You have a right to be 'there' ...

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I'm not sure at what point in my life I decided that my voice mattered, my perspective was worthwhile and that I had a right to be "there". Maybe it's genetic because my Dad always believed his voice needed to be heard; whether it was standing up and sharing a contrary opinion in a community gathering or writing a letter to the editor. He assumed that his voice mattered. He was a simple man - no college degree, no privileged background, no title or status. Yet, I never saw my father question his 'right to be there' - wherever he was.  I'm not here to say that his perspective was always welcomed or agreed with, nor was he free from ridicule.  That didn't stop him.

So, maybe it's my DNA that has me ignore the majority, the titles, the gender, the years of experience - whatever might be perceived as a reason that my perspective doesn't matter. Whatever it is, I am grateful for it! 

I work with several people who sit quietly, burying their perspectives and hiding their voice because they don't feel their voice would be heard or honored or needed. Those are examples of what we call limiting beliefs. Our brain doesn't know the difference between real and pretend - truth and story. So, if you tell yourself that no one would listen to you or that you don't deserve to be in the conversation, then your brain (which informs the rest of you) believes that story and acts accordingly. 

Is it really as simple as changing your story?  Actually, it is!  Your perspective is always valuable. Where you might get stuck is when the decision made doesn't align with your perspective. You need to learn to let go of that part of the equation. Say what you need to say and then let it go.  Your bit of information or opinion or perspective matters and at the very least you have been courageous and shared your voice.

So, find your voice, disconnect from the story that it doesn't matter, stand up straight and speak.  The more you do it, the easier it gets. The more you do it, the more that people around you realize that have something to say. Saying something adds value!

It Doesn't Take Much

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In a day and age when we all have more things on our to-do list than we can possibly get to in a day, it can be easy to be completed focused on our to-do list and miss the things that are not part of the “agenda” for the day. Lately, I have been struck by the profound impact we can have by stopping to check in with people. I can’t tell you how many times in the last month I have had people say, “Thanks so much for asking!”  Sometimes it’s in person – sometimes it’s a text or a voice message – doesn’t make any difference what form the check in takes, people simply appreciate it when another person remembers something about them and asks about it.

It’s also taking to time to notice the little things.  A haircut, new glasses, a cool shirt, a smile that lights up the room, twinkly eyes, great question asking ability, an easy presence … those are just a few of the things that I have noticed about people lately. I make a point to share what I notice with them and I watch people light up.

I think that anything we can do to lift another person or brighten their day makes our day a little better!  It truly doesn’t take much to make a difference!

Breaking Trail ... Who Knew?

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It’s April 15th in Minnesota and I am surrounded by people who are completely disgusted with this late spring blizzard. I’m not sure if it’s my generally optimistic nature or my love of winter that has me excited about the storm. Whatever it is, I couldn’t wait to get dressed in my best winter gear, grab the girls and hit the trail. Apparently, no one else felt the same excitement,  as our streets and neighborhood have been incredibly quiet the last 48 hours.

We were the first ones on the walking path through the park this morning. The snow was about a foot deep and there were no footsteps to follow in. It was us forging the trail and it was a slog! I understand the combination of exhilaration and exhaustion. I couldn’t help but think about what it’s like to be the first … to try anything. The first to share a new idea. The first to bring a product to market. The first to go to college in your family. The first person to say no!   No matter what the “it” is, being first takes strength, persistence, vision, and support!

The wind was blowing with gusto from the south for half of our walk and it provided another type of resistance.Who knew that snowflakes hitting your eyeballs at 40 mph could hurt? There was never a time on our walk when it was easy, but we kept pushing (and pulling) ahead, determined to make it all the way around the park regardless of how hard it was.

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When we got to street crossings there were snowbanks that were 3 feet high and we had to get beyond them in order to keep moving forward. The girls got over the banks much easier than I did because they have 4 legs and I only have 2. At each bank or drift, I watched them push off on their back legs and bounce up and over.  Meanwhile, I struggled with my 2 legs because I had to walk through it; I didn't have legs to push off and legs to land on.  I thought about why work is so much easier with a team. My dogs have a 4 person team and my team  has only 2 to work with.

As the leader of the team, I did have to keep us moving ahead. There were times that members of my team were distracted. Critter smells, debris blowing around, another spot to pee on and there is always the temptation to play with each other.  All of these presented chances to get off track. Just like in real life, there were times when I was pulling- leading the way, and others when I was being dragged along. How grateful I was to be on this journey with others.

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When we walked in the front door all we wanted to do was flop down on the front room floor and take a nap.  The voices in my head were sending conflicting messages:  "You have lots to do. Take off your snow gear and get busy." and ”That was really hard work. You could have skipped the walk this morning, but you persevered. It's okay that you take a rest and savor the experience."  I chose to rest and savor the moment.  It was from that rest that the idea for this blog came. Had I jumped right into work, I would have moved on and missed these reflections.

I am so grateful that I continue to receive lessons/ thoughts/ insights from my daily life. I hope you make the time for your own reflections as you move through the day-to-day.

p.s. These are not pictures of my own dogs, but they are a close resemblance. I could not handle a camera and 2 Siberian Huskies and a snowstorm!

When "Hard-Headed" is a Good Thing!

A few years ago I wrote a blog defending the term “Third Wheel” because I felt that it had gotten a bad rap. A recent experience has helped me see that “Hard Headed” is another term that needs some defending.

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As a child, growing up in a Scandinavian household, I heard the term “hard headed” get used all the time. It was usually my Norwegian father describing my Swedish mother or visa versa. Trust me – they could both dig in their heels and become immovable, so if the term is meant to describe people who have a stubborn streak, then I grew up with terrific examples of what “hard headed” looks and sounds like.

So, what changed my mind, or at least opened my eyes to another perspective of the term? It was actually a walk in the park. Many of my blog posts come from experiences (or thoughts) I have while walking my dogs. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon, albeit the path in the park had a light dusting of snow on top of layers of ice. It had rained ice so we had a good, treacherous coating. I was minding my own business when a person came along with her dog on the very narrow path and disrupted my lovely afternoon. Her dog decided to lunge at one of my dogs, and the next few seconds turned into something that might have made for an amusing video, but in person it was terrifying. My dog tried to get away and ran behind me, taking my legs out from underneath me with her leash. I went from vertical to horizontal in the blink of an eye – landing smack on the back of my head. Before I could think about the fall I had just taken I needed to react to the dog situation.  I heard the girl screaming because her dog had run away, my dog had busted out of her harness and was chasing her dog, and she had just seen me trash my head on the icy sidewalk and probably thought I was dead! I popped up like nothing was the matter and called for my dog to come back to me.  The first miracle of the day happened when she actually responded to the call. I have had Siberian Huskies for 22 years and I have never had one come when I call!   The second miracle occurred when I got home and realized that although my brain felt foggy, my head didn’t hurt at all.  How could I land full force on the back of my head and have no pain?  Because I am “hard headed”! 

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That day I was super grateful to be “hard headed” and thought there must be other times that it is a good thing to be “hard headed”.  So, here’s my defense of being “hard-headed”

1.       When you are closer to the cupboard door than you thought, and you stand up hitting your head on the corner

2.       When your grandson pegs you in the back of a head with a snowball

3.       When you think you can shallow dive in the pool and you’re wrong

4.       When you are getting pressure from someone to do something you don’t want to

5.       When you believe strongly in something (even if you are the only person with that viewpoint)

6.       When you are standing up for someone

7.       When you really don’t understand something and aren’t willing to pretend that you do

8.       When someone needs your help and won’t ask for it

9.       When you are tasked with doing something hard and part of you wants to quit, but the other part refuses to be a quitter

10.   When you’re tired of giving in to other people’s ideas

I watched my Dad be “hard-headed” about a lot of things and sometimes I was embarrassed by that. Now, as an adult, I have a great deal of respect for the times I remember him being the only one in the room to speak out with the unpopular suggestion. If he believed in it, he was going to stand by his beliefs. I admire that in him, and hope that a bit of his “hard headedness” rubbed off on me – in more ways that just protecting my brain when I crash on the ice. I vote that we give “hard headed” a break and not always think of it as a bad thing. Maybe we need to have National Hard Headed Day!

Connecting by Disconnecting

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What can happen when we choose to not answer emails, respond to text messages, return phone calls, or schedule anything?  I don’t know what can happen because I’m still doing all of those things that I said I wouldn’t do.

My plan for this trip to Hawaii was to go into a black hole for 8 days. I even did my best to manage the expectations of others by turning on the auto-reply letting people know I was on vacation for 9 days with an intent to not read or respond to any messages. The week leading up to vacation was filled with crazy long days as I crammed everything in so that there would be nothing left on my to-do list when I got on the plane. I was prepared, so now that I’m here why is it so hard for me to just relax and be where I am?  My goal was to disconnect with my regular Minnesota life in hopes that I could reconnect with myself and my husband… and for me, it’s really hard to do that. Perhaps my expectations are too lofty. Perhaps I’ve had some small wins. I thought maybe I would feel better tonight if I spent some time reflecting on what has been different over the last 5 days.

When I go to the pool, I don’t take my phone with me. I only bring books to read that are actual books and don’t involve looking at a screen.

When we’ve gone to dinner at night, I’ve left my phone at home so that I can focus on being in conversation with the people at dinner.

I’ve taken walks and just listened to music – no podcasts – no business books – just music that makes me happy and pumped up about being able to be in this beautiful place.

The only phone call I made was to check on how our puppy dogs are doing at the kennel, and that only took 90 seconds.

I have not turned on a TV, checked any scores or seen any news headlines.

I’ve played games with friends for 4 nights in a row.

I got up early to watch the sun rise.

I’ve spent time thinking about what makes me feel good about myself and life.

I’ve realized that while I love the slow pace, the sound of the ocean waves, the fresh pineapple, and living in shorts that I would not want this for an extended amount of time.  I could maybe handle 2 weeks of vacation and then I need to feel as if I am doing something meaningful and productive. I am only in love with the idea of the relaxing life – in actuality, I mostly love my current life. What I really want is to infuse a little more disconnect into my everyday life – not work like crazy for 50 weeks so I can spend 2 weeks doing nothing. I believe if I can successfully do that, I will feel more connected to who I am at my core – not who everyone else needs or wants me to be. I think it’s about moments – a consistent flow of daily moments.

I don’t have a plan for how to do that yet, but I am going to practice disconnecting so I can feel more connected. I can have a full life – a busy life – a successful life and still have a disconnected life. Life is short and moving really fast and I don’t want to miss a moment of the ordinary, everyday moments because I am focused on the unimportant things. As my buddy said today on the golf course, “I need to remember to look up today. If I’m not careful, I will get heads down into this golf game and forget to notice my beautiful surroundings.  At that point, it just becomes another game of golf.”  I want to make sure that I remember to look up – look behind – look forward –  look to my side - look somewhere besides down at the same old patterns and structures and schedules that can keep me busy but don’t connect me to what is important.

Time to get off this device and read a book while I listen to the waves pounding the shore … and ponder what it is about the sound of crashing waves that soothes me …

ONE WORD for 2018

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About 8 years ago I gave up on my life long practice of creating resolutions for the new year and switched to a ONE WORD approach.  It has worked brilliantly for me. In this months' TAKE NOTICE (my newsletter), I challenge my readers to select ONE WORD and share it with all of us here on my website. I truly look forward to what the focus will be for all of you. I have already heard from 3 people ... BRAVE, FOCUS, ACTION.  All great words.

On Day 12 of my CONSISTENT focus, I want to share what I have learned so far. 

  • Knowing that I have made a commitment to be consistent in certain areas has motivated me to do some things that I really wanted to skip. Have that extra glass of water instead of another Diet Coke. Take the dogs out for a walk even though the wind-chill is -20.  Pause to kneel and pray before I begin work for the day (even when I'm running late). It's been fantastic!
  • I notice where I am inconsistent. Then I get a choice on whether inconsistency produces the results I am looking for, or whether I need to be more consistent. 
  • A version of the word consistent is consistency and that often is used as a descriptor for food. The gravy is lumpy. The potatoes were chunky. The batter is too thick or too thin. Not everyone likes their food to have the same consistency.  So, what consistent looks like for me might be very different than what it looks like for you and that is OKAY!
  • I feel really good about myself. Seriously!  After 12 days of applying my one word to a few very important things in my life, I feel different - inspired - motivated - accomplished - purposeful.  It's all good stuff.

So, if you are not familiar with the ONE WORD concept, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter here on the site and read all about it off and on during the year.  You can also check out the book, ONE WORD THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.  

Most of all, if you choose to create a ONE WORD focus for 2018, will you please share it here in the comments?  I think it will be fun for all of us to see what others are choosing to focus on. 

It's a Wonderful Life; Holiday Movie Lessons

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It certainly is - a wonderful life! The message of this movie is one that I wish everyone would embrace and take to heart. Every person is here for a reason, and the things we do everyday touch others lives - in ways we may not realize.

My husband said it best "Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and forget to look at the big picture and see what a wonderful life we have and the seemingly insignificant things we do that make a difference for someone."  

Let's all remember to appreciate the people who make a difference in our lives!

The Santa Clause; Holiday Movie Lessons

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Super clever, right?  Taking Santa’s last name and turning it into the terms of a legal contract is a creative plot for a movie. I have always liked Tim Allen and watching him change from a curmudgeon into a guy that not only gets the Spirit of Christmas, but also into a good dad is pretty good stuff. This movie brings everything about Santa Clause to life for me – from the reindeer (adorable) to life at the North Pole to the true magic of Santa’s Christmas Eve escapades. I find myself really wanting to believe that this is all true – thus the following points.

1.      Kids are willing to let go of reality so easily and I love that.

2.      Sometimes we should let go of the plan, go with the moment and enjoy the ride.

3.      Why is it so hard to believe in something we don’t have a logical explanation for?

Maybe one of the reasons I love this time of year so much is that I can imagine the sound of reindeer hoofs on my rooftop and someone that keeps track of all our doings – naughty and nice! Here’s to all the BELIEVERS!

Jack Frost; Holiday Movie Lessons

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I love Michael Keaton (always have), but this is a bad movie. I own it because … I own all of Michael Keaton movies and that is the only reason. It seems there are a lot of Christmas movies where someone dies, or someone is living a life of poor choices and an angel (or snowman) comes from beyond the veil to offer help. I guess I never really thought about that until I starting watching these movies looking for what they might teach us.  So, even from a movie that isn’t very good, I was able to find a few things to ponder (a couple might be stolen directly from the script).

1.      If you want to stop an army, stop the general.

2.      Not handing over your report card as soon as you get home is never a good sign of what’s to come.

3.      Sometimes we think that the material things like houses, cars, nice clothes or big paychecks matter more than spending time together with people we care about.

4.      Some things only happen once and they’re gone; those are things we need to consider when making about choices about where we spend our time.

A Christmas Story; Holiday Movie Lessons

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Why do think this movie is so popular?

Is it because it’s super easy to watch, while being partially distracted?

Is it because we can all relate to at least one scene in the movie?

Is it because we all had that childhood Christmas when we desperately wanted something that we were sure we wouldn’t get and by some miracle, we got it on Christmas morning?

Whatever the reasons for its popularity, it’s become a Christmas tradition!  And, here are my 5 lessons.

1.      Imagination is a powerful, driving force.

2.      Having someone put soap in their mouth for swearing DOES work (I have personal experience).

3.      Little brothers are annoying.

4.      Moms make almost anything better

5.      Really, really wanting something can set us up for disappointment or a magical ending!