Sunday, September 28, 2014

Show Me the Money, Honey!

The inspiration for this post comes from a lively conversation I had with my girlfriends yesterday after a beautiful walk on the beach followed by cold glasses of... well...ice water, but that ice water was sooo aligned with our heart!

What do you want? So many of us are met by failed efforts that we change our goals to meet our current reality. Sometimes, I wonder if we purposely sabotage ourselves. The question, 'what do you want' is a desire seldom given voice, for fear it will evaporate in front of us, a fairy tale for sure, a pleasure ensconced in a Victorian era of our minds. The thought, 'what do I want' hints at a selfishness that we've been taught to supress sometimes by our parents and/or sometimes by our places of worship. But I ask, 'What if we were to re-work the question to mean: What do I want in order to become a better me, a better partner, a better lover, a better parent, a better friend, a better worker, a better neighbor, a more conscious leader? You have to know two things.  You have to know who you are and what you want. Often, those two questions go unanswered, sometimes purposely.

In part, who we are changes with our interactions over time with the world.  So if we are having trouble figuring out who we are or what we want, it is probably because we aren't who we were a decade ago.  In this case, our current reality doesn't match the reality we experienced ten years ago. Those of us who are aware that we feel worried about the future, stuck or unhappy somehow, are constantly struggling to re-brand or repackage ourselves based on our very subjective experiences of the world.  And that struggle is about our lack of experience with our new selves.  At our core we may be the same person we've always been, but the part of us that does grow and change... well, we've never been this person physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, before.  What new goals can we set without yet knowing if we can achieve them? We have to start with being really honest about where we are right now.  We have to have a personal code of integrity specifically tailored to address the desires our own heart and well being.

So what is the definition of INTEGRITY?  I believe it means, saying what you mean and meaning what you say.  This way there is this 'outer' proof, a commitment to others as well as to yourself that you did what you said you were going to do. Why commit to others? Most of us don't live on an uncharted island by ourselves. We live, work, and interact with others.  Others reflect back to us via their reactions and responses, what we act like. It's the 'Show Me the Money, Honey!' test. Webster's dictionary defines the word as, " an unimpaired condition :  soundness".  Hmmm.  But how do I know if what I believe about myself is sound and coming from an unimpaired condition? We humans like to make up stories about ourselves dependent upon how we have come to see the world through the version of our own experiences. The Free Dictionary defines integrity as, "completeness with nothing wanting".  So, I guess, the definition of integrity comes close to an absoluteness, a superior truth, a 'show me the money'... there is almost a religiosity about it. But as it pertains to humans, it is absoluteness with one caveat: one's truth or integrity originates from a subjective mind. Yeah! There's the loophole, the opt-out clause I've been looking for! I can just say I'm human and that gets me off the hook!  Right? That's true only if you don't mind not getting what you wanted. Some people don't mind and stay in this forever loop of disappointment and they just can't figure it out. Not minding disappointment is easier and less challenging then summoning the courage and clarity to make real changes.

If I am trying to loose weight or stop smoking or exercise more because either I want to look better or I want to live longer, and something goes awry with my efforts one day or one week or the year of 2014 (!)... I can just shrug my shoulders and say, 'hey, I tried, I'm older, so what, this is the way it is, love me or leave me, I can't do any better, (and my personal favorite) I love me just the way I am'. And this is the internal dialogue of rationalization. This is the story we tell ourselves to provide comfort to our weary minds and bodies.  And believe me, this blogger is not standing in judgement of anyone, because I also am a work in progress as I wrestle with many of my own habits of mind.

But what I have come to learn over the years as have many of us, is that when my goal is aligned with my heart, it is easier to take the action steps that I need to take and I've learned, even recently, that in many situations I can find the strength to go the distance. Remember that scene from the Wizard of Oz, at the end of the movie, where the good witch Glinda reminds Dorothy that she's always known the way home?  All she had to do was click the heels of her ruby red shoes and she would find her way. A beautiful metaphor for listening to your heart.

Rick Carson, in his book, A Master Class In Gremlin-Taming, says that the gremlin is a whisper in your ear: "Life isn't a bowl of cherries, settle for what you have" it will tell you.  'But Carson writes that our TRUTH lies within us, it's "right behind our breathe". The key is listening for what your truth is.  What does your heart want? Click your ruby red shoes and write down what you want, write a statement of desire without an opt-out clause. Read your statement quietly to yourself and feel it, feel the truth of it in your body. As a friend said yesterday, 'I know when I am on to something... I get that tingly feeling in my chest'.

If this blog post resonated with you, reflect on and write down your heart's desires. I am a life coach and counselor with years of experience in collaborating with people who want to identify goals and action plans that move them forward in their lives. Find me at http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/205531 or www.elleoncoaching.com.  My email is elleoncoaching@gmail.com. My work has been centered around adolescents/young adults as well as individuals at midlife. These two age groups, the young and the 'older' actually have more in common then what meets the eye; they are both standing at the threshold of something new. I see people individually as well as in groups. My rates are very reasonable and can be based on individual circumstances. Lets talk!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Change is possible... Ode to the motivators!








The famous businessman, Zig Ziglar also said: "If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done".  

Let me say that again: "If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done".  We trade what we want most for what we want right now because we are afraid to do something we've never done before. It might take too much hard work to produce the results we want or it is too hard to break a habit or too scary to break free from an addiction... and of course...what will people think of us if we try on that new look? It's also really lonely when we break away from old patterns and people.  Famous Athlete and motivator, Roger Staubach wrote: "There are no traffic jams on the extra mile". Not everybody is rushing out there to improve themselves except lonely you! Yeah YOU!

What do YOU want? What are YOUR goals? Will doing things the same way over and over again, produce different results? Albert Einstein thought not. Think creatively and use some elbow grease in your work and be patient with yourself. Change takes time. Repeating behaviors that you know are not bringing you closer to your goal is a prescription for failure. But we get into patterns of behavior sometimes because we look for the familiar; things, people and routines that are inside our comfort zone. But what if those things, people and routines don't serve us?

In order to have what you want most, you have to break out of your need for the familiar. Start doing things, start meeting people and engaging in routines that are outside your comfort zone. Produce new results, do things you've never done before, achieve a small goal you promised yourself you would achieve.  Do the the things, meet the people and engage in activities that serve and support your higher and long term goals. Become the person you dream of becoming.

Need help with making a change?  Email me at Elleoncoaching@gmail.com or visit my website: www.elleoncoaching.com.  

New Saturday group beginning: Career Coaching for 18 to 24 year olds who are having a hard time kick starting their next move (4 seats still available).  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

High School Seniors: Step by step, mindful planning will get you through

Step by Step, mindful planning is the most important ingredient in creating a successful launch from high school to college.  In exactly one year from now you will be walking through the doors of the college of your choice with your pillow, microwave popcorn and toothbrush if you keep your focus and your eye on the prize. You'll bring a few comforts from home, new sneakers, and a list of supplies you'll need to buy at the college book store. More importantly, you will bring your best self.

Yes, there will be students who will seem to pull off that 'it's no big deal' look... Just don't lose your sense of 'wow' when you meet them. But so what. The world is big and a college campus is made up of all kinds of people including those who are from legacy families to hippies and geeks and to students who are first generation college-goers as well as other types. There is room for everyone who is willing to grow.

 Walking through the gates of your college is a big deal. It's huge. It's even (I think) magical.  And I promise you, it will be tough.  It should be tough, so don't think that the hard work is over. Nothing worth having is ever won easily. The hard work is just beginning and it will change you, I hope, for the better.  If you are fearless enough to be different than you are right now, college will change your world view, your self view, it will ignite new passions, will push you intellectually, and it will challenge you culturally. How can it not?  Simply, education is about human transformation.

So let's come back to the present moment as you are reading this.  It is September of your senior year in high school.  How well you navigate this last year of high school will be a real measure of your GRIT, your mental, intellectual, spiritual and emotional muscle.  It might be helpful to have a college preparation checklist in your phone, ipad or where ever it may be handy.

 The bullet points below are rough guidelines for the 'what and when', essentially, your checklist:

  • Register now for the October SAT or ACT.
  • The College Essay! One of the most important parts of your application: What is your story that might separate you from the rest? Get this done yesterday! Make sure several people proof read it including your English teacher. The essay should highlight your inner strength, your thirst for learning, how you overcame obstacles or how you adapted in spite of the odds.
  • If you are a dual-enrollment student, dually enrolled at your high school and taking a class at a local university, get advice from a professor or mentor at that school. Don't forget to list your dual enrollment course on your resume and college application.
  •  Finalize your college list by October. Which colleges are you going to apply to?
  • Stay on track with grades right up until graduation day!
  • Stay committed to your extracurricular activities (colleges like to see that you can handle multiple things at one time).
  • If you are an athlete, visit the NCAA clearinghouse website to register for eligibility if you plan to play collegiate sports.
  • Get letters of recommendation from teachers who know you, by the end of October.
  • Provide your School Counselor with a list of colleges you plan on applying to, well before Thanksgiving (counselors will send transcripts, score reports, etc to colleges).
  • Start talking to your parents and guardians about finances.  You will need their 2014 tax returns, W-2s and other financial documents to fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) which is used by colleges to determine your financial need.  The application process starts on January 1, 2015.  Don't forget, financial awards are first come, first serve, so submit your FAFSA as early as possible.
  • For extra help, find the college access people in your school such as Gear Up counselors, MAACS mentors, and in some schools, the ECMC consultant who can help with application issues and the FAFSA.
  • Decide if early action or early decision is right for you and know the difference.
  • Submit your college applications before you leave for the December Holiday .
  • Apply to college through the Common App if possible.  Applying through the Common App allows you to apply to many colleges through one application.  However, not every college is listed on the common app.
  • Start looking for Scholarships as soon as possible.  My favorite scholarships are the kind that go directly to the student, as opposed to the ones that go directly to the college, so be on the lookout for those.  Read the fine print carefully.

And there you have it or most of it, at any rate... speak to your Guidance Counselor about any questions you may have.  First semester of senior year will be the most stressful in terms of getting done everything that needs to get done. Make to-do lists, mark deadlines in your calendar and find the people who can help you.  If you are a first generation college-goer, you are not alone and this doesn't have to make you crazy.  Just step by step, mindful planning is all that it usually required and you are home free!  Best wishes to all!

Resources:
  • SAT registration: https://www.collegeboard.org/
  • The College Place-CT, Look for it on facebook.
  • Peterson's Guide on the senior year timeline:    http://www.petersons.com/college-search/planning-list-twelfth-students.aspx
  • Peterson's scholarship search article: http://tinyurl.com/oc8zl8f
  • Need help with your college essay? Go to: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays/8-tips-for-crafting-your-best-college-essay
  • Money for college-apply for your pin# now:  http://fafsa.gov/
  • Student Athletes who want to play collegiate sports, visit: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/Quick_Reference_Sheet.pdf  or www.eligibilitycenter.org









Monday, September 1, 2014

A tool for happiness...

The tools of the trade usually include hammers and screw drivers, levels and wrenches.  If the project you were working on were to increase happiness, which tool would you use?  Definitely not a vice grip! And don't pick up that hammer either!

There is a part of the brain that through a series of processes, regulates something called Mindset. Mindset can be a tool for us to use, if we know what it is. Through this process, we form our world view and view of ourselves.  Only in quiet reflection can we examine our notions of who we are and what we think we are capable of.  How we view the world, and our place in it, positively or negatively creates our Mindset for better or worse.

Those notions of who we think we are, have been set in our minds via the habit center of our brain fed by repetition. If our experiences in life have been met by mixed reviews, we tend to develop a fixed mindset. We believe our choices are few, and we are stuck with whatever comes our way.  However, if our experiences, or our interpretation of those experiences have been positive, we develop a growth mindset where we learn that anything is possible, sometimes regardless of the obstacles.

In Mastering Your Own Mind, Katherine Ellison (2006) tells us that our brains can be trained to reflect on how we are wired through meditation and then make corrections. So is it possible to go from fixed mindset to growth mindset with some training? YES.  But you have to know what to look for. Ask yourself which adjectives have you been conditioned to use to describe yourself? If those adjectives are less than flattering, you may be wired to see yourself and the world from a fixed mindset.  On the other hand, if you use words and statements that are more realistic and complimentary such as "I don't get it yet, but if I practice, I'll really be good at it", you are probably seeing the world and yourself from the view point of a growth mindset.

Nowhere have I seen this notion of Growth Mindset so clearly and eloquently played out than in the story of Amy Purdy.  If you watch her Ted Talk, you will be quick to guess that her life experiences up until the moment that changed her life were mostly positive.  Amy was strengthened by the strong under-girding of her early life experiences. This is testimony, in my mind, as to what the human brain is capable of when challenged and how we need to train our minds to view the world and ourselves from a growth mindset.

Here is the link to view Amy Purdy's Ted Talk: