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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

life coaching

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

career coaching

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.

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Caution, Stumbling Block Ahead!

Risk of stumbling

“You shall not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person” (Leviticus 19:14). I love how this phrase is so obvious when taken literally. Of course we would never literally put a stumbling block in front of the blind (that would be downright mean), but figuratively we do it all the time. We set ourselves up to
stumble. Why do we make things harder for ourselves? The short answer is that removing stumbling blocks involves two critical things: 1. Knowing what your stumbling blocks are (i.e., knowing yourself) and 2. Taking the time to be proactive to move the blocks out of the way.

Removing stumbling blocks requires time and attention. This is the good and bad news. Since I am working on being more optimistic, I am going to take the approach that this is good news. But just to be safe, I am going to provide the wisdom of three experts below:

Parenting

The first time I really thought about this concept was when I read Wendy Mogel’s Blessing of a Skinned Knee (my parenting bible). Mogel discusses the challenge of the stumbling block as it relates to parenting. In her section on the Blessing of Self-Control, she introduces the idea of the stumblingLife Coaching block: “If you keep running into trouble with your child at specific times—getting ready for school, mealtime, homework, bedtime—it may be that you are inadvertently placing a stumbling block before him.” (p. 195).

To remove parenting stumbling blocks, we need to notice where our children struggle and how we can respect those challenges and not exacerbate them. For instance, if you know your teenager is slow in the morning, do not ask them to do all their chores first thing when they wake up. If you

Career Coachingknow your toddler gets cranky at 2:00, try not to plan a doctor’s appointment for that time. In other words, don’t make life harder! This is more difficult than it seems for two reasons. 1. You need to know your child. You need to pay attention to his or her idiosyncrasies 2. You need to plan ahead. Being proactive and not reactive is key to avoiding stumbling blocks. Parenting is a tough and busy job, so taking the time to reflect, notice and plan is challenging. In the end, removing stumbling blocks is worth the effort and will save time and aggravation in the future.

Habit Formation

Not only does this idea of stumbling blocks help with parenting, it also helps with our own personal management. I recently read the book Better Than Before: Managing the Habits of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin. This book is full of strategies and tools regarding how to make habits stick. As Rubin points out, “Habits are the invisible architecture of our everyday life”. One of the strategies she discusses is the strategy of “safeguarding”. When establishing a habit, we need to pay attention to what interferes with our ability to stick with it—in other words “know yourself”. Then she suggests we anticipate potential stumbles and prepare for them—“be proactive”. Some common stumbling blocks with habit formation are “tension with other people, social pressure, loneliness or boredom or anxiety and –perhaps surprisingly—positive emotions such as joy or excitement” (p. 165).

Boredom and anxiety are big stumbling blocks for me especially when I am trying to get something done that requires concentration. I am currently working on developing a writing habit. One of my stumbling blocks to keeping this habit is to say to myself, “oh, I will just check Facebook for ten minutes and then I will get right to work”. Yea right! 45 minutes later I come up for air and realize Career Coachingthat I just missed out on a golden opportunity to actually get work done. Both boredom and anxiety contributed to that stumble. Sitting down to write can be fraught with anxiety because I want to do a good job and I worry I may not have anything meaningful to say. Also, let’s face it, work can be boring – at least compared to the absorbing world of Facebook. Therefore, my safeguard against the stumbling block of procrastination is to shut down Facebook while I write and wait until after I am finished to check it. Keep in mind, I continue to stumble, but I stumble less because of this safeguard.

Rubin is also points out that a stumble, while dangerous, is not the same as a fall. If you stumble, reflect on why it happened and build in more safeguards. How you react to a stumble is equally important in the success of building good habits. Learn (know yourself even better), build in more safeguards (be more proactive) and move forward. Habit development is a process not a destination.

Staying True to Ourselves

I am currently taking a course in Positive Psychology. In one of my lessons, Tal Ben-Shahar (one of the leading experts in Positive Psychology) talks about knowing your “nature”. Essentially, know when you thrive and know when you struggle. This is part of growing up—we all need to know who we are and how to best support our nature. For instance, I have a limit to how much time I can be social or in groups. I am very careful when I put together my calendar to only schedule one or two social activities in a day. This is my safeguard.

However, I cannot always control how much time I need to be social and there are times I have to act outside my nature. In these instances, I acknowledge the challenge and I do what I can to minimize the consequences. For instance, I will be sure to build in quiet time as soon as I can if I a need to be social for an extended period of time. On the other hand, my husband is more of an extravert, so he needs to build social time into his workday in order to feel energized. If you are a morning person, schedule your morning activities with that in mind. Don’t waste your morning in front of the TV; instead utilize that time to be productive and get things out of the way. If you are a night owl, figure out how to maximize that time. By knowing ourselves and knowing our nature, we can be proactive rather than reactive as we schedule our days. We can also show ourselves self-compassion when we are forced to act out of our nature.

Think about yourself and think about your relationships. Are there stumbling blocks you are unknowingly putting out? Can you, with a little attention and planning, remove them? Remember, this is a 3,400 year-old problem so be kind and generous to yourself as you figure this out – but don’t give up, I know you can do it!

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

 

 

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What I Learned Chanting Torah on Rosh Hashanah

Chanting Torah is kind of a big deal. It requires an ability to read Hebrew, the willingness to sing in public, the ability to learn a special melody unique to Torah and the tenacity to practically memorize the portion because in the Torah there are no vowels. What makes it even more intimidating is that there can be no mistakes while chanting. Each word must be chanted correctly. In fact, there is someone there whose primary job is to make sure there are no mistakes and to correct you on the spot if something is said incorrectly.

The first time I chanted Torah I was 13 years old at my Bat Mitzvah (quite a few years ago!) and I may have read a few more times in my childhood. In March 2014 my daughter had her Bat Mitzvah and I had the opportunity to read again and I loved it! It offered me the opportunity to relate to what my daughter was doing as she studied and reminded me that this is about more than invitations and DJs. Connecting to this ancient practice is powerful.

An attainable challenge

For some reason I really enjoy chanting Torah. For me it hits the sweet spot between boredom and stress. I know that if I put my mind to it I can learn it, so I have confidence for mastery. However, it is not easy for me so I have to practice and commit. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has researched this idea of balance between ability and challenge and has discovered it is a strong predictor for success and happiness. It is recommended that people find activities in their life that hit that sweet spot. So career coaching west orange nj
everyday for four weeks I practiced my Torah portion.

Allowed for a pause each day

Preparing for the high holidays has always been a goal of mine. I would start reading Alan Lew’s This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, or writing up New Year’s resolutions, but I would rarely commit. When preparing to read Torah, I had a deadline and a motivation—not to embarrass myself. Therefore, I stuck to it and practiced every morning and sometimes at night. I would listen to my Cantor’s voice chanting and then I would try to “copy” her (ha!). I loved hearing her beautiful voice fill my kitchen as I practiced and I really loved that my kids would hear her voice too. Perhaps this was helping them prepare for the high holidays too?

In the past, I have dabbled in maintaining a meditation and yoga practice, but this practice was just as meditative and fulfilling. I connected to the music and the upcoming events. I was able to experience the Rosh Hashanah service before there was a hint of chill in the air. It was peaceful, spiritual and satisfying because each day I learned more of the portion. I was able to observe my progress in a tangible way.

Mental Preparation for High Holiday Services

This preparation benefited me greatly during Rosh Hashanah. As someone who has introverted tendencies, I find High Holiday services overwhelming. There is the constant socializing in the hallways, and when I finally find my seat I find myself replaying various conversations to make sure I said the right thing or I worry that I did not go up to someone to say hello in an effort to career coaching west orange njfinally enter the sanctuary. For me, I find it difficult to just sit, pray and enjoy. This time, however, it was different. I was ok with the social element because I had already had a nice fill of Hebrew, Torah and chanting. I didn’t feel like I had to try to connect with the service as much and without that pressure, I actually was able to connect in a way I have not before. It was like I had been working a muscle ahead of time so I was able to jump into the game.

Reading Torah Involves Teamwork

My synagogue places the Torah reader in the front of the room; however, the reader faces the ark rather than the congregation. This arrangement diminishes the feeling that the reader is performing. The reader is leading and the congregation is following – it is a group effort. In addition, our Bima is on the floor-it is not on a stage above the congregation. This contributes to the team vibe since I was on the same level with the congregation.

career coaching west orange njWhile I was reading Torah, several congregants surrounded me. Standing around the Torah with me was the person who read the Aliya (the introduction to my portion) and the individual who was there to help me if I made a mistake as well as a gabbai who is in charge of the logistics for the reading—he or she calls up the participants as they are needed. My reading was a little less smooth than in the past. I fumbled a bit in the beginning trying to remember the tune, I got back on track and then needed a correction in the end. It was the first time I had to be corrected while reading the Torah. Surprisingly, I actually found it comforting to know that someone is there to help me if I ran into trouble. Even as he corrected me, he did it in the most supportive and kind way. He was not trying to embarrass me instead we were in it together.

This was what I liked most about the experience. Everyone knows it is tough to get up there and read and you get the sense that everyone wants you to do well. The fact that you are up there doing something challenging while connecting with Judaism is what is important. Being a gifted Torah chanter is great, but not necessary thankfully, because we need people to read the Torah constantly in synagogue and we cannot just rely on the most talented. We need subs as well as starters.

Later in the service our Rabbi had a wonderful sermon where he talked about how connection is often more important than being right. I feel like this is what is taught with chanting the Torah portion. There is no shame in making mistakes, it is considered part of the experience. If you make a mistake, you are corrected, you fix your mistake, and then you move on. Wouldn’t it be good if we could all live life that way?

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Returning to Work: Leveraging Organizational Resources

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In the first blog of this series, Returning to Work: Details and Dreams, we focused on identifying our responsibilities and prioritizing them according to our values. In Blog #2 of this series Returning to Work: Leveraging Your Village, we focused on how to get the things done on your list after going back to work. In this blog, we will focus on how to utilize your employer’s work-life programs and policies and how to communicate with your manager to figure out work arrangements that foster work-life success.

Taking advantage of corporate programs can be hugely helpful and worth exploring. In addition, companies may also have work-life policies to consider, including work from home options, part-time arrangements and other flexible work options. In many ways, however, the best way to find work-life balance at work is to have a supportive manager who respects your autonomy and lets you get your work done in the way that best utilizes your strengths and family responsibilities. Developing a healthy relationship with your manager is one of the best ways to achieve work-life balance and job satisfaction.

If you are a freelancer or self-employed?

This blog can also apply to you as it can provide you with a template for evaluating how to organize your time. How do you work best? How many hours should you work? Please use this lens as you read through the rest of the blog.

Work-life Programs

The good news is that many companies offer work-life programs—especially the larger companies. Often organizations partner with vendors like LifeCare, Harris Rothenberg International and Bright Horizons Family Solutions (to name a few) to provide a variety of family friendly services. If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with your company’s family–friendly benefits. Programs can include (but are not limited to):

  • Childcare – full-time and back-up
    • Companies can provide on-site full-time care or partner with full-time childcare facilities located near the office.
    • Back-up childcare is helpful for the occasional school holiday or when your nanny calls in sick and can be located on-site or at off-site affiliates
  • Eldercare assistance
  • On-site Gym
  • On-site Wellness programs: nurses and doctors on-site, health screenings, flu shots
  • Concierge services –these services can make life a little bit easier—e.g. on-site dry cleaning
  • Homework help for your kids: homework help via the internet or by phone
  • College Coaching: Assistance with the college search and application process
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): counseling services that are free and convenient
  • On-site Lactation programs
  • Mentoring programs and Parenting Groups—learn from other working parents

Work-life Policies

In addition to work-life programs, there are work-life policies to consider. Parental leave is a popular one in the news today with companies like Netflix announcing very generous policies. (Of course having a policy does not necessarily mean people feel safe to take it advantage of it—but that is for a separate blog.) Since you are returning to work, parental leave policies probably don’t apply to you so let’s focus on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWAs). FWAs are hugely helpful because standard work hours are not always ideal for real life. FWAs include:

  • Part-time arrangements – involves working less than full-time so it is accompanied by a pay reduction
  • FlexTime arrangements: flexibility with when you work
    • Compressed work-week: nurses often work longer hours a day for fewer days a week.
    • Irregular hours: working different hours -– often seen in retail where evening and weekend hours are often the most wanted timesimages-5
  • FlexPlace: Working from home or from a satellite location
  • Job Sharing: Creating a full-time schedule for one position with two employees

These arrangements can be negotiated during the job offer process, but they can also be arranged as needed. Sometimes it takes working a bit to realize you need an FWA and sometimes it takes being in the job to see whether an FWA is conducive to your job. You may even find that working an FWA is actually preferable for your job situation. For instance, if you work with clients in a different time zone.

Informal Work-life Options

Informal work-life options are an ideal solution to work-life issues. Things change constantly—a child gets sick, after school activities change, work is busy, work is not busy. It is great for all involved when you can work out arrangements with your manager on an as needed basis. Sometimes a particular project lends itself to telecommuting while a different project requires working late. How can you communicate with your boss to make things work for you?

Which Work-Life Resource Do You Need?

First you should ask, what do you want?

  • Are there days you need to be home earlier due to carpools?
  • Are there days you want to be home to volunteer?
  • Do you want to go in later some mornings so you can bring your kids to school?
  • Do you want to be home by 5:00 so you can help your kids with homework?
  • Do you need one day off a week to tackle your errands, self-care, etc.?
  • Do you need a day off a month to take an elderly parent to a medical treatment?

Now evaluate ways to meet the needs that you identify. Do you need to work from home some days? Do you need a part-time schedule? Do you want flexible hours (a full-time schedule but with modified work times)?

Communicating with Your Manager

The key to success with negotiating with your manager is to make it a conversation—not a negotiation. Come with a suggestion, but be open to modifying it. As a positive psychology coach, these are some things I recommend thinking about before your meeting:

  • What are your strengths? Are those leveraged in your modified job responsibilities?
  • Can you fill a need with your job change? For instance, can you volunteer to work late one day a week so you can work with West coast time zone and then come in late a different day?

I love exploring creative solutions to work-life dilemmas and I am pleasantly surprised by how often there are win/win situations. For instance, a client of mine was hoping to work fewer than 5 days a week, but she was not sure how to ask. After talking with her, we realized that her boss was in a difficult situation trying to give another employee more hours. By volunteering one of her days to her boss, her boss was ecstatic since she was able to give those hours to an employee who needed them. It was a win/win.  My client was able to keep a job she loved and have improved work-life balance and her boss was grateful to have a work dilemma resolved.

Take some time now to evaluate your needs and your employer’s work options. Keep an open mind and be willing to experiment.  Going back to work can be challenging, but there are resources out there to explore.  Creativity and communication are keys leveraging organizational resources to enhance your work-life balance.

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

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Returning to Work: Leveraging Your Village

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When returning to work after being a Stay at Home Parent, the list of To-Dos can be mind-boggling. In the first blog of this series Returning to work: Details and Dreams, I reviewed how to create a list that lays out all of your responsibilities and then prioritize them based on your values. Now, with this list in hand, we need to figure out how to get it done. In the end, we cannot do it all alone—especially if we are going back to work. We also need to identify and leverage our resources. Luckily, there are many resources available; you just need to take the time to identify them.

Child labor (aka: chores)

Resources come in a variety of shapes and sizes. One of the many benefits of returning to work is giving your child the gift of independence. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to have them help out around the house more. Taking the time to identify age appropriate chores is the first step in this process. When figuring out chores for your children to do, think about the following:

  • Which chores do you no longer have time for?
  • What are good skills for your kids to develop?
  • What chores do you really dislike? (Shhh….A secret benefit of going back to work is to outsource the tasks you never really liked in the first place.)
  • What special skills do your children have that you can leverage?

A wonderful resource for identifying age appropriate chores is in one of my favorite parenting books: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. She devotes an entire chapter to children and chores. It is definitely worth a read.

Once you have identified the chores you would like your children to do, you need to make sure they know how to do them. Things that seem obvious are not always obvious to our kids. Show them how to get the bowl and pour the cereal, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch or Mac and Cheese for dinner if they are old enough to use the stove. If your child has not had these responsibilities before, you need to take the time to teach your children.

Kids are often excited for parents returning to work. Share the excitement and let them know it is a team effort. But remember change takes time and going back to work involves a learning curve for everyone. In Positive Psychology coaching we promote a Growth Mindset — where taking risks and making mistakes are part of the learning process and effort is rewarded. Keep this in mind as you teach your children new skills. While you may want everything to be done as well as you do it, a more effective expectation would be to expect mistakes and imperfection, particularly in the beginning.

Carpools and playdates.. oh my!

So your kids can’t drive yet, this is a problem. How are they going to get to their sports/dance/chess/karate lessons or practices? Our kids are so busy after school that if you are working past 3:00, you need to think about how your children are going to get to their after-school activities. This is where your community can come in handy. Below are ideas for you to consider around your neighborhood, which involve local friends, neighbors, nannies, schools and companies.

  • Are you working part time? Perhaps you can set up a carpool schedule where you can drive on the days you are not working and another parent can drive when you are working.
  • Are there after-school activities at your child’s school to buy you a little extra time? Can you sign up for that and then pick the kids up a little later after these activities end?
  • Can a friend drive your child during the week and then you can drive to games on the weekend or provide sleepovers over the weekend?
  • Can you employ a nanny/helper for the afternoon to provide homework help, make dinner and drive carpools? It may be difficult to hire someone just for the afternoons, but a nanny share could help with this problem. My friend created a nanny share with her neighbor. Her neighbor needed a nanny for the afternoons and my friend needed her for the mornings. A perfect arrangement for everyone.
  • Contact your local college’s career office to hire college students (who can drive) to babysit.images-3
  • Is there a driving company in your community? We have a wonderful service called Vantastic in our neighborhood. Local dads established this service to drive children in our community to school, after-school activities and to camp in the summer. This service is a huge help for working parents!

Shake things up!—Review roles and responsibilities with your spouse

If you are married, another great resource can be your spouse. Returning to work allows for an adjustment in parenting roles within a couple. It is a great opportunity to revisit roles and consider sharing certain responsibilities. For the non-stay at home spouse, this offers an incredible opportunity to interact with the kids in a different way and for parents to revise their game plan. Shaking things up can be a powerful way to reinvigorate a marriage and a home. So be creative and work together to think outside the box and question assumptions. Some possible areas to shake up are:

  • Change up who handles the morning routine.
  • Can either of you work from home on certain days to help with carpools?
  • Are there ways either parent can help with school volunteering?
  • Does the same parent bring the kids to the doctor? Does it have to be that way? Would sharing that role be helpful?

By working together to re-think parenting roles, both parents have an opportunity to grow and stretch in different ways and to better appreciate each other’s prior responsibilities.

You are not alone in your journey back to work. You have many resources available within your own family and community. Look around to see what is available and then find a way to piece these resources together to make your transition back to work more manageable. Know that these challenges truly can provide opportunities to grow and learn as a family.

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