Tag Archives: self-improvement

Stress Overload? Take Action Now

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Betty, a working mother, says, “I have so much stuff cluttering the countertops, I can’t squeeze one more thing onto that space and can’t stand the thought of preparing another meal.” Bill, a busy entrepreneur, says, “I can’t find the top of my desk now, how can I find time for all the extras expected of me with such a reduced workforce?” Both are worried and feel the burden of stress.

Have you ever felt like this? Are you on overload before you begin your day? No one seems to escape the ever-growing stress epidemic. While some daily stress is the norm, the added pressures of world chaos, financial concerns, increased job expectations and hectic scheduling magnifies the intense feelings of helplessness.

Compounding the usual stressors tenfold is the financial crisis facing so many. A FreeScore.com’s 2010 year-end survey found that the average American in debt spends 99 hours monthly worrying about debt and only 2.6 hours on financial planning and budgeting. Carrie Coghill, director of consumer education for FreeScore.com indicated that many Americans in debt are frozen in their tracks when it comes to managing finances …they are concerned but take little action. The report summary showed that on average, consumers spent 3.3 hours a day, or roughly 14% of a full day, worrying/thinking about debt.

If one is spending more than three hours per day worrying about finances, how many more hours are spent worrying about the hundreds of others things that can go wrong in a day? It’s no wonder there is a stress epidemic facing society today.

Stop Worrying and Take Action: The more people focus on the things they feel out of control about instead of taking action, the further stressed they become and the bigger their problems loom on the horizon.  It doesn’t take many extra stressors in one’s life to drop you of balance and into a chaotic frenzy that creates more stress.

Get Rid of It: If physical clutter is standing in your way, simplify your life and get rid of it. The first step is making the decision to stop focusing on the problem and change. Taking action and actually doing it is step two.

To unclutter your surroundings and make your life easier, start by sorting all your piles of “stuff” that has accumulated into three boxes. Label box one “TRASH,” box two “future” and box three “now.” The “now” box will have only things you must attend to over the next seven days.

Everything else goes either into the “trash” or “future” boxes. Sort through your “stuff” quickly and eliminate what you don’t need, want, or use as part of your daily home or work activities. Place into the “future” box all that is not current and does not need your immediate attention but will in the near future. Everything else goes into “trash” and is disposed.

It doesn’t matter what you are sorting through, what is important is having a plan to move forward and then taking the necessary action. Not only have you taken care of the clutter on your counters, tables and desk but you have also made room for new energy to enter, which will motivate and energize you and reduce stress.

Stop Worrying – Prepare: The more time you spend worrying the less time you’ve spent on solving the problem. In addition, the more time you spend worrying the more you attract what you do not want. If you are facing financial doom, worrying about it three hours a day will not make the problem go away or get any better. There are many ways to overcome financial difficulty but worrying is not one of them.

To unclutter your thinking, use a yellow tablet and a pen (or your computer) to list the things you worry about that cause you the most stress. Review the list to see which ones you can actually do something about right now, and which are totally out of your control. For example, you may be very worried about a terminally ill grandparent or friend, but helping them may be out of your control so it should not remain on the list. You may also be worried about your finances or your heavy workload; those are in your control and should stay on the list.

Once you’ve eliminated the items out of your control, list each item on a separate page, then one at a time quickly write down all of the solutions that come to mind. In the case of financial issues you might start with things like: getting a second job, finding a higher paying job, reducing expenses, consolidating your expenses, consulting a financial advisor.

Use this process for each item and rank the solutions in order of importance starting with number one being the most important. Then take action. To succeed and maintain focus, work on no more than three items at time. If they are huge items, perhaps focus on only one item at a time. This is your action plan or roadmap to less worry, less stress and more prosperity.

Focus on Short Term Goals: Usually the experts recommend fixing your eyes on longer term goals but when you are under such stress and worried about everything it is almost impossible to accomplish anything long term so take little steps that you can handle one at a time. The result: you will worry less and reduce your stress levels.

To end the stress epidemic in your life, create your roadmap today and take action; you will overcome it, enjoy life more and prosper.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

I’m OK – You’re Not OK

By Bob WhippleBob Whipple

When people vent about problem individuals at work or at home, one fact becomes obvious.  Most individuals have a long list of things that other people must do to improve but a short list of things they need to change in their own behavior.

It is human nature to rationalize one’s own shortcomings while focusing on the obvious improvement needs of others.  Since nearly everyone practices this little deception, the world must be rife with almost-perfect people who wish others around them would shape up… Hmmm – something is wrong with this picture…

When living or working in close proximity, human beings have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. It does not matter if it is a spouse, a sibling, or an office mate. The phenomenon occurs daily for most of us. Here are 10 commonsense tips that can change the pattern, so you will have better relations with others.

1. Reverse the roles: Before venting about another person, think about how that person would describe you to someone else. If you are honest with yourself, it might be a humbling exercise.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Most married couples fight on a daily basis over little things that become habitual annoyances.  It is not the 401K account that most couples argue about daily; it is who gets the remote control or why the toothpaste tube is always topless. If we can just remember that the small stuff is really just that, then maybe we can relax a bit.

3. Live and let live: If a cubicle mate hums when she is happy, there is no reason to have a coronary over it. It is her outlet and way to be cheerful. Even though it curdles your skin, why burst her balloon by pointing out her “problem”?  If it is an unconscious habit, she will never be able to control it anyway. Buy a pair of noise-canceling head phones and play the kind of music you like. Let happy people be happy or miserable people be miserable.  Focus your energy on creating your own sphere of cheerfulness rather than expecting the rest of the world to conform to your paradigms.

4. Punch out early, don’t punch out the person: Find some way to get away from the petty squabbles before they bring you to the snapping point.  If you cannot actually leave without penalty, it does not stop you from mentally taking a break. Just go for a little vacation in your mind. Actually imagine smelling the giant pines if you love to hike. Feel the frost on your cheeks if you like to ski. Relax in an imaginary hot tub while sitting at your desk – can you feel the bubbles going up your back? Imagining happier places has kept many POWs alive for years; the same technique can keep you sane until 5 o’clock.

5. Share a treat: Just because someone drives you nuts by clipping his nails in the morning is no reason to hate him all day long. Find some symbolic olive branch, and waive it around.  Go get two chocolate bars and give him one. Bring in a bag of his favorite coffee.  When we change our body language, accentuating the positive, rather than festering about “their problem,” the other person will likely respond in kind.

6. Extend trust: The reciprocal nature of trust says that you can improve people’s trust in you by extending more trust to them. When we build a higher level of trust, the petty issues seem to melt away, because we are focused on what is good about the other person rather than idiosyncrasies that drive us bonkers. The best way to increase trust is to reinforce (rather than punish) people who are candid with us about our own shortcomings. To do this takes emotional intelligence, and it works wonders at improving relationships.

7. Don’t complain about others behind their back: Speak well of other people as much as possible. The old adage “if you cannot say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all,” is good advice.  When we gripe about others who are not present, a little of the venom always leaks out.  Never make a joke about someone at his or her expense. If someone is doing something that really bothers you, simply tell the person about it in a kind way.

8. Stop acting like children: The lengths people go to in order to strike back at others for annoying them often resembles a food fight in grade school.  Escalating e-mail notes in a kind of grenade battle is a great example of this phenomenon. It is easy to avoid these squabbles by not taking the bait. When you go back and forth with another person more than three times, it is time to change the mode of communication. Pick up the phone or walk down the hall for a chat.

9. Care about the other person: If we care enough to not fuss over little things, then we can tolerate inconveniences a lot better.  What we get back from others is really a reflection of our own vibes. If we experience prickly and negative reactions from others, we need to check our attitude toward them. While it is convenient to blame others, often we are the root cause of the negativity: they are simply a mirror. The easiest way to care for others is to always follow the Golden Rule.

10. Have your own development plan: Start out each day with a few minutes of meditation on how to present yourself better to others. Have a list of behaviors you are trying to improve. This mindset crowds out some of the rotten attitudes that can lead you to undermine other’s actions. We all have improvement opportunities.

Remember that life is short, and to expend energy bickering and griping about others really wastes your most precious resource – your time. It is much better to go through life laughing and loving than griping and hating. The good news is we have a choice when it comes to the attitudes we show other people. Make sure your choice enriches others as well as yourself.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with Kodak and with non-profit organizations.  To bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com, or 585-392-7763

2012 Rules of Engagement

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Many people have a tendency to attract exactly what they don’t want in life but often what they need most in order to learn necessary lessons which, if acted upon will lead to self-empowerment, self-improvement and a balanced prosperous life.

This is the “law of attraction” put forth in the popular book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. In other words, what you focus on is what you get. Life Echoes Back What You Transmit.

A tech savvy usually efficient and productive computer whiz, Sharon was financially at her wits end and rapidly running out of money when she decided to take a second job to make ends meet. Little did she realize that she had just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

She loved her computer work; it gave her a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction but unfortunately it did not generate the kind of income she needed due to her business model. Her third try at a second job took no advantage of her computer skills, imposed long work hours standing on her feet and rapidly turned into excruciating fatigue preventing her from servicing her existing computer clients in a timely fashion. Sharon’s part-time boss was unkind and relentless, imposing unrealistic expectations beginning day one which further depleted Sharon’s self-confidence and eroded her productivity.

Sharon was attracting everything she didn’t want. Her part time job and boss were echoing back her lack of goal setting and clarity in choosing her second job, the amount of time she could devote to a low-paying long-hours job and the toll it would take on her relationships with existing clients and her health. So transmit wisely.

The solution is clarity and balance in all areas of your life. When balance is the objective it is nearly impossible to jump from the frying pan into the fire unless your goal is to go out of balance and get burned. Organize your life using the guidelines below to help you achieve balance and transmit only what you want echoed back.

Goals: Keep focused on your goals for 2012. Have them clearly defined. Have them so clearly defined that you can create a visual image, smell them, instantly think, touch and feel them.

  • Use a yellow tablet and make as many goal categories as needed; income, relationships, health, moving to a new home, expanding your business etc.

  • Once you have the categories, make a page for each and write all the things you’d like to accomplish in each category – using health as an example, you could write, lose weight, workout, walk two miles per day and so on

  • Then, number the items in each category by importance with No. 1 being the most important

Focus: Unleash the power of your focus. You can either focus on a thousand things at once and get nothing done or focus on No. 1 in two or three categories and ensure success.

  • Chose no more than three categories to focus on at any given time and then determine which of those is most important

  • Spend 80% of your time on the No. 1 item in the most important category – this will yield guaranteed success

  • Spend the remaining 20% of your time on only two other items until you have either accomplished your goals or feel confident about adding one more

Action: Accomplishment and success mandates focused action. No matter how much you wish for something better to happen, it won’t happen unless you take action. When you transmit information to others about your goals, are you transmitting what you want or what you don’t have? What you are transmitting is what you will receive.

You can complain to all your friends and family about not finding a job, your inability to lose weight, finding only inappropriate relationships or not earning enough money all of which only reinforces what you don’t have. Unless you actually do something to change your thinking, get crystal clear on your goals and take action you will continue to go jobless, lose clients, have inappropriate relationships or lack money.

In Sharon’s case, she is clarifying her goals now so she can focus on what she wants, not what she doesn’t have. She is evaluating what changes she needs to make in her business model as well as clarifying the type of second job that best meets her needs financially and time wise with the least amount of physical demands. Once she takes action and spends 80% of her time on her most important item which is increased income, she will be successful and the world will echo back what she transmitted matching what she wants not what she doesn’t have.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Prepare Yourself for the Challenge of Change

By Glenn GutekGlenn Gutek

Leaders are change agents.  It is impossible to lead people into an unknown future without knowing how to successfully introduce change.  It has been said that the one constant in life is change, but why must it be so often, so soon?

There are some personalities that avoid change the way an unprepared student avoids making eye contact with the teacher.  There are many that value stability over creativity and for them change can be an excruciating experience.  However, there are some that get bored with predictability and the idea of change is a thrill ride that keeps life fresh and invigorating.   No matter your personality preference, adapting to new things, new ideas, new tools, new processes and new possibilities is both necessary and difficult.

The problem with change does not rest in the wiring of our personalities; it rests in our desire for comfort.  Even those that embrace the notion of being a change agent will oftentimes find themselves leading in the direction of their own comfort.  Leaders often express frustration and shock that the people they lead resist anything different.  The real shock is that leaders are often not innovators, but comfort seekers.   The unarticulated question rumbling around the brain of many so called “change agents” is, “how do I lead this group to a place where I am most comfortable with the role I will play for a very long time?”

Retailer K-Mart was comfortably resting on top of the discount retail market when the super systems of Wal-Mart made cheap prices even cheaper. Ma Bell and the baby bell’s were comfortably asleep when the world moved from land lines to cellular technology.  That same alarm awoke Bill Gates when the world moved from software to the Internet. The former did not hear the alarm and have drifted into irrelevance.  The later examples — fortunately — heard the alarm and made significant changes.

We all understand the need to change.  What we may not understand is that many entrepreneurial leaders are reluctant to embrace change.   Entrepreneurial leaders risked plenty to launch their enterprise.  Many thought their leadership, creativity, and vision would promote change for years to come.  Entrepreneurial leaders may have been lulled to sleep thinking they were masters of change when they were just creating their own place of comfort.

What is pushing you toward change?  Where are you finding internal resistance?  What worries you the most, and keeps you up at night?  These are your wake up calls, and you shouldn’t hit the snooze button.   Your slumber will get continuously more uncomfortable.

There is a wealth of research and wisdom on the techniques of navigating change.  What is not easily found is advice on how to self-prepare for the challenge of change.  Below is a simple and memorable way to think about the work you may want to employ to embrace the change that is to come.

Get some distance: How are you at math?  If you are like many, the memory of doing math homework is filled with frustration.  No matter how many times the teacher went over the formula or covered the material it was very difficult to solve the problem and the harder you tried the further away the solution seemed.   Did you ever have the experience of giving up, walking away and in a moment of rest you began to see things with greater clarity?  Sometimes, getting away from the problem is all you need to see things differently.   If you know change is necessary and you are fighting it, try getting away.  A vacation, a mission trip, or sabbatical are all things that can provide some distance and perspective.

Go the distance: Countless business leaders have already started marking the time till they sell or retire.  Change requires perspective, and beginning to limit your vision will only provide a limited perspective.  You will not navigate change until you can see beyond your own tenure in leadership.  Be willing to envision a future that is beyond your leadership expectancy.

Stop your persistence: Everybody knows the classic definition of insanity.  The first time you initiated change it required that keep the course and demonstrated greater persistence than the forces of resistance.  That tendency toward persistence may be the very thing keeping you from seeing and embracing change.  Try quitting something.  Your “stop doing” list is far more important than your “start doing” list.

Try being inconsistent: The sign of brilliance is the ability to hold two conflicting truths in tension.   We need to keep taxes low and increase revenue to eliminate debt.   We are taught that it is a sign of weakness, a lack of conviction to play both sides against each other.  While there is some truth to that, in our modern world of constant change we need to lean toward the left one day, and the right the next.  You will not be able to embrace change until you can honestly contemplate that your historically held position may not be the whole truth.   Try advocating for something that you had previously opposed.

Is it possible that you are the one reluctant to change?  Let your passion for success and desire to lead others into an unknown future outweigh your desire for comfort.

Glenn Gutek is a speaker and CEO of Awake Consulting & Coaching, a firm that helps small businesses and organizations improve their leadership and business development through training, development and coaching. He is also the author of “Wide-Awake Leadership,” which teaches leaders how to overcome mediocrity though effective leadership.

Study Skills Resolve Half of Caseloads, According to School Psychologists

By Susan KrugerSusan Kruger

Our first home as young newlyweds was a small bungalow built in 1942.  We purchased the house in the month of August, many months before we discovered the drafty windows.  As the Michigan winter rushed in, it literally rushed right through our house.  Day after day.  Month after month.  Winter after winter.

It took a few years, but we finally saved enough money to buy new windows… five-thousand dollars!  The windows were installed one summer and we looked forward to finally being warm as winter approached. But, we weren’t. The house was still cold!

We spent a few months in denial.  $5,000.00 was a hard pill to swallow!  The fact that we were still cold was beyond our comprehension.

Eventually, we noticed an ever-so-slight crack of daylight showing under the bottom of the back door.  The weather stripping had dislodged from the floor track.  But, as my husband and father evaluated the situation more closely, they determined that we needed a new door.  They went to the store, purchased a $200 door, and installed it within a few hours.

Suddenly… instantly… we were warm!

Of course, it was great that we could finally thaw out in the living room, but it was really disappointing to realize we spent a few years’ savings on windows when we only needed a $200.00 solution.  We simply never thought to evaluate the door.  The windows looked very old, so our attention was fully fixed on them… for years!

I would be willing to bet you have a similar story where you pursued a complex solution to a problem, only to discover that the best solution was pretty darn simple, less expensive… and right before your eyes.

This, of course, happens in all aspects of our lives and throughout the world.  Education is certainly no exception!  A few weeks ago, Response to Intervention (RTI) expert, Pat Quinn, addressed this phenomenon in his newsletter.

He discussed the most popular question he gets about RTI, which is, “Where do I start?”  His answer may surprise you: Whole-class instruction!  He recommends focusing initial efforts on improving the whole-class instruction (Tier I) before anything is done to develop Tier II or Tier III.

As he says “The most important first step in successfully implementing RTI is ensuring the quality of full-class instruction.” Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions may be what everyone is talking about, but full-class instruction affects more students.

The fastest way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The least expensive way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The change that will affect the most number of students at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

I know that isn’t the most exciting answer, but it is the right answer. And there are a lot of schools spending a lot of energy running around trying to implement a complicated system of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions when much of that energy would be better spent simply focusing on improving Tier One, full-classroom instruction.

In many schools the need for Tier 2 small group interventions could be drastically reduced if Tier One full-class instruction was at a high level in all classrooms.”

This is completely congruent with my experience in teaching and tutoring hundreds of students; when the instruction is solid from the beginning, the need for intervention-on the whole-becomes far less significant.  Obviously, study skills play a HUGE roll in my experiences; students thrive when they know HOW to learn and study effectively.

Unfortunately, I find that most schools are only interested in study skills for their at-risk, special education, Title 1, or otherwise-labeled “struggling students.”

My question is… do we really need to let ALL of those students get that far?  Is there any chance that teaching study skills in the whole-class setting would improve student performance and reduce the number needing special services?

That is exactly what a team of school psychologists in Prince George County, VA determined!  They analyzed their caseloads across their district and discovered that over 50% of the students referred to them for academic problems were simply struggling from a lack of organization and study skills.

One out of every two “special education referrals” were resolved with study skills instruction Originally, it seemed like these students had a $5,000 problem.  After analyzing the problem more carefully, these educators discovered a $200 solution!

Susan Kruger of SOAR(r) Study Skills is a Certified Teacher with a Master’s Degree and the author of the book SOAR Study Skills.  Her Homework Rx(r) Toolkit at http://studyskills.com includes “25 Ways to Make Homework Easier…Tonight!”, Homework Scorecard, Homework Inventory for Parents and a free subscription to the Homework Rx eNewsletter to help you and your child get started on the path to homework success.