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10 Tips for an Awesome Summer- You Got This!

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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.

 

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How to Slow Down Time

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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 …).

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Moving Beyond My Comfort Zone

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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.

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Body Image: Let’s Change the Conversation

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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What Habit Will You Choose?

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“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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Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out” and Positive Psychology

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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.

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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!

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Returning to Work: Fitting in Self-Care

career coach west orange New Jersey

Going back to work after being a stay-at-home parent is challenging and rewarding. In my first blog Returning to Work: Details and Dreams, I discussed the practical side of going back to work—thinking about your To Do list and then using your values to prioritize your list. In the second blog Returning to Work: Leveraging your Village, I shared some thoughts on how to find resources within your family and community to help tackle your To Do list more effectively. In the third blog Returning to Work: Leveraging Organizational Resources, I look at how to utilize your organizations family-friendly programs and policies to find better work-life balance. This blog focuses on how you are going to fuel yourself for the long haul.

As a working parent we need to juggle many things at once and self-care is often the first thing to go. Ironically, self-care is exactly what you need in order to fuel yourself as you encounter new challenges. Upon returning to work, you may need to rethink how to incorporate self-care into your life. And if you were not taking time for self-care before, you must start now.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is anything that rejuvenates you and gives you energy. Self-care ensures you can continue to work for the long haul; this is a marathon and not a sprint. Think carefully about what uniquely energizes you. For instance, going out with a group of friends may be energizing for one person and draining for another. Pay attention to your own unique responses. Some self-care possibilities include:

  • Spending time with friends
  • Eating healthy mealscareer coach west orange New Jersey
  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Napping
  • Reading
  • Meditating
  • Yoga
  • Sports

Exercise: Reframing your Motivation

Since exercise is a universal way to refuel and an essential approach to self-care, the rest of this blog is focused on how to incorporate exercise into your life. But please note that this does not replace other forms of self-care, so take a moment to identify other ways to energize and contemplate opportunities to incorporate that into your life as well.

In the newly published book No Sweat by Michelle Segar, PhD, she discusses how our reasons for self-care are often what stands in the way of our ability to commit. For example, with exercise we often say we want to work out to “be healthy” or “lose weight”. However these reasons (or “whys” as Segar calls them) are abstract and long term and may not be effective for getting ourselves off our chair to work out. We need to reframe our reasons for working out as a way to better incorporate it into our life. Take a moment to think about:

  • What is something that will give you immediate gratification?
  • What is going to propel you away from your desk when there are countless things vying for your attention?
  • What is a form of exercise you enjoy doing?

By reframing our “why” for exercise, we may be able to find a way to incorporate it into our lives in a consistent way.

Going Back to Work Can Create Exercise Opportunities

Finding time for exercise is really tough when going back to work. For many, it is just tough. Period. Two examples below show how going back to work can actually support our efforts to fit exercise into our lives.

On-site Gym Challenge

Are you lucky enough to have a gym at work? My husband Gideon took part in a workout challenge at his on-site gym. Now he goes there almost every day. Having the gym on-site has been awesome for him, but it took participating in the challenge to realize that he could make time in his day to go without adversely impacting his work product. The workout challenge at the gym was what propelled him out of his chair initially; now, he is motivated because he noticed how doable going to gym is and how productive and refueled he feels after a workout.

Biking to work

My sister-in-law Joanna built exercise into her new work routine by riding her bike to work everyday. career coach west orange New JerseyShe actually worked out more after she returned to work than she did before! She was propelled out of her chair because this is how she gets to work and she enjoys her commute more than most!

Just Move!

Ok, so not everyone has an on-site gym (or even likes gyms) or has the ability or interest to bike to work. Luckily, there is another solution to fitting exercise into your hectic schedule.

Segar promotes the idea that we just need more movement in our life. If you are a stay-at-home parent going to an office job, you probably will be moving a lot LESS than you used to. How can you build movement into your day? Segar rejects the idea that only certain forms of exercise “count”. She argues we should just move, as often as we can in any way that allows us to sustain our commitment to move. Below are some suggestions:

  • Take the stairs
  • Exercise with a friend (and fulfill another self-care goal –to be social)
  • Develop a community of exercisers and encourage each other to discover hidden ways to move throughout the day
  • Walk to work, to the train, to meetings
  • Use a fitbit or other device to remind yourself to move
  • Buy a Treadmill Desk (yes these do exist and apparently people love them!)
  • Walk your dog (or your neighbor’s dog as a friend of mine does whenever she needs more steps on her fitbit)

Growth Mindset

As I have discussed in prior blogs, positive psychology coaching supports a growth mindset where you take risks, try new things and learn from mistakes. As you attempt to incorporate more self-care and exercise into your life, keep an open mind and try new things—even if they seem unusual. Staying true to your own needs, likes and dislikes will ensure your success going forward. Good luck!

Now I am going to go take a nap.

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