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The Change Cocktail: 1 Part Focus plus 2 Parts Subconscious

17 Apr

Change, not chaos, is the natural state and more and more Americans are hiring coaches and executive trainers to take them to “the next level” in becoming all that they can be.  Self-improvement, change for the better, baby steps to a better life, etc. are all great things to do and when life hands us lemons, we know we can wince at the juice but it’s making lemonade that really changes lives.   Change can happen with behavior (overcoming bad habits), thought patterns (new ways of responding to life), or attitudes (and outlooks) — and despite the long term benefits, the ride is not always comfortable.

Change is like a Cocktail: 1 part focus plus 2 parts subconscious.

The 1st step once you’ve decided to change is to take action and focus on what behavior or attitude we want to change.  It typically takes 30 days of conscious, dedicated effort to change a habit (think smoking, exercise, negative thinking) and sometimes it takes several restarts before anything seems to happen. Once we feel like we’ve made progress and the change feels permanent, we often take it for granted — and lose sight of the fact that the change must become part of our psyche.  If change doesn’t take root in our heads it’s because we’ve only completed part of the cocktail and we need to mix in 2 parts subconscious.

Does this happen to you?  As soon as I feel that I’ve made some change in my life, something happens ( a thought, a reaction, an attitude) that jolts me into the reality that its not yet part of my psyche.  I find myself reacting in old ways when my guard is down. Any permanent change has to come with one part focus and two parts subconscious.  (Many coaching books today recommend acting the way you want to be until you truly feel it.  The conscious part is the acting, the unconscious part is having it take root in your subconscious until the new behavior becomes automatic.)

Let me illustrate with an example : One of the changes I’ve been making is to really  listen to my inner voice.  For far too long, I’d let others’ assertions overrule what my own inner voice would tell me. Years ago when my then spouse didn’t agree with my telling of an event (even where he wasn’t there), he was emphatic that my perception was wrong.  After years of this, it became easier to simply accept his version (and often find out later that I was right) than to fight. Eventually, I didn’t even hear my inner voice and I’d simply take his word as the reality (Hmmm… wasn’t this something like Stepford Wives.)

Robert Fludd's depiction of perception (1619).

Robert Fludd's depiction of perception (1619).

I’ve made conscious focused progress (that’s the 1st part) and think that the change is permanent until something happens like it did this week. A colleague from overseas asked me if I could book him a car for a stay he’s planning in the US. He sent me the itinerary and I sent him the reservation.  When he questioned why I booked the rental for two days longer than he would be in the US, my 1st response was the old way:  I apologized for “my error” even though I thought it was not.  When I checked the itinerary he sent, it was he who told me the wrong dates and had nothing to do with a wrong perception. It was then that I realized how ingrained was the old habit of acquiescing to another’s opinion over my own.  The 2 parts subconscious takes longer to change. Going forward, I need to watch for this automatic reaction and think before reacting.  I know now that I have a true voice that tells me the truth – as long as I listen to it.

I am learning that I am right at least 50% of the time (what a relief that it’s not the 5%   that my ex would attest) and that I have to affirm my ground in the face of adversity.  The change in my way of thinking brings great power and when the change takes root in my subconscious I know that I’ll again have the strength of my convictions.

At this halfway point in my life, I only need to look inward to know what is true in thinking and feeling.  After years of being told that I was crazy, this is a beautiful thing!

So bring on the change cocktail – and make mine 1 part focus and 2 parts subconscious — shaken (so to speak), but not stirred.  I wish successful changes on you – to become consciously and subconsciously the best that you can be.



Carol Dekkers, human being, software metrics and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Procrastination drags your past into the future…

10 Mar

At the beginning (or end) of a day, if you’re like me, you use lists and mental notes to keep track of all the things you have to do.  After years of “listing” I’ve come to realize that there’s really three parts of every to-do list:

  1. Must do’s:  Things you have to do that are mundane or tedious (like doing laundry or paying bills) and are time-sensitive;
  2. Will do’s: Things you have to do in the coming days (for me it’s things like completing an article or creating a workshop) that are movable throughout the week; and
  3. Dust do’s: Things that come and go on the list and gather “dust” because they’re not going to get done anytime soon (like replacing the trim on my doors due to dog damage, or confronting someone who promised me something that they have not yet done).

And I do realize that if I had a significant other, there would be a 4th category: the Honey Do’s (the things that need to be done that your “Honey” should/could/would do), but since I don’t we’ll ignore that one!

It’s the third type, the Dust Do’s, that often take up a lot of unnecessary real estate in our heads and take away from our productivity.  Dust Do’s symptomize Procrastination and drag our past unwittingly into our future – where we can end up holding onto negative emotional baggage for months, and sometimes even years!  The Dust Do’s are typically things that we’ve put aside several times in the past due to them either being too large, too expensive, too difficult, too emotionally draining, or we’ve just plain gotten used to living with not doing the task.  But, I contest that if we could remove just one item from the Dust Do list a week, we’d be healthier, happier and more productive!  As a nation of procrastinators, we often spend more time talking (and bemoaning) the item on the list than it would take to actually do it and put it into the past!  And we become procrastination enablers of others who involve us in their own procrastination.

Let me give you an example:  Following my divorce, my ex-husband was tasked with securing a legal financial document and after a multi-year delay, his lawyer finally submitted court documents that the judge asked to be rewritten.  The procrastination continued for another year as the lawyer did not complete her duties and I took action myself. I finally realized that the ensuing delays and the fact that this task was still on the list for completion (it is money he gets from my retirement) was keeping me stuck in the past.  This past December, I again went to court, incurred expenses to do the work that his lawyer was tasked to do, and finally got things done.  With this task almost in the past, I know that having it off of my Dust Do’s will lift a burden which has far too long been inflicting a toll.  

The motto of this posting – Dust off the “Dust Do’s” from your to-do list and get them done!  And soon your life will be moving forward with new vigor – instead of being dragged into the past by tasks that should have been completed long ago.

Have a good week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Ride life’s waves with a change in attitude (and friends!)

18 Nov

When one is seemingly stuck in circumstances, it can feel impossible to see how life can change simply by adjusting an attitude.  For example, when financial strife hits us, when a relationship (or more than one) goes awry, when illness (mental or physical) strikes, or when fate throws us a curve ball that causes us to temporarily freeze – it can be daunting, and even more so when we meet people who tell us it’s all due to our “faulty” attitude.

While I agree that attitude is critical for a long term positive outlook (in the style of the motivational film “The Secret”), I’m of the staunch opinion that, in a time of crisis, positive attitude is only part of the solution –  it takes friends! And if the friends you have aren’t there to support you – you need to also change your friends!

Once the crisis has passed, that’s when (IMHO) it makes sense to adjust your attitude so that resiliency can begin to develop before the next big wave hits. To anyone who purports that attitude adjustment has to wait for the perfect time, I say that time will time will march on anyways – whether or not we change our attitude today – or tomorrow.

One of my favorite Einstein quotes is akin to “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s logical when we can step back from the insanity of our current circumstances and alter something small, do something different, or update our attitude, — and then we can properly expect different results.  But how can we handle things when, despite a positive attitude and outlook on life, crap happens regardless. Sure, a positive attitude allows us to ride the ebbs and tides of life, but when a big wave hits us squarely in the face, it is the positive influence and support of friends that can see us through still standing when the waves subside.

At this point in life (1/2 way through), it is not so easy to accumulate friends and make new ones – but the effort to do so can be worthwhile.  And, taking stock of the friends you have who may not support your new positive outlook can also be a good idea.  I had a friend whose attitude is to give unsolicited “realistic” (she called it) advice on everything in my life (she purported to be to be a former psychotherapist – I never verified this), and I finally realized that she didn’t support any outlook (especially positive) that contradicted her puritanical view of life.  Even though it was difficult to “defriend” her in person, for my own sanity, I had to – her “support” was simply unhealthy for my growth and well-being.

 Whether you are divorced, single, married, or otherwise – we all need more positive and supportive friends.  While you change your attitude, Get involved, get out doing things.   No one ever died saying – I wish I had fewer friends!

Have a good week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at

Copyright 2009 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Optimism is contagious – pass it on!

20 Feb

Wow, it’s already halfway through February and the newspapers are still not tired of predicting doom and gloom for the rest of 2009! I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of it all. We didn’t cause the collapse, we didn’t make millions in get rich quick schemes, yet it’s we who suffer the consequences… something doesn’t make sense.

Do you remember when you were growing up and adults would say be careful what you do for there will be consequences? I just didn’t realize that the behaviors of others would end up with consequences that directly affected me!

Having said this, we have a choice – we can wallow about in the doom and gloom and continue to support the press and the media in their negativity — or — we can spread optimism and kindness. A sappy idea you say? Well let’s reflect on that for a moment. What’s the negativity gained us so far today? People are resorting more to crime when times get tough (St. Petersburg Times Feb 19, 2009), workplace stress and road rage are on the rise, and uncertainty prevails. All negative stuff! While we cannot single-handedly change anyone else’s behavior but our own – we can choose our attitude and our outlook. We can choose to follow the crowd and feel crappy and snarly all day – or we can make a choice to have a good day! I know it’s not an easy thing to face the day without a job or without work when a mortgage is again coming due in a week (I know this first hand!) – but despite the situation I am still living in a free country where the sun shines, the sky is blue, and the air is clean. I have fresh water to wash with and drink, and I don’t worry about the marketplace safety when I go to get food. Sure, the luxuries of days gone by with secure jobs, prevalent contracts, and guaranteed work are not part of life today – but it’s never so bad that it couldn’t be worse.

So, I ask you to simply think about this- why not be optimistic and positive just for today? Smile, be upbeat, and pass it on. Maybe, just maybe, a groundswell of positivism can change things for the better – just for today. And really when you think about it, isn’t today all we ever really have?

Wishing you a positive day with at least one moment to smile about!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at

——Copyright 2009 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Networking and Cultural Intelligence – Necessary or Fluff?

29 Nov

Madrid, SpainIt’s been said that “walking into a room full of strangers” is today’s #1 networking fear, outranking the fear of death and the fear of public speaking which were formerly number 2 and 1. (According to Susan RoAne, networking maven and author of several networking books including Secrets of Savvy Networking and How to Work a Room.)Compounding the situation is the reduction in in-person communication caused by the increased use of internet and e-mails. (It is sometimes amazing what and how people will craft their words and send missives out into cyberspace when they are not face to face with their recipient.) The overall result from less person-to-person discussion is increased shyness and a decrease in ability to network with strangers in a social setting.

What do you think?
Has the internet caused us to atrophy in our social, face-to-face communication skills? Has it made any difference in your own social networking to be able to craft a difficult response to someone using email rather than speaking directly to the person(s) involved? Has the increase in multiculturalism in the workplace had any effect on our ability to communicate and connect with one another?  Where can we find the answers to the most important multicultural team questions?

As the world becomes flatter and flatter through outsourcing, offshoring, and the increased migration of professionals between countries, how are our project teams dealing with the many diversities and soft skills that are critical to success? Is there an appreciation that networking and cultural intelligence skills can be gained through knowledge transfer and practice – or is this all considered fluff?

Would you be interested in attending a 2 day networking and cultural intelligence workshop for technical professionals in January 2009 in Tampa, FL? If so, please send me an email to

Have a good week!
Carol Dekkers

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker.  Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event?  Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Read Carol Dekkers’ second blog (about Software Development) at

——Copyright 2008 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ————————————

Native English Speakers are Fortunate (without Realizing it)…

15 Nov
Carol Dekkers in Rome

Carol Dekkers in Rome

In the last two weeks, I’ve been to China for ISO meetings and to Italy to speak at the International Project Management Association (IPMA) congress.  While the two countries and the USA are miles apart geographically and culturally, they share one thing in common – members of both countries had to learn English as a second language in order to converse with the global business community. As a native English speaker (i.e., English is my first language), I believe that we often take our good fortune for granted because through no design of our own, English is THE language of business.  I have a high respect for the vast majority of the world who have studied (and are mastering!) English as their second, third, … or even seventh language.

As such, I feel it is an honor and a privilege when I address an international audience in MY first language, often at the same time that they listen to me in their second.  Some may not agree, but I believe that it is sheer courtesy and basic responsibility as a speaker to ensure that my words are clear and understandable, and free from local idioms.

I also discovered through two different incidents in the past couple of weeks just how separated we can become even when only English is spoken.  When I returned from China to the US late last week, a representative for the TSA (Transportation Safety Authority – the security people at the airport) looked at me when I was clearing US security (after rechecking my luggage to Tampa) and said one word “Consolidate”. I looked puzzled and she repeated in a monotone – “Step aside. Consolidate.”  I asked what that meant and she repeated “I said, consolidate”. I exchanged puzzlement with her co-worker and said “What does she mean”, and his answer was “I have no idea.”  A few moments later, she finally pointed to a sign that said two bags were allowed through security and I realized that my duty free bag had to fit into either my purse or my briefcase.  I can’t imagine how much longer it might have taken a non-native speaker to understand what she was saying – and I can only wonder – does TSA have their own dialect of English to confuse and confound even those of us who learned English as our first language?

The second situation happened in Rome at the IPMA congress hall as I was walking into the conference center with my name badge in my hand. I was stopped by the congress security and told firmly to “address my badge”.  I asked for clarification and was given the same instruction to “address” my badge.  Startled, I wondered how talking to my badge would make any difference to him, then I realized that perhaps he meant that I should put my badge on around my neck.  When I did so, the guard nodded, and I walked away again wondering what dialect of English includes “addressing one’s badge”.

Separated by a common language is not new as we have American English, Australian English, British English, Canadian English and many other variations.  Nonetheless, we in North America enjoy the luxurious position of knowing enough of any dialect to be able to function globally in our first language!

Have a great week!

Carol Dekkers, Expert, Speaker, Author, Instructor (

——Copyright 2008 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ————————————

Interesting people are interested in people…

21 Oct

I’ve started to realize more and more that there are fundamentally two types of people in the business world: people people, and non-people people. Allow me to explain:

People people are those people who are genuinely interested in others – and the three dimensionality of their interests, their passions, their hobbies, their loves, their lives as human beings, and then there are those who are interested in others only as a means to advance their own agendas such as making a sale, finding a date, moving up in the company, etc.

I’m one of the former group – a people person, which, given my background as a mechanical engineer and software developer, is somewhat of an anomoly. When I was in engineering school, I served as a volunteer for the students’ union orientation committee where a group of us would “host” a group of out of town (rural) students for the weekend in the dormitories and tour them on campus, introduce them to cafeteria food, and provide information and lectures on the logistics of student life and university procedures. My engineering colleagues were astounded that I’d spend my free hours doing something so mundane as meeting and greeting new students – especially when it didn’t guarantee any favors on campus or increased grades. “Why would you bother spending a weekend touring around new students with those social science people only the students union?” they’d ask incredulously. No answer would resonate to their satisfaction – but the truth was that I simply enjoyed getting out of the engineering building, meeting the others on the orientation team, and meeting newcomers to the university. No reason other than expanding my own knowledge of cultures and people in general was why I volunteered. And, to my engineering buddies’ chagrin, it was fun!

Since those long bygone days, I’ve had many occasions where well meaning colleagues have suggested that I could better spend my time “courting” the higher-ups rather than the secretaries when I am at a social gathering. The truth is that networking to me is meeting and greeting everyone at an event – not just those who can advance my career. One co-worker asked me point blank a couple of years back why I would ever take the time to coordinate and arrange an “adhoc” dinner for people at a conference (i.e., anyone who wanted to go to dinner signed up on a sheet of paper and then we made reservations at a local restaurant) – especially when it might not lead directly to a new contract or offer of paid work. I was the one who was surprised by his question – I never realized that I should only talk to people who could provide me with a direct benefit.

Yet, I’ve come to realize that this separation of people types is incredibly common – even amongst those who are considered to be great networkers (those who can really “work” a roomful of strangers). Those who are non-people people will typically approach only those people who they have already researched beforehand, or who they might want to ask out on a date. I’ve witnessed this as recently as last week when I attended a major technology group event in my local area, and the head honcho (who happened to be a single guy in his 40’s) would only approach good-looking women to talk to. Those of us who had knowledge or could have advanced his career were second rate citizens to this guy. Yet there were others in similar positions who took the time to approach everyone equally and talk to each person who attended the event (which was to solicit volunteers for upcoming school programs). Those who were truly interested in other people were the ones who I found the most interesting at the gathering, yet I am quite sure that both types (as opposed to those who don’t go to networking events at all) do quite well despite their interest in people.

I, for one, just find it incredibly interesting to learn that there are so many truly different people one can meet by simply being interested. To me, the most interesting people I meet are interested in people. Maybe it’s true what they say after all – we tend to like people who are most like ourselves. So is it any wonder that people people like people people?

Have a nice week!
Carol Dekkers
———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————

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