Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Role of a Lifetime

Over the past year, I spent a lot of time thinking about my crazy busy life. Essentially, I was in way over my head with committee assignments, work projects, church tasks and everything else. I was doing too much and as a result, was not happy and was not at my best. I had to step back and ask myself, "How do I get off this crazy treadmill?"

The answer was simple. I had to cut back on what I was doing...I had to STOP. This insight is not rocket science. In fact, it's a very basic and straight-forward solution. However, it is not an easy solution. Most people struggle with "just stopping," because we are not clear about, or we are not committed to our personal priorities and goals. Once we lose sight of these critical pieces, we take any role that looks good. Problem is, every role that looks good, is not good for you.

When I work with a client, I have them complete a Personalized Role-Call Assessment. This is an exercise that helps you identify and visualize all the roles in your life. It is a powerful tool that helps my clients understand exactly why they are tired, stressed and overwhelmed. Once you see a picture of all your "hats", you can understand what is really going on in your life.

Once my clients complete the Role-Call, we spend a lot of time assessing if their roles align with their personal values, desires and goals. I ask them key questions such as:

Which role takes the most out of you?
What role(s) asks for too much from you?
Which role gives back to you the most?

Questions like these help my clients better understand their roles, and they provide the knowledge they need to make changes, if they desire, and ultimately control their lives.

Do you need help managing all your roles and their demands? Try a complimentary coaching session and experience how Working Mom Solutions can work for you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Have to Ask to Receive

This is the time of year when I become the person that many hate to see coming. Yes, I become a fundraiser for a local non-profit that I completely believe in and support. It is not an easy task, and it is not something I particularly enjoy. In fact, in this economy, it is extra challenging. However, despite the fact that unemployment is high and families are struggling more than ever, I still have to ask. I have to ask, because there is still a need.

I work on, the Art of Asking, with my clients all the time. It may not be asking for financial support for a cause, but it may be asking for something that you need. If there is a need, you must ask for it. Going without the ask, simply leaves your need unmet. Period...end of story.

In their book Womenomics, authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay talk about the number one thing that women want to ask for today - more control over their time; specifically their time at work. As a result, women are asking for a work schedule that meets their needs.

No, asking for something is not always an easy task. However, it is essential if you want to be the leader in your life. When I work with clients, we start with the following Ask Skills in mind:

Know What You Are Asking For:
If you are going to ask for something, be very clear about what you need and why. The clarity and reasoning is important for the person you are asking, but it is essential for you too. You need to be very clear about your needs.

Manage Your Emotions:
Going into an Ask with any emotion in overdrive is not a good idea. It is fine to be angry, excited and even have some desperation. However, you need to manage those feelings when you are asking for something. People want to feel confident in what you are asking for and why. Being overly emotional, during the Ask, can make people question if you have really thought through what you need or want.

Just Go For It
: Think about your own kids or the children that you know. They are free with asking.. In fact, they ask all the time. They have no fear or shame and asking for things over and over again. They know nothing about "waiting for the right moment" or "setting up the situation". Instead, they just go for it. True, it is important to be wise about when, what and why you are asking, but the point here is that you have to at least ask!

Keep Asking:
Back to the kids. The funny thing about kids is that they are extremely resilient when it comes to The Ask. They will ask and ask again until we finally give-in from exhaustion or the need to just move onto something else. They never give up, because they believe their need is so strong. You may need to develop some resiliency in this area - don't be so quick to give up when someone says no.

All of these tips are important, but there is one thing that is essential and that is Staying Open. As we go through life, we are not going to get everything we need. If we do get it, we may not get it at the time or in the way we want it. As you practice the Art of Asking, be sure to stay open to having your need met in different ways. For example, you may ask your partner for help with the kids at bedtime by having him do their bedtime story and tuck them in at night. On the other hand, he wants to help by doing bath time. Not exactly what you were looking for, but it is help....right? The challenge is being clear on what you need and open to it when it comes in a different form.

Coaching Question: If you want more control over your life, what do you need to ask and to whom?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bedtime Wars

Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago claims that adults need seven or eight hours of sleep to be healthy and functioning at their best. For me, I know this to be true. When I do not get my needed rest, I feel terrible and make mistake after mistake on whatever I am trying to accomplish.

Most people want to get more sleep, but the challenge is getting the time to sleep! Take a look at my evening last night to better understand what I mean.


Me: "It's time to take your bath and go to bed."
Son #2: "Why?"
Me: "Because I said so. I'm the Mommy, and I'm in charge." (Secretly to myself...I am in charge, right?)
Son #2: "But I'm not tired."
Me: "Well, I am, and Mommy has to talk to on the phone with Ms. Kathleen, so I need you in bed." (Why does he need to know this?)
Son #2 "You get to have all the fun. I never get to have fun." (Kid, you have no idea!)

Bath time happens and we are off to the races for bed...right?

Son#1:"I'm hungry."
Me: "You had snack earlier. Let's read a book and go to bed."
Son#2:"I'm hungry too." (This is a problem, because Son#2 really does need a full belly to sleep)
Me: "Ok, mommy will get everyone a snack, and we will eat while we read our book."

The Troops Are Ecstatic!

8:20pm - 20 minutes past bedtime
Me: "I don't want to have to put you in your bed again...this is the 3rd time."
Son#2: "But mommy, I want to sleep with you. I don't like my bed." (Light bulb husband knows I have this 8:30pm call. Let me just send Son #2 down to the basement with him where he is lounging and watching TV)
Me: "Well, go down and see daddy in the basement. He wants to talk to you." (Don't judge me, you do it too)
Son#2:"Ok." (He happily skips downstairs)

Time to prep for my evening meeting. Not a desirable meeting time, but it is the typical "office hours" for us busy moms.

Son#2: "Mommy," he says as he dances into the room, "daddy said I can sleep in your bed."
Me: "Oh" (Clock is phone is about to ring...I'm annoyed...and...)
Son #2: "Mommy, your phone is ringing."
Me: "Thanks. Get under the covers and don't say a word. Mommy has an important call."
Son #2: Jumps onto the bed and under the covers and flashes his big "I win" grin.
Me: I pick up the phone to find my counterpart in bed with her children....Hmmmmm!

So, what happened to, "I'm the mommy and I'm in charge!"

Honestly, I think it got lost between the stress of being ready for my evening meeting, my exhausted body, my overtired mind and may patience that left around 7pm that evening. The combination was not a good mix and resulted in me waving my white flag and surrendering.

What does that mean though? Does it mean that I "lost" and he "won". Sometimes it feels that way, but at the end of the day I did what worked for that situation. Granted, it is a situation that I did not like, but that is where we landed. So, what was the "right" thing to do for a busy mom like me? Truth be told, there is no "right" thing to do. In that moment, I needed to have this meeting so we could all go to bed...I wanted to sleep!

We all spend so much time trying to psychoanalyze situations and compare what we are doing to what the books, news or our neighbors say. No more...what is it that you need to do? What works for your family?

Personally, I really need my evening time. I crave my quiet time after the kids are in bed. It is such a special and peaceful time for me, so I need to keep that time sacred. I also am a person that really needs sleep. I need it like I need food and when I do not get it, everyone has a problem. So, how do I end the bedtime wars and get the sleep that I need?

  • My first step is promoting mommy's "special time". I am talking it up all the time. I need to teach the people around me what I want.
  • Next, I need to work the routine that I have with my kids. It is a chore, but the more I do it the better off everyone is - plus the reward of a quiet house and me reading in my own bed is huge!
  • I also need to avoid evening meetings - something I will gladly pursue. However, I know they are somewhat inevitable in my busy life, so I need to plan them more strategically. They need to fall on nights when Son #2 is going to be tired and ready for bed.
  • Next, is engaging some help from "others" in the house. This requires communication prior to being in the middle of the battle field. It also means assuring that my husband and I implement the same bedtime routine with the kids.
Lack of sleep can be a lot more problematic than just making you feel tired. It can also negatively impact your health. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to be overweight and have a greater risk for heart disease.

We need our sleep, so make sure you are finding a way to make it happen in your home!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Backpacks Are Back!

School is back in session, and this is a great time to kickstart family-friendly routines. Use the energy and excitement of the new year to identify routines that are going to help you and your family function better. This is the time to do this! Don't put it off, because we all know it is easier to stay with a bad habit than a good one.
Jumpstart this today with our challenge...
Action Challenge:
  1. Identify a time of day (morning, afternoon or evening) that could benefit from a routine overhaul.
  2. Sit down with your family and explore how you can make this time work better for all of you.
  3. Put your plan in action!

Learn to Bend, Not Crack

Like you, my life has its share of problems, challenges and really hard times. This season of my life is no exception as the stars have, yet again, aligned to say...,"test her faith with this and challenge her fortitude with that."

Yes, the battle is testing my faith and fortitude, but I know...this too shall pass. I understand that on the other side of this valley is a mountain top where light will shine brightly on
me. However, moving through the valley can be tough. Actually, on some days I want to hide in bed with the covers over my head. Challenge is, the kids would make me get up! As a result, like you, I get up and move through the test of that moment. I do this not always with grace and ease, but with faith, trust and a commitment to moving through the valley.

Do you ever wonder how some people fight through difficult times? The answer is simple...these people are resilient.

Resilience is the ability to successfully adapt to change and the challenges we all face. Think of it as your "Bounce-Back Factor". Your ability to bend and not break when the going gets tough. Resiliency is key, because it helps us recover from difficulties stronger, better and wiser.

So, what's the secret? How can you be resilient in life? Research shows that women who are the most resilient tend to practice the following:
  • They Have Faith: Believe and depend on something greater than yourself
  • They Ask for Help: Don't take everything on yourself
  • They are Optimistic: There is great power in positive thinking
  • They Have a Playful Spirit: "Resilient people enjoy themselves, like children do," says Al Siebert, PhD, author of The Resiliency Advantage
  • They Give Back: Helping others puts our own challenge in perspective
  • They Find the Lesson: There is a reason for your it
  • They Take Care of Themselves: How can you fight if you are not fit?
No, don't plan to take all of the above on in one day. The concept is to integrate these practices into your life gradually. Focus on building them in, so you can build up a reservoir of resiliency.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Walk In Your Greatness

In his recent speech to students, Barack Obama claimed, "Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."

Strong and powerful words that I hope we can clear our partisan views to embrace. For me, it speaks to the need for all of us to discover our purpose in life, so we can make decisions and take actions that allow us to walk in all our greatness.

Are you living in your purpose and ultimately your greatness? Well, to begin, do you know what your purpose is?

We so often go through our days and life on auto-pilot. We never take the time to stop and say,"What am I here to do?" Some of us are afraid to explore the question, because we worry that we do not know the answer. Others do not want to explore the question, because it simply will confirm that we are not living the life we know we should.

Guess what? Both of these worries are valid and OK! The process of discovery is what we are all responsible for as citizens of this world. Your responsibility is to commit to the time and journey of learning what your unique purpose is for being on this earth. We must all learn what our purpose is, so we can then walk in our is part of our price for having the privilege of being part of something bigger and better than ourselves.

Take the challenge and just think about it. You may be amazed at what you discover.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Suffocating for Growth

When things are out of order in my life, I feel like I am suffocating. It's almost as though the air around me is being sucked away and sent off someplace far away. The crazy thing is that when life is really out of sorts, it seems like I am frozen and stuck watching the "good" air just fly away from me.

Why is this the case and is there any benefit to it? From a physiological standpoint, it does make sense. When we are stressed, we tend to tighten-up, and we often take very shallow breaths. Hence...the suffocation! What is the benefit of this?

It is hard to say that there is a clear benefit to feeling like you are suffocating. However, can you see that there is a benefit in learning what you do not want to feel? None of us like the feeling of a tight chest or lack of air associated with suffocating. The ironic beauty is that the feeling of suffocating helps us remember what we do not like, so we do not do it again.

What is making you feel like you are suffocating, and what do you think it is trying to teach you?