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What Not to Do When Starting Your Own Business

facebookingPhoto courtesy of Small_Realm

You’ve come to the conclusion that a traditional nine-to-five job in an office building somewhere in Corporate America just isn’t for you.

What now?

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in the new millennium, especially among Americans aged 18-35. Reports from the 2012 business year show that 84% of start-up company owners predicted that their business would become profitable in the next twelve months. The question is - what will it take to make this prediction ring true?

In general, entrepreneurs are creative-types with spirited personalities – full of ideas and vigor. However, no matter how great your idea is, you always need a solid plan to make it into a viable business concept. And keep in mind:

“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time.”  ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

Granted, there are a select few who somehow hit it out of the park on their first attempt, but the vast majority of business owner wannabes must face the reality that they’ll probably fail quite a few times before they find success.

From the wisdom of several (now successful) business owners who’ve gone before us, comes a list of potential land mines to steer clear of when launching your very own start-up.

  1. Excessive virtual socializing – The most successful entrepreneurs are very good at tuning out distractions and focusing on what they need to accomplish. It’s easy to get sidetracked by all of the fun things on your laptop rather than putting in the hard work it will take to get your business off the ground. Spend less time Facebooking and more time taking actionable steps toward opening your company.
  2. All talk and no action – When you’re excited about a project, it’s natural to want to shout it from the rooftops, but don’t stop there. Telling everyone about your big idea is a good way to hold yourself accountable, but half of the people you tell probably think you’re going to fail. Prove them wrong by coming up with a business plan that includes specific short-term and long-term goals. Then put that plan into action.
  3. Go solo and reap all the glory - Almost every entrepreneur can benefit from a business partner, assistant or intern (and later when you can afford them, employees). Without a partner or mentor, you risk early burn out and confusion. You’ll have to share the spotlight, but your chances of success are much higher when you have someone to collaborate with.
  4. Wish-wash applesauce – Many businesses fail because their founder is too indecisive. As an entrepreneur, you’ll often be the one pulling the trigger on important issues, and if you constantly keep the safety on, you’ll never produce any ideas that go anywhere.
  5. Trying to do it all at once – Some of the most successful small business owners say they realized early on that success just doesn’t happen overnight. Multi-tasking can spread you too thin, causing your work quality to suffer. Keep your mind open to new ideas, and be ready to move forward when it’s time, but don’t move faster than your feet can carry you.
  6. Walking with the dinosaurs – As a business owner in today’s technologically savvy world, you’ll need to be up-to-date on all things electronic. Businesses just don’t run on paper anymore, and you’ll need to adapt to the virtual world if you plan to succeed.
  7. Excusing yourself – It’s time to stop complaining about all of the things “holding you back.” Those entrepreneurs who spend all day whining about the fiscal cliff are the ones who aren’t going to build a successful company.
  8. Going big or going home - Ever hear the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” The same concept applies to business. Instead of relying on a few big customers, spend more time focusing on a wide variety of clients. That way, losing one or two won’t mean the end of your start-up.

Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to avoid all mistakes when you begin a new venture, but it is possible to minimize the number of bad moves you make and the effect they’ll have on your livelihood and happiness. Do your research before making any big decisions, and be prepared to learn from any mistakes that just can’t be avoided.

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Disconnect Your Phone and Connect with Life

cell phonesPhoto courtesy of Ding Yuin Shan

Recently, a friend of mine treated me to a day at a local spa for my birthday. It was utterly blissful – we were pampered from head to toe, and I haven’t felt that relaxed in a really long time.

However, as I took in my surroundings during one of my treatments, I slowly became aware that I stood out.

I had been sitting, reclined in my spa chair with my eyes closed, attempting to be mindfully aware of my entire body. The sensations I noticed were incredible, and I am certain I would have missed out on half of them had I not been paying extremely close attention to my experience.

As I looked around the pedicure room, I noticed that every other woman was bent over and white-knuckling a digital device of some kind. I picked up my phone to check for messages. Admittedly, I even “checked in” to the salon on Facebook. But then I had an alarming thought: am I holding onto my cellphone or does it have a hold on me?

I plunked my phone back into my purse and didn’t look at it again until hours later when I came home.

I’m the first person to admit that having an iPhone has improved a lot of things about my life. My job is easier, I can get directions instantly, and I’m never at a loss for a good place to eat. I’m definitely pro-smart-phone. What concerns me, though, is the loss of social cues that seems to come along with owning one.

Many people today seem to have lost their grip on good manners. Ever been in mid-conversation with someone who interrupts you to answer a work call?  How about a personal text, or to check their Facebook notifications? Perhaps you’re even guilty of some of these things yourself.

If so, there are things that you can do to prevent your cellphone from running your life and potentially ruining some of your relationships. The key is setting some boundaries when it comes to when and where you choose to let yourself be interrupted by your phone.

In order to protect and nurture your most important relationships, it’s a good idea to earmark certain times, situations or events during which you will not be reachable on your cellphone. This will allow you to focus all of your attention of those people who are physically present with you during those times, giving them reassurance that they are more important than your need to “stay connected.”

Perhaps these times will include things like date night, dinnertime, and family gatherings. Alternatively, you could set aside a certain amount of non-negotiable screen-free time each day or week. Regardless of when and where it happens, by designating regular times to silence your cellphone and put it out of sight – you’re giving your loved ones a guarantee of your undivided attention. It’s only when we give our full attention to our families, relationships, and self-awareness that each of them will be able to grow and thrive.

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The Top 5 Things Holding You Back

mountaintopPhoto courtesy of Postscapes

The desire to move toward a better life is present in many of us, but for some people the obstacles they encounter prove to be too much to overcome, resulting in a passively unhappy existence. Although each and every one of us is on a slightly different journey, many similar things are holding all of us back.

Without acknowledging and overcoming the elements in your life that are delaying or halting your progress, your chances of making your dreams come true are slim. Sometimes, it may even be difficult to recognize precisely what things are holding you back, even if it seems clear to everyone around you.

This type of quandary is what leads friends and family members to stage interventions for people they love who’ve got a real problem that they aren’t fully aware of. And while we’re hardly talking about a drug addiction here, think of this as your wake up call from your passivity.

Take a close look at your every day life – are any of the following things preventing you from becoming the person you really want to be?

  1. Jealousy
    This green-eyed monster comes in many different forms, and may not present itself in the way that you might expect. Most often, jealousy rears its head when you subconsciously feel like you’re not good enough – that someone else may be “better” or preferable to you in some way. It’s possible to experience envy in many aspects of your life, so look closely at relationships outside of the one you have with your love partner. The only way to rid yourself of feeling jealous is complete self-acceptance.

    “A show of envy is an insult to oneself.”  ~Y. Yevtushenko

  2. Fear
    We all feel fear at one time or another, but if your fear dominates your decisions regarding making necessary changes in your life, you’ll forever be imprisoned in your current cautionary way of life. At some point you must fully realize that if you never risk anything, you’ll never gain anything either.

    “Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.”  ~Usman B. Asif

  3. Apathy/laziness
    This is such an easy pit to fall into but one that is incredibly difficult to climb out of.  Comfort is a hard thing to give up, and routines are something that we all need in order to feel a sense of stability. In order to overcome your complacency with a life that you’re less-than-passionate about, you’ll need to come up with a specific plan that includes clear steps toward your goals.

    “We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.” ~Thomas Edison

  4. Ignoring your inner voice/instinct
    Many times we ignore our inner voices because we don’t want to hear what they are telling us. Listening to them and following through means a potentially challenging road ahead, which is why we don’t always listen to our instincts. However, feeling unsettled or unhappy is a signal that something is seriously out of alignment, and that changes need to be made. Never ignore your inner voice.

    “Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” ~Michael Burke

  5. Negative thinking
    Stop telling yourself that you’re not good enough or smart enough to live your dream because a poor self-image will hold you back like nothing else on this list. Remember this: everyone in this world was born on equal footing, and if anyone can be successful, you certainly can. Oftentimes, your perception of how difficult a task will be is out of proportion to its actual difficulty level.

    “Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.” ~Shirley MacLaine

Throughout my life, I’ve frequently been inspired by reading motivational quotes and mantras. Many times, the right phrase can awaken parts of you that have long been dormant and unused. One particular quote has helped me successfully complete tasks that seem too complicated, and it just might work for you, too:

“Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.”  ~Henry S. Haskins

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How to Comfort Yourself Without Food

icecream2Photo courtesy of Robert S. Donovan

Food, glorious food.

I’m looking at you, Ben. You too, Jerry. And your little multi-colored friends that beg me to find out if they melt in my mouth.

I tend to eat when happy, or in celebration. Because I’m so blissed out about my life, this means I’ve been eating a lot, and finding reasons to “celebrate” entirely too often. While I can’t complain about my happiness level being off the charts, I realized that I do need to get my food to activity ratio back in balance, or risk never being able to zip a pair of jeans ever again.

I didn’t think there was any psychology behind why I eat what I do, unless Deliciology has become an official line of study. I know it’s within my power to eat less, but I decided to look for some tips that would help me make the right choices. As usual, what I found was so interesting that I thought you guys might like to know what I learned.

As I suspected, certain foods definitely do have the ability to enhance our feelings of joy when we’re already happy. What is interesting is that there appears to be an actual, physiological reaction that occurs when we eat foods high in saturated fats, that explains why we crave what we do. Additionally, one study in particular discovered that the simple presence of saturated fat in the stomach not only enhanced positive emotions, but also cheered up those participants who were depressed. Participants who ingested saturated fat also handled difficult situations much better than the participants whose stomachs were filled with saline solution.

Here’s the kicker: the participants weren’t exposed to the smell, sight or taste of fat-laden food – they simply had saturated fat or saline solution tube-fed directly into their stomachs and were then asked to perform certain tasks. Those with bellies full of fat experienced a much easier time dealing with negative feelings like loss, guilt and sadness.

Though the study was relatively small, the physicians and psychologists conducting it have ascertained that ingesting saturated fat triggers the release of hormones that positively stimulate the brain.

It’s not just the yummy-deliciousness that makes us feel better, then! If saturated fats make us able to handle stress better, we should give our bodies what they want!

Except, no.

It’s true that a huge bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese may send out some signals to your brain, telling it that everything’s A-ok, but what happens after you digest that mac-n-cheese? Do you reach for the peanut butter cup ice cream sundae?

You could, and many certainly do, but eventually you’ll end up unhealthy and unhappy. Perhaps there are some people who are overweight and legitimately happy about it, but their hearts are still working extra hard to carry that extra weight around, happy or not.

Instead of feeding your sorrows or making up fake reasons to justify buying another irresistible sheet cake from Costco, turn to your inner senses, like smell, sound, and sight. In  50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Susan Albers, PsyD., teaches how to tell the difference between “emotional hunger” and actual hunger by focusing on real world mindfulness techniques that will help you relax and enjoy life to the fullest without depending on food.

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How to Quit Nagging and Start Communicating

point

Photo courtesy of a2gemma

Women have endlessly been type-cast as naggers on comedic TV shows and in famous comedy sketches around the world. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why we find those bits so funny – there’s more than an element of truth to them.

Of course, any duo that’s comprised of a Type-A, super-organized person and an easily distracted, forgetful type is bound to face a fair amount of conflict, whether the Type-A is a female or not. Howard Markman, professor of psychology at The University of Denver, says that although either sex can nag, women are the more likely offenders because as a rule they feel more responsible for keeping the home and family running smoothly. Women are also more sensitive to early changes in relationships, so when they ask and don’t receive, they know something is amiss and begin to panic.

It’s kind of obvious that being endlessly nagged is annoying and can be quite detrimental to any relationship. What’s not as obvious is that even the naggers hate nagging! So, why do they do it? And how can they stop?

The most important thing to realize is that naggers pester the people they love and care about the most. The closeness of a relationship can lead to a comfort level that allows nagging to stem from concern. Unfortunately, even though it may come from a good place, constant reminding, bugging and nitpicking feels a far cry from love. It’s an important behavior to self-assess if relationships are to flourish.

To be clear, psychologists say that there are definitely more than one type of naggers – not all reminders are bad, and some are actually part of being a good person.  It’s all in how you go about it and why you’re doing it in the first place.

Gentle reminders that genuinely come from a loving place aren’t normally something to worry about. Especially if the gestures are meant for your children, and they’re still relatively young. Be aware though, that what you may perceive as gentle reminders may actually feel quite annoying to others, such as a partner, spouse, and older children (teens.)

If you feel like you’re being ignored – you probably are. Asking someone to meet your needs multiple times with no response is a definite problem – and not only yours. The reason for your nagging is that you feel unheard, and oftentimes the reason you’re being ignored is because the other person feels harassed.

The solution is just as twofold as the problem, as it involves both players. And since Dr. Markman suggests that “Nagging is an enemy of love, if allowed to persist,” it’s something to address as soon as you recognize it in your relationship, or preferably, avoid it altogether.

The best way to eliminate the need for nagging in your relationship is to open the lines of communication from the very beginning, or as early as possible. When I met my current husband, I knew that nagging was a no-no because I had already been married once before.

It’s vital to be heard in any relationship, especially those that are most important in our lives. The key is to agree on a system of airing grievances that works for both of you. Create wording that makes both of you feel safe and avoid insulting or belittling each other at all times. On the flip side, when your partner asks you for something important, make sure you deliver. This system of safe and gentle sharing along with follow through develops trust, security, and appreciation, which will allow your relationship to succeed and your self-worth to skyrocket.

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How to Have a Life Beyond Nine to Five

five pm

Photo courtesy of Sister72

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – Proverb

Perhaps you spend your work day in a busy office helping clients or patients. You might manage a restaurant, teach children, or deliver important products to waiting customers. Regardless of what you do for a living, putting some space between your work life and your personal life is critical.

Many studies have already been conducted on the effects of work stress on our bodies and minds. We are regularly advised to take proactive steps that will make our work day less distressing, enabling us to be more productive employees. Try as we might, many of us are still plagued by job stress day after day.

By allowing the black cloud you couldn’t shake at work to follow you home at night, you’re actually entering into a brand new profession: thievery.  Letting work woes occupy your mind, sneaking away to make a few business calls? Now you’re stealing time from your family.

It’s true that your life is a composite conglomerate – a singular unit made up of many different parts. It would be virtually impossible for you to lead completely separate work and home lives because you are, after all, only one person. Until the day when you can pick up an at-home cloning kit at Walgreens, the next best thing is to put some boundaries into place that will make it easier for you to transition from one part of your life into another.

1. Take a detour on your post-work commute.

Stop off to take a short walk in an easily accessible, relatively tranquil area. Even a 15 minute stroll can be enough for you to mindfully bring your focus into the here and now, and away from the chaos of your work day. Alternatively, give yourself some ‘Talk Therapy’ in the car if your commute is already significant. If you’re worried about looking like a loon, buy a cheap blue tooth headset and pretend you’re talking on the phone.

2. Give yourself a cutoff point.

As you make your way home, it’s natural to have the work day’s events tumbling through your mind. Even if you’ve had a real doozy of a day, pick a physical landmark to signify that you’ve entered the Home Zone. Turn your thoughts toward the positive things awaiting you on the other side of your front door – a smiling partner, happy children, good food, hobbies, or a relaxing bath. It’s impossible to completely push work from your mind, but be sure to give your home life the full attention and nurturing it deserves.

3.  Do not unload on your spouse.

Being able to release your work frustrations is important, but you’ve got to find someone other than your spouse to be your sounding board.  Home should be your ‘Happy Place’, and your spouse sees it that way, too. Bringing home a bad attitude and immediately launching into a daily tirade will get tiring, and your spouse will eventually associate your return home with negativity.

Try calling up a friend once or twice a week, preferably someone who you don’t work with, to let off some steam. Keep these calls short, though, so you don’t kill that friendship or spend too much home time on the phone.

4. Make it count.

By not dumping all of your work worries onto your family, you’ll be moving in the right direction, but take it one step further. Ensure that each member of your family feels that you’re fully engaged in family time. Try to give each child at least 15 minutes of your devoted attention. Make eye contact as they tell you about their school day, or what they read about in a book. Let them feel physical contact from you, too. Research shows that it only takes two minutes of hugging per day to make a significant difference in a child’s self-esteem.

While it may seem like a lot to remember, keeping work out of your home life really is a lot easier than you think. Once your family feels that they’re getting the attention they deserve, everything will flow much more smoothly, leading to less arguments, challenges, and conflict. On the flip side, a happy home life will allow you to focus clearly during work hours, increasing your productivity there, too. Win, win, win.

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When Familiarity Breeds Contempt:10 Friendship Enders

love hatePhoto courtesy of Rory Finneren

Last week, a friend and I were sharing the traits we liked most about each other, and we remarked that time has given us a new perspective on friendship. In addition to getting older, living mindfully has also given me a pretty good handle on the type of people I enjoy being around.

For me, a typical ‘friend interview’ goes something like this: I’m introduced, in any number of ways, to someone new.  I almost immediately begin evaluating this person’s friendability. My scoring system is simple: if I get a good feeling when I’m around you – boom – we’re friends.

Nine times out of ten, going with your gut instinct works pretty well, but it is possible to get the wrong first impression.

Unfortunately, you often won’t discover someone’s annoying traits until the two of you get more familiar and comfortable with each other. As long as her worst habit is biting her nails or telling really bad jokes – you’ve got nothing to worry about.

It’s when familiarity breeds contempt rather than closeness that you’ve got a problem. Breaking up with a friend is hard to do, but putting up with more than one item on this list is enough to drive anyone straight to Friendship Divorce Court:

  • Chronic interruptions – Let’s face it – we’ve all interrupted someone before. However, when someone makes a habit of cutting you off mid-sentence, it shows that he or she honestly doesn’t care what you’ve got to say. Someone who is worth having as a friend wants to hear what you’re thinking, and they respect your opinion enough not to interrupt while you’re sharing your thoughts.
  • Habitual lying – Honesty is (almost) always the best policy, whether it’s between friends or lovers. Most of us turn to someone we trust for advice, and we really do want to know if those pants make us look fat. If you’ve caught a friend in several lies, you can be sure that there are many more lurking in the shadows of your friendship.
  • Unannounced visitsTHE POP-IN is an act of disrespecting someone’s schedule, time, and privacy. The type of person who practices frequent pop-ins puts their time at a much higher level of importance than yours.
  • Constant attempts to make you look bad – Whether to your face or behind your back, if you’ve got a friend who has such incredibly low self-esteem that she wants to bring you down to her level, show her to the door, and fast. You deserve to be surrounded by people who boost you up instead of weigh you down.
  • Perpetual guilting – This type of person never seems to handle her responsibilities, in and outside of the friendship. This can be extremely tiring and frustrating, because oftentimes you will end up as the scapegoat.
  • Continual complaining – Unless you share a mutual love of grumbling – nobody likes a whiner, right?
  • Bossiness - No friend of yours has the right to tell you what to do. Friends should give advice, not orders.
  • Excessive gossiping – Know that if she’s talking about other people when she’s with you, she’s talking about you when she’s with other people.
  • An inability to be wrong – Do you know what having a friend who’s ‘never’ wrong means? It means that you’re ALWAYS WRONG – and that’s just no fun at all.
  • A total lack of self-awareness - This type of person has trouble with social cues, overstays her welcome, invites herself to your house (with or without your knowledge – the POP-IN), and rarely shows up to scheduled events on time. Her worst crime? She has no idea she’s committing friendship murder.

Don’t waste your precious time with someone unless you feel pretty darn great when you’re together. Oh, and if you get the distinct feeling that you’re being given the slip, perhaps it’s time to look at your own friendability score.

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Stop Fighting: How to Turn Any Argument Around

peace

Photo courtesy of Ion-bogdan Dumitrescu

I do my best to steer clear of people who argue more than they laugh, but sometimes interacting with antagonists is just something that can’t be avoided. If you’re unfortunate enough to have someone in your life that loves to use you as a figurative punching bag, you’ve probably tried (and failed) to win at least one argument against them.

Having disagreements with the people in our lives is totally normal, and once we’ve reached adulthood, most of us have figured out some good strategies to calmly resolve differences of opinion. However, this proves to be a little bit more difficult if the person just can’t stand you.

I know what you’re thinking. “What – me? Everyone likes me!” And, while I applaud your high self-esteem, your self-awareness may need a little tweaking.

Even if you do your damndest to say a friendly hello to all of your coworkers each morning, wave a cheery greeting to your neighbors every evening, and try to be the best employee/coworker/friend in between – somewhere, sometime, somehow – there’s probably someone who just – doesn’t like you.

Their distaste for you may be unjustified, or perhaps it’s mutual and the two of you just don’t jive well.  As Charles Colton once said, sometimes “we hate [people] because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them.” In my younger days, I lived less mindfully. I tended to decide whether I liked someone without really knowing them at all.

I later learned (by accident) that if we get to know someone we “hate,” the outcome is often surprisingly pleasant.

Nevertheless, if you’re currently on the receiving end of someone who has taken a strong aversion to you, any exchanges the two of you have are likely causing you a significant deal of anxiety. The more frequently you have to interact, the more distressed you’ll become. Being afraid to go to work every day (or anywhere this person is likely to be) is no way to live. Instead of displaying fearful, nail biting body language or blasting her back when she accuses you of something – stop.

Bullies thrive on intimidating others; antagonists love a good fight, and you are going to be the one to put an end to it.

Do you want to know the absolute, number one way to stop someone from arguing with you?

Simply take away their ability to argue.

Don’t interrupt her, but when she’s finished doling out what she feels is her winning end of a debate – smile. Take a breath, and speak in a low voice. Say something neutral, like, “Ok. I didn’t realize I was doing that. Can you clarify (this or that) for me, so I can work on it in the future?” Smile.

It’s (almost) impossible to argue with someone who won’t fight back. By using low tones, you’ll calm your opponent down, and by not firing back, you’ll be the one who took the high road. While you may not really agree with her, you’ll have diffused the situation while looking like the good guy, and you’ll have conserved your mental energy for someone who really matters.

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How to Find Happiness After Divorce

walk after divorcePhoto courtesy of Ahmed Sinan

When a marriage ends, it’s normal for both parties to feel a wide array of emotions, including: anger, anxiety, confusion, disappointment, fear, freedom, guilt, loneliness, relief and sadness. Most people go through a mourning period after a breakup or divorce, even if the relationship had turned sour.  This happens due to the loss of a future that no longer exists.

Three years ago, my ex-husband and I just weren’t working as a romantic couple any longer. Deciding to divorce after ten years of marriage was a painful and difficult decision for both of us. During the time surrounding the separation and divorce, unanswered questions ate at me. How would I support my children financially? Who would I turn to for emotional support? Would I lose the close friendships I’d formed with my in-laws? How could I protect my children from feeling insecure during such an unsettling time?

Since the end of a marriage or long-term relationship is one of the most emotional hurdles that you’ll ever have to face, make it your goal just to clear this one without falling flat on your face. A little stumbling is to be expected.

  • Feel the pain. Like physical pain, being mindfully aware of emotional pain is crucial and will help you overcome the worst of it much faster. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings. Give yourself permission to let the grief and sadness wash over you. Sit with your pain and really feel it. In doing so, you release the power it has over you.
  • Then feel happy. Although it may not be as instantaneous or complete as you’d like, mindfully releasing your grief will make room for a degree of happiness to eke its way back in.
  • Accept the change. As you begin to feel little twinges of happiness again, you’ll also want to mindfully accept this new life as your life now.
  • Talk, talk, talk. Whether it’s a paid professional or a close friend, verbalizing your feelings is another great release. Speak your worries, and then let them go.
  • Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. Your life isn’t over; it’s just different. Although it may seem impossible at first, your life at the end of the grieving period may be even better than before.

Once you’ve been able to accept the changes that’ve transpired, you’ll want to focus on moving forward and living your new life to the fullest. Dr. Phil says:

  • Explain to your kids what Mom and Dad’s new relationship is. They need to understand that you’re still a team, but they also need some clarity on your new roles. Don’t try to “outparent” your ex. Do you really want your children to have a bad parent? Focus on the future and begin to see your ex from your children’s point of view instead of your own.

If you don’t have kids, you’ll get to the next part faster:

  • Make some time to get reacquainted with yourself.  This might take quite awhile; you’ve probably been getting at least part of your self-awareness through the feedback provided to you by your significant other. Re-visit some of your old hobbies or explore something new. Let yourself be a little selfish and take the time you need to strike a harmonious balance again.
  • Don’t play the blame game. Instead, focus your energy on what you can do to make your life better now. Keep your eyes facing forward and give yourself permission to be happy regardless of what has transpired in your relationship.

As a newly single person, you’re not up against the world – but you are up against two version of yourself. Whether you find happiness after divorce has nothing to do with the world around you. Dig deep, find your inner strength, and let your best self prevail.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Like a Dud

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

It’s become a popular trend to come from “a place of yes” in many aspects of the hustle and bustle of modern life.  The pressure is on to do good deeds, raise well-rounded kids, have a respectable job, serve on a multitude of committees, attend the right social events, and look good while doing it all seamlessly.

I support the idea of generally coming from a place of yes; in fact, one of the quotes I live by is: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” (Winston Churchill). I work hard to make sure my children know that they can do anything they set their minds to. I applaud their attempts at new things and their willingness to step out of their comfort zones whenever possible. And of course, I lead them by example.

With all of that being said, without the right boundaries in place, this can easily lead to a life crammed too full of all the wrong things. By saying “yes” too often to others, your life may suddenly seem emptier than ever before.

The solution sounds easy enough, but suddenly saying ”no” can be quite difficult. Your desire to keep the peace, fear of appearing rude, and a strong desire to be helpful are some of the reasons that may be causing you to overfill your plate, time and time again.

Surprisingly, many people report that others begin to show a newfound respect for them once they start declining, and that their own self awareness improves exponentially. The key is finding the right way to say “no.”

  • Get clear on your “Yes.”  Decide what is most important in your own life, and get your priorities in order. By putting your needs first (and the needs of your family), you’ll then have a better idea of how much you can agree to take on without cutting in to your own time, creating a sweet balance.
  • Think before agreeing. Some people feel pressured into taking on more than they can handle when put on the spot.  To avoid this, practice buying time. Tell the person that you’d like to think about it/check your calendar/ask so-and-so before committing. By putting a little time between the request and your response, you’ll have an easier time coming up with a reason for saying “no.” Anyone who is respectful of your time will be ok with waiting for a response.
  • Offer an alternative. Sometimes you may get requests for your help when you’re really not the best person for the task. If this happens, explain that while you may not be able to offer much help, you can steer them in the right direction to get the help they need.
  • Share your reasons. If you simply can’t help because you’re too busy, it’s ok to say that. Explain that you’d love to help, but that you’ve got x, y, and z going on at the moment, and that you don’t like to commit to something if you can’t devote the appropriate amount of time and effort required to do it well.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of bowing to others’ needs before your own, but it’s also really important to get out of that habit as soon as possible. Helping other people is admirable and can be an extremely rewarding part of life, as long as you leave more than enough time in your schedule to be able to stop and smell the roses on a regular basis.

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