Believe in the Silver Lining

Change is a theme we’ve heard about a lot this year. Now that one fourth of 2009 has passed, how are you doing with the changes you were hoping to make in the new year? I like to check in with clients quarterly so they can assess how plans are coming and I am a fan of the plan, I must admit!

I have a feeling that 09 will continue to test our collective mettle. We need a special dose of courage, patience and trust to see our way through the events that have the power to transform systems that are in grave need of restructure. We are required to set aside any beliefs that portray ourselves as helpless victims or powerless pawns in the larger picture of business and government. We are required to think and think again about what is most important to us, and how we will prioritize the use of our personal and financial resources.

Even as I write this it doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Seriously, isn’t this similar to what you do at the beginning of every New Year? You pause to look at what’s working and what’s not. You crunch some numbers to see how the budget for the New Year is looking. You make decisions; some call them resolutions, to be a better steward of your life. To eat healthy, exercise more, be clearer about what you want in order to be a better person or live a better life.

Perhaps this is my desire to always find a silver lining. One of my strengths is positivity, and I know that it can be misconstrued as naïveté. But what if we all made an effort to believe that this will be the year of silver linings? That things may seem one way until we look again, until we actively seek the positive impact of a situation, event, or decision. There are, of course, no guarantees that a silver lining actually exists. In the moment, some situations feel more like lead – heavy, cold, unyielding and dark. It’s virtually impossible while we’re in it to see any way that it could resemble silver.

This is where trust comes in handy. We don’t have to see the silver to know that it exists. We can let the gift of time do its best for us. By believing that it is possible, that the silver lining may be there, we can continue to put one foot in front of the other, work and walk our way through dark times to emerge in pockets of light.

Hey, you have to put your attention somewhere. Why not look for the silver lining? More often than not, you see what you expect to see.

Call me if your plan needs some tweaking. You’ve still got 3/4 of the year left! Get on it!

Vision for a new year

Happy New Year! How are you doing with this one? Do you feel prepared – you know, with your list of things to do and ways to change? Did you slip easily into the new year, relaxed and ready to enjoy all that 2008 holds for you? Or did you come kicking and screaming into January as though you are already late for something?

Fear not! It’s ok. It may even be better than OK!

New years can be daunting because there’s so much we don’t know. So much can and will happen – it’s probably just as well that most of us don’t have a crystal ball and the ingenuity to use it.

But January is also a good time to consider what you want. Here is an invitation that I give my coaching clients at this time of year. It’s a process that involves getting at what it is you would really like to be, do, or have in 2008.

New Year Intentions Tool

Give yourself some quiet time and a quiet place to think about all of the important elements of your life – your family, your friends, your profession, your hobbies, your health, your prosperity…

Now imagine that you have moved forward in time to December of 2008 and it’s time once again, to write a holiday letter about the year in review. What would you like to say in that letter about all that has materialized for you in the year 2008?

Begin to write your letter as though all that you are dreaming for next year has already come true. Be as specific as possible. Maybe you have a professional goal to increase your revenue by 15%, or to find a new job that is more fulfilling. Maybe you have a personal goal to pay off your credit cards, or to join a new book group or writing group. Is there some way you would like to improve family relationships? Write about that. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn to do but haven’t found the time? If you want 2008 to be the year you accomplish this, include it in your letter. If you are hoping for more friends, or a specific relationship to happen, include this information in your letter as clearly as possible as though it has already happened!

Read your letter out loud to yourself, your coach, or someone you trust. Post your letter some place where you are likely to see it and be intentional about re-reading it at least 3 or 4 times during the year.

Being intentional about what you want is a great first step towards actually getting it.


Time for a Change

I am very grateful for both of my children. Even at 20 and 24, they are a continual source of joy to me and I learn so much from them.

Yesterday at Sunday breakfast my son commented that he knew the new job he was just offered was right for him. When I asked him how he knew he said that he’s nervous. I’m sure I gave him my typical quizzicle mom look and he elaborated. When he feels a little scared he knows that he’s about to do something important. He’s not terrified – he has done similar work and he knows he can do it. He is nervous and he recognizes that in order to grow he must stretch out of his comfort zone and continue to try new things.

I’m always astounded by this wisdom. He is young and yet so wise. This short exchange has me thinking and evaluating the ways I stretch. I am considering my choices in new ways. I must tell him the impact of his words on me. I was encouraged.

It is tempting to try to evaluate where this young man got his propensity for wisdom. Was it from me? Did it come from his dad or some other close or distant relative? Suffice it to say, he is himself. He will continue to stretch and grow because this is what lights him up! His impact will be felt widely in the world – this I know.

“If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Anita Koddick

How about you? Do you recognize your own impact? If you aren’t having the impact you desire, perhaps it’s time to stretch a bit. What would be a good reach beyond your comfort zone?

Establishing a Practice

This morning I woke thinking about the word “discipline”. I actually spend a fair amount of time talking about this word in my work as a Certified Positive Dicipline Associate. But I usually speak about the verb which means to teach or to guide. Today I was thinking about the noun as in having the discipline to rise early each day and do something for myself like walk or write.

What does discipline give us? It always seems daunting. When I think of people who have “discipline”, I think of them in an awesome way like they are larger than life. They seem so steady – as though nothing could sway them from their course. I think I associate the word discipline with perfection. Do you do this? It really gets in my way!

What if discipline can still hold flexibility? What if I can build a discipline to get up early each day and walk for an hour, knowing that some days it’s not going to happen. I may walk later in the day or I may have appointments or travel and not walk at all.

In my more reasonable mind, I know that discipline allows me to focus on what I believe is important in my life. It allows me to be powerful and creative. It takes discipline to think about what I want to have and who and how I want to be in this world. It also takes discipline to act on it. It seems easy when I look at others who have created discipline in their lives. I wonder if it is easy for anyone?

Will Rogers once said, “Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” How you spend your days is how you spend your life. Reflect on how you choose to spend your time. It will tell you much about your top prioritizes.

And it just might give you some ideas about discipline. What do you want to practice daily that will bring you happiness, joy, fulfillment? Think in terms of small steps. Choose one and begin.

Kids and Chores

It is a beautiful fall morning in central Illinois, and as I was walking early this morning, I noticed a couple of kids who made me smile. I was thinking back over the parent talk I gave last week, and the teacher training I did over the weekend. In both settings, I talked about how important it is for each of us to feel a sense of belonging and importance. Without these two, it is hard to stay encouraged day to day. One of the ways I know to create this feeling with kids is to give them important jobs to do. Sharing in the family work of the household, and the responsibilities of the classroom and school, are important ways for kids to develop a sense of “I’m capable and I contribute in meaningful ways.”

So, the first example I saw was a girl probably about 5 and a boy maybe 7. They were in the driveway collecting the empty trash cans. The boy had an especially creative way of doing this chore – it’s great that kids can have fun doing almost anything! He had his skateboard and proceeded to scoot himself along on it as he took a can in both hands and returned them to the garage. The little girl watched as she dragged the remaining can back to its place.

The next example was a young girl, maybe 10 years old. She was in her garage with her dog. The dog food sack was open by his bowl and she was attaching his leash when I walked by. Soon, I heard them come up behind me – they were both running down the street. It surprised me – I imagined her taking him for a walk, but clearly they were both happier running!

Both of these examples took place before school. It reminded me of the things people often say – about how busy their lives are and how hard it is to squeeze everything in that they need to do. These kids were up in time to do a chore or two before school. I wonder how these small things impacted their day today…

Get kids involved at home and at school. Allow them to help you and share the load of household and classroom responsibilities! Share appreciation for their help! You’ll be glad you did!