Friday, 26 December 2014

Reflecting on the year that was

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus  a two head god was the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January in his honour. December 31st became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past. People all over the world have followed this tradition by setting goals for the future year but few have spent the time to reflect  on the past year.   I believe that reflection on our past achievements and challenges provides direction for our future.  

I am starting out this year with a series of three (3) blog posts that will assist us to develop meaningful, achievable goals for the coming year.  I will explore the following concepts:

Who was I?
Who am I?
Who do I want to be?

Who was I?
Yep!  Today lets look back on the year that was 2014.  Last year I set myself a number of goals for self - change.  I set them out in a Going for Gold in Goal Setting.  I also outlined my struggles in achieving these goals in a number of other posts including Staying on Track with  your Goals. Laura King and Joshua Hicks in the research paper "Narrating the Self in the Past and Future: Implications for Maturity suggest exploring and elaborating on lost goals  - a future self we did not achieve - reveals a capacity for self development, maturity and tolerance for our own vulnerability.  Remember goals represent an individual's hopes for the future - so a future self.  

In January 2014, I saw my future self  being 55kg and able to jog 10km in an hour in December 2014.  This future self was thin and fit.  I will now admit that I have imagined this future self for many years - probably since I gained weight and lost my fitness - 10 years ago. Research on goal change has tended to show that when individuals are confronted  with failure they tend not to change their goals but rather to redouble their efforts. Other research suggests that persevering on unavailable goals is not likely to bring fulfillment.  

What were your goals in 2014? Did you achieve those goals? Have you set these goals before?  What was the future self you were trying to create?  Are these goals still relevant or achievable?  

Unfortunately I did not reach my goals for weight loss or achieve the fitness level I had aimed for.  Was I a failure at achieving these goals?  I guess you could say that,  given I did not reach the stated target in the given timeframe. I am sure there are thousands of people out there who are in the same boat as me who are telling themselves a story about how they are hopeless at staying focused and committed to their goals or they might be blaming others or life circumstances for the short fall.  I know I certainly have trotted out  this well worn story for many years.   However, this year I am going to examine an alternative narrative (story) that I think will be more helpful to my present and future self.  

As we look back over the past year we have two alternatives – an abundant mentality (glass half full to over flowing world view) or a deficit mentality (half empty world view). I prefer the former view, directing my energy and attention to the positive outcomes, progress or learning I have made during the year.  I want to focus on what worked, what I have learnt from  the challenges I have met and how I could improve on went well. I've discovered that this strategy is critical to building my emotional resilience and motivating me forward. If I create a story that is one of learning, growth, and empowerment, I feel motivated to imagine my best possible future self and meet the associated challenges. Which story do you prefer? 

Self Refelction
Here are a list of self reflection questions you might find useful to explore your past self:
  1. What did I learn? (skills, knowledge, awareness, etc.)
  2. What did I accomplish? A list of my wins and achievements.
  3. What would I have done differently? Why?
  4. What did I complete or release? What still feels incomplete to me?
  5. What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
  6. What did I do right? What do I feel especially good about? What was my greatest contribution?
  7. What were the fun things I did? What were the not-so-fun?
  8. What were my biggest challenges/roadblocks/difficulties?
  9. How am I different this year than last?
  10. For what am I particularly grateful?

This is also a time to consider all those things in your life you would like to let go - this includes de-cluttering and giving the boot to your fantasy selves (lost possible self) and all its accessories.  For me, this includes throwing out the images of a super fit and thin smooth skinned woman that no loner has a place in my life.  What "lost possible self" are you going to give the boot before the New Year?

Activity: Letting go of "Lost Future  Selves"
  1. Create the most vivid image (picture) of your lost future self - the one you not longer have the opportunity or inclination to achieve.  Describe this person in every detail including looks, thoughts, behaviours etc.  What do they do on a daily basis? Where do they live?  The greater the detail the better.  Use whatever medium you like to create your image - draw, paint, collage or write.  
  2. Now it is time to put this Possible self to rest.  Light a candle and burn your picture. Grieve for what might of been.
  3. Expect to feel sad after this process.  Seek professional assistance if you become depressed . Letting go is part of moving forward. 

In 2015, I encourage you to step into a new way of living by relinquishing cherished goals that are not loner available and reinvest in new goals. To be happy and avoid regret it is best  to relegate lost goals to"what might have been" and move on.  A person can not persevere on old goals and maintain happiness. Rather the pursuit of happiness requires a central change in one's motivational system - relinquishing one's previous sources of meaning and embracing life's second chance.  Also remember that growth begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Not only is it important to accept the discomfort of taking steps forward, it is also necessary to let go of comfortable routines and situations from the past.  Holding on to the way things were, prevents you from growing into who you are now, and who you are capable of being.

I hope yu have some time to spend between Christmas and New Year reviewing your life to date.  Perhaps you might find some time to do the activities I've listed above. 

I would be grateful for any suggestions on moving forward after  you have had to let go of a dream or goal.  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Home Alone at Christmas: Survival Guide

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year—unless you're spending it alone (not by choice) or don't celebrate it. Then you're stuck with a world mostly shut down and seemingly nothing to do. It can also be lonely and depressing.  You can get through Christmas by making the choice to develop some rituals and routines of your own to not only survive but enjoy the  "festive season". Check out my Home Alone at Christmas Survival Guide.  
  1. Plan Ahead

·         Decide if you are going to go the whole hog and host your own Christmas Day Dinner (for one) with all the trimmings or down play the day and pretend it’s just like any other.  I prefer the first option myself but will give  you some tips on how to survive both choices.  I highly recommend you put together a basic timeline for the day - this not only ensures you don't end up missing a movie or lose any reservations you may have made but it also adds to the excitement.

·         Plan out the menu and purchase the ingredients. Why not try something new and exotic. If you're not confident putting a menu together, check out the Christmas menu plans collection. Here you'll find 30+ menus, most with time plans and tips, ready to roll.

·         If you don’t want to cook then think about making a booking at a local restaurant. Finding a Chinese restaurant that's open on Christmas doesn't take much work. A few phone calls should find you a meal pretty quickly. If you're in a larger city with a large cluster of Chinese restaurants (e.g. Chinatown), look in that area as well. Don't forget to make a reservation even if it's just dinner for you as popular restaurants sometimes receive so much business on Christmas day that they can't accommodate everyone.
·         The day before, find all the serving dishes, plates, cutlery, glasses and table linen and make sure they're clean and ready. 
·         Purchase any drinks including alcohol prior to the day
·         Ensure you make any other purchases including decorations, gifts, etc prior to the day.
·         Make any reservations at restaurants or theaters early on so you aren't disappointed. 

2. Deck the Halls
Christmas is a great time to spruce up the place and give your home a joyous feel – remember Christmas is about birth, renewal – peace on earth and joy to the world.  There are numerous sites on the internet that can help you out with ideas for decorating, not only the inside, but the outside of the house.  Some ideas are based on DYI and craft while others require a trip to the store.  

As you are hosting your own Christmas Party for One, I highly recommend you decorate the table.  

 3.  Start the Day with a Home Spar (Spoil Yourself)
Every woman likes and deserves to be pampered. So why not give yourself a treat by bring out your do-it-yourself spirit and treating yourself to a home spar.  Again there are lots of sites on the internet that can supply cost effective tips on creating a home spar. Check out these home beauty treatments at HuffingtonPost. 

4.  Dress the Part
There is a lot of fun in dressing for Christmas Day. Generally speaking the gift I’m most likely to buy myself at Christmas is something to wear on Christmas Day. What about you? I recommend that regardless of whether you intend to party at home or go out to a restaurant or movie you want to make the most of the opportunity to dress up for the day. Get out of those PJ”s and put on something  that makes you feel good about yourself.  

 5.  Prepare the Feast (Food and Drinks)
·         Put drinks in the fridge
·         Prepare the food - Follow the recipe
·         Set the table

6. Music Mystro
Christmas carolling is an easy way to get in the holiday spirit, whether you sing carols in your home or house to house. We have the Christmas lyrics to all your favourite holiday music, such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Deck the Halls," "Jingle Bells," "O Christmas Tree," and more. Learn the words to these Christmas carols and sing them while you decorate the table or play a Christmas Album while you have your meal. When it's time to sing, you'll never forget the words to all the classic Christmas songs with the printable (and free!) Christmas Carols list download, a cute mini book with lyrics to more than 25 holiday songs listed in alphabetical order at Better Homes and Gardens. 

7.  Take some Photos
All your efforts to make this a day to remember should not be lost simply because you are on your own.  Remember to crank up the camera battery or charge the phone or Ipad and get snapping.  Just about everyone is an expert at Selfies but if you’re not one of those (like me) then check out the hints at Shutterfly

Exposure Guide provides some tips for Christmas photography that can enhance your Christmas album by showing you how to photograph Christmas lights, trees etc.

 8.  Entertainment/Activities

·         For your entertainment, movies are the traditional choice. Several come out on Christmas day because theatres attract both people who celebrate the holiday and those that don't. Google Movies can quickly tell you what's playing in your area (as you probably already know), and FirstShowing can tell you what's going to be out on Christmas Day. If choosing this option check online and book ahead. Christmas at the movie theatre is very busy and you don't want to get stuck in the front row or behind someone who blocks your view. Regardless of assigned seats, however, you should still arrive a little early. People traffic and parking can make you late on a busy day.
·         If going out sounds like too much trouble, then why not buy or hire a DVD and kickback on the couch for the afternoon.
·         Settle back and get into a good read – this might mean a library visit or book shop purchase prior to the day unless like me you have a home library.
·         Other options include the following::
a)      Pretend to be a Tourist: Some tourist attractions stay open on Christmas, especially in larger cities. Check out online what’s on in your city over the Christmas period. Of course, many tourist attractions don't have to remain open for you to enjoy them. If you go check out a monument or historical landmark, they're around on Christmas and cost you nothing.
b)      Volunteer: Not having anything to do on Christmas isn't exactly a big life problem that needs solving. Other people have nowhere to go and nothing to eat. If you've got nothing to do, use that time to volunteer and help people who need it. Check your local homeless shelters and non-profit organizations for possibilities.
c)      Church: Check out the local paper or online for the church closest to you.  Every church will have a service at some time on Christmas Day and might even have a morning tea to share with new comers. 
d) Drop in on a NeighbourA combination of the ageing population and the fact families are dispersed across the country - and abroad for that matter - means it is not always easy to get together.Age UK estimates about 450,000 will be spending this Christmas alone. Perhaps you are not really alone after all - just look about your neighbourhood - there could be someone who would appreciate a  visitor. 
e) Host an Online Christmas: Do you have some online friends? Do you have long-distance relatives? Host an online Christmas by setting up a Skype chatroom or Facebook group. People can drop in and out as they please, and you don't have to cook, clean, or even get out of your pyjamas.
f) Gratitude - Take the time to appreciate what you do have in your life, be it good health, a place to live, or a job.

 9.  Go for a Walk
According to a new study from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, a 75kg (11st 11lbs) woman would need to walk 6.2km (nearly 4 miles) to burn up the calories found in a single 360 calorie mince pie.  If you do eat a large meal high in fat, the best thing to do for yourself and your arteries is to go for a 45 minute walk.  Even if you've put counting calories on the back burner during the holidays, you should still try to keep your health in mind.

Apart from the calorie burn walking has significant other health benefits.
  So put on the “tracky dacks” and runners and get outdoors Christmas and do a couple of laps around the block.  It will clear your head and heart.

10.   Reflect on the Reason for the Season (Meditate)

Christmas is a time of pausing and pondering, at least that is what it is meant to be. Christmas can be a feast of peaceful awe and joyful meditation. At the end of the day why not stop and consider the meaning Christmas has for you and your life.  A comprehensive scientific study  by researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that yoga and meditation provide ''disease-fighting genes'' that protect from disorders such as pain, infertility, high blood pressure and even rheumatoid arthritis. The changes, say the researchers, were induced by what they call ''the relaxation effect'', a phenomenon that could be just as powerful as any medical drug but without the side effects.

My daily provides a short meditation to help distress at Christmas.

Reach Out
If you are feeling really down about being alone at Christmas and can't pull yourself out of it, reach out for help. Call a friend, family member, or a helpline. You don't need to be alone.  

Monday, 1 December 2014

Thanks Giving or Giving Thanks?

In today’s materialistic world we sometimes get a bad case of the “poor me’ and “I want” syndrome which I think is a real deficit mentality. Like the common cold it won’t kill you but it sure gets you down.  I’ve suffered from this syndrome myself in the past and know I’m bound to catch it again in the future.  Not sure if you can develop immunity to the condition but there are ways to decrease your susceptibility and its negative impact.

In the United States they have just celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. I think this is a great idea and we should all take it one step further.   I think that every day we should “give thanks” and be grateful by showing appreciation for things both great and small in our lives. 

What does this look like in every day terms?  Well, this is how it played out in my day today.

As another school year comes to an end, my daughter decided she would like to thank her teacher for all her hard work and dedication throughout the year.  Being an avid scrap booker, I decided I would make her a “Thank You” card.  So this morning my daughter took the card to school so she could get all her class mates to sign it before giving it to her teacher.  She felt the teacher might like to keep it as a memento of the time she spent with the students.  Nice idea hey!

 Image my surprise, later today when I opened my e-mails to receive a Digital Card from my daughters teacher ‘thanking me’ for all my support during the year.  I was delighted and gob smacked.  I felt a bit like a member of a “mutual admiration society”.  In addition, I saw this as a possible opening to pursuing a closer connection - with the view of forming a friendship with her (especially now my daughter will no longer be in her class and my exploration of a closer relationship could not be misconstrued as wanting favoritism for my child - brown nosing as we call it in Australia). 

The blessings on this day just kept coming.  Yep more “thank yous’ were delivered to my door, via the mail man.  I received a card from my friend and colleague Merna who is also the co- founder of Soul Sister Circles. 

I felt appreciated and appreciative at the same time.  Thank You Merna for making my day even more special.  Who could ask for more than a good friend who values you and is prepared to be your cheer squad? 

You might not think the day could get any better, but it did.  My daughter came home from school with a report card that shows she is excelling in all areas.  In addition, she was named next year’s School Captain and will be in a class with her best friend.  I am so proud of her and her achievements.  Yep. It certainly has been a day of recognition and appreciation for me.  What about you?  How has your day/year been? What are you Thankful for?Would also love to hear about your own challenges and management of the "poor me syndrome" .

Monday, 10 November 2014

Tips on How to Survive The Party Season

Everyone loves a party. Right?  Wrong !

Ever had the following night mare "You attend a gathering where the guests are laughing, drinking and making merry. All the while you are standing alone,looking forlorn and lonely.  You fear everyone thinks you are stupid, desperate, fraught with anxiety and craving human contact"?

 I have. Every end of year Christmas party.  Especially those big end of year bashes where the only person you know is the person who came with you. I especially hate my husbands end of year professional membership Christmas Party.   The only time we see these people is at this dinner and the only thing they have in common, for the most part,  is their professional affiliation.  Yawn, Yawn. for anyone who is not an engineer.  Partners are dragged along kicking and screaming on a promise it will be an early night. Before the event I get myself in a twist about what to wear, what conversational starters can I use (the dreaded small talk), who will we share a table with or will we be stranded at a table by ourselves, and how will I orchestrate an early escape without being too obvious.  

Even more daunting is the Solo invite - you know where you have to enter alone, skirt the room and hope you blend in with the wall paper or look busy checking your phone, all the while thinking "Should have phoned in sick - because now I definitely am".  Arrrrgh.

With only 43 days 14 hours and 23 minutes to Christmas, your mail box and inbox are probably being flooded with Christmas Party invites as we speak.  You know you won't be able to say avoid them all so it's time to acquire a few pointers on how to survive the party season.  

Tips and Tricks to not only Survive but Enjoy Parties

Leil Lowndes in her latest book "How to Instantly Connect with Anyone (McGaw Hill, New York, 2009) provides the following advice to avoid the following night mare every party goer has suffered at some point in their life:
  1. Be Early - Yes, I know this goes against your instincts and the advice of friends but it might be worth a try.  If you are among the first to arrive you meet everyone as they arrive and become part of a small group of early birds. As more guests arrive the group you are with will introduce you to the newcomers.
  2. Make a Cross Introduction Pact:  Agree with a friend before hand that you will introduce each other to the other guests you each know thus increasing the number of connections by double.  Best not to assume your buddy will do this automatically - make a verbal agreement.
  3. Smile at Other Loners as they Enter the Party: A warm friendly smile will boost their confidence and they will gravitate towards you at some point during the evening.
  4. Wave to Imaginary Friends (Not inclined to take this advice Leil - but I'll share anyway): When you are faced with a sea of strange faces, don't stop at the door with a terrified look on your face - glide right in and wave to the spaces between bodies at imaginary people across the room.  Other guests will assume you know lots of people there, you'll feel more confident (I'd feel stupid, but hey Leil, I'll assume you've tested this one and it works) and people will be pleased to speak with you as you appear to be very popular. Love to hear your views on this one guys.  I'm not fussed and won't be trying it any time soon. 
  5. Conversation Starters: Getting a good conversation going with strangers can be more difficult than starting your car in sub-zero temperatures.  Leil says to get the engine turning over ask someone what their typical day  is like.  Looking for more tips then visit Conversation  for some ice breakers and lots more.
  6. Forgot Someone's Name (I can do this immediately after I have been introduced and feel like a real klutz when placed in the sadistic social situation where I have to introduce them someone else).  Don't worry we can all be subject to the name forgetting plaque. A great rick, that doesn't fool anyone but is acceptable is to ask them to "Please introduce yourselves"  Works best if 3 - 4 people are present. If like me, you weren't listening properly at the start of the conversation, finish by saying "It's really been great talking to you .  Once again my name is ......." Then give an expectant look without actually asking their name.  Leil says their is a 90% chance they will restate their name. 
  7. Avoiding Hard core bores and other party poopers: Check out my blog on Social Pigs
  8. Tip from the Wise Monkeys:  they see no hanky-panky, hear no hanky- panky and speak no hank-panky.  Just don't gossip -you never know who might be listening.  I was recently told a story about a young man who couldn't help telling a work colleague about the "new hottie working in the bakery" only to find out he was talking to said "hottie's" mother. Red faced young man on the retreat I should think.
And some others:
  • Seek out the Golden Girls:"Find the oldies!", says Sydney sider Amy Rudder. It's true, they love a chat, they'll make sure you're fed, chattered and thoroughly interrogated in the most charming of ways.
  • Prepare a Snappy Introduction: Psychology Today also advises introverts to: "prepare a snappy way to introduce yourself… prepare a line or two to introduce yourself with flourish to avoid that generic 'I'm an accountant' effect."
  • Pace Yourself: You don't have to accept every invitation and you don't have to be the last to leave.  You can even take a breathe while at a party by stepping out for a breath of fresh air if it gets too much. Find yourself a time out space if necessary.
  • Keep Busy: Having nothing to do gives you too much time to fret. If possible, consider hosting an event so you can keep busy, or volunteer to help out the host in the kitchen
  • Have a Goal for the Evening:It could be to meet someone to date, talk to someone new or catch up with the guest of honour.  Eric Ravencraft in his article "How to Survive a Party or Social gathering as an Introvert recommends you have a goal to help you focus. He says " Having a goal helps you define what you want to accomplish in an outing, but more importantly, it keeps your brain focused. Part of the problem introverts have with big social gatherings is the constant flood of external stimulus. By giving yourself a specific task, you occupy your brain so it's less focused on the thumping music or bright lights .  
  • Prepare Yourself: Whenever possible, make sure to take some time for yourself before you head out for an evening of socializing. Relax.  Dress to Impress but according to the correct dress standard (black tie v casual). Read about some topical issues to generate small talk and when you're feeling pumped up, head out for the shindig.
  • Prepare an escape Plan: Having an escape plan provides you with a measure of control and this elevates your confidence to a certain degree.  If you attend with friends who want to party on make sure you or they (if you were the transport) have an alternative method of getting home. There is nothing worse than being stuck at a party you've lost energy for or interest in. 
  • Alcohol and all that Jazz: We have all probably been the worse for wear following a party where the booze if free flowing and smoking indoors is acceptable.  The music is blasting and the food supply would feed a small nation for a month.  Check out these tips at ABC Health and Wellbeing to get you through the next month without causing undue harm to your body and mind.
All in all, parties aren't all that bad—that is, if you know how to survive.
Have there been any parties that were pure torture? How did you survive?  Any tips to help me get through another end of year party?  It's only 2 weeks away so I need your HELP now.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Time to Focus on your Goals

"Don't look down at the jump or at what is spooking the horse" shouted the instructor.  "Just keep your eyes up and in the direction you want to go".  I have just spent a whole week-end with my daughter at an equestrian event - show jumping.  Now, I am not a horsey person.  I don't actually like them much and I don't ride myself but, being a "supportive mother" I am endeavoring to learn as much as I can about this sport and be helpful.  I have also found that a lot the coaching techniques for this sport are also applicable to self coaching.   The above comment by the instructor struck a chord with me.

As self coaching is my area of interest, my ears pricked up when the instructor talked about focusing on the goal as opposed to the obstacles and distractions.  I thought it a great topic for a blog post given we only have about 3 months  left in this year.  How many of us started this year with good intentions to implement some changes to our lives by setting new year resolutions only to find we are way off track and have little chance of success dispite having gone to the trouble of writing out some  SMART Goals  and completing a Gap Analysis to assist us in developing our action plan.

I know that midway through this year I did a review of my progress towards my goal attainment to help me say on track, but I have lost motivation  and strayed from my target since then.  I have  - looked down and got spooked - my eyes no longer on the prize but on all the obstacles. I have let distractions and fear derail me. If I was on a horse, it would mean either knocking the rail off the jump or I've fallen off the horse onto the ground.   So lets take this analogy a bit further then - please join me in dusting ourselves off and finding a clear path over the hurdles to the finish line on December 30th and receive the prize of successfully achieving our 2014 goals.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. -Helen Keller

Tips to Refocus 

  1. Value your Mistakes: Mistakes are a normal part of life.  Learn from them.  Don't get caught up in blame or regret, look at it as a chance to problem solve.  Each time you make a mistake you are one step closer to finding the best solution to the problem. If first you don't succeed then try and try again.
  2. Know when to Change Direction:  Make an assessment of your commitment to the goal and its attainment.  Is it something you really really want or just a whim?  Is it challenging enough or too challenging?  Have your been realistic in the time-frame you have set?  Sometimes having the courage to admit a mistake and redirect or change sooner rather than later will get you to your goal faster.
  3.  Get Going: There is no time to waste with only 3 months left in the year - Just DO It. Focus on one goal at  a time (better to achieve one thing than nothing at all). In spite  of thoughts, feelings etc ....Take action. Stick with it. Track your progress in your diary and reward small successful steps. 
  4. Visualise Your Success: Remember what you focus on is what you get.  See yourself in your mind's eye starting out on your first steps, seeing things through and achieving your goal.  A friend recently fulfilled a long time goal of going to the South Island of New Zealand.  She used a vision board to help her in this endeavor.  
  5. Have Faith In Yourself: The cornerstone of success is self-belief.  If you have faith in yourself and develop a strong action plan, you can put one step in front of the other and execute that plan.  Commit to the plan and have a Can Do attitude.
  6. Recognize your Cycles: Motivation comes in cycles.  Pay attention to your own cycles and take advantage of your up periods, and back off when your down.  For example you might be more motivated to exercise in the morning then the evening so schedule your time accordingly.  Other ebbs and flows to be aware of are cycles of doubt about your goals.  This could be when your tired or stressed.  Be aware that episodes of doubt come regularly so spend some time identifying their pattern. This will help you schedule those time slots with motivating or distracting activities (ie. read a book, listen to uplifting music) Share your doubts with people you trust and incorporate any feedback they provide.
  7. Calm Your Fears: "Fear is the Big Brother of Doubt.  Like doubt, fear is OK in measured doses, but you should never let it run your life..." says Scot Fox in Internet Riches.  Work out what it is you're afraid of and acknowledge unhelpful or negative self talk.  Counter it with positive and encouraging thoughts - be your own coach.  Write it down and remind yourself when ever your Doubting Thomas starts whispering in your ear. Practise self compassion instead of self criticism and change your focus of attention to your values and goals (Carol Vivyan 2011). 
  8. Stop Unhelpful Habits: Ask yourself what's the thing you do, or don't do, that gets in the way of your goal? Perhaps some routine is getting in the way of your progress towards achieving your goal.  For example, when I wanted to give up smoking I also had to give up coffee as I always combined these two activities.  Perhaps you snack while watching your favorite day show which ruins your diet or drink wine with your main meal and this is impacting on your health. Whatever the unhelpful habit is try to create a new habit by changing your daily activities or routine.  
  9. Focus: Interruptions and distractions are a fact of life with  people's media consumption being more than 3 times that consumed in the 1960's.   At work we are constantly shifting our attention between electronic tasks like answering e-mails , checking other programs, entering data whilst dealing with other interruptions such as drop ins by co-workers and answering telephone calls. I suggest you keep a time/distractions log for 3 days so you can better understand where your time/distractions come from. Track your time in 30 min intervals and also document any interruptions/distractions including the time of the distraction, name of the distraction or thing/person who caused the interruption, the level of importance of the interruption and the time taken to refocus.   Then develop a strategy to deal with them. For example, if you're at the gym intending to do a work out, but your friend wants to spend the time chatting and this limits the effectiveness of the work out then you need to think of the options for managing this interruption.  If phone calls keep you from completing tasks then divert the phone until the task is completed etc.
    Analyse your own habits and behaviours to determine where your time goes in a day is also a great way of helping you stay focused on the important activities and steps to achieving your goals.  Remember the 80/20 rule.  Spend 80% of your time on important tasks.  Identify the areas where you could be more productive and implement a strategy of time focus (Wilcox and Martin: Refocus it's Time - How to get time back in your day).
  10. Only You Can Make Your Goals Gold: The above tips along with some of the earlier blog postings provide a comprehensive package of strategies for developing a practical, specific plan for executing your goals.   The rest is up to you, but I  believe that if you've gotten this far, you have demonstrated your dedication to your new mission and will be on the winners podium getting gold for achieving your 2014 goals by the end of December this year. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Butterfly's not Pigs : Tips for Social Etiquette

I'm sure you've heard of  "social butterflies" but what about social pigs. And yes this does include the flying variety.    No I have not flipped out. You see, in the last couple of weeks I have encountered a few of these wily beasts myself on a number of occasions. For instance, at a recent financial investment seminar my husband, Jim and I, attended - You know the kind of thing, where a Financial Adviser sprooks his stuff and guests speakers try and sell you there products/services etc, my husband said he had been "railroaded by a boor and didn't have the opportunity to mingle".   This started me thinking about other social outings where I had encountered social behvaour that was piggish.  I thought how you might use this analogy to categorize different conversation styles.  I thought I might share my pondering with you.  - just for fun  of course. As you read this (with tongue in cheek) reflect on your own social interactions and remember that we can all fall into these pig pens if we become complacent about how we communicate with others.   

Social Pig Categories

  1. Boar/Boor:  Loud and uncouth and embarrasses other people. Uncultured person, who lacks education, refinement and social graces. 
  2. Porker::  The person is telling you something that is far fetched and possibly not true. The facts they provide a rubbery and if you challenge them about the accuracy of their statement (hope fully not with pigs might fly too) they become offended.  
  3. Grunt-er: Takes a long time to get to the point.  Lots of ums and aha-rs.  
  4. Hog:  Demands all the attention and monopolies the conversation. It's all about him/her. You can't get a word in edge ways and you can't escape them.  
  5. Male Chauvinist Pig is a man who thinks that women are inferior or lesser then men and who acts on or makes statements to that effect.
  6. Sow: similar to above only the female version.
  7. Swiller:  spends the evening at the bar or the food table (I've fit this category on a number of occasions, particularly if the the information session is very dulling and they are serving a good red).
  8. Squealer: This is generally a female.  The person tends to have a high pitched voice and trills at every opportunity (some witty or less than witty, comment generally made by a male - (I've sometimes found myself fitting this description after I've been a Swiller).   
  9. Snouter: This is the snobby pig who will only mix with other Snouters or potential Snouters.  These pigs do not circulate and they do not invite people into their conversation unless they think their is some benefit to them.

How to Avoid Being Branded a Social Pig:

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
A Japanese Proverb 

  1. Upon Arrival : Locate the host and have a few quiet words. This signifies to your host not only of your arrival but shows respect and appreciation for the invitation. 
  2. Don't over indulge:  The food and drink might be free but it doesn't' mean you should cut loose and get sloshed.  If you do you might become rude or be aggressive to people. A couple of drinks to loosen up is fine. Be polite, crack some jokes, make small talk about topics of interest and enjoy yourself and help others to enjoy themselves too.
  3. Move around the gathering. Move about the gathering and mix freely with the other guests.  Circulate among the people you know initially and talk for a while then introduce yourself to some new faces. This will assist others to feel at ease around you. some great opening lines are :"Hi,  I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you before. My name is ... what's yours? or "What line of work are you?' These are open ended questions and inquire after the other person  (as opposed to talking about yourself) , but don't put them on the spot. If you get caught by a Boor, disengage by acknowledging what you have just heard (paraphrase what they have said) and then gracefully excusing yourself saying you have go. 
  4. Remember people's Names: If you can't remember someones name admit it and say something like "I'm sorry but i'm terrible with names, please tell me yours"  Debra Fine, author of  The Fine Art of Small Talk, says you should not ignore the other person out of embarrassment as they might think your are snobbing them and this defeats the whole purpose of networking.
  5. Be a Good Conversationalist: Have a repertoire of small talk conversation pieces.  Being aware of what is happening in the world at large, the weather, local events, TV shows etc give you a range of conversational starters this will help you to deal with multiple personalities.  If you are with a group of people you know and there is someone on the outskirts or new , then take the time to talk to them rather than being aloof and expecting them to make the first move or effort to get to know you. 
  6. Avoid Pig Behaviour: Ensure good communication techniques such as active listening, paraphrase and summarising. Remember to listen to what is being said rather than thinking how to respond.  be fully present to the other person. 
  7. If you are Alone: This can sometimes be the most challenging and awkward situation to be in especially if you don't know anyone at the event.  If you are alone, you may walk around a bit, drink a glass of wine or soft drink and soak up the atmosphere for awhile.  Keep a smile on your face and open posture, thus making yourself comfortable and allowing anyone to talk to you on your rounds.  If you see anyone else by themselves then rock up and introduce yourself. They will probably appreciate your company.
  8. Don't out Stay your welcome: As the evening draws to a close, excuse yourself form the group of people you're with and then thank the host for organizing the event before taking our leave. Don't be the last to leave.
I hope you enjoyed the humour of this post. I'm sure you've met your share of pigs in a variety of social setting over the years and have exhibited some pig behaviours too. Love to hear your stories and if you've encountered any other pigs I might not have mentioned.