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A Key To Success for Working Moms: Create All-In Partnerships

Career Coaching

Since I became a mother 16 years ago, I have experienced the challenges of being a working mother. Also, as a coach and a friend I have watched others struggle as working mothers. Being a working mother is fraught with guilt, exhaustion and moments of intense satisfaction. Tiffany Dufu author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less has a fresh look at the dilemma and a useful guide for us to follow.  The premise of the book is that women cannot “have it all” if they continue to “do it all”. It reminds me of the story of Cinderella, when her evil stepmother tells her she can go to Unknown-1the ball if she gets her enormous and impossible list of tasks done first. She has been set up for failure and so have we. How can women truly advance in their careers with these kinds of expectations? Dufu has given this a lot of thought, spoken with a lot of successful women and has experimented with her theories. Thankfully, she shares her well-researched strategies with us in her book.

Dufu explains that one way women can do less, is by creating “All-in Partnerships” with her husband (or partner or family member, etc.). All-In Partnerships mean that both parents are running the home. If you think about all the times we are disadvantaged in our career due to our home responsibilities, we need to ask ourselves, do we need to be doing it all? How can we share the wealth? The more we share our home responsibilities, the more time we will have to devote to our career. OK, don’t roll your eyes, because according to Dufu, we are as much on the hook as our spouses in our journey to create an All-in Partnership.

How do we create an All-in Partnership?

  1. Let Go of Home Control Disease (HCD)

First, Dufu explains, women must let go of Home Control Disorder or “HCD”. Come on, you know what she is talking about, right? By being the boss at home, we are limiting our potential of being the boss at work. Dufu talks about how she provided her husband with pages of notes the first time she left her son with him when she went on a business trip. She talks about how she was guilty of HCD and being a maternal gatekeeper. She bought into society’s expectation that her way was the right way when it came to the home. After hitting rock bottom after having her second child, she realized things had to change.

  1. Delegate with Joy

We have learned that “women acting like men” in the workplace is not preferable as it denies the workplace the benefits of a different way of seeing and doing things. Dufu career coachingargues that men confront the same bias at home. They can contribute at home, but they are asked to act like women in that domain. Women may delegate to their husbands, but then they micromanage what they delegate. For instance, how many times have you reorganized the dishwasher after your husband has filled it? “One UK study showed that women spend three hours every week re-doing chores that they think their men have done “badly”. So much time would be freed up if the job was accepted as complete, even if it wasn’t accomplished the same way we would have done it.” Women are slow to share their power in the home—the area that women have historically governed. But the key to work/life success and satisfaction is sharing the control of the home with your partner. We need to assume that our spouses can handle delegation, are capable of learning something new (they are!) and we need to let go of our own perfectionist standards of running a home.

  1. Leverage the unique skills of our spouse on the homefront

Once Dufu started letting her husband do things his way, she discovered that sometimes his way turned out to better than her way (go figure!). One of my favorite stories Dufu shares is the Career coachtime her husband was in charge of finding a babysitter at the last minute. As Dufu explains, when looking for a babysitter, she typically would send one text at a time, waiting for a response before reaching out to another sitter. Her husband’s efficient strategy was different. He sent one text out to 10 potential babysitters and charged them with responding first to get the job. They had a babysitter within minutes. Brilliant!

  1. Drop the Ball!

Dufu discusses her efforts to create an All-In-Partnership with her husband. They literally sat down and created an excel spreadsheet with every single task that they do (which was eye opening in and of itself) and then they decided who would do what based on their strengths, interests and availability. (There favorite column was the “no one does it” column-but this is for another blog.) They continued to use this spreadsheet with modifications when her husband “commuted” from NY to Dubai for work. She tells a fabulous story of how her husband was in charge of dealing with any apartment-related problems. When Dufu noticed she had a leaky faucet before leaving for work one morning, she texted her husband who was in Dubai so he could fix it. Amazingly, when she returned home from work a new, ugly, yet working, faucet was in place! He had bought the faucet online and worked with the super to install it. OK, the faucet was ugly, but Dufu had “delegated with joy” and was able to focus on other things at work knowing the faucet would be taken care of. And her husband could contribute to the house even when far away. Now she smiles with pride when she passes the ugly faucet knowing that this is the perfect representation of dropping the ball. Done is better than perfect—“one person’s ‘done’ can be another person’s ‘perfect’”.

Dufu reminds us that we are not the only ones who can run a home. Our partners are more than capable. Patience and gratitude are great tools as we build our All-In Partnerships and watch our career success grow.

Interested in exploring more tools and strategies for career growth as a Working Mom? Contact me to set up an initial consultation.

 

 

 

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10 Tips for an Awesome Summer- You Got This!

wellness coach

It’s June, time to think about your summer. Ever notice how Labor Day comes and you look back on your summer with regret—all the things you hoped to do did not happen. Let’s change that now! Get out your calendar and PLAN for the following activities. Make your summer count. Try new things, take advantage of the warm weather and longer days, enjoy the slower pace and create new traditions and memories. Go through the 10 suggestions below with an open heart and an adventurous spirit. Just Do It!

  1. Step out of character: the same way kids pretend to be someone else and “start fresh” at summer camp, we can have an opportunity to act out of character over the summer too. Mixing things up and acting out of character can teach you a lot about yourself and who knows what opportunities it can open up?
  • Do you prefer adventure? Take up gardening
  • Are you a homebody? Go campingcareer coaching
  • Are you always the boss? Be a participant and not a leader of an activity
  • Do you avoid attention? Sing karaoke….sober
  • Do you wear a lot of makeup? Go natural
  • Do you wear only tans and beiges? Add some color
  • Do you only consider it exercise if you’re pouring with sweat? Try restorative or yin yoga
  • Hate to sweat? Try a spin class or warm yoga
  • Are you impulsive and fast moving? Start writing in a journal and meditating
  • Do you overanalyze everything? Make a quick decision and take on the mantra “fail fast”
  1. Experiment with the plethora of fresh fruits and veggies summer has to offer and try some nutritious foods you usually overlook.
  2. Take advantage of the longer days to take a walk with your spouse, kids or friends at dusk and enjoy the companionship and cooler weather.
  3. Get dirty. Garden, walk around barefoot, paint, hike, bake. Do whatever you need Life coachto make a mess and enjoy it!
  4. Connect with old friends. Summer can make us sentimental. When feeling nostalgic, act on it rather than wallow in it. Call, email, text or even snail-mail an old friend. It is never too late.
  5. Find your inner athlete—even if you have to search really, really hard. Join a tennis clinic, play on your neighborhood softball team, run a 5k, hike a local trail, bike on vacation, participate in a master swim class, play Frisbee or kadima, do cartwheels, or just go back to #3 and walk
  6. Invite friends and neighbors over to grill. No need to set up a fancy table. Burgers, hotdogs and beer can be an easy way to entertain without the pressure. Paper plates and no cooking pans can make clean up a snap.
  7. Throw things out!! A cluttered house can feel even more claustrophobic in the heat. Spend a few moments every day or pick one day a week to clear out the clutter. As my husband tries to tell me “the garbage can be your friend”.
  8. Read a juicy book or watch a juicy show. Put away the non-fiction and the news and read or watch something that is pure bliss. A whodunit, romance, fantasy, whatever your preference, indulge!wellness coach
  9. Create a new family tradition. Game night, Friday night dinner with friends, put together a 1000 piece puzzle, have a ping pong tournament, take a trip to the beach, whatever you need to do to share something special and make it an ongoing memory.

So… what’s your plan? Share your priorities in the comments section, announce them to your friends, put them in INK into your calendar and make things happen. As Sheryl Sandberg says “YGT”—You Got This!

To learn more about my Summer Goals workshops or my 1-on-1 coaching, email me at  or visit my website.

 

2

How to Slow Down Time

wellness coaching

I am 45 going on 46. I am at the start of midlife. This is the time many people start saying they wish they had a magic wand to slow things down, which I totally understand. Not only do I want to slow down my kids growing older, I want to slow everything down.

Fortunately, we do have a magic wand. We have the power to slow things down, and we all know this intellectually. Slowing down is hard because life pushes us along at a brisk pace. If we want to slow down, there are no short cuts. Being present in life is hard work and requires constant vigilance. I am going to share with you some ways I am learning to be more present so that I can savor this time.

Connect with your Teenager

Do you know who Murr, Joe, Sal and Q are? Well I do, and let me tell you, it is not something I would typically brag about. These are four best friends who have created a popular TV show called Impractical Jokers where they all have the best time embarrassing each other. My 13-year-old son loves this show and was completely insulted when I couldWellness Coaching not tell the four guys apart. Considering the fact that my son strung the most words together when discussing this show, I decided I better hop on the bandwagon. Now, when he watches the show, I watch it with him and savor the joy of watching him laugh until he cries. I have learned who all the characters are and can engage in somewhat “intelligent” conversations with him about it.

Connect with your Elders

I love being around people who are older. Not only does it make me feel young, but I am comforted knowing that they have insights to share. I know that they have been around the block and have experiences I have yet to have.

I will never forget the time my parents slept over when my kids were still little. My dad was reading a book to my son and my mom was reading a book to my daughter. Rather than surreptitiously skipping pages in the book in order to finish it faster so bedtime would arrive more quickly (as I was guilty of doing), they were slowing things down. They were life coachingmaking the bedtime story process take longer! It was astounding to me. My parents were living in an alternate universe where their sole purpose in life was to savor their grandchildren.

Earlier this week, my mother-in-law and 16-year-old daughter had a 15-minute conversation about The Odyssey and Macbeth. I had no idea my daughter could talk about literature with such depth. It took someone older who was savoring time with her granddaughter to create the environment for this sort of conversation. I saw what was possible if I slowed down.

Stop Rushing

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was to get over my desire to be exactly on time to things. I was like Goldilocks, I didn’t want to be too early and I didn’t want to be too late; I wanted to be exactly on time. Well as we all know, this goal is impossibLife Coachingle. My blood pressure was rising several times a day as I attempted to be exactly on time. Now, I have decided to leave 15 minutes earlier than necessary. For example, if it takes 15 minutes to get somewhere, I leave a half hour before I need to be there. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. Often, I do encounter detours, construction, or other delays on the way, and I relax and listen to my music without panic. The less you have to rush in your life, the more you can slow down and enjoy the moment. When rushing, life is a blur. When taking your time, you can actually see the colors and details around you. You can BE in the moment. Which is a magical way to slow down time.

Connect with yourself

While I love Flywheel, I disagree their motto “Never Coast”. Ok, fine, during their 45-minute class you can “never coast” but please leave that motto at the door. Any productivity book you read (and I have read dozens) tells you to try to make your life easier. The more systems, rituals and habits you have in place, the easier it is for you to get the job done and Life Coachingthe more access you have to creativity and connection. Think about it, if you are riding a bike, when is the time when you can take in the beauty of your surroundings? When you are coasting of course. Otherwise you are pushing hard to get up hill or flying downhill. My question for those who are always pushing or flying is –what are you pushing your way to? What are you flying away from? What is wrong with coasting and being present?

So, you may ask, how do I slow down and connect with myself when life is so busy? Introduce these activities into your life—and do only the activity—no multitasking!

  • Take a bath
  • Do slow yoga
  • GardenLife Coaching
  • Take a walk
  • Learn to knit
  • Complete a puzzle
  • Meditate
  • Breathe
  • Dance
  • Color or Draw
  • Bake

Be a rebel. Throw off the fitbit for a nature walk. Watch stupid shows with your kids. Post about the awesome 200-piece puzzle you just completed. Let’s change the norm from busyness to presence. OK, gotta run (just kidding …).

2

No One’s Perfect

life coaching

A couple of weeks ago I spilled coffee on my computer and had to migrate my data to a new computer. At the exact same time my website encountered some problems and I had to figure out how to recreate certain pages.  Needless to say,  I was just a bit freaked out by all of my technological bad luck. My sweet and patient (at least at that moment) 13 year old son attempted to talk me off a ledge as he watched my stress spiral to the next level.

The next morning my son innocently asked me if I help my clients with stress. I laughed at his question, as I understood his underlying concern. How could I, as a life coach, help my clients with stress when I myself can get irrationally overwhelmed on occasion? If I could not be 100% in control of my emotions, how could I profess to help others?

After this conversation with my son, I realized that I have had several conversations like this in my life. Once when I visited the dermatologist I had indicated on my patient information life coachingform that I was a yoga instructor. When I was nervous while the doctor removed three moles (that ended up being totally fine and I question his overzealousness in removing them), he asked without compassion ” you are a yoga instructor, shouldn’t you be able to calm your anxiety?” Ummm no, not necessarily… And then more recently a friend reminded me of the blog I wrote about body image when I was having a momentary body image crisis. The assumption being that I should be cured of all body image issues since I had written about my struggles.

The fact is I am a teacher and a student. I try to grow and learn every day, but I am far from perfect. I hope that I make that clear in my blogs that whatever I write about I am trying to figure out too. We are in this together.  Life is complicated and demanding and I am very life coachingmuch human.

I think our desire, or even expectation, for people to be perfect is a way for us to calm our own anxiety. A therapist should not have problems, a doctor should have perfect health habits, a teacher should know everything about his or her area of study, a mother should be loving and patient with her children and a father should be confident and unafraid. These labels and expectations are created to instill confidence but instead they demand a perfection that is detrimental to all of us.

As a coach, I am hoping to life coachinghelp people work towards their ideal self and create circumstances that are nutrient rich for their growth. Most of us are trying to learn, grow and improve. No one has everything figured out and if they pretend they do then they probably have bigger issues. As Albert Einstein said “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

The most I can guarantee you is that I am on a quest to know myself and to serve others in their quest to know themselves.  Life is full of mystery and wonder and we are all just travelling through it together, hoping to find our way.

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Moving Beyond My Comfort Zone

life coaching

 

One of my favorite signs from the Women’s March in DC was “Introvert by Nature, Protester by Need”. Based on the reaction among the crowd, It was clear to me that many other people identified with this sign as well. How does an introvert, who hates crowds, push oneself to attend a march with hundreds of thousands of people? How do we help ourselves push outside of our comfort zone?

As a coach, I often help my clients move outside of their comfort zone. It is common for our goals to be outside our comfort zone—which is exactly why it can be difficult to attain them. So how do we move outside our comfort zone without going into Unknown-1full panic mode?

The best way to deal with discomfort is to understand what causes our discomfort, anticipate and prepare for those triggers and find healthy coping alternatives. Most importantly, we need to continue to step out of our comfort zone!

  1. Pay Attention

First you must identify when you are uncomfortable. How does this feel in your body? How does it affect your thoughts and your behaviors? Then, ask yourself what emotion you are feeling. Is it fear, sadness, uncertainty, anger, frustration or something else? Be sure that the emotion you are identifying is the primary emotion. For instance, you may feel embarrassed as your primary emotion yet it presents itself as anger. This can be confusing. We think we are angry but we are actually embarrassed. Digging deep enough to find your primary emotion is hard work and requires some truth telling and self-awareness. Just like with toddlers, meltdowns are usually the result of a primary emotion like exhaustion or frustration or envy. The anger (or secondary emotion) exhibited is merely the way the primary emotion is being expressed.

  1. Identify your crutches

life coachingDo you grab your phone whenever you have a moment of boredom, too much time to think or when you are in an intimidating situation? Do you reach for a cookie? Do you bite your nails? These are self-soothing techniques, but it does not allow you to really work through your feelings and better understand yourself.

  1. Create space between yourself and your crutch

In order to grow and learn how to regulate your emotions, you must identify your crutches and then make space between you and your crutch. Sitting in your discomfort is, for lack of a better word, uncomfortable. Leave your phone in your purse, walk out of the kitchen, put your hands in your pocket.

  1. Engage your curiosity

Meet your discomfort with curiosity. Why are you feeling uncomfortable? What is your primary emotion? What are some other ways you could help regulate these primary emotions? For instance, if you are at a party with lots of people you find intimidating, don’t grab your phone and start scrolling through Facebook. Instead ask yourself “Why do these people intimidate me?” “Is there someone in this room whom I find less intimidating?” If yes, go find that person. Observe the people in the room; is there anything you can learn about them or yourself? How can you be present even though it is uncomfortable?

  1. Find a healthy alternative to your crutch

As an introvert, attending the DC March required me to step out of my comfort zone. During the march, I utilized coping mechanisms to help me. I noticed the calm of the people around me and found comfort in the collective emotion of pride, enthusiasm and solidarity. I held my daughter’s hand. I took deep breaths when I needed to reconnect with life coachingmyself. I moved when I felt claustrophobic to a more open space. I pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone to attend the march, but I did what I needed to make it manageable.

  1. Anticipate and prepare for moments of discomfort

There are also ways to anticipate discomfort and help yourself before you feel uncomfortable. For instance, I knew I was going to feel nervous at the march, so I followed the safety advice thatLife coaching was provided by the organizers of the march. I may have been overly cautious, but I knew these efforts would help keep me calm during the march. Planning ahead is a productive way to help with emotional regulation both before and during the event.

What are ways you self regulate when stepping out of your comfort zone? I would love to hear your strategies. We all have moments we are uncomfortable –it is a universally human condition. So embrace it, prepare for it, be present in it, learn from it and feel proud of your courage to step into it.

Contact me for more information about stepping out of your comfort zone to achieve your goals.

3

Bar Mitzvah Love

life coaching

After my son’s bar mitzvah a few weeks ago, I have been trying to put into words what was so special about the experience. I kept trying to write a blog, but everything seemed too superficial, not really capturing the emotions I felt that special day (and the weeks and months leading up to it). As always, I discovered my answer by reading. The two books I am reading right now, Life Lessons by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler along with the book Life Reimagined by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, emphasize the alpert_temple-163fundamental importance of love in thriving. At age 45 I feel I am finally really grasping the power of love. And when I think about it, the word that captures the wonderful feelings surrounding my son’s bar mitzvah is, simply, love.

For me, the energy in the room –filled with over 200 people—was palpable. I felt we were all there for the same reasons. To share a simcha and experience joy together. We were all rooting for each other. I was eager for my guests to have fun and I felt my guests were equally invested in my having a wonderful evening. We were all on the same team. After a very emotionally draining election, it was so wonderful to be in a place where we all wanted peace—at least for one evening.

Love through connections—old and new

Of course I must attribute this love in the room to the wonderful people who were there. Looking around the room I had to hand it to my husband and myself. We pick good friends and have wonderful family. We enjoyed connecting with our friends – old and new, and our friends enjoyed connecting with each other as well. There were opportunities for  acquaintances to connect on a deeper level and for people to meet the right person at the right time. There were moments of exchanged gratitude when a new friend of mine expressed her appreciation at being included even though our friendship is so new. Then there was another friend of ours who introduced his teenage daughter to my dad, a doctor, who had helped her with a medical challenge over 10 years ago. With each connection, it felt like electricity was released into the room.

Bar Mitzvah Boy Love

My son has developed some very strong connections over his 13 years. He adores his cousins and has a special affinity for the “law school group”—my husband’s law school friends and their kids that we have miraculously stayed close with over the years. In an effort to acknowledge these two special groups, we made space in our already packed schedule to spend some extra special time with them that weekend.

The cousins came over Friday night for dinner and then again on Saturday morning. Hudson was on cloud nine as he played with them –familiarity was so meaningful during this stressful and busy weekend. Amazingly, everyone from the “law school group” made an effort to arrive a little earlier (coming from between 3-8 hours away) so they could all meet for lunch.

These moments with the cousins and the law school group allowed the feeling of love to generate before the bar mitzvah even started! Honoring Hudson’s unique nature—a passion for friends and family—was a wonderful way to demonstrate to Hudson that we love him for who he is and encourage him to continue to develop strong supportive relationships throughout his life.

Love through sharing

While building up to the big day my party planner and friend Dayna and I would have so much fun watching the progress. Dayna would share her creations with me and I was mesmerized watching her magically turn ideas into reality. I would also send the pictures of Dayna’s handiwork to my daughter, sister, mom and best friend. It was so nice to have others share alpert_party_-37their excitement and watch the vision unfold. Those moments of excitement allowed me to experience the big day a hundred times before it actually arrived. Connecting around a fun event is the best way to expand the joy. Instead of just one day of fun, I was able to share the fun for several months.

Love through Faith

At our synagogue, the approach to preparing bar and bat mitzvah kids is to teach a child at his or her own pace and not stop until a few weeks before the event. With this approach, they continuously gave Hudson more and more and more prayers. He had no idea that these prayers were not required. When he finished learning one prayer, they simply handed him another one. Shockingly, Hudson ended up learning almost the entire life coachingHavdallah service. This approach demonstrates a faith in our children. They will learn what they are capable of. It is incredible to watch these kids lead the service with such confidence and pride. With much love, Hudson’s tutor, Rabbi and Cantor pushed Hudson to stretch and grow beyond his wildest imagination. He went above and beyond because his teachers had faith in his ability and then, in the end, he had faith in himself. I was in awe the first time I saw him practice the service in its entirety two weeks before his big day. I had no idea he was capable of so much; and I felt such love for his teachers for having faith in him.

L’ Dor v’ Dor: Love through the generations

I cherish having all ages in one room, it feels so sacred to me. Watching the life coacholdest generation kvell as they witness the traditions passed down from generation to generation is so moving. It is so sweet to observe the littlest members of the party look up to the older kids and have the time of their life eating junk and dancing the night away. A week after the big day, my father-in-law broke his hip and has been suffering ever since. I am so grateful he had that day to kvell over his grandson, see family and friends and to watch the passing down of Jewish traditions in action.

It’s easy to get lost in the details of a Bar Mitzvah celebration and lose sight of the deeper meaning. A Bar Mitzvah celebration is an opportunity to bring the community together for a happy and uplifting event. I feel such gratitude that we were able to share so much love leading up to and during the event and I hope to continue to find ways to appreciate all of the opportunities for love and connection in my life going forward.

 

 

11

Body Image: Let’s Change the Conversation

wellness coaching

How many times have you said or heard the following: “You look great! Have you lost weight?” Over my 45 years I have said and heard the following way more times than I can count. I have translated that sentence like this: You have lost weight -> you look great->you are happy. In other words you are thin=you are happy.

My junior year of college I had lost a bunch of weight. Other students loved to bask in the glow of my thinness and they would ask me “How did you do it?” and then they would listen attentively like I was the Dalai Lama. In my typical candidness I would answer, “I didn’t eat”. I did not say it with pride, I simply told the truth. And everyone would just nod in sad recognition. We were all enslaved to the thin ideal.

This past year in an effort to lose 10 pounds I had recently gained, I pulled out my back twice doing exercise that was not healthy for my body. I teach yoga and tell my students every class to listen to their body. Yet it is the hardest lesson I have had for myself.

So why, even though I have so much evidence to the contrary do I still have this thin=happy mindset? What do I need to do to move on?

Losing weight has become such a “should” in my life that my brain has created a huge neural life coachingpathway around that. Beauty in general is seen as an achievement; something you attain. Like most women, my relationship with weight and body image and beauty is so heavy, so loaded and so full of suffering.

I participated in a 10 month Certificate in Positive Psychology program, and I just returned home from a weeklong immersion with the other 150 participants. Many brilliant people spoke. The stories that were shared were incredibly powerful and I have never felt so much truth and love in one place. Interestingly, the two stories that had the most profound impact on me highlighted the issue of weight.

One woman had made a promise to herself and out loud to the group 10 months ago that she would come back much thinner. I remember my heart breaking at the time as the entire room erupted in applause for her. Yes, Positive Psychology embraces the mind/body connection and the importance of taking care of our body, but once again even in this safe space losing weight was considered a virtue. The woman came back this time and announced her “failure” to lose the weight. However, life coachingthankfully, her best friend reminded her of her magnificence and she decided she was going to focus on that beauty instead. Yes!

Another woman presented the poetry she wrote throughout the year. She said, I may never feel thin and beautiful, but I can create my own form of beauty through poetry. A truth was revealed to me. We can interpret our own beauty through kindness, authenticity, truth and courage.

In my Positive Psychology program we learned about Deceptive Brain Messages or (DBMs). Jeffrey Schwartz, MD & Rebecca Gladding, MD, outline the idea of DBMs in their book You Are Not Your Brain. DBMs are messages our brain tells us that are inaccurate but that we have been telling ourselves so many times we believe them. For instance you might say that you are not smart, unworthy of love, or not good enough at your job. Perhaps you were told these messages by others and then took them on as your own or you created these ideas from the media. Whatever the source, Schwartz has recommendations about how to alter these messages. Based on the most up to date brain research, we are learning that we can change our brain. Thinking new thoughts can create new neural pathways. Incredibly, we can change our brain throughout our life, not just during our childhood.

wellness coachingI simply need to change my thinking around my weight and beauty to create new neural pathways. This is my new challenge. Because the thing is, I am happy. The main thing that brings me down is when I start to focus on weight and external beauty. So now, when I think about my weight I am going to focus on my truth and authenticity. When I think about external beauty I am going to create new thoughts around my kindness and compassion. I am going to reshape my brain to be an empowering machine where health and happiness are defined by me.

I ask you. If you see me, please do not look me up and down and remark on my weight. Instead, you can learn about my happiness by a more accurate investigation. Ask me what book I am reading now and watch me light up with excitement. Ask me how my family is doing and I will share our challenges and successes. Ask me about what I do for fun, or about my career. Connect with me in an authentic and honest way and that will bring us both happiness.

2

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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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.