Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Three Steps for Building a New Habit


When you decide to make a change, you've taken an important step. Now you need to follow through on your commitment.

But there’s a problem.

As you begin this undertaking, you find that your old way of doing things kicks in more often than the new way. That’s because your brain is literally wired – it has physical connections – for the familiar pattern you’ve been using.

It’s like putting on a pair of old, comfortable shoes. Breaking in a new pair takes time and can be somewhat painful for a while.

When you want to change a habit, you have to move through this “Crunch Point” until the new, awkward way starts feeling natural.

Following a three-step process can facilitate the change process.

The first step is FOCUS. You may have several areas you could work on, but success comes from working on just ONE habit at a time and learning how to do it the right way. Trying to address several changes at once simply doesn't work.

After identifying what to work on and how to do it right, you’re ready to take the next step: ACTION. You apply what you learned. And not just once or twice. Dozens or even hundreds of times. It takes a lot of repetition and practice to rewire the brain circuit so the behavior becomes comfortable.

You can accelerate the rewiring process by using the third step, REFLECTION, to learn from your experience. Instead of simply repeating the behavior, you think about what happened. The lessons your take away will refine your skill. Each time you repeat the new behavior, you answer a series of five questions:
  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen that way?
  3. What were the consequences?
  4. What would you do differently in the future?
  5. What are your next steps?
Completion of these three steps - Focus, Action and Reflection - is what we refer to as a “rep,” or repetition of the desired behavior. Learning what to do, then practicing the behavior in real life, followed by learning from the experience.


You repeat this cycle of focus, action and reflection many times until the behavior becomes automatic. It takes many reps to reach the ultimate goal…a new, established habit.

As with any skill, the key to ingraining it is practice, practice and more practice – a lot of repetition over time.

To keep you on track, enlist the help of an accountability coach who will make sure you follow through on your commitments and stay on track.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Support Coaching Is Essential for New Habits


“Mastering any kind of skill takes time, effort and patience. Along the way, there’s much you can do to help someone stay on track.” 
– Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D. in Support Coaching

Do you know someone who’s trying to break a bad habit or form a new, positive one?

Think back to when you’ve attempted to make such a change. It’s not easy.

People will experience setbacks and failures as they work to adopt a new way that’s different from their familiar, comfortable pattern. Along the way, they’re likely to feel discouraged, frustrated, and disappointed with the lack of progress.

There’s a risk they’ll give up because the change sometimes feels too hard. They question if it’s worth the effort.

As a caring person, you’d probably like to help. But maybe you’re not sure what to do.

I can tell you from personal experience that offering advice, giving criticism or pointing out flaws – no matter how well-intentioned your motive – will not be welcomed or appreciated.

One of the best things you can do is become their “Support Coach.” And you don’t even have to get “certified” to serve in this role!

But you do have to know the kinds of things you can do that will be perceived as helpful...from their perspective.

A few surefire tips…

1 – Listen.

That’s right. Get the other person talking. What’s going well? What’s holding you back? 

Most people are absorbed in their own lives. Very few are interested in learning about the struggles of a fellow human being. You’ll stand out by just taking time to truly hear what’s going on in their head and heart.

2 – Encourage.

Offering encouragement starts with listening, and then builds on it. You affirm past successes and offer a balanced perspective. You ask what kind of support they’d like from you…and then you deliver.

3 – Guide learning from experience.

If we don’t learn from what happens to us, we’re likely to repeat the same mistakes going forward. Asking someone to think about what happened, why it happened that way, and what the consequences were draws out important insights that can be applied the next time.

There's additional value you add as a support coach, things that communicate you care about their progress as they’re working to make a change or deal with challenges.

My business partner of 24 years, Denny Coates, and I have created some new resources to show how you can become an effective support coach.

And they’re FREE!


Access 9 short videos and an ebook on Support Coaching.

Then apply what you learn.

The people who are trying so hard to make positive changes will appreciate the ways you show that you’re in their corner.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Power of Persistence

The principles in Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich can certainly be applied to the accumulation of money.

But they also represent an outstanding roadmap for accomplishing any worthwhile achievements in your life.

Best-selling author Bob Proctor has studied and taught Hill’s 13 success principles for 40 years. The two habits he’s developed over the years are worth adopting:

1. Read a few lines from the book every day. No matter what challenge he faces in life, he’s found the solution inside the pages of this book.

2. Read the chapter on PERSISTENCE every day for 30 days at least twice a year.

Solid advice! Consider this wisdom from that chapter…

“Persistence is the direct result of habit. The mind absorbs and becomes a part of the daily experiences upon which it feeds. Fear, the worst of all enemies, can be effectively cured by forced repetition of acts of courage.”
We don’t automatically have a “stick-to-it-no-matter-what” approach to difficult situations we encounter.

I know a young man who got part-time jobs during high school to earn spending money. But he quit each of them after a short period of time because they required actions that inconvenienced him. His parents bailed him out by giving him money and allowing him to break his commitments without consequence.

To form the habit of persistence, you have to decide that you’ll keep trying, no matter how uncomfortable the situation becomes.

Even when you don’t feel like taking the actions you committed to.

Especially when you don’t feel like taking them.

That’s why Hill refers to “forced repetition.”

You commit, and then you follow through. No matter what.

One of the enduring strengths of Hill’s writing is the specific guidance he provides for implementing each principle.

Here are the four things you need to have in order to develop the habit of persistence…

1. “A definite purpose backed by burning desire for its fulfillment.”
What drives and motivates you in life? When you know your
WHY and feel it to the core of your being, you will not let temporary setbacks and disappointments discourage you for long.

2. “A definite plan, expressed in continuous action.”
Vague ideas or wishes won’t inspire you to do the hard things on a regular basis. A clear vision of where you want to go and the steps required to get there can keep you on track.

3. “A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends and acquaintances.”
If you’re determined to achieve something great, be prepared for criticism and unwanted advice. You need to develop a strong belief in yourself in order to withstand pressure from others who don’t share or agree with your goals.

4. “A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.”
As much as possible, surround yourself with people who believe in you and sincerely want to see you succeed. They can encourage you when you encounter rough spots and help you stay focused on your goals.

Is there an area of your life where could you achieve greater success if you committed to making a sustained effort, no matter what?

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to Network Like a Fox

I've been in business since 1982 and have read dozens of books about networking over the years. Usually I’d get a nugget here and there, but then I was left to cobble together my own plan.

In her Network Like a Fox is refreshingly different.

Inside the covers of this value-packed book by Nancy Fox is an entire strategy mapped out for the taking.

Fox’s recommended approaches are closely aligned with my own values, focusing on what you can do for other people and not what they’ll do for you. She also stresses the importance of LISTENING – not just to hear what the person is saying but also to connect the dots, to read between the lines, for opportunities to introduce that person to others. So few people are great listeners that you’ll truly stand out if you do this well (that’s been my experience, too).

Fox’s style is engaging, practical and direct. She gives step-by-step instructions that are easy to understand. No fluff or vague concepts. For example, she describes specific how-to’s like:
  • What to say on LinkedIn to new connections
  • How to meet and make a positive impression with “top tier” people
  • 3 ways to follow up after meeting new people at events
The dozens of case studies throughout the book provide convincing evidence that her ideas work in the real world. What I like about all her examples is they are everyday people you can relate to.

Her 3 steps for networking a room are worth the price of the book alone. She tells you how to:
  1. Prepare in advance before the event so you don’t feel overwhelmed entering a room where you know no one
  2. Start a conversation with a stranger, and 
  3. Gracefully move from one conversation to another during the event.
One of the most valuable take-aways for me was her Grow Zone Profiler. Identifying the characteristics of 4 ideal archetypes (Client, Prospect, Referrer and Introducer/Connector) gave me much great clarity about who I should focus my networking efforts on.

I also appreciated that Fox includes topics that other authors ignore or shy away from, like the key role SELF-CONFIDENCE plays in effective networking and the importance of your SIGNIFICANT OTHER in your success.

Nancy Fox is the ultimate truth-teller and challenges the reader like a good coach would. If you’re ready to be coached on how to up-level your networking, you will love this book.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Conversations Overheard on a Blueberry Farm

Every summer my husband Lee and I visit a local blueberry farm to pick spray-free berries and stock up with a year’s supply. We usually avoid going on Saturday because of the crowd. But on this particular weekend, that was the only day we could go.

Lee and I are serious berry pickers.

We don’t talk much to each other during our time in the field. Instead, we focus on finding only the best, ripest berries and filling our buckets.

But apparently, for a lot of folks, picking berries is the preferred way to socialize with family and friends.

Since we’re not talking, we easily hear the conversations of those in close proximity.

Being the observer of people I am, I can’t help but notice the differences in the types of exchanges that take place, especially between adults and the children with them.

And I once again marvel at the opportunities adults have for positive influencing (or not) the young people in their charge.

Here are some exchanges that stood out for me…and why. (Note: Ages cited for children are best guesses, not verified).

Most ENDEARING (Mother and 5-year old Daughter)

Daughter: Mommy, here are some berries I picked. You can put them in your bucket.

Mother: Why thank you, honey. That’s very kind of you to share with me.

Daughter: Of course! You’re my mommy, and I love you.

My take: Children don’t naturally become sensitive to the needs of others. It takes effort on the part of their parents to help them become less self-centered. This brief exchange, along with other comments they shared, illustrated that this mother has invested time teaching her daughter to be thoughtful and considerate.

Most ANNOYING (Grandmother with 8 year-old Girl and 10-year old Boy)

Boy: It’s getting too hot out here, Grandma. (actual temperature: low 80s)

Girl: Yeah, I’m starting to get all sweaty.

Grandmother: It’s not fun when you got hot and sweaty. Would you like to quit now?

My take: I wanted to jump through the bushes and shake this woman when I heard her reply to these two whiners. It was a beautiful, sunny day – perfect for being outdoors. Instead of encouraging the kids to enjoy their time outside or assuring them that sweat is the body’s natural response or any other comment that would have communicated they had no basis for complaining, she sympathized with them. Her response did nothing to help these children develop mental and physical toughness.

Most HUMOROUS (Man at edge of field and Grandfather in middle of field)

Man: Is there a Grandpa King out there somewhere?

Grandfather: Yes, here I am!

Man: Great, I’ve got your grandson with me. He couldn’t find you.

Grandfather: Good luck to you! (everyone in the entire field laughs in unison)

My take: Later at the barn when we were paying for our berries, we saw the grandfather with his wife and grandson. Their interactions showed that he had probably only been half-joking with his earlier response. He didn’t seem to be enjoying his time with the boy. No matter what the grandson said or did, the man had a critical comeback. While I know children can try your patience, you can always find something to praise and affirm if you’re paying attention.

As adults, we’ve established closely-held beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of. What we heard about ourselves as children from those whose approval means most to us – such as parents and grandparents – goes a long way to shaping the way we see ourselves.

No matter what role you have in the lives of the young people you interact with, you have the power with your words to enrich or diminish their self-image and the way they view the world.

And come to think of it, you also wield that same influence with everyone you interact with, no matter what their age.

“Treat a child as though he already is the person he’s capable of becoming.” 
- Haim Ginott, child psychologist, 1922-1973)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reflections on Our 2014 Family Reunion

In 1988 my parents organized the first family reunion for me and my 5 siblings, our spouses and children. At that time there were 17 of us. Today we number 34.

And yet, every 3-4 years most of us have been able to gather together at the beach, thanks to the generosity of Mom and Dad.

This year was the first time we were missing the key person who made it all possible: DAD

My mother had mixed feelings about having another reunion after his death in November of 2012. But she and Dad had always said these reunions were one of the best investments they’d ever made. They took great joy in watching their children and other family members have fun together and form strong bonds.

And so, Mom decided she wanted to continue the tradition. We all came together last week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

What she and the rest of us didn't know was that my sister’s husband Gary had figured out a way for us to “see” Dad all week. Gary designed a banner that included our favorite picture of Dad from a previous reunion, along with purple letters and gold lines (LSU colors).


During dinner the first night, Gary slipped out with two of the guys and hung the banner so it would be visible anytime you looked out from the house.

When he came back inside, he guided Mom over to the gigantic sliding doors. The rest of us followed behind. The tears flowed freely at the moment we all looked out and saw that beautiful tribute to the man who’d made these reunions possible.

Every day we could feel Dad’s spirit with us as we ate meals, laughed together or played in the pool below the banner. We knew he’d take great pride in the fun we were having.

The banner had to be taken down Thursday evening as the threat of Hurricane Arthur loomed near. But that wasn't the end of it.

Friday evening Gary spread the banner on one of the dining room tables and encouraged everyone to write a note on it, expressing what the week had meant to them. Reading those beautiful, heart-felt messages stimulated more tears and hugs as we reminisced about Dad and what he’d meant to our family.

As I now reflect on that special week, I’m filled with gratitude for the legacy Dad left to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yes, we’ve been enriched by his thriftiness and generosity, which made these special times with family possible. But more importantly, we continue to aspire to be better human beings because of his own humble, kind and sensitive nature. His spirit will inspire us for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The GPS Guide to Success


Alex Tremble, author of The GPS Guide to Success

I am drawn to people who have an exciting vision and take bold action. I’m especially impressed with individuals who develop these behavior patterns at a young age.

Alex Tremble is such a person, and I’m privileged to know him.

We met on Twitter after he gave me positive feedback about one of my blog posts. Our 140-character exchanges led to phone conversations where I learned about his deep commitment to helping young people. His passion is to provide high school students, college students and young professionals with tools and opportunities that can help them succeed.

Following his own model for success led Alex to become the youngest U.S. Federal employee chosen to manage a Government-wide executive development program and receive an invitation to the 2013 White House Youth Summit. It’s also what drove him to start his own company, GPS Leadership Solutions, and write an ebook.

After reading The GPS Guide to Success: How to Navigate Life to Reach Your Personal and Career Goals, I was impressed with the life principles he’s internalized, and I realized why he’s achieved so much already in his life.

It’s because he’s living what he writes about.

Alex describes a simple three-step system (Goals-Plans-Strategies) for achieving your dreams.

These steps are presented in a clear, easy-to-follow format – important for his target audience.

One of my favorite chapters focuses on the benefits of figuring out the WHY of your goal. Too often we decide WHAT we want and then jump into figuring out HOW to get there.

But taking time to examine WHY you want to achieve your goal pays big dividends down the road. Because your WHY will continue to fuel your motivation and drive when the going gets tough.

The process Alex recommends you follow to get at your WHY involves drilling down to uncover your deepest reason. Here’s what you do:

1.  Identify your goal, the outcome you want to achieve.

2.  Ask yourself, “Why is that my goal?” and “Why is that important?”

3.  After you come up with your answers, ask the same two questions regarding the responses you just gave.

4.  Repeat until you cannot ask WHY anymore.

Alex explains that you've now “most likely identified your end destination.” 

I like to think of it as identifying one of your core values. You've figured out what truly feeds your spirit and gives meaning to your life.

With your Goal clearly tied to your WHY, creating the Plan and developing creative Strategies becomes easier. To stay on that path, Alex gives readers three career tips that are absolutely essential to their success in life and work:

  • Self-Development 
  • Find a Support Network
  • Take Responsibility for Decisions

Anyone entering college or starting their career will find valuable information for navigating unfamiliar territory.

I look forward to seeing what great things Alex accomplishes in his life as he continues to implement his own GPS Guide to Success.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Eliminate the Drama in Your Life

I’ve been on a path of self-development for as long as I can remember…always on the look-out for books, podcasts, videos and quotes that inspire me to become more effective as a human being.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a book that’s had a profound impact upon the way I view myself and everyone I encounter. It’s about adopting a code of conduct that results in a deeper sense of happiness and well-being.

Early in life, we adopt beliefs about ourselves and the world, based on what we’re taught. Those beliefs form a “Book of Law” that becomes our inner Judge, judging everyone and everything in our lives—including ourselves. Without a conscious awareness of this presence, we can allow this Judge to make us feel guilt and shame for no good reason.

It takes courage to challenge the rules and beliefs you've embraced your whole life because they’re so familiar. And you risk activating the Judge in others if you deviate from behaviors they've come to expect from you.

The book recommends adopting four “agreements” that empower you to break away from beliefs that don’t serve you well.

Incorporating these four patterns can eliminate the drama in your life—both the drama you create within yourself and the drama you allow others to create by the way you react to them.

1st Agreement – Be Impeccable with Your Word

When I first read this one, I thought, I've got this covered. I consider myself a person of high integrity and I tell the truth. 

But there’s much more to this agreement…

Being impeccable includes being “without sin” in the way you treat yourself. Blaming and judging yourself are forms of self-rejection, so it’s important to avoid using “your word” against yourself. How much energy do you dedicate to loving yourself?

I have to admit, I've had to make a conscious effort to keep my inner critic from running rampant. It’s always been easier for me to dwell on how I fell short, what I did or didn't do well, instead of treating myself in a loving way and giving myself credit for the positive things I did.

Another aspect of this agreement is what we say to others and about others. Do you convey respect and kindness in your interactions with loved ones and strangers alike?

When you allow your Judge to criticize others – whether verbally or just in your own mind – you create a negative ripple effect. What can you do to inject more positive energy into conversations?

2nd Agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally

You take things personally when you interpret a person’s words or actions as being about you. Most often, their reaction is about where they are at that moment.

If you’re like me, you may find that you’re most sensitive to others’ words when you’re experiencing self-doubts. It’s easy to take offense and jump into defending your actions or trying to prove you're right.

By adopting this agreement, you avoid unnecessary suffering and angst. You avoid being hurt by what others say or do. You trust your ability to sort through what’s said and make responsible choices going forward.

3rd Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions

The problem with making assumptions is that we often believe our assumptions are true without verifying their accuracy.

We tend to expect others to see things the way we do, and we experience all kinds of negative emotions like frustration, anger and resentment when they don’t.

The solution is to have the courage to ask questions when you’re not absolutely clear what someone else meant in what they said or did.

And be ready to ask for what you want. Others cannot read your mind, even though you might wish they would. Never assume that they should know!

4th Agreement – Always Do Your Best

This last agreement is what allows you to make the first three deeply ingrained habits, because it’s about taking action.

If you consistently put forth your best effort – whatever that may be at a given moment in time – you silence that inner Judge. There’s no opportunity for guilt, blame or regret because you know you gave it your best shot.

When you do your best because you want to do it – just for the pleasure you get from doing it – you’ll find that you experience genuine happiness.

And accept that you won’t be perfect in implementing the first three agreements. But if you consistently do your best to apply each one, eventually your old habits will grow weaker and the new habits will dominate your thinking and behavior.

As I read this book, I realized that our ProStar Coach system exactly aligns with the Four Agreements. Its purpose is to give people the resources to become stronger for the challenges they’ll face with the first three. And its structure provides the perfect set-up for taking action and practicing in order to make the behavior an ingrained habit.

“If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation. Practice makes the master…Action is what makes the difference.” 
- Don Miguel Ruiz

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Do Words Impact Your Self-Beliefs?

Have you ever become discouraged by someone’s thoughtless comment about your abilities, performance, or appearance?

While it’s true you have the power to reject such negative input, if the remark came from a person you respect or admire, it’s not so easy to dismiss.

One unfortunate side-effect of allowing these comments to penetrate your consciousness is that you can start believing that these words are true and say something about your value as a human being.

If you’re not careful, you can let them re-shape the way you see yourself in a permanent way. And this altered perspective can impact choices you make for the rest of your life.

This almost happened to Vanessa Brewer, the first-year college student featured in Paul Tough’s New York Times Magazine article, “Who Gets to Graduate?”

Vanessa was an honors student in high school but struggled during her first semester at the University of Texas in Austin. After failing her first test in statistics, she called home. She was looking for reassurance from her mother, who had always been supportive. But rather than consoling Vanessa, her mother’s response planted seeds of doubt: “Maybe you just weren't meant to be there. Maybe we should have sent you to a junior college first.” 

Vanessa described the impact those words had on her: “I died inside when she said that. I didn’t want to leave. But it felt like that was maybe the reality of the situation. You know, moms are usually right. I just started questioning everything: Am I supposed to be here? Am I good enough?”

Think about this!

Those two sentences spoken by her well-meaning mother struck Vanessa so deeply that she started to question whether she deserved to be a student at UT.

Fortunately, UT has programs in place that encourage and support students like Vanessa who struggle with college life during their first year. These programs provide a support system that makes it safe for students to express their doubts and fears. They discover that they aren't alone and that others have prevailed after experiencing similar challenges.

Without a support system like this to plug into, your self-esteem could spiral downward whenever another person criticizes you.

A few tips to make sure that doesn't happen:

1. Evaluate if the statement is true. Even if it’s an accurate description of something you did, that incident does not define who you are.

2. Set up a positive support system. Make sure you have people in your life who are rooting for you to succeed. Reach out to them when your mind fills with self-doubt, because they can help you restore a balanced view of your worth.

3. Monitor your self-talk. If you find yourself repeatedly criticizing yourself for something you did or said, STOP IT. You cannot change the past, and a constant barrage of negative comments only brings on feelings of guilt and regret. Instead, forgive yourself quickly and move on.

"Other people's opinion of you does not have to become your reality." 
- Les Brown, American author (1945- )

Monday, June 2, 2014

Motivating Others – What Doesn’t Work

I vividly recall a scene from 8th grade, even though it happened almost 50 years ago.

I attended a Catholic school, and many of the teachers were nuns.

On this particular day, Sister “Mary” had just walked back into the classroom. We could tell she was angry but no one could guess why. She marched up to a student whose desk was in the front row, and she commanded him to stand.

When he did, she slapped his face and sternly said, “Your desk is out of line!”

His face turned bright red, most likely from embarrassment and the sting from the slap. He straightened his desk and sheepishly slithered back into his seat.

This was not the first or only occasion that Sister Mary delivered a slap to a male student that year.

While the girls were spared such physical abuse, they did endure degrading verbal attacks.

Sister Mary controlled the students in her classroom using fear and humiliation.

That approach worked if you measured results by compliance.

We were scared into a level of obedience that squelched any spark of individuality or creativity.

I’m sure Sister Mary thought she was teaching us valuable lessons. But in fact, she created an environment where students silently resented her actions and couldn’t wait to get away from her.

She had no clue about what it takes to motivate young people to give their best effort.

Unfortunately, some adults today continue to use such tactics to intimidate people at work, at home or at school. In their roles as boss, parent or teacher, they require strict observance of their rules. When those rules are not followed, there’s hell to pay.

There’s no attempt to understand the needs or wants of others. No interest in having a reasonable conversation to discuss alternative points of view.

And so, those affected by the person in authority can end up feeling threatened, humiliated or afraid. They might conform to the requirements, but they are repelled by the leader’s behavior.

They’re likely to become angry and resentful about the treatment they’re receiving. They may be outraged at the unfairness they’re experiencing personally or observing happen to others.

If you’re in a position to influence others, take a close look at your own approach.

As a parent, how do you respond when your children ask questions that challenge one of your rules? How often do you invite them to tell you the reasons behind requests they make so you can truly understand their perspective?

As a leader, what do you say or do to communicate to others that you value their ideas and contributions? That you appreciate who they are?

On a daily basis, examine ways that you may intimidate the important people in your life. Look closely at what you do or don't do to encourage and support them.

If you’re not sure how they perceive you, just ask what they’d like you to do more of and what they’d like you to do less of. You’ll discover what would truly motivate them to give their best.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Appreciation and Gratitude – Wisdom from Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish

Over the past year, my favorite podcast has become 10X Talk, hosted by Joe Polish and Dan Sullivan. These two highly successful entrepreneurs share extraordinary wisdom about life and business in their regular 30-minute conversations.

Joe has been a member of Dan’s Strategic Coach program for more than 13 years, and when you listen to the brilliant statements that come from Dan’s mouth, it’s easy to understand why. Since 1974, Dan has personally coached more than 6,000 entrepreneurs, and his insights contain immense value for anyone interested in pursuing personal excellence.

In a recent episode he described the key difference he’s discovered between people who have a tough time in life and those who seem to have an easy time: the active pursuit of GRATITUDE and APPRECIATION in their life, their experiences, and their relationships.

Those who have an easier time approach every situation with a sense of gratitude.

Those who struggle are “on the take.” They aren’t interested in giving; they’re looking to get something. As a result of this attitude, they often experience negative emotions such as envy, anger, frustration and resentment.

Dan cited two definitions of “Appreciate” from the Oxford English Dictionary, and his interpretations brought entirely new associations to my mind.

1. Create increased value. 

We often think about THINGS appreciating in value, such as real estate or stocks.

Dan extended the definition to include PEOPLE and made this connection: When you appreciate someone and express your gratitude, you actually increase their value in two ways: “First of all, you take up the value of that in your own mind, but in expressing it, you actually take the other person’s sense of value up of who they are and what they’re doing.”

2. Fully understand.

This definition has typically been used in a military setting, when scouts were sent out to fully understand or “appreciate” the battlefield and then report back.

Dan applies this to his everyday life by consciously choosing to understand the importance and value of a person he’s about to interact with.

What he does…

Before meeting with the individual – whether it’s a business or social setting – he writes down 8 things he’s grateful for about that person. He focuses on who they are and how they act, not whether they've ever done anything for him.

This exercise sets him up for the conversation with two critical elements that tie in directly with the two definitions above:
1) A higher sense of the person’s value
2) A much fuller understanding of how significant they are

During the interaction, he never talks about the actual items on his list, but that individual picks up on his attitude. Dan’s words, tone and body language cause them to feel valued.

Do ever you find yourself criticizing others who are important to you – whether aloud or in your own mind? Maybe you’re having a tough time finding anything positive to say about them. Yet you live or work with them, and you need to interact with them on a regular basis.

What if you took a few minutes before your next conversation and made a list of 8 things you appreciate about that person?

As Dan has learned, you can “inject positive energy” into any situation if you proactively apply these two definitions of appreciation to the people in your life.

I highly recommend you listen to the complete episode in order to get the full benefit of Dan’s exceptional thoughts about developing a deep sense of gratitude for others.



Monday, May 19, 2014

A Lesson in Courage from Wood Ducks

Nature shows are favorites for my husband Lee and me.

They allow us glimpses into the animal kingdom that would otherwise be hidden from us.

An added benefit: Watching these creatures in action often gives us valuable insights for our own lives.

Take for example, the young wood ducks featured in the 2103 Emmy award-winning PBS Nature Program, An Original DUCKumentary.

The mother wood duck lays her eggs in a tree cavity, up to 70 feet above the forest floor. Although she lays just one egg per day, the chicks all hatch on the same day. And just 24 hours later, they’re ready to greet the world.

First, the mother flies out from the nest and lands on the ground nearby. Then she starts calling her babies to join her. One by one they venture to the edge of the nest hole. At this point, their wings are not developed and they’re incapable of flying. So you wonder, how are they going to get out of there alive?

The first one looks out, hesitates for just a moment, and then jumps. You watch incredulously, thinking it’s headed for certain death. But instead, this one-ounce ball of fluff lands softly on a bed of leaves. The others follow in turn, and together they pursue their mother’s voice, waddling behind her as she leads them to the water.

The scene is remarkable. We were holding our collective breaths, wondering how these delicate creatures could possibly survive such a fall. This brief video (1:33 min) shows exactly how they do it.



There’s no place for fear or self-doubt with these young birds. They’re driven by the need to be with their mother, and this burning goal over-rides the brief uncertainty they might experience just before making their tremendous leap.

For me, it’s a valuable lesson in courage.

As humans, we have the unique ability to reason and imagine potential consequences, often to our detriment. We can over-think the situation and allow ourselves to get caught up in negative emotions – projecting bad things that could happen if we take a specific action.

This can lead to indecision and inaction as we become paralyzed due to fear of failure, concern about criticism from others, or doubts about our own abilities.

Next time you feel afraid due to uncertainty about the future, recall the wood duck chicks taking that leap with no assurance of how they’ll land. Summon the courage to act, and you can benefit no matter what happens, as Norman Vincent Peale so wisely observed:

"Too much caution is bad for you. By avoiding things you fear, you may let yourself in for unhappy consequences. It is usually wiser to stand up to a scary-seeming experience and walk right into it, risking the bruises as hard knocks. You are likely to find it is not as tough as you had thought. Or you may find it plenty tough, but also discover you have what it takes to handle it."