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The Choice To Choose

life coaching

With a new academic year upon us as well as the upcoming Jewish New Year, I am pausing to reflect on the choices I have made this past year and identify the choices I hope to make this coming year. As a positive psychology life coach, one of my main objectives is to remind my clients about the plethora of choices—both big and small–that we have in our lives. We have so many choices throughout the day, which can have enormous impact on us. We have small choices like whether to take a breath before sending an angry email and larger choices like whether to change careers or have a baby. However, we often forget how much control we actually have over our lives and how many choices are available to us.

Jumping into Change

When I reflect back on this past year, I realize that I wrote my first blog a year ago. Since then I have written almost two dozen more. Never could I have imagined how much joy I would get from writing and I am so glad I took the risk to write the very first one—which of course is always the Life Coachinghardest one. This past year I experienced a lot of positive change. My daughter left our local public school to attend an all-girl private high school. I have loved becoming involved with this community and I spent much of this last year savoring this new experience that I know is fleeting (just three years left!). My son started middle school and is gaining inches and attitude. I chose to spend as much time as I could with him, taking two road trips, just the two of us, to visit with his cousins in DC and spending lots of time watching movies, the Simpsons and WWE together—sneaking hugs whenever I could. Again, I know this time is quickly passing and I want to eek out what I can.

In addition, I have started a new business. When I wasn’t savoring moments with my kids, I have been studying, writing and meeting with clients. I love my new career and have gained so much insight from and developed many new enriching relationships within the positive psychology community. I love coaching clients who are eager to create their best life. This year was full of trying new things, taking risks and trial and error. I put aside fear, jumped in and I am so happy I did.

“To Choose is to Exclude”

But, of course, as positive psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar reminds us “whenever we choose we must also exclude”. By making the choices to focus on certain things this past year, other things were neglected. In an effort to be productive, my time became much more scheduled and I had fewer opportunities for spontaneity and spirituality. In addition, with so much focus on the kids, my husband Gideon and I were not able to have as much couple time as we would have liked.

So I am pausing to think through my choices for thLife Coachingis upcoming year with no regrets about last year’s choices. Those were the right ones for then and allowed me to feel professional success and personal fulfillment.

But seeking a lifetime of balance, I have some new choices I would like to make this year. I would like to prioritize meditation in my life and take some time to connect with Judaism. I would also like to make a weekly date with my husband again, like we did before our kids developed their own weekend social lives. And I would like to have more open time in my calendar for spontaneity.

We Cannot Add without Subtracting

With that said, I know that it is not possible to add without also subtracting. This is the conundrum. How am I going to add these new items to my already busy life? What am I willing to give up or curtail? How can I adjust my choices to continue to reflect who I am and what I value while making room for growth and adjustments? This is the complexity of life. How do we stay true to values and remain open to growth and change. How do we make the right choices on an ongoing basis?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. All I know is that when I am intentional and authentic, things seem to work out. When I stop, breathe and reflect, I am better able to plan and prioritize. I will not be perfect this year but I am not seeking perfection. I am just hoping to make wise choices with as much thoughtfulness and confidence that I can.

Interested in exploring your choices? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

 

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Parenting Sanity: Play to Your Strengths

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After watching the movie Bad Moms and reading several articles about the ridiculous expectations that are placed on moms these days, I felt compelled to write about a different way to evaluate ourselves as parents. I laugh as I recall from my childhood my mom yelling sweetly from her bed “Have a nice day!”  as I ran off to catch the bus for school. She did not feel obligated to wake me up, make my breakfast and make sure I made it to the bus on time. But she did see it as her duty to bring me to all the latest movies and made sure that we watched 0aa3256e252a7450a676312f5d0187ccHappy Days together every Tuesday night. As she would explain, without guilt, she is simply not a morning person, but she is a night person. So we benefited from the nighttime activities and fended for ourselves in the morning. My mom played to her strengths and I think she was a much happier mom for it.

Today, we, like our children, are expected to be good at everything. I am here to argue that we should go back to that aspect of 1970s parenting (not the seatbelt-less and lack of rearview cameras 1970s). Let’s connect with our rebellious side and give ourselves a break.

The first step is to identify YOUR strengths. After all, you may hate to watch Happy Days and may really enjoy waking your kids up in the morning. And that is ok. I for one gave up doing arts and crafts with my kids years ago. I find it mind numbingly boring and I have absolutely no images-83artistic talent. Baking with my kids and eating our creations are strengths of mine and I have done tons of that with my kids. For me baking with my kids gives me the same happiness that arts and crafts may provide for a different mom.

We all can share our love for our kids in different ways. My husband has tons of inside jokes with the kids. He loves to make up nicknames and to get to know their friends. He also loves to talk about sports with my son – which is something I will never ever understand, and thankfully he can help my daughter with math. I, on the other hand, am amazing at helping my kids when they are anxious or worried. “Worried” is my middle name and runs in my family back to the dark ages, so throw any fear my way and I am ready to calm, soothe and empathize.

So what are your strengths and how can you play to them? Not easy to come up with right? As Mary Reckmeyer says in her book Strengths Based Parenting “Talents are so innate, so ever-present, that you might not even realize you have them. In fact, people typically think that whatever talents they have everybody has.” In contrast, what if I asked you what your weaknesses are? Of course that list is already embedded in your brain ready to roll off your tongue. Sadly, focusing on weaknesses is often a waste. We should only focus on our weaknesses to the extent they interfere with our pursuing our strengths. Focusing on our strengths provides much more bang for our buck.

I recently wrote a blog about Job Crafting, where I discussed current research on how people can craft their jobs to enhance their job satisfaction. The good news is that the same approach applies to our jobs as parents. If we design our parental roles with our strengths in mind, we will enjoy parenting more. For example, I love to read. During one road trip I read my family one of the books I was reading. Everyone got hooked. After that, I would tell my family about each book I was reading as I read it. I loved keeping them informed of the twists and turns in the plot and my secret hope is that they end up loving reading as much as I do. My sister-in-law shares her love of the ocean and hiking with her kids by spending hours in the ocean jumping the waves family-waves-20901345
with them or finding cool hikes wherever they go. My sister shares her fun and creative spirit with her kids by creating awesome family traditions and incredible birthday parties and sleepovers. My best friend shares her comedic timing with her kids and helps everyone laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. Each family benefits from their parents being their authentic selves instead of mimicking some ridiculous ideal.

The village approach to parenting is essential for this idea of focusing on our strengths. Fortunately, I have a village of friends and family who can share their talents with my kids. We don’t have to be good at everything, but if we build rich and solid relationships in our lives, we can fill in the gaps.

Begin to pay attention to your strengths and what you enjoy to figure out how you can craft your job as a parent. Then, think about how you can utilize your village to help you with your lesser strengths (aka “weaknesses”). Parenting does not need to be so hard! Maybe we should all try yelling from our bed one morning “Have a nice day!” as our kids run out to catch their school bus.

Interested in learning more about strengths based parenting? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

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“Let the Sunshine In” – Job Crafting

career coaching

You may have seen an interesting experiment where Joshua Bell, an internationally known violinist, anonymously played in a DC train station and only a handful of people stopped to notice.* While a large number of the people walking through that train station would have most likely gladly paid the $100 a ticket he typically charges to see him perform, these travelers neglected to notice the beauty of his music while rushing through the train station. One cannot blame these individuals who were rushing off to work or to appointments for not noticing the music; however, think about how lovely it would have been for those who did take a moment to stop and appreciate a bit of beauty in their day. As Positive Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers”. We need to look for the positive to counteract the negative.

Why is it so important to see the positive? Fredrickson has a wonderful theory called “Broaden and Build”.** Basically she says that positive moments can foster more positive moments. Positivity promotes an upward spiral of happiness, creativity and openness. Had the people in career coachingthe train station noticed the beautiful music and appreciated it for a moment, they may have been primed for more positive moments throughout the day. Intuitively, we all know how a negative interaction can set us off track for hours and a positive interaction can set our day on the right foot. The good news is that if we are intentional and pay attention to what makes us happy, we can increase these opportunities.

Increasing positivity on the job

As a career coach, I like to ask my clients the question “what do you enjoy about your job?” Sometimes this is tough for people who are miserable in their jobs, but usually you can find one bright spot in your day. Then we work together thinking of ways to increase those opportunities. Take a moment to think about what it is you like about your job (if you are not currently working think about a previous job or any volunteer work you are doing). Are there ways to increase those enjoyable moments?

Job Crafting

When you think about what you like about your job and how you can increase those opportunities, you are essentially thinking about how you can craft your job to make it fit you better. Psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski  define job crafting as an opportunity for employees to “redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, as well as engagement, resilience and thriving at work.”***

Many of us neglect to notice what it is that brings us joy in our job in the same way people neglected to notice the beautiful music in the train station. We get sidetracked with our busy lives and we overlook moments of beauty in our day.

There are three ways to job craft. We can alter the tasks we do, the people we interact with or the way we perceive our tasks.

Task Crafting

Task crafting “consists of adding or dropping tasks, adjusting the time or effort spent on various tasks, and redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g., a teacher who spends time learning new classroom technology to fulfill his passion for IT)”. **** Are there tasks that you do in your job that you dislike? Can you automate those tasks? Delegate them? Reframe them?

One of my clients was life coachinginstructed to make cold calls as part of her sales role. She despised this piece of her job and dreaded doing it. She did however love other methods of marketing including blogging, social media and google ads. Therefore she researched the effectiveness of these sales modes in her industry and presented her findings to her boss. She now does much less cold calling and has increased the marketing strategies where she excels and enjoys.

Can you find ways to increase the amount of time you spend on job tasks you enjoy and decrease the amount of time you spend on tasks you don’t enjoy?

Relational Crafting

Clearly building strong relationships at work can make your job more pleasurable and contribute to productivity. As with all three of these modes of job crafting, sometimes changing one area changes another. For instance, if you want to introduce more technology into your job, you may need to increase your interactions with the technology group. Building relationships is a satisfying way to enhance your experience at work.

My husband Gideon is a good example of building relationships as a way to find pleasure in his job. A quintessential extravert, he has made numerous friends and acquaintances at every job where he has worked. Not only does he get to know his co-workers, he loves to have fun with them. Whenever he works from home and I overhear his conference calls, there is a ton of career coachinglaughing and joking—while also lots of work talk too (just in case his boss is reading this). His ability to create a social environment at work is incredibly beneficial not only for his own enjoyment of his job but also for encouraging collaboration throughout his group. Prioritizing this aspect of himself allows him to be authentic on the job and authenticity contributes to productivity and happiness.

Are there relationships at work that you can cultivate to increase your productivity and happiness at work?

Alter How We Perceive Tasks (Reframing our job)

We do not always need to change what we do at work, instead we can change the way we see things. IT specialists can see themselves as teachers, clothing sales people can see themselves as people whose job it is to help their customers feel beautiful and leave happier than they came, people in product design can think of themselves as innovators, and the list goes on…. What I love about this form of job crafting is that you can do this without your manager even knowing you are doing this, it is a lot about perception and reframing the way you see your role.

A wonderful piece of research was done back in 2000 where researchers interviewed hospital custodians at a hospital about their jobs*****. Researchers discovered a group of custodians career coachingwho saw their work as well beyond their job description. These custodians saw themselves as healers who contributed to the healthy environment of the hospital by keeping it clean and sanitary. They were members of the team committed to helping patients get better. As a result of this perception, they went out of their way to contribute to the patients healing in creative and loving ways. Job crafting in this way not only enhances your experience at work but also increases your productivity.

Are their parts of your job where you could alter your perception so you can increase the positive?

Increasing the positive in our life can have profound effects and focusing on the positive within our job is one way to do this. Take a moment to think if you have crafted your job. I would love to hear your stories, so please share with me anything you have learned in the process. Also, think of ways you can craft your job now. Happiness at work matters and luckily there are ways we can enhance our own happiness.

Interested in learning more about how to craft your job? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com

 

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM21gPmkDpI

**Fredrickson B.L., (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life Penguin Random House

***Berg J.M., Dutton J.E., Wrzesniewski, A (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

****Wrzesniewski A, Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. (2010). Managing Yourself: Turn the Job you Have in the Job You Want Harvard Business Review

*****Dutton, J. E., Debebe, G., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2000). A social valuing perspective on relationship sensemaking. Working paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Three “Rs” in Job Seeking: Reflect, Research and Relay

Career Coaching

With one click, you can submit your resume and cover letter for a job opening. It is so simple when compared to the old days. For example, when I applied to my first job I needed to print out my resume (the printer was in the computer lab at my school) and then print out the envelope (making sure to put the envelope into the printer in just the right way), attach the stamp and then lick the envelope shut.

While the old way was tedious, the current way has a downside as well. The ability to apply to a job without much effort can result in a mindless approach to job seeking. When applying to a job took more effort, we made Life Coachingsure to only apply to places we really liked. Now things move much more quickly. However, slowing down and thinking about where you are applying not only increases your chance of getting noticed by the recruiter but it can increase your likelihood of landing a job you will actually like.

  1. Reflect

When looking for a job, it is important to seek the right environment and cultural fit. Take a moment to think about a few times where you were at your best. Ask yourself why you succeeded in those situations? Who were you working with? Where were you working? What were the surroundings like? Your work environment can impact your productivity, effectiveness and ultimately your overall happiness. Before you click “send” on a resume or cover letter, take the time to get to know the company you are applying to.

Luckily, there are websites that provide us with an opportunity to get the inside scoop on work environments – allowing you to mindfully choose where you want to apply.

  1. Research

Websites like The Muse, Glassdoor and WorkClear allow potential applicants to peek behind the curtain at a potential employer. These websites enrich your job search by providing insights into Life Coachthe environments where you will be working. Below are descriptions of three websites as a starting point for you. I encourage you to check out these websites to see if any of them would help you.

  • “WorkClear was founded to provide insight into the work-life balance cultures of employers around the world. Members of the WorkClear community anonymously post actual work hours, vacation time, and other work-life metrics.” (Quotation from WorkClear’s website)
  • Glassdoor offers a variety of career-oriented services including the opportunity to read reviews from employees where employees can tell you the real deal about the company.
  • The Muse allows you to learn more about a companies culture. As they state on their website “We think company culture is pretty important. We show you inside offices before you apply to make sure you’ll love working there.” While these summaries are not anonymous reviews like the other two websites, the descriptions are written in a very clear way focusing primarily on the working culture at the organization.

These websites support the idea that the culture in the company is a huge contributor to happiness. Posting actual work hours? That is fantastic! Seeing pictures of the physical space you will be working? Ideal! These websites are gifts for the job seeker.

Connect Your Reflections to Your Research

When you research potential employers, be sure they have some of the qualities you identified above when I asked you to reflect on where and how you do your best work. For instance, which of the descriptions below appeal to you:

-Is a down-to-earth environment a top requirement for you? Then this company that was reviewed on Glassdoor may be a match for you: “Incredibly supportive culture with an incredible focus on learning and mentoring, Highly intelligent, down-to-earth and fun people, Focused on making a real impact for our clients”

-Are you willing to work long hours but need flexibility? Then this company’s review on Workclear’s website may be of interest: “While my lunch break is non existent and days are long, I have the flexibility to work around my business commitments, including flexible work schedule. This flexibility allows me to start work early in the morning so I can step out for my daughter’s game / practice / etc., and this sometimes means I need to catch up on work over the weekend.”

-Do you like autonomy and the freedom to utilize and develop your expertise? Then this career coachcompany reviewed by an employee on the Muse website may be for you: “One of the best aspects of [our company’s] management style is that individuals hired are considered experts in their respective fields. We’re encouraged to do our own thing and really excel.” (Note that the Muse website is different from the two above. While this quote is by an actual employee it is not anonymous and is part of an overall work overview that was provided by the company itself.)

  1. Relay your Connections with Your Potential Employer

These pieces of information the websites offer, while not the complete story, can give you some insight about a company and determine if it is worth your time applying. If the reviews are exciting to you, you can address that in your cover letter, interview and beyond. Rather than sending dozens of resumes into a black hole, take the time to determine why you are applying to a particular job and customize your resume and cover letter accordingly. Show the emplCareer Coachingoyer that you take this process seriously, you have done your homework and you have SELECTED this particular company. Ensuring that the company where you work is the right fit for you is a benefit for everyone involved. The company benefits because you will do your best work there and you will benefit because prioritizing your happiness at work is a step in the right direction to cultivating your overall happiness.

 

If you are interested in speaking with me about career coaching, please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.

 

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10 Things I Have Learned as a Yoga Instructor

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I have taught yoga for over five years and upon reflection I have learned a lot in the process. The lessons I have outlined below are not unique to yoga or to teaching yoga. These are lessons that can apply to all aspects of our life. I hope sharing these lessons will allow others to learn not only about how to choose an exercise program but also how to live a happier life. Most importantly I share these lessons with my loyal students. My gratitude to them is profound and these lessons I have learned are a tribute to my students and their awesomeness.

1. Positive Energy in a room is contagious

I recently was at a one-hour workshop led by an energy healer. She was amazing. She was like a magician– except her magic was real, not illusion. She demonstrated how people become physically stronger or weaker depending Wellness coachingon the energy of the people around them. Miraculously, my yoga students give me energy and they give each other energy too.

2. Authenticity matters

For a long time I struggled with the fact that I do not look like a yoga instructor (at least not the ones on Yoga Journal) and when I teach a class, I tend to need the blocks and other props more than many of my students. Lots of poses elude me. But I can still teach. My goal in my class is to help people get out of their heads and into their bodies, to connect with their core self and take that connection out of the yoga room and into the world. You don’t need to be able to do any pose to the max to be able to do that. Being true to myself as a teacher and not pretending, gives my students permission to be their authentic selves as well.

3. Location, Location, Location

I teach out of a Synagogue as well as out of a Wellness center and I am certain this has helped me create a class that is consistent with my values. When you walk into the Wellness center, the scent of lavender greets you at the door. This immediately creates a mindset of self-care rather than competition. When entering the Synagogue you are reminded of community and spirituality. My yoga class is more than an exercise class, it is a mind body experience that reminds us of the universality of the human experience and of the many ways there are to care for ourselves; physically, emotionally and spiritually.

4. Laughter makes everything better

I have laughed during every single one of my classes. My students are hilarious. We laugh at ourselves and at the ridiculous things that happen in our lives. We laugh at the craziness of a pose, we laugh about my inability to ever remember which side we are on. Cracking up in class is definitely one reason I leave class feeling so much healthier and happier.

5. Being imperfect is empowering

Yoga is not about achieving a perfect form in a pose. That is not to say I don’t care about alignment because I do. Alignment can keep you safe and help you experience the pose more effectively. But let’s not confuse alignment with perfection. Too much focus on doing the pose “right” can be distracting. We use a growth mindset in class. How can you move forward? How can you work with your challenges? My students are not obsessed with accomplishing a pose, they just want to move, feel good and connect.

6. Someone needs to go into business offering places to nap 

We are all way too tired! My mom, who very much values her daily nap, says she is going to start a business napping for people who don’t have time. If only that were possible! At the end of every yoga class we lie Wellness coachingdown in shavasana or corpse pose for five minutes. The time is meant to allow the work of the class to absorb into your body and it is an effective way to make the transition from class to the world. The only problem is no one wants to wake up! Insomniacs unite! There is apparently no better way to fall asleep than on the hard floor of a yoga class.

7. The teacher gets as much out of the class as the student

There have been many times over the past five years where I have not been “in the mood” to teach. I am tired, stressed, distracted etc. In order to get to class we all need to jump through many hoops. But I can say with 100% certainty that my students dissolve my negative feelings the minute they walk into the room. Students come ready to share, learn and experience. Not only do my students feel more integrated and settled after a class, I do too.

8. Leave Your Ego at the Door

There is no better way to ruin an exercise streak than getting injured and as we age this seems to happen more frequently. My biggest concern is my students’ safety. A common refrain in my class is to pay attention to how you feel and adjust accordingly. Getting to know your body better is a secret gift of exercise and yoga in particular. My students know their limits and are more than willing to adapt to the pose as necessary. It is not always easy to resist our urge to push through the pain, but paying attention to our body allows us to maintain a fitness program for the long haul.

9. Flexibility is a state of mind

When I became a yoga instructor, one of the first “rules” I had was that there would be no rules. Come late, leave early, have your cell phone near you.  Life is crazy, why do we need to put more restraints on ourselves? Of course my class can’t be first priority if you have a sick kid, if you have to attend a meeting or if you have to care for an elderly relative. I was eager to create an environment where life was acknowledged and career coachingembraced. And guess what? People do not take advantage. Although I allow students to come late, they often come on time. Even though students can have their phones, they keep them on silent. My students care about the class as a whole and are considerate of others. Students, who might not otherwise come because they were going to be late, come anyway. And I am thrilled to have them. My class is for people with a life. My students are full of energy, responsibilities and passion and for that I say “bring it on”.

10. Dedication is magical

Several of my students come every single week. I struggle with such dedication to an exercise routine and I am so inspired by these students. Their dedication is what fuels me. Knowing they will be there motivates me to do my best, to come prepared, to give it my all. I do not want to disappoint my students who make my class a priority. I have learned that dedication has rewards and prioritizing your self-care is a privilege that pays you back tenfold.

But most importantly I have learned Gratitude. I would not be a yoga teacher if it were not for my loyal students. To my yoga students, I want to give a heartfelt THANK YOU. I hope you know how much I love all of you.  And if you are not my student, these 10 points are helpful to anyone looking to incorporate exercise into their life. Take note of what is important to you and go out and find it. There is no one size fits all solution, so take your time and play the field. Find the place that fits your personality and goals. Once you do, the dedication and gratitude will follow.

 

 

 

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What Habit Will You Choose?

Wellness Coaching

“I have so many habits I need to introduce into my life, how do I choose?” This is a question I hear from participants in the various Habits Workshops that I have led. Ultimately, each participant has been able to narrow their focus to one habit. Habits have included exercising, having more fun, clearing clutter, making time for friendships, and more.

Identifying the right habit for your life is one of the most challenging aspects of habit formation. It requires us to be intentional and to take a step back to see what we need most in our life. Habits allow for proactivity. When we live our life filled with activities based on internal choices rather than external “shoulds”, we live our life with integrity and authenticity.

Each workshop begins with a self-reflection where participants evaluate: What do I need to do to career coachingmake my life better? What is important to me? What do I value? A habit can be an effective vehicle for forward motion; so choosing a destination is helpful to selecting the right habit to get there. I have been inspired by the thoughtfulness and creativity Workshop participants have brought to selecting their habit. Below are a few examples.

  1. “Emotion leads to Motion” Tal Ben-Shahar

One working mom came to the Workshop frustrated by her unsuccessful attempts to set aside 15 minutes a day to do homework with her middle school daughter and high school son. Her kids had been resisting her efforts and she was unable to push past their resistance.

Fortunately, the reflection exercise in the first session of the Workshop reminded her why she wanted to implement this habit. She felt she needed to be more involved with her kids work habits and to provide them with direction and guidance. Knowing the underlying reason for her involvement allowed her the ability to push forward and overcome their resistance.

Surprisingly, after only one week in the habit, her kids were fighting over who got to work with her first! And after only four weeks in the habit, her daughter’s teacher sent home a note praising her daughter’s improved work product. Connecting emotionally was the engine that propelled this action.

2. Trial and Error–A Flexible Approach to Habit Selection

Sometimes selecting the right habit requires trial and error before the right habit becomes clear.  One Workshop participant first decided that she wanted to be “on time” more often; however, she then decided to change her habit later in the Workshop to be more proactive with her scheduling. By the end of the Workshop, she concluded that neither habit seemed to be what she needed, yet she was still committed to finding that right habit.

A week later, she emailed me saying that she found the perfect habit. She was going to start Life Coachingmeditating every day. I was thrilled with her choice. I believe that through meditation, she will be able to calm her mind and connect with herself and that will ultimately positively impact all aspects of her life.

The first habit you select may not be the magic bullet you need but through trial and error you will hopefully determine a habit worthy of your time and effort. Stick with it when you know that your life needs something!

3. Remember the Forest from the Trees

Remembering the root reasons for our habits is also essential to habit formation. Connecting with why we created a habit is not only a powerful motivator but it is also a reliable reference point when molding our habit.

One of my participants wanted to read more in order to have some quiet time.  Reading was  the vehicle for time alone. During the WorkshWellness Coachingop, she figured out that multi-tasking while reading may increase the number of books she read, it did not contribute to her ultimate goal of quiet time and therefore should not “count” towards her habit. In order to fulfill her desire for quiet time, she needed to set aside time to read without distraction, single tasking rather than multi-tasking her habit.

Clarity of purpose can ensure that we stay focused on the goal of our habit rather than the habit itself.

4. Take Small Steps– Gretchen Rubin

Another participant, who had recently started working full time, was starved for time alone. She discovered that the only way she could have alone time was to wake up earlier. Since she is a night Life Coachingowl, waking up early was very difficult for her.

When forming the habit to wake up early, we decided that she should focus on doing something enjoyable. It is much easier to get out of bed at 5:30 am when you are getting up to do something you like. Ultimately, she may like to exercise at this time, but for now she is going to work on the habit of getting up early and enjoying the morning before the kids wake up and the chaos of her day begins. Where her habit goes from there will be up to her, but celebrating the victory of getting up earlier is a step in the right direction.

In summary, when choosing a habit, be sure to:

  • Connect emotionally with your habit. Remember emotion leads to motion.
  • Take the time to experiment with your habit until you find one that fits.
  • Focus on the underlying reason you choose the habit and stay true to that purpose.
  • If the habit is tough to start, take bite size chunks and celebrate those small victories.

If you are interested in learning about how coaching can help you move forward with a positive habit or about my Habits Workshops, please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com or visit my website www.amyalpert.com.

 

 

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Double Standards Hurt Men Too

Life and work balance

Over 15 years ago, I helped write the paternity leave policy for Goldman Sachs. We offered fathers two weeks of paid leave and provided flexibility as to when they could take this leave. Perhaps fathers wanted to use the leave for the first two weeks after the child is born, maybe they wanted to supplement their spouse’s leave, or maybe they preferred to use it a little at a time to fill in the gaps at home. By providing flexibility, we were acknowledging that every family is different. Our intention was for the policy to make sense to our employees and to assist a family adjusting to a new baby at home. Did I think two-week paternity leave was adequate? No. But it was a start, especially at a firm that made no apologies for its face-time oriented, workaholic culture.

I helped write this paternity leave policy when I was newly married and did not have kids of my own. At the time, one of our male friends expressed a strong negative reaction to the idea of paternity leave. He teased me (in a loving way of course) about the ridiculousness of paternity leave and said he would lose respect for any man who took advantage of it. Fortunately, our friend changed his tune after he married, started his own successful business and had children of his own. Not only did he establish a paternity leave within his organization, he also was a role model by utilizing in the paternity leave himself when he became a father. Over time his definition of masculinity was expanded to include caregiving. This change in our friend exemplifies the larger change that is going on all around us. Men are realizing the benefits of caregiving and men, women and children, stand to benefit from this modern definition of what it is to be a man.

ReadiStock_000017967210_Largeing Unfinished Business, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I was reminded of the power of men in the women’s movement. As Slaughter points out in her book, girls have more choices than boys do today. Girls can choose to stay home, work part time, work full time etc. while boys are typically given a more singular option of providing financially for the family. Of course we are constantly seeing exceptions to this rule and the hope is that these exceptions continue to flourish. Giving men a broader definition of masculinity benefits men and women. The opportunity to provide care for our children and elderly relatives is a gift both for the caregiver as well as the one receiving care. In addition, providing opportunities for men to be caregivers will elevate the value we place on care in our society..

Leading The Way Towards a Paradigm Shift

Same-Sex marriage: Heterosexual couples can learn from same-sex couples regarding how to define their roles within their marriage. Same-sex couples have the freedom to design their own marriage (p. 78). They can ask the following questions to guide their choices: Whose job pays more or has the best income prospects down the road? Who enjoys work more? Who has a more supportive employer? Who prefers to be the primary parent? Wouldn’t it be incredible if heterosexual couples evaluated their division of labor with the same openness? Perhaps in the near future heterosexual couples will make their choices in the same way same sex couples make their decisions rather than relying on predetermined, outdated gender roles. This would open up opportunities for men and women to evaluate their unique hopes and dreams for themselves and for their families.

Women’s increase in income

“40% of American women are the primary breadwinners in their families. That includes single mothers, but it still tracks a major trend.” (p. 49) With this fact, it makes sense for many families to revisit traditional roles. When a woman earns more than her husband, it confuses the traditional model of fathers being the breadwinners due to a higher salary. Of course this does not automatically reverse the roles because there are many factors that determine who does what within a couple, but it opens up the opportunity for a more thoughtful conversation.


What Can Women Do to Help the Men’s Movement?

“Let it Go” in the Home

Ok, this is a really big deal and I love how Slaughter captures this in her book. We women need to Let it Go at home. We need to let our husbands handle parenting and housework in their own way. If we micromanage our husbands, we are denying them the opportunity to make a unique contribution. Slaughter talks about how women have a tendency to give men step-by-step instructions on how to handle the house when they are not home (p.150). Our husbands may do things differently, but that does not make it wrong. In the same way women want to contribute to their workplace in their own way without having to “act like a man”, men need to be able to contribute at home without micromanagement. If we want men to contribute equally at home, we must make room for them to express themselves their way and allow them to learn from their mistakes just as women are making their own unique mark in the workplace.

Support Young Men

career coachingWhat are the messages we are giving our sons? Do we tell them they can do anything like we tell our daughters? We need to make sure we tell our son’s (just like we tell our daughters) that they can be whoever they want to be. They can choose to be primary caregiver whether it is for their children’s entire childhood or seesawing career opportunities with their spouse, or they can choose to be the primary breadwinner. As mentors, we need to ask young men to think about what work and family means for them. Women are asked constantly about how they plan to manage work and family. Men also need the opportunity to reflect on this and to ask themselves the questions about their values and priorities (p. 180). Women and men need to live lives with authenticity and integrity, but the only way to do that is to search your own soul and determine what will make you truly happy. We have worked very hard over the years to expand women’s choices; men also deserve more choices and an expanded definition of masculinity to provide freedoms and opportunities for all.

If you are interested in learning more about life coaching, please visit my worklife coaching page or email me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.

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How a Week Retreat Helped Me, My family and My Dog

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As part of my 10-month certificate in Positive Psychology program, I spent one week at an in-house immersion at Kripalu in the Berkshires. As I packed for the event (mostly yoga pants, comfy tops and slip on shoes easy for taking on and off), I realized I had not been on my own for a full week since 1999 when I took a business trip by myself to Tokyo. I know this is a very long time ago, because my sister (God bless her heart) made me a mix tape (yes, tape) of enough music to get me through the 14- hour flight. Fortunately, my immersion was only 3 hours away and I listened to a book on tape that I downloaded onto my kindle and used blue tooth connection to listen to during the car-ride—wow things have changed in 16 years!

My kids are 14 and 12, good ages for a mom to leave for a week. They can now stay in the house alone. They can do their homework without assistance. They can get ready for school every morning without help. But a week without their mom reminded all of us of how capable they really are. My kids were either very respectful of my need for retreat or they really did not miss me all that much. I heard very little from them. Aside from my daughter’s tooth ache, need for credit card to purchase a shirt and sharing an idea through email about a summer travel program, my kids left me pretty much alone. Maybe they needed a break from me as much as I needed a break from them?

My husband also left me alone—but that may be because he was too busy to communicate. He took over my duties along with his own and ran the house seamlessly. I was not surprised at all. In fact, I imagine when I get home tomorrow the house is going to be much neater than it usually is when I am in charge.

Spending a week away from home has allowed me to recharge in a way that I could never have done life coachingat home with all the distractions that brings. In addition, being in an immersion environment, I am working hard learning about Positive Psychology and getting to know myself better. I am someone who is very connected with myself. I regularly journal, I do yoga, I see an amazing therapist and I take long walks with my dog where I think about my life. I read tons of books on personal growth and think about how they apply to my life. But nothing is as powerful as a week-long immersion.

Some aha moments for me were:

-I need to become a more active listener

-I need to assert myself more

-I need to dream big and not fear failure (or success for that matter)

-I need to reconnect with my yoga practice

-I want to find more opportunities to teach

-I am full of love and gratitude

-My constant effort to resist the lure of “busy-ness” is a by-product of my efforts to stay true to myself and to my values.

There were two wonderful results of my week immersion on my family.

life coachingFirst, my family now knows that I give our dog Ivy water every day. Yes, it is hard to believe, but my family did not know that I give the dog water every day. And can I blame them? I did it invisibly for three years. If we want our family to know things, we must inform them, we must teach them. Thank goodness my family now knows about this life-affirming chore—dogs (and all living things) need water every day!

Second: My husband lit the Chanukah candles with the kids since I was away during Chanukah. This felt like a miracle to me almost as much as the oil that lasted for eight days. While Gideon and I do not fall into traditional roles in every way around the house (Gideon is obsessed with running the dishwasher and I am the only one who knows how to fix our computer printer) we have established fairly rigid roles in the family after being married for 17 years. So religion has been assigned to me. Anything Jewish is mine. Yet, during Chanukah, Gideon took out wellness coachingthe menorah, said the prayers with the kids and provided them with an awesome gift (so typical of him to totally outdo me on the gift!—tickets to a Nets game while I had given out books on the day I left). I don’t know how Gideon felt about leading Chanukah and I am not going to ask him because I know that will totally annoy him, but I am deeply grateful that he got out of his comfort zone and continued something important to me without my even asking. When we choose our life partner, isn’t this what we hope for?

I am filled with gratitude for my life and I did not necessarily need a week away to realize that, but some time alone never hurts. I go home tomorrow and I am feeling ready to reenter my home life with renewed vigor, purpose and love and appreciation for the life I have created with my family.

Email me to learn more about Positive Psychology Coaching and set up a free consultation!

 

 

 

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Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out” and Positive Psychology

Inside-Out-Official-Trailer-Inside-Out-series-Inside-Out-IMDB-Inside-Out-Pixar-3

I truly enjoyed watching the movie Inside Out with my family. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we watched it again the next day. The movie includes characters who personify (and are named after) the emotions of Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness and Disgust in clever characters working in “headquarters” in an 11 year old girl, Riley’s, brain. When Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, Joy is no longer able to run the show. Riley misses her old house and her friends from Minnesota. Joy works overtime to tryimages-29 to make Riley happy, but Sadness can’t seem to control herself and keeps getting in the way. Joy goes to great lengths to control Sadness and goes so far as to draw a circle for Sadness to remain in.

When Sadness manages to interfere despite Joy’s attempts to contain her, my 14-year-old proclaimed “I hate Sadness!”. She of course did not realize the profundity of what she exclaimed. She was just talking about the character Sadness in the movie. But in the end, she is right, so many of us hate sadness that we will go to great lengths to avoid it. Just like in the movie, locking away sadness makes our emotional environment ripe for anger, disgust and fear to take over.

Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, regrets the name of the psychology he founded. It is feared that Positive Psychology sounds pollyannish, suggesting only positive emotions are allowed—much like what the movie is trying to reveal about human nature. In fact, Positive Psychology embraces the spectrum of emotions. Positive Psychology was created in reaction to the one-sided focus on mental illness in the field of psychology. However, in the end, the goal of Positive Psychology is to round out the field of psychology by also focusing on people’s strengths, what is working and how to be solutions-focused. Moving forward is a priority, but not at the expense of acknowledging all of our emotions. We need to utilize the spectrum emotions in order to flourish.

Permission to be Human

As a Positive Psychology life coach, I encourage the range of emotions in my sessions. There have been times when clients have cried; uncovering images-31sadness is instructive. One of the tenants of Positive Psychology is the “Permission to be Human”. By virtue of being human, we are going to experience a range of emotions. Embracing them and learning from them so we can move forward is what Positive Psychology is about.

Relationships

In the movie Inside Out, there is a revealing moment where Joy looks back at one of Riley’s memories from when she was in Minnesota. In this memory, Riley was sad about making a mistake at a hockey game and losing the game. Riley is alone in the backyard feeling sad and her parents find her and comfort her. What Joy realizes when reflecting on that memory, is that expressing sadness allows our community to know we need them. Only then can they know to offer support. When Riley is unable to show her sadness in San Francisco, there is no way for her family to know how to help her. In order to benefit from the help of our family and friends, we need to reveal the truth of what we are feeling to ourselves and to our support network.

Benefit Finder

But let’s not condemn Joy just because she was focused on happiness. We can all learn a lot from Joy. The character Joy in the movie is the ultimate benefit finder. She can find the good in everything. And she wants to teach Sadness to do the same. For example, when Riley walks into her new completely empty bedroom (the moving van had not arrived yet), she becomes sad. Joy quickly helps her imagine the room full of her furniture and gets her excited about the possibility of what her room will look like when the furniture arrives. When Riley’s parents are feeling stressed with all that moving requires, Joy provides the idea for Riley to take a crumpled piece of paper and use it as a puck to play hockey in the empty living room, bringing a moment of levity to the situation. Joy is providing Riley with excellent skills to turn lemons into lemonade and that certainly is worthwhile.

Positive Psychology teaches us that we do have control over our thoughts and actions and we can Life coachinginfluence the happiness in our lives. According to Sonja Lybomirsky’s book The How of Happiness, 10% of
happiness is based on circumstances, 50% of happiness is based
on genetics and 40% of our happiness is based on our choices. So Joy has the right idea. Looking on the bright side is not a bad idea if we want to live happier lives. Seeing the good in things is not a sign of being simple-minded, rather it is a sign of being strong, brave and taking control of our own happiness.

In the end, Joy and Sadness are both important and cannot live without the other. In the movie, Sadness teaches Joy to take the time to let people experience their emotions and Joy teaches Sadness how to find the joy in life even when things are tough.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Life Coaching.

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Confidence Booster Toolkit

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I recently attended a Parent Book Group at my daughter’s school where we were discussed The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self–Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. The book revealed the many ways girls and women lack confidence and how a lack of confidence negatively impacts success. I, along with the women in the book group, could absolutely relate to the findings in the book.

We were fortunate enough to have the head of school facilitate the discussion. We reflected on how the data from the book resonated with us as women and as mothers of daughters. Then we took the discussion one step further by brainstorming ways to use the information in the book to improve our own confidence as well as that of our daughters’. As I left the discussion bursting with enthusiasm, I thought about how I could integrate the information I had learned in a way that boosted confidence in my daughter and myself, which could potentially be useful to other girls and women. Alas, the Confidence Booster Toolkit was born. Below are some of the items I would put in a Confidence Booster Toolkit based on what I learned from reading and discussing The Confidence Code.

Wasted Worry Jar: Worry and doubt are confidence-killers. They not only make you appear less confident, but can interfere with the ability to act and make things happen. In order to demonstrate to my family the uselessness of worrying, I created a Wasted Worry Jar. The concept is wellness coachingsimple, if you have a worry that turns out to be fine, you must put a quarter in the worry jar. For example, if you are worried that you will fail the math test, and then you don’t, you owe the jar a quarter. As the quarters add up, there is a visible testament to the amount of time we spend needlessly worrying. We don’t want to get rich off of our worries!

Memory Journal: As a positive psychology coach, I make sure to ask my clients to remember times when things did work and pay attention to the positive things in their lives. The reason I do this is because what we think can affect how we feel. By keeping track of our successes and our efforts, we can utilize these memories to give us the confidence to take on the next challenge. “Our memories, conscious or not, are informing what we decide to do next.” (p. 81) Therefore, keeping a journal of our successes is a great way to embed these experiences into our subconscious, which will help us take on new challenges later.

“Let it Go” Cellphone Ringtone– Overthinking, whether it is ruminating about a future decision or dwelling on a past experience, adversely impacts confidence. As Mike Thibault, a WNBA coach who also spent years coaching men, finds “The propensity to dwell on failure and mistakes, and an inability to shut out the outside world are in his mind the biggest psychological impediments for his female players and they directly affect performance and confidence on the court” (p, 204). Ruminating is as debilitating. “Thinking harder and harder and harder won’t solve our issues” (p. 144). If a Disney princess can “Let it Go” (and let’s face it she had some tough things to deal with like turning everything she touched into ice), then we can find a way to let it go and move on as well. And if the “Let It Go” ringtone is not enough, then pull out your memory journal and remind yourself how awesome you are!

life coachingPosture Zapper: Apparently there are now devices that we can wear on ourselves that connect to our smart phones that not only inform us when we slouch but also monitor it to reveal to us how bad our posture really is throughout a day! Why is posture so important for girls and women? A lack of confidence can be manifested physically. Not only can good posture make someone look more confident, it can also make a person feel more confident. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has one of the most-viewed TED talks where she talks about “power posing”. When women take up physical space, their testosterone increases and their cortisol decreases (a stress hormone), thus temporarily boosting their confidence level. Cuddy encourages taking on a power pose before an interview or an important meeting to create the physical benefits to confidence. To be clear, when I talk about posture, I am not talking about walking like a model, but rather to take up space, stand up straight and show your strength!

Meditation App: Failure is a critical part to learning. In fact there is a new term Failing Fast that promotes the idea that we need to continuously put ourselves out there and learn from our mistakes (p. 139). The world moves too quickly to wait for perfection. Sharon Salzberg, author and cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), teaches a wonderful phrase when teaching meditation—“Begin Again”. If your mind wanders while meditating, simply “Begin Again”. This is such a non -threatening way to look at our failures. Meditation is an amazing way to practice this concept and certainly is a wonderful confidence-boosting tool on its own — “a calm brain is the ultimate confidence tool” (p. 162). Utilizing a meditation app can help develop a meditation practice.

Sneakers: Another way to experiment with this Fail Fast/Begin Again concept is by participating in DSCF0420athletics. Strike out in softball? You’ll be up to bat again soon. Miss a lay-up? You have plenty of other chances to get it right. Play sports, meditate, or join the debate team… Do whatever it takes where you live the motto “Begin Again”.

Just Do it paraphernalia: Nike was clearly onto something when they created their catchphrase Just Do It. Girls’ and women’s lack of confidence can get in the way of action. “Confidence is linked to doing.” (p. 49). Stop thinking and start doing. When Hillary Clinton was uncertain about running for Senate in 2000, a high school women’s basketball coach told her, “Sure you might lose. So what? Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete.” (p. 8) When in doubt, Just Do It!

Hopefully this confidence booster kit will help the women and girls who receive it. Women and girls need to get out there and do things without worrying, overthinking and fearing failure. What would you put in your toolkit? Together we can develop a confidence toolkit database for girls and women to improve their confidence; the ramifications are too high not to.