Archives for February 2011

3 Tips to Gain Confidence

butterfliesinfield“Nerves and butterflies are fine – they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager.  You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick.”  ~Steve Bull

Performing in front of an audience is one of the scariest things you can do, and yet some people make their living doing just that.

Do you imagine that they are perfectly confident and never feel scared?

If you think that, you’d be wrong.

I doubt that anyone wakes up one day and is confident from that day forth.

Self-confidence is the belief that you can handle whatever comes up and that you deserve good things and happiness in your life. Confidence is an essential part of happiness

Building your confidence can be done in many ways. Here are 3 tips to get you started.

1. Look at what you’ve already achieved in your lifetime.

  • Make a list of your achievements.
  • Pat yourself on the back and accept compliments from others.
  • Refer to your list of achievements when you begin to feel down.

Give yourself huge credit if you’ve finished school, raised a family, managed your rent or mortgage for years, completed some task that at first you thought was hard, grew tomatoes, stood up and won against a company or person who was trying to defraud you, overcame an illness, reached your weight loss goals, found your way when you were lost, learned another language and so on.

Many of us take our achievements for granted, and thereby miss a key ingredient of self-confidence.

The beauty of acknowledging your achievements is you have proof of what you can do, and a reason to believe that you can do it again.

2. Make a list of your strengths.

Dwell on and build on these strengths

Get started by looking back at #1. The achievements you accomplished were likely related to strengths of character, behavior, and skills.

3. Take control of your thoughts.

When your mind begins to drift to self-doubt, pull yourself back with positive self-talk about the things you noted in #1 and #2.

That inner critic is alive and well in all of us, but you are in charge. You may well have to get rough with your thoughts in order to keep them in line. But it’s worth it.  Your happiness depends on gaining and keeping your confidence.

[See Wednesday’s post for more tips]

Want to Be Happier? Get Rid of These 12 Things That Age You

womaninmirrorAccording to a recent article in  iVillage column, there are 12 things that add years to your appearance. And since the way we perceive ourselves affects our happiness, it’s worth a look to see if you can remove these 12 things from your life.

1. Stress

Feeling overwhelmed and incapable of handling what comes up in our lives is what we call stress. Although none of us long for stress, we all encounter it and must actively find ways to reduce it.

Looking at the cause and removing that is one way. But once stress has its grip, we much become proactive and take steps to reduce it. For some meditation works well. For others, prayer, quiet, and exercise are effective. You must experiment to find what works best for you.

2. Nicotine

In spite of visible attempts to restrict smoking in public places and anti-smoking campaigns, 20% of people still smoke.  Even those of us who don’t smoke are affected by secondary smoke.

In addition to being the leading cause of lung cancer, smoking also affects many other organs.

“Smoking is directly toxic to all of our organs, including our skin and the blood vessels that feed it,” says dermatologist Doris Day, MD, author of Forget the Facelift.

3. Sun on Your Skin

Sunscreen is a must, even if you spend  a lot of time  indoors out of the sun. And it’s not just the outer skin that is affected.

If you compare two people who are the same age — one who wears sunscreen and one who doesn’t — the sunbather will have more visible signs of aging, like age spots, broken blood vessels, wrinkles, sagging and precancerous lesions.

4. Sugar

Even though sugar may give an initial sweet shot to your tastebuds, its continuous intake will lead to a breakdown in elasticity. That means sagging and wrinkles, potentially putting a dent in your happiness.

You are advised to

Choose whole grains instead of the white stuff. If you can’t resist a bagel, adding protein to the meal can help keep your sugar levels from soaring and possibly do less skin damage.

5. Sun in Your Eyes

Applying sunscreen to your skin is not enough. It’s important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays with sunglasses.

The skin around the eyes is very delicate, and once damaged even smiling and scowling will lead to lines. So, get a pair of sunglasses that protect against UVA and UBA rays.

6. No Retinol

The abundance of  skin care products makes it tough to know which is best. But dermatologists seem to agree that every woman’s skin care choice should have Retinaol the anti-aging Vitamin derivative known to reverse aging.

It’s important to test and/or consult your dermatologist before using however, since sensitive skin  may have a reaction.

7. Lack of Sleep

We’ve heard of the importance of sleep before, but it bears repeating.  Lack of sleep will not only make you feel and look tired, but deprives your body of a break from the daily stress we encounter.

In addition,

According to Badreshia-Bansal, sleep gives our skin a much-needed break from environmental and psychological stress. “This is when the reparative work of cells occurs. Sleep relaxes the facial muscles and allows the layers of your skin to rejuvenate,” she explains.

8. Alcohol

Commercials frequently show alcohol as refuge and relief from a stressful as well as way to celebrate. The truth is that heavy drinking not only interferes with our sleep (which we need to repair,) but it can also lead to broken capillaries and uneven skin.

9. Over Exfoliating

Exfoliating scrub  is not something you need to do daily, say dermatologists. Once a week is adequate. Otherwise you are removing the very oils that form a protective barrier and can cause microscopic tears in the skin.

10. Being Lazy

Ponce de Leon, 15th century Spanish explorer, is famous for his search for the Fountain of Youth, a legendary stream that restores youth to anyone who drinks from it. Until this fountain is located, the closest thing to it is exercise.

While sleep and relaxation are important, physical activity not only makes us feel happier, but also boosts our immune system, and improves circulation and blood flow.

11. Bad Food

We’ve been told over and over again which foods are bad for our bodies and mind, and yet because food providers make them cheap and readily accessible, they  are hard to resist.

Which ones are best for our bodies and minds?

Feed your face with a Mediterranean-style diet, says Day. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, olive oil, fish, yogurt and colorful fruits and vegetables may help protect against sun damage and premature aging.

Once we train our tastebuds to like what’s good for us, they will begin to gag at the approach of the fat, greasy and oversweet offerings that our placed in our path so often. Foods that are good for us are the best fuel that enables our bodies and mind to work at their optimal best in the fight against disease and the stimulation of natural chemicals that lead to feelings of joy and well-being.

12. Compulsive washing

Yes, we need to wash our hands, but overdoing it strips away the layer of germs that protect us.  You can often tell how old someone else by looking at their hands.

It’s the transferring of germs to our face that makes us sick.

Germy hands can only infect us if we transfer those viruses to our eyes, nose or mouth. “If you don’t want to get sick, don’t touch your face,” says Day. If your hands are still dry, apply lotion immediately after to lock in moisture.

Although these 12 pieces of advice were directed at our skin and appearance, they work equally as well at bolstering our happiness.
What do you think? Speak your mind.

How to Get Unstuck Instantly by Doing One Simple Thing

standingonheadHow would you like to get unstuck instantly in your life, mood, career, writing or other endeavor using one simple human behavior?

What if I told you that successful people use this behavior all the time to get unstuck and accomplish their goals? You would want to know about it, wouldn’t you?

Of course you would.

I share this with my coaching clients and use it myself.

Alright already, Flora! What is this one simple thing that will get me unstuck?!

Happiness researchers have discovered the one simple thing that gets us unstuck is intentional activity.

The Intentional Activity Theory

Humans are active creatures, spending energy on many projects and goals. When we get stuck such as in writer’s block or indecision about what direction to take in our lives, we stop taking action. The blocked writer sits there staring at the blank page. The career person in transition mulls over and over in his mind how indecisive he is. The entrepreneur freezes while creating her information product.

Simply explained, intentional activity is taking action on purpose, doing something, putting forth effort, doing something different.

Have you ever misplaced your keys and built up stress as you frantically wondered where you put them?
Then, you decided to give up the search and do something else, maybe go to the kitchen to make a sandwich or gather the books you’ll take with you when you find the keys.

Voila! When you returned to the room where you started, there the keys were, exactly where they were all along.

Another example. After working on my book for hours, I would occasionally get stuck. The next word would not come forth. The points I wanted to make were hiding out. When I recognized I was at an impasse, I would get up, leave the house and take a walk.

Why Intentional Activity Gets You Unstuck

Intentional activity works instantly because when you take action you put yourself in a different location, frame of mind and perspective. You interrupt the obsession, the mulling, the inner conflict, the fear.

All the world’s problems are not solved in this instant, but I assure you that you are no longer stuck at the same place where you were before.

What action is right to take to get you unstuck?

Almost anything that suits you that is different from what has you stuck.

Sometimes we are stuck waiting to have all the answers or while nursing the delusion of perfection.

To get team members past the fear that delays and kills projects, Seth Godin, master marketer created The Shipit Workbook. Seth believes that projects don’t fail because of lack of knowledge or concern, but because in teams everyone waits for instructions. No one wants to be the blame if things go wrong. Designed to be completed by a team, The Shipit Workbook enables a team to either complete a successful project, or realize the project is doomed and should be abandoned. Either way, it was taking action that got the team to the right conclusion.

Intentional Activity Gives You Valuable Information

Fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often is a common mantra of successful entrepreneurs.

When you have an idea for a product, service or business it’s important to do some planning, of course, but the sooner you can test your idea in the marketplace the faster you’ll know if there is a market and if your idea is viable. The early users of your idea can give you priceless feedback that enables you to make adjustments before you dump a huge sum of money taking an untested idea to completion.

When Walt Disney proposed the idea of Disneyland to bankers, he was already a successful graphic artist and movie maker, and yet he was turned away by bankers over 300 times before he finally found one willing to take a chance. After all, who could believe that such a preposterous idea would be work, much less be profitable. But Walt,  familiar with rejection and failure, was undaunted.

Each fertile idea Disney  proposed seemed to be met with skepticism. Naysayers saw Mickey Mouse as just another cartoon. His detractors predicted that movie goers would not sit through a full-length animated movie. And yet, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became one of the biggest grossing movies in movie history.

So, when you’re stuck, do something.

Take action.

Take a new action.

Go to another banker.

Take a new route.

Make some noise.

Call a potential client.

Take a nap.

Help somebody else for a while.

Stop tweaking with that proposal and mail it.

Get up on the other side of the bed.

What do you think?

Have you discovered that taking action got you unstuck and helped you successfully reach your goal?

Leave a comment.

Want to Be Happy? Step Up to the Plate and Hit the Ball

womanathleteHappiness seems to require pursuit after all, according to researchers.

In their article, “Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change” in the Review of General Psychology, Lyubomirsky, Sheldon and Schkade define happiness as it’s presented in the rest of well-being literature: frequent positive affect, high life satisfaction, and infrequent negative affect.

They point to three factors that make up our happiness: life circumstances (10%), our set point or genetic makeup (50%) and intentional activity(40%) It’s this intentional activity over which we have control and which leads to sustainable happiness.

This is great news. This puts your level of happiness in your hands.

Intentional activity means choosing to engage in activities rather than waiting for others to get things started or done. To ensure your happiness, be proactive and act on your circumstances rather than blaming your fate on them.

Researchers discovered that it’s not just initiating new activity that’s important, but persevering to finish it as well. And, the activity does not have to be all fun to start. Putting in long study sessions is a short-term inconvenience, for example, for the long-term benefit of completing a degree program.

As humans we can bore of the same activity done over and over in the same way (scientists call this adaptation) and thus lose the “happiness” benefits. We can prevent this by varying the activity, the timing of it, and pausing to appreciate our progress along the way.

As I point out in Chapter 4 of my book, “Color Your Life Happy: Create the Success, Abundance and Inner Joy You Deserve,” after thinking positive thoughts, setting goals and visualizing what you want, you must also take action. If stepping out your comfort zone sounds too scary, then widen your comfort zone to include a new activity little by little.

Nothing restricts your happiness as much as contemplating a goal or desire indefinitely, convincing yourself that it’s just not within your reach. There is power in taking that first step.

Step up to the plate and hit the ball. Begin the thing you want to achieve. Look to others for inspiration and motivation, if you wish, but it’s you who must do the work in order for it to positively affect your happiness.

The beneficial activity is not limited to going after your own goals. You can derive equal happiness benefits by doing acts of kindness and showing gratitude for the positive circumstances in your life.

Take note: your ship is not coming in unless you have launched it.

Mr. Rogers was right all along.

You’ve Got to Do It!

You can make believe it happens,
Or pretend that something’s true.
You can wish or hope or contemplate
A thing you’d like to do.
But until you start to do it,
You will never see it through.
‘Cause the make-believe pretending
Just won’t do it for you

You’ve got to do it.
Every little bit
You’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you’re through,
You can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Valentine's Day Has a Troubling Side

woman on beach resizedHere’s hoping that you have a great Valentine’s Day full of love and affection. Unfortunately, there are some for whom Valentine’s Day is not a happy day at all.

In one newsletter by Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound, two troubling concerns are associated with Valentine’s. First there are the wives and children who are victims of violence and abuse for whom Valentine’s Day is just another day of fear, dread and anxiety. Sheryl Cates, Executive Director of the National Domestic Violence Hotline reminds us in a Dear Abby column that these victims were hurt by people who said they loved them.

Then there are the cheaters who get caught on Valentine’s Day because they have to show up for both their lovers and spouses too. A Wall Street Journal article points out that this is why Valentine’s Day is a banner day for private investigators.

Most people don’t associate infidelity with Valentine’s Day, but it is such a sure bet that cheaters will be caught bearing gifts to the “other” person that this year will be the 8th Annual Valentine’s Day Infidelity Awareness Campaign. This campaign was started by Ruth Houston, Infidelity Columnist for Her goal is to heighten public awareness of the connection between Valentine’s Day and infidelity, to call media attention to this seldom-discussed side of Valentine’s Day and to alert suspicious lovers that Valentine’s Day is the best time to get tangible proof of a cheating lover.

Out of this cheating sometimes grows enterprise. One writer was so upset at catching her husband cheating on Valentine’s Day that she started a website, to give advice on revenge, she says, so that you can bring happiness and humor back to your life.

Old-fashioned investigative techniques have been joined by high tech tools that help nail cheaters. The $199 Spark Nano Real-Time GPS Tracking Device is a 3-inch gadget that can easily be hidden in a car and broadcasts its location to a system that is accessible through the Web.

The pricier tool, the $497.50 Spy Matrix Pro, is a popular GPS for folks who worry about cheating spouses. Retailers of high tech tracking tools such as this report a spike in sales around Valentine’s Day.

Some cheaters fail to realize the long memories and far reach of social media and make catching them just too easy. When New York Republican Congressman, Christopher Lee, recently sought to hook up with a woman on Craigslist, he not only lied to her about his marital status and job, but he even sent a shirtless photo of himself. After doing a little research on him (apparently he failed to lie about his name) she learned not only that he was a sitting Congressman, but that he was very married with one child. The story spread across the media with lightening speed and lead Lee to resign within hours after it hit the news.

The syndicated reality TV show, Cheaters, that supposedly investigates and confronts cheating mates has been accused of being scripted. After a number of participants revealed that they were paid to help stage confrontations and even the stabbing of the host, we have discovered that this show, alas, has cheated.

With the overwhelming emphasis and money spent on Valentine’s Day, many have decided to attach less significance to the day. Many without mates choose to enjoy time with friends and family rather than pine over lost loves or long for the perfect mate.

The most troubling part of Valentine’s Day is that it’s the least romantic day of the year since so many commemorate it with chocolate and flowers out of obligation rather than celebration of love.

Love is kind. Love shouldn’t hurt.

“Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Elizabeth Browning

“Love is friendship set on fire.” – unknown

“To laugh often and love much… to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to give one’s self… this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best place to start seeking love is to love yourself. Then express your love and appreciation in words and deeds for those around you everyday, not try to heap it all on a day urged upon you by retailers. You can still celebrate Valentine’s Day, of course, but in your own creative way with people with whom you share genuine and requited love all year long.