh-so-financially-astute husband had a huge shiver when I shared my financial knowledge. I drew upon my musician personality to make my financial decisions. Now it is a funny story to share in seminars, but looking in the rear view mirror, it was plain pitiful!

Through the years I have learned so much. And in my seminars, we address finances. Not the financial amount of dollars, but amount of knowledge. As I have often said, knowledge is power. Power enables us to balance our lives and career. Win-win-win!

So if you are looking for that knowledge, let's hit a few how-to points:

Step 1: Recognize your finances. Identify your accounts, where they are located and how much is in each account.

Step 2: Learn the basic terminology. What is a stock, bond, mutual fund, asset allocation, etc.

Step 3: Recognize where you are in your life, by age and circumstances. What is your tolerance for risk and your investment objective? Do you know where you want to be in five years? 25 years? Set your goals accordingly.

Step 4: Find a broker/investment professional you trust. Establish a relationship. It is important you feel comfortable and trustworthy of them, a person that is working on your behalf. One who you can ask questions and foster a process of learning.

Step 5: Meet with your personal advisor regularly to discuss changes as they occur, and adjust your plan if needed.

If you choose to do it yourself, there are oodles of free tools available to help you manage your accounts. Check with your bank on options they may offer or try a free online tool to help you see where your money is – and where it’s going.

The school of life is a continuous process. Remember that your finances are considered part of the “long haul.” Stay the course and down the road the payout can be very rewarding.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Proactivity: The Stress Buster

Have you ever observed someone spending more energy on fixing a problem when they could have used half that energy to do it right, the first time? Sports enthusiasts talk “offense,” but do they place it in their daily lives? Are you being proactive in arranging your personal life so as to knock out some stress? Proactivity is certainly part of being organized. In fact, “Be Proactive” is also Stephen Covey’s Habit #1 in his wildly popular book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Here are a several examples of living the “proactive” philosophy each day to help reduce stress – and find that all important balance:

·         Scheduling regular checkups on your car and your health.

·         Putting a fire exit plan together for your home, not just work.

·         Paying personal bills monthly via auto deductions on checking accounts and credit cards, not reacting to a paper bill that can get hidden in a stack of papers.

·         Setting up a backup babysitter plan for when the daycare unexpectedly closes, so you don’t have to panic or take off work.

·         Storing personal items in one place, like keys, so there is no morning scramble looking for them.

·         Sitting down and making a proactive plan for you and your family!

 What a stress buster!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Company Culture: Important to Finding Balance

This year, I was invited to play at a charity golf tournament sponsored by Chic-fil-A. I had been around a few of the executives before with my husband and was looking forward to the event. It was well executed with generous entry gifts, golf pros in every group, and even hot Chic-fil-A sandwiches delivered on the course!  But I must say, what superseded all of that was the effervescence of Chic-fil-A’s company culture. One didn't need to read the handbook on this one. Their beliefs rang clear by what I call lead by example.

The executive leadership team was dedicated to “total customer service” to their guests.  When served their food in the hotel or by each other, there was a spirit of sincere gratitude and a moment of praise for each task executed. It was quite impressive to say the least! It also provided a mental photo opportunity of how to treat others. Words like kindness, integrity and phrases like “the golden rule” came to mind. This was a great life lesson of balancing life with work, and the results were obvious how it reflected in their personal lives as they spoke of their families.

Does a company's culture come from the top? Or is it like a heartbeat that is felt from within? Or is it passed down from company history? And after identified, is your company culture something you can embrace? And some of you may be asking, "what are you talking about?!"

Company culture encompasses the values and beliefs that are shared by management, employees and shareholders. It should be strong and lasting, but it may change with time, employees and circumstances. Does your company culture value work-life balance? Or is it time to revisit?

Company culture.
Can you read it? Yes.
Can you see it? Yes.
Can you feel it? A powerful yes!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Balancing Life and Work: Trust

Trust is the backbone of any relationship – and an important part of creating balance between work and life. While researching the concept of trust, I was not surprised to find lots of negative activity surrounding it. Songs have been written about the lack thereof, counseling sites filled with resolving issues, and then there are the talk shows filled with distrust.

But how do we address trust in a positive fashion to help us find balance in our lives?

At Work: Surround yourself with trustworthy people. When working with new colleagues or hiring employees, do your homework on them. Have they been recommended? And by whom? Also, use your gut-o-meter. If it has a glitch of doubt, move on. Building trust with your co-workers is critical to developing a strong, successful team – and helps tremendously in achieving balance.

At Home: It’s critical to foster an environment of trust with those people who are most important to you. Family members and spouses must establish absolute trust in each other and know that they are in it as a team for the long-term.

In either situation, if trust is damaged, the road back is long and rocky. But trust works both ways. Both parties must have a mutual sense of trust in each other. How do you make yourself more trustworthy? Here are a few qualities that will help:

-          Be reliable to those around you.

-          Be punctual at home and work.

-          Tell the truth and don’t lie just to please others.

-          Listen and understand people.

-          Keep things private that were told to you in confidence.

So, keep it simple, trust others with good probability. And by all means, work on being trustworthy. Building mutual trust and support of your team – at work and at home – is critical to finding balance in both.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The List Maker: I Don't Know How She Does It

Have you seen the new movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It?” It is a wonderful movie, situationally realistic, in which Sarah Jessica Parker's character is frantically trying to balance her career and her personal life of being a wife and mom. During the movie we nod in agreement, laugh with her, see ourselves, and feel the guilt of being MIA with our own family.

During the movie she lives by “the list.” Later in the plot her husband tries the list concept. Hey, I felt that was downright gallant!

Okay, interruption: let’s talk about the list. I have lived by “the list” for years and may I say – it works! It is not a bad thing. It does not make me – or any of you – bad. It is not about being obsessed, but ORGANIZED. 

So back to the movie... at the end she gives up the list in an effort to “free” herself. I wanted to cry out, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” We’ll never know if giving up the list worked – but if it were real life, I doubt it. The lack of a list likely would have made her life more stressful. I just have to walk away knowing it is only a movie . . .

That said, try the list, okay? It’s a great tool to help reduce stress and achieve balance in real life and work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Balance of Life and Work: Friends

In a past blog, we addressed corporate spouses as friends. We pointed out that it is possible and usual, but within certain boundaries.

In trying to achieve good work-life balance, we need personal friends outside our work place to create a better balance.

Usually those friends are from our past, our childhood, teen or youth where we shared that huge learning curve together having no judgment placed on us at the time. Sometimes we gain good friends as adults by going through tough circumstances. Some ask: do we still need those friends as we have moved on, as in corporate moves? And if so, where does the value lie in continuing the relationships?

True friends keep us balanced by offering us the variety and spice of life. Good friends expand our horizons, foster our strengths and support us when times get tough. What is so important to me is that real friends provide that extended safe place to exist – that comfort zone of home.

So how do we know who our real friends are? Trust. True friends are those you can pick up a conversation with as if no time has passed.

I love and appreciate my friends, those who I am privileged to have in my life today, and those who I have been blessed with who have moved on. I keep their words of advice and comfort close at hand as tools to use when I need to keep my life in better balance.

Friends are an important tool in balancing life and work.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Balancing Life by Giving Back: Win-Win!

Larry and I were recently honorary chairs for the Cattle Baron's Ball in our hometown of Springfield, Missouri. For those of you not familiar with this event, it’s a cowboy-themed fundraiser for the American Cancer Society (ACS), started in Dallas. Larry and I have been involved in ACS for all our married life. The Cattle Baron's venue was new to us (yea, cowboy attire! – not the usual formal black tie). Regardless, we love it all.

Giving back is so important. In this economy, it’s tougher than ever – but it also means there are more people than ever before who are in need.

Larry and I grew up in families that taught us that giving back was absolutely necessary to balance life. Minimum 10 percent to be exact, off the top of gross salary. If I had a $5 allowance, I donated $.50. When I made $670 a month as a first year teacher in 1977, that 10 percent felt significant. However, due to my mental set and the giving philosophy my parents instilled, I lived to my remaining means monthly. Participating was important, too. Actions spoke volumes and our parents certainly led by example. Life was balanced.

There is a circle in life beyond “The Lion King.” It is the circle of the more you give, the more you receive. If you don't believe it, I challenge you to find the courage and discipline to try it.

You might ask, where do I give? Find a charity that has touched your life. Identify your passion and the giving will follow. There are also many tools and tips available online to help you
select a charity.

Winning is giving back. Winning is looking in the mirror and knowing you are doing the right thing.

Charity giving – it’s a win-win in balancing life!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Balance of Life & Work: Not Just a Movie Plot

"I Don't Know How She Does It" is an interesting movie addressing a very hot and popular topic these days. We have all become aware that we are reaching for a magic bullet, the answer of how to find balance in our lives. So there we are, intently watching a fictional plot hoping to find a hidden message. Well, as you might have guessed, there are no real answers, but just a movie set of movie circumstances. The good news is that it does create super heightened awareness!

While “
I Don’t Know How She Does It” is a great movie, at ExecuMate, we understand the real issues in finding balance between work and life. Ready to address real life situations, we provide hands-on tools and guidance to help you achieve balance and meet your personal goals.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Balancing Life Physically: Exercise!

My fitness instructor friend of 25 years (who also leads the fitness session in my seminars) admitted when we were walking one day that she craved exercise. I confessed that I craved chocolate – but worked daily on my fitness.

I know what is best for me, usually. Doing it is another thing. So how do we get ourselves on board?

Discipline is a learned behavior, not a gift. I have worked on my own discipline for years to work out in order to enjoy better health. Truthfully, times have waxed and waned. I’d much rather play golf, thank you. But discipline is the key to balance, and it is instrumental to achieving our goals, whether in fitness, work or life.

So what's the plan? If you can find time first thing in the morning before the demands of the day begin, exercise is a great way to clear your mind and start the day off right – with balance. I walk vigorously and use that time to meditate. If you’re a multi-tasking type like me, walking meditation is a great way to enjoy the benefits of exercise and meditation at the same time.

Finding your balance physically is important to finding balance in life. I do it daily while meditating and sometimes dreaming of . . .  chocolate.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Focus: Staying in the Moment

Many of my clients have expressed trouble shutting down work in their mind when they get home. Conversing with a spouse or children, watching TV, or even the simplest social task of listening becomes impossible. Ears go numb as problem-solving continues on the day's tasks. What to do?!

Meditation. So, exactly what does that mean?

Well, it is simply (and done through discipline) finding 15 minutes in the morning before your work day to read inspirational passages, pray to a higher being, reflect on personal meaningful thoughts, clear your mind while walking - or preferably - all of the above. The time and discipline to do this creates an ability to call on focus when you need it - to go to that peaceful place on call.

Time to try it!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Cleaning: Ourselves

Ah, sure . . . it's that time of year to consider our closets, storage and pantries. What do we keep? What do we throw away?

Purging is such a satisfying task for me. Whether I am reorganizing my closet or taking inventory of my life, the end result is gratifying.

I have encountered recent conversations with clients who have not taken time to organize their lives. Sounds funny, even peculiar, to some of us. How could those people who are so successful in their business and professional lives be so UNorganized in their personal lives? Going home has no appeal! Living day-to-day at home is terrifying.

Here is an exercise to get things rolling:

1. Lay your life plan out as you would a business plan. Yes, in print. Seeing our lives in an organized manner in front of us gives us realization and rest. It doesn't need to be complicated, just write it down! What do we want in six months, a year, five years?

2. Confer with your partner. Headed in the right direction? If not, discuss and regroup.

3. Set the plan knowing that things do change, but at least you’re planning. Put it in motion and as I say, "eat that elephant one bite at a time.”

Time to organize. Purge old conceptions that "life is difficult.” And yes, it would be good to clean out your closet. The cleansing is so gratifying.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Marriage vs. Friendship: One in the Same?

I am always excited to see friendships develop into relationships – and find marriage.

The best marriages I know, including my own, speak to the beginning friendship. Oh sure, we’ve all had infatuations that landed flat in time, but as our elders have taught us, the relationships that started in friendship are the ones that last.

But somehow, usually through the side roads of rearing children, hardships, or seeing to the needs of others, that basic foundation of friendship gets forgotten. So, when I am leading seminars, we talk about those beginning friendships and get back to the basics.

When I am golfing and my game is off, I go back to the basics where the power in playing lies. When I correct my basic swing, my golf ball goes in the direction I am aiming. When I am shooting guns and missing targets, I go back to the shooting range and site my gun in. I get my sites back on track, and I immediately improve.

So it is with marriage. When you get back to the basic elements of friendship, marriage improves. Direction and sites are back! What are a few basics to remember?

· Listen. Have empathy for your partner.
· Try to meet the needs of your partner.
· Put the effort in, and not just for a short while.
· Share the good as well as the bad. Have fun together by sharing an interest.

This is a start. Rekindle your friendship and make plans for this weekend to do something fun and exciting with your best friend, your spouse!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And the Oscar Goes to . . . The Power of Two

I watched the Oscars Sunday night, and the overpowering message during the acceptance speeches was thank you, spouse, for the opportunity to do my job as best as I could, knowing I had the support of you behind me, with no criticism in the time I spent doing it, and balancing my home life as I was not always there.

OK, so that is paraphrased, but the message came across in many emotions, and words of praise and thanks. Perhaps Christian Bale said it best when he choked up upon thanking his wife: “And of course mostly, my wonderful wife. My wonderful wife who’s my mast through the storms of life, I hope I’m likewise to you, darling, and our little girl who’s taught me so much more than I’ll ever be able to teach her. Thank you, thank you so much.”

I would imagine that there were many issues that had to be dealt with by the spouse, and many phone calls that refereed the home field. However, it happened because each person in that marriage/relationship made a conscience decision before the project to pick up the slack, to work on this project to make their lifestyle better, and to be partners in making it happen.

That’s the power of two… in Hollywood, in the corporate world, and in our own lives.