Archive | March, 2011

Stop giving Outrageous Power to others – Pick yourself first!

29 Mar

A post by Seth Godin last week resonated with me: “Reject the tyranny of being picked: Pick yourself”. One of the most insightful statements he made was:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

I completely agree!

All too often we wait for others to guide/help/choose us and we miss beneficial opportunities while we wait! In scenes reminiscent of schoolyard days long ago, we stand around in life waiting for our name to be called and we give OUTRAGEOUS power to people who often have no idea that we named them our team captain!

Even worse is when those to whom we have given our  also disparage us while we stand and wait. (Remember the person in class who was always picked last in gym class for the ball team? Maybe it was you!)  Such is the scourge of childhood – but it should not be our legacy as adults.  Being an adult means being able to choose yourself first!

Dump the baggage or pay the baggage fees…

Airlines charge for checked baggage.  I believe we should do the same with the emotional baggage we carry around.  We need to discard the unnecessary baggage – memories and past indifference that does not serve our best interests. We need to (re)claim our rightful power over our own being – the right to choose us!

There should be a Grown-up declaration day!

Many of us wake up to the realization of choice years after we become adults. How does this happen?  Typically, we’ve gone from childhood to adulthood without a major rebellion – and may have seamlessly transitioned from childhood (where others chose for us) to an adulthood where someone else stepped in to control us (with or without our permission).  For some reason, we missed the critical moment when we became an adult – and never seized the power to make our own choices.

No matter how well-meaning the loving controllers are in our life (husbands, wives, partners, bosses) – we deserve to take back our power to choose if we want to be responsible adults.  Unfortunately, sometimes we wake up to the fact that others are governing our life – even if we gave away our power – after years of unconscious ignorance.  There is good news – it is never too late to take back your power to choose!

You have the right to choose, just do it! It is time to take back the reins, make your own decisions and chart your own life from today forward.  Stop giving OUTRAGEOUS power to others – Pick yourself first!

Have a great week!

Carol


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Crackberry Detox…

17 Mar

My Blackberry has a mind of its own these days – for some strange reason it shuts down at (its own) will four to five times a day.  Embarrassingly it happens in the middle of calls, when I am responding to emails, and when it is fully charged.

There seems to be no logical explanation aside from the fact that it is going through the terrible twos and has a tantrum when I don’t give it the attention it seeks.

So, I have a couple of choices since I do not want to extend my cell phone contract for another two years:

  • I can pay full price ($400 USD thereabouts) for a new Blackberry or Droid or Smartphone – and have uninterrupted service;
  • I can succumb to my cell phone company’s demands and go with a 2-year contract or switch carriers (and start a new 2-year contract);
  • I can shop around to find the right solution, and in the meantime, resort to using a new non-web-enabled Nokia cell phone and do a 2-week or so “Blackberry Detox”.

I think I am addicted to my Blackberry and its Facebook / Twitter / Email / Blackberry Messenger features.  I probably check its screen no less than 500 times a day. When a chime goes off to alert me to a sms message, voicemail or Direct Message from Twitter, I feel compelled to check it again – even if I just looked at it 5 seconds earlier.

When I first wake up in the morning, the first thing I do after I dismiss my alarm (Blackberry vernacular for turning off my alarm clock), is to dispense with the 70+ emails/messages/texts, etc that came in during the night.

I justify this behavior by purporting it keeps my email in order when I later access my laptop – but I wonder what it really says about my need to be tethered to my “Crackberry“.

Starting this afternoon, I’m going cold turkey and choosing the third option above.  (I can’t believe I am saying this, but) I am going to unplug and disconnect from my Blackberry and rely on a Nokia cell phone (no camera, no web access) until I decide how I will replace my ailing Blackberry.

This means I will have to write directions and take down information from email messages “by hand” so I know where to tell a taxi to take me to a hotel in DC on Friday night.  I will also have to rely solely on my laptop to read emails. In other words, I am going to go back to life before Blackberry or Smartphones.  Like in the “olden days” 5 years ago.

What do you think?  Are you addicted to your iPhone or Blackberry or SmartPhone?  Could you survive a two-week detox?  I will let you know how I do and whether I fall off the wagon – you can cheer me on along the way.  After all, I’m still addicted (happily) to blogging…

Have a happy week!

Carol

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How Green can One Become?

15 Mar

I have been an advocate of recycling for most of my life – having grown up in Canada where it is simply a way of life.  There was never a question of throwing out a beer bottle in the trash because we had paid a deposit on its use (10 cents a bottle) which you got back when you returned it to a recycling depot.  Homeless people collected cans and bottles because they could be turned in for cash.

When I first moved to Florida 16 years ago, I remember calling the Garbage utilities and asking why the county did not have a solid recycling program – especially for glass.  “Why we dispose of our garbage in a much cleaner way than recycling, ma’am” she started, “we incinerate it!”  I was surprised by the response but took slight solace in the fact that it seemed that at least recycling had been considered.

Today, every business wants to appear earth-friendly and conservation conscious.

The “Green” movement has done much to encourage recycling, but I am still amazed at the wild consumerism we enjoy – even in times of conservative spending.  All one needs to do is to visit a thrift shop and a Wal-Mart on the same day to see just how much “stuff” feeds our consumer society.  Instead of reusing, we buy. Instead of recycling we toss. Instead of buying used, we buy new.  Second hand stores nationwide feature working used items, yet we often prefer to buy new and unused.  I wonder where all this stuff will end up.

I was reminded of the disposable mindset many of us have when I my printer broke down last week – it would scan fine, but just wouldn’t print.  When I mentioned this to a friend and noted that the printer was about 7 years old, she told me to toss the printer as it had outlasted its useful life.  “In fact, I’m lucky if I get two years out of my printers” she added.  Instead of prematurely retiring the errant printer, I called my brother who stepped me through clearing out the software print spooler.  The printer responded and I saved at least 10 pounds of trash going to the landfill.

Here’s a few ideas to become a “greener” person – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day:

  • Use both sides of a sheet of paper – and create a recycle bin of one-side used paper;
  • Collect paper waste (newspaper, bulk paper, envelopes, cardboard, etc.) and take to a recycling center
  • Save clean glass jars and take to your local elementary school art class (to use while painting)
  • Use old towels to wash your car or in the garage as shop towels
  • Use the cardboard inserts from toilet paper rolls (cut in thirds) to keep soil intact for growing seedlings
  • Compost vegetable waste in a backyard container for later spreading on plants
  • Use discarded coffee grounds to enrich garden soil
  • Ask for paper bags instead of plastic at your grocery, then use them to store waste headed for the compost. (Toss the bag and waste daily onto the compost heap)

What other ideas have you found to become more “Green”? I find a bit of hope for the future when I can conserve and reuse the resources we consume. How about you?

Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Carol

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Realities of mid-life survival

11 Mar

Do you know how many books today proclaim that success is imminent if you just buy them?  Thousands!  In addition, the self-proclaimed experts often have nothing more than their own experience of rags to riches “expertise” (sometimes just plain luck) that propelled them to fame.

Moreover, the number of books on the shelves for baby boomers especially women – who find themselves at mid-life having raised children, nurtured husband’s careers, and are now alone and broke is increasing.

According to a recent study, 46% of adult Americans are single in 2011.

Western-raised women are stereotypically taught to take care of everyone (at their own expense) and this practice has been handed down through the generations of well-meaning elders.  At mid-life having raised our children to maturity and independence, and having put our spouse through many college degrees and jobs, we find ourselves alone with a tawdry collection of hand-me-down furniture, discarded belongings, and a shambles of friendships abandoned in favor of raising our family.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Here I sit five years post-divorce, with two wonderful grown children who are independent and healthy (a big plus and a source of pride!), few friends (it’s difficult to set up relationships at mid-life and with a career involving travel), fewer male friends (at least not within the vicinity), an albatross of an over-mortgaged  house (because I had to buy the ex-spouse out at an exorbitant price to keep my son in his home),  and a career challenged like many today.  I’ve got baggage, but I’ve survived a lifetime of giving and being taken.

And, I am alive and well and have the chance to be happy!  At mid-life, I am starting completely over – in fact, at 50 paces behind the starting line when I consider that my financial situation is one where the ex-spouse made off like a bandit in the divorce due to a some unfortunate circumstances.  But, 50 paces behind the starting line with a chance of a second half of life of happiness and freedom is so much better than no life or the Stepford wife existence I lived a mere 6 years ago.

The realities of my life today are much different from the last time I was single more than 25 years ago!

If you are like me, maybe you can identify with some of these realities:

  • A garage full of garbage: that was left by my ex and my children when they moved out. Memories of a lifetime of child raising (toys), school sports (a motley crew of athletic equipment), boxes of discarded books (which “friends of the library” charity will happily take), tools, leftover paint cans, and garbage that my ex-husband promised to clean up (and didn’t) before he moved;
  • An over mortgaged house with zero equity: and rooms that I never walk into.  My 22-year-old son has promised me for months that he will clean out his old bedroom of the clothes and discarded bits that he left when he moved out 6 months ago.
  • Maintenance that I cannot do (or afford to hire to have done): my gas dryer stopped working and I know that a service man will happily see a “little lady” who can be taken for hundreds of dollars.  In Florida, there seems to be no work ethic or morals and the edict “do your research and know exactly what you need to have done before you hire anyone to come in” is the moral of the day.  I don’t have the energy to fight with men who want to rip me off so I do without the dryer (and other household maintenance).
  • Friends who are mine! When I was married, we had ‘our’ friends (his friends) who he worked with or we knew as parents of our kids’ friends.  Today it is wonderful to have friends who know me for me and who love me for me!
  • Toxic friendships that I must discard: One of the lessons I’m learning is that I was too giving as a person in my former life – I allowed people and “friends” to take advantage of my kindness. Some of those “friendships” include people who I thought were friends and who preyed on my giving nature. One such “friend” begged me to give her grown daughter some space to temporarily store an apartment full of items in my garage.  Six months and many un-returned phone calls and emails later, she (and the daughter) refuse to talk to me because I have asked them to remove the items. There is no thank you, no courtesy and no respect for the favor I granted them. It is toxic to our being when a “friendship” is one way without respect or give-and-take.  In my past life, I tolerated this treatment by thinking that somehow it was what I deserved, but today I know that such tolerance is toxic to me. When people in our life get angry when we set healthy boundaries it is a sign of toxicity. Any friend that abuses you was never really a friend.
  • LOTS of time alone: As an extrovert who lives alone, works alone from home (when I am not teaching out-of-town), has no local family, has grown children, and friends who have busy lives, I have a lot of alone time. The challenge after a lifetime of taking care of others is for me to be happily alone without feeling lonely.  There are days when I feel quite isolated and it is then that I long to be on the road working so that I will be among others. When I return home, it can be more lonely than when I am traveling alone for work.
  • A challenging career today: the economy has wreaked havoc on consultants and trainers – we are the first roles to be cut in downsizing and recessions.  I find myself overqualified and too long a freelancer to be considered for most jobs today. As such, my financial status (due to the economy and the divorce) is a fraction of what it once was, as is the income I once enjoyed.
  • Acceptance and freedom: I don’t know what your relationships are like, but I am happy today to be able to choose a restaurant without getting blamed that it was not a good choice (or feeling responsible for “his” happiness); to be able to make a sandwich the way I want (without being told I’m doing it wrong); and to buy a pair of black shoes with my money (without being told I don’t need them).  It is a joy to come home to my cat who accepts me and loves me for who I am not for who he thinks I need to become.  Acceptance and freedom are wonderful rights!

Today, aside from my financial woes (which are temporary), I am happier than I have been in years!

I have self-love beyond any I have ever experienced, a few honorable and true friends who are there for me (unlike the acquaintances we had as a couple), and a recognition that I deserve love and respect (which I never believed in the past).  I am challenged to live this new solitary life – and there are up and down days along the journey.

But — Life is good and getting better all the time.  It is not the same as I grew up to believe it would be – or that was my experience in my former life – but I am truly alive in ways that I could never be had I stayed in a loveless marriage.

The realities of mid-life survival can be stark – but the future is bright!

Have a great week!

Carol


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Do nice people finish last?

7 Mar

There is so much contradiction in books and on the internet today about whether nice people finish first, middle, or last in life and in business.  What do you think?

I think that it all depends on the meaning of the word “nice” especially when it comes to taking care of yourself first.  So many of us were taught that being nice means putting others first – but that flies in the face of good self-care.  A counselor once told me that good self-care means taking care of yourself first whether that means at work or in our personal life.  This is not how many 40-somethings were raised to believe, and we need to change our attitude and our outlook!

The counselor reminded me that the people who get ahead in life are the ones who make noise – starting in the hospital nursery.  The babies who cried loudest and longest get the most attention and have their needs met ahead of others.  The more content babies did not get noticed and some even slept through while the demanding babies garnered the love and attention of nurses.

In business, we observe that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” – those who self-promote, pontificate, forge ahead of others in line, and who demand attention get noticed more and promoted more.  The four-year-old prima donna behavior of “Look at me, look at me!” unfortunately seems to work when promotions are given out and bonuses are paid.

What about those who work well with others by cooperating, promoting their teams, and supporting co-workers – sometimes at their own expense. “Nice” people don’t stand out, and despite articles published that say the contrary, they can end up being invisible and overlooked while the brash, less considerate, and self-promotioning assertive people move ahead.  These people were the crying babies in the nursery who learned how to get their needs met early in life.

If you are a nice person and find yourself being left behind at work and in life, maybe it is time to examine how your behavior sabotages your own best interests.  It is never too late to learn how to set aside some of the seemingly “nice” behaviors that put others first and fail to get our needs met.  Only you can take care to make sure that your needs are met. No one else will put you first so you have to do it for yourself (and doing so ensures your survival!)

p.s., Take a moment out of your week to say thank you to a nice person today – they make our lives better just because they are who they are.  It is due time that they get ahead (finally!) for the niceness they bring to our world!

Carol

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Normal is whatever you know (or knew)…

2 Mar

Have you heard the saying “this is the new normal”? Every time someone says this, I wonder, what is the “OLD NORMAL” ?

I believe that “normal” is whatever you know to be true, and I liked what I knew as normal before the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008.  I remember people following up on their promises, treating others with respect, giving common courtesy to strangers.

I don’t see that today – and if the new normal means any of the following, I simply want to go back to the “normal” I know with respectful people who live lives of integrity.  Here’s what I find with the “new normal”:

  • An erosion of respect for others: such as cutting in line ahead of others (who are waiting), insulting people without apology, breaking promises, making commitments that cost others money and then not showing up, making false excuses, outright lying, etc.;
  • A lack of common courtesy: such as not saying thank you when someone does something for you, not responding to voice mail or email messages from friends, not letting people know you’ll be late, not acknowledging presents or gifts, etc.;
  • Outright rudeness: such as dominating conversations with others (and then not listening to them talk), ignoring and interrupting, temper tantrums when you don’t get your way, rude remarks, inconsideration, selfishness, etc.
  • Unilateral, self-centered behavior: such as calling friends for support when you need it, but not being there for them when they call you for support;
  • Taking advantage of the generosity of others and then abusing it: such as asking to stay with a friend while you get on your feet, then staying for months (without paying a thing);
  • Talking out of turn with third parties: I have a former friend whose daughter asked to store furniture temporarily in my garage for a couple of months, now six months later (after ignoring my continued requests to vacate the items) she badmouths me to others because I will no longer give her the free storage.

What is your experience with “normal” behavior in today’s society?  It is easy to blame the economy for the downturn in niceness, but I think that rudeness is becoming the “new normal”.

I long for a return to niceness and common courtesy – is that too much to ask?  I want the “old” normal that I know and loved where kindness and positive comments prevailed.

Be kind to one another today!

Carol

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