Grateful Memories in Spite of…

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you ever dreamed of something –  hoped for it, saved for it, imagined it – only to find out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?   That’s what happened to me on my recent trip to Italy.

You see, years ago I heard about an area called Cinque Terra.  It was described as a rugged portion of the coast on the Italian Riviera with five villages built into the cliffs.   It sounded so romantic, and any photo I saw of the area was breathtaking.  I just had to go and experience it for myself. 

So I saved and waited and saved some more.  And when I arrived, this is what I saw!  Hordes and hordes of tourists – so many that you could hardly move.  I learned later that each of the five towns has about 400 residents each, yet every year they have 1.2 billion visitors.  That’s billions with a capital B.  You had to fight your way to get on the trains, and sometimes the hiking trails were so crowded you were at a total standstill.

So much for my vision of sitting at a local cafe, sipping a cappuccino with the Italian residents. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was still beautiful – just not the way I had imagined it.  So what do you do?  How do you handle a situation like this?

For me, I made a conscious choice to see the beauty that surrounded me.  I remembered the words of Mary Engelbreit:  “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” 

I knew I would probably never be in this part of Italy again.  So I embraced the craziness and started conversations with visitors that surrounded me.  And then I ordered a bottle of wine – the local wine that you can’t get anywhere else.  I began to embrace the uniqueness of this area.  It didn’t happen immediately, but every time I found myself getting annoyed with the crowds, I simply said: “I am grateful for ________________.”

Now it’s your turn to fill in the blank.  No matter what is happening around you, good or bad, there is always something to be grateful for.  What memories will you choose to make?

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The Rule of Three

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Yep, I discovered The Rule of Three when my life was quite messy.  It’s the sixth technique I’m going to share with you during this “How to Get Back on Your Feet” series.

This is what happened:

I started noticing that there were some things in my life that kept coming back to me over and over again, like the word Toastmasters.  I’d never heard about this group, but several people told me to look into it – that I might be interested.

At first I ignored them, but the third time I heard the word Toastmasters, I went home and Googled it.  I found out they are an international organization whose members give speeches at their club meetings, then are evaluated by their peers.  They promote communication, public speaking and leadership skills.  Although I didn’t give any speeches at the time, I decided to give it a try.

Today, Toastmasters is probably one of the major contributions that led me to being a Professional Speaker.   I met so many people who helped me get my new business off the ground and turn it into the success it is today.

Another time The Rule of Three changed my life happened when my young friend, Karla, suggested I try online dating.  Now, realize that I was 63 years old at the time and I had vowed to never let another man in my life.  But somehow, she convinced me to try it and “just see what happens.”

At that time, I lived in Chicago and I never planned on leaving the city – NEVER! 

After a couple of weeks on eHarmony, a picture of a sweet-smiling guy popped up.  I was interested, that is until I saw that he lived in Madison, Wisconsin.

Nope, not for me.  I’m not leaving Chicago.

But the third time his photo appeared, I sent him an invitation.  And as they say, the rest is history.

I now live in Madison, Wisconsin.  We got married a couple of years ago.

So I’ve learned that when something comes back to me three times, I have to  stop and take notice  That doesn’t mean that I have to follow through, but I do have to look at it carefully, research it, then decide what’s best for me.

Remember, you never know what life will throw your way.  It just may be worth taking a closer look.  Paying attention to The Rule of Three has certainly taken my life in different directions, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Flip the Switch

This morning I shared a cup of coffee and some great conversation with a good friend of mine.

She told me that she just celebrated her 19 year anniversary with the love of her life. As a gift, she decided to write 19 reasons why she still loved her partner – one reason for each year they were together.   It was truly a precious gift.

That gave me an idea. When I got home, I pulled out a card and across the top I scribbled:

5 Top Reasons Why I Love You So Much

Then I listed them, put the card in an envelope, sealed it and gave it to my husband.   YES, I could have written a hundred more reasons (just in case you were wondering) but I decided to keep it short and sweet.

And this lead me to my next thought:

What if I did this for the people in my life who actually annoyed me to death? You know what I’m talking about – it could be that co-worker who won’t stop chatting, or that boss who doesn’t give you credit for all your hard work, or that friend who only talks about herself and never asks how you are doing?

What if I take a closer look at all those people who tend to aggravate me and list just 5 things that are good about them? It could be something as simple as “they have a sweet smile” or something more obvious like “they bring brownies to work for everyone to enjoy.”

I could even work on substituting words for their annoying behavior. Let’s see:

Cheap could be replaced by Thrifty and Budget Minded

Gossipy could be replaced by Informative

Unfocused could be replaced by Unpredictable and Fun

It just may help to flip the switch and see them in a different light. If nothing else, it can turn my annoyance into a tolerance.  I’m not sure if it will work, but I’m going to give it a try.

And if you’re thinking of looking at the annoying people in your life a little differently, I’ve included a wordsmith to help you with those replacement words.  Let me know how it goes.

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Your Turn – How Do YOU Define Success?

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

How do you spell success?

MONEY

FAME

POWER

I was recently forced to face my own definition of success. You see, just a couple of days ago, I won a speech contest held by Toastmasters.  If you are not familiar with this group, it’s a non-profit organization that helps individuals develop their public speaking and leadership skills.

They hold numerous contests throughout the year, and the one I entered was the International Speech Contest. I have to admit that it was fun because I get to compete against my peers, who are pretty awesome speakers.  But it is also nerve wracking and takes a lot of preparation, so I was honored to take first place in the Area Contest.  When it all was over, there were lots of pictures taken, and many congratulatory hugs.  I was bursting with pride, and when I walked into my club meeting later that evening, I was met with applause and kudos from my peers.

But the next morning, as I was still basking in the glory of my win, I told several people about my success.

“Congratulations! What did you win?”

I quickly responded, “Well, now I advance to the next level and I compete with different speakers.”

“Yeah, but what did you win?”

My response wasn’t so quick this time, “Well, I get satisfaction knowing that I did my best and that the audience and judges identified with my speech.”

“I mean, how much money did you win?”

NOW I GET IT!!! It finally hit me that my win was not considered a success unless there was a dollar sign attached to it.

Now I didn’t feel so successful anymore.

It took me some time to think through my reaction to this exchange of words, and a heart-to-heart conversation with a good friend of mine, and I finally came to the conclusion that this time, for me, money was not the end goal. My success came from knowing that I found something I love to do, that I followed my passion, and that I’m determined to be the best I can be.  And that day, competing in that contest, I was able to share my passion with the audience and the judges.  I was able to bring some joy into their lives as well as my own.

So today, I am reminded of the words of Maya Angelou: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

That spells success for me.

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“I Ain’t Settlin”!

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

“Music was my refuge,” said Maya Angelou. And I couldn’t agree more.

During some of my darkest times, it was music that helped me keep my sanity.

Several years ago, life threw me a curve that I wasn’t expecting. I don’t have to tell you what I mean, because I’m guessing that you’ve been there yourself.  Maybe losing a job, feeling betrayed by a friend, trying to figure out how to survive the loss of someone you love…  whatever your challenge may be.

Well, that’s where I was. Trying to figure out how to make it to the next day.  I just lost my 15 year relationship, had moved into a very small apartment with no furniture, and had no money.   But what I did have was a boom box.  Yes, a boom box (remember those?)  It had a broken antenna so I couldn’t get any radio stations, but I could play one CD at a time.

One of the big hits at that time was a song called I Ain’t Settlin by Sugarland. I bought that CD and played it over and over again.

Then, in my darkest moments, when I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I just didn’t know how to move forward, I would blast that song as loud as I possibly could.

My small apartment had wooden floors, so I would put on a pair of socks, and singing at the top of my lungs, I would run and skid across the floor, pronouncing to the world “I ain’t settlin!!!”

And it helped – if only for a little while. I knew that I was going to be ok.  I knew that somehow, someway, I would find the strength and the courage to move on, recreate myself, and find my way to a better place.

So, here’s my song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA26RstqSnw.  Just one of the many that made me stand taller, believe in myself, and not let anyone else define me.

Do you have a song you’d like to share – one that gave you strength, hope, made you smile? Who knows?  Maybe we can gather enough songs to create our own Power CD to be played whenever we need a little helping hand.

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Making an Impact!

Professional Speaker-Positive Attitude-Personal Development

Our words, and our actions, can truly affect someone else – greater than we can ever imagine. They can actually change someone’s life, and we may never have any idea of the impact we have made.

For me, that person was my father. You see, I grew up on the south side of Chicago in a very small house.  In fact, we had two tiny bedrooms for six people, so it was a bit tight.  The outside of our home was equally as small, but my father had a green thumb and he could make anything grow.

We had flowers everywhere! Miraculously, somehow, my father had every square inch of dirt bursting with color.

There were bright yellow marigolds, flaming red geraniums, and deep purple rooster cones.

But the best, the very best, were the roses. My father had two beautiful rose bushes that grew up a trellis and leaned against our brick garage.  What a contrast!  The hard, cold brick framing the soft, delicate roses.

Every spring, when the first rose bloomed, my father would gently cut it off the vine and put it in a very plain ordinary glass. He put it in the middle of our kitchen table, and with his very best handwriting, he would scribble a note that said “For My Princess”.

That was me!!!

When I walked in the door, there it was, a rose as beautiful as anything I had ever seen, welcoming me home from school. I can’t begin to tell you how special it made me feel.

My father would repeat this same ceremony in the fall, with the last rose of the garden.

I received that first and last rose of the season from my father, with his precious note “For My Princess”, until I left for college.

My father passed away over 25 years ago. At his wake, I placed two roses on the pillow where his head rested – one for the first rose and one for the last rose in his garden.

Although the roses have stopped, that memory has stayed with me for a lifetime, without fading. Most importantly, it has helped me through some very difficult times.  Times when major changes in my life shook me to the core and changed my life forever.  Times when I just wanted to curl up and die because I felt worthless.

Then suddenly, without expecting it, I would see a rose. Maybe I walked through the fresh flower section of my local grocery store, or maybe I strolled past a neighborhood park.  Seeing those beautiful roses would open a floodgate of such loving memories.  Suddenly, I would find myself standing a little taller, lifting my head a little higher, and smiling.  And I realized, I can’t be worthless – after all, I am a princess.

I never told my father how he made me feel. He had no idea how, years later, those roses would still affect my life.  Heck, I don’t think I even realized it myself.  I would like to have a chance to tell him now if I could.  But since I can’t, the next best thing I can do is pass it on to you.

You never know what people will remember. So, now I try to take every opportunity to be kind, to open myself up, and to be vulnerable.  It doesn’t have to be big.  It could be as simple as saying “thanks for being my friend.”

Who has made an impact on your life? I’d love to hear your story.

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Friends are Fragile: Handle with Care

Motivational Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

There have been times in my life when I have been disappointed by a friend. Times when I thought they should have been there for me, and they weren’t.  Those were the times when I was self-absorbed and it never crossed my mind that they may be going through their own challenge, fighting their own battles, and just didn’t have enough energy left over for me and my needs.  Many times it changed the course of our friendship.

More disturbing, though, are the times when I was the one who disappointed my friends.  When I was the one who said something I shouldn’t have said, or didn’t do something I should have done.

I never meant for this to happen. I don’t think any one of us get up in the morning, saying: “Let’s see who I can disappoint today”.

But in this day of emails and texts, words can often be misunderstood. With no facial expressions or friendly smiles to share, we sometimes “hear” words that were not meant the way they appear to be.

I once heard a saying:

There are three things that you can’t take back. I never remember what the first two are, but the third one has sunk into my soul and I will never forget it:

You can never take back the spoken word.

And in today’s world – you can never take back that email or text after you hit that send button.

So the next time you feel disappointed by a friend, before you say something or send something you may regret, take a moment and think it through. Otherwise, be ready to live with the consequences those words may bring.

Do you have a story of a friendship that was misunderstood?  Maybe a friend you miss but the disappointment is so great that the friendship is gone forever?  I’d love to hear how you resolved it.

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Working for Yourself: Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I hear it all the time:

How wonderful it must be to work for yourself. Be your own boss.  Set your own schedule.  Work from home.

The truth is – I HATE IT!!!  I hate the solitude.

If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m an extrovert. I thrive on the presence of people, I love the sound of their voice, I’m stimulated by conversation.  So no matter how great it sounds to work from home –  in your pajamas and bunny slippers – it just doesn’t work for me.

So if you’re an extrovert like I am, and you struggle with the loneliness of being your own boss, what do you do? How do you deal with being alone all day, every day?

Well, here are three different ideas that have helped me:

 

  1. Schedule coffee dates. This helps me get out of the house/office and have some interaction with another human being. There’s just a couple of possible pitfalls to be aware of. First of all, make sure your coffee partner is someone who can help you or you can help in return, otherwise, you’ll become frustrated, feeling like you’ve wasted your time. Secondly, at nearly $5.00 for a latte these days, it can become a bit expensive, so be sure to budget properly.
  2. I love going to the local library to work. I’m surrounded by people, even if they are strangers.  And the surroundings really help to keep me focused. There is no TV, no laundry, no refrigerator calling to me. Besides, the library has large tables where I can spread out, they have free wi-fi, and a bathroom. What more can a girl ask for?
  3. Finding nooks and crannies in nature. Living in Wisconsin with below zero temperatures right now is NOT a good time to be outside.  But as soon as the weather breaks, I’ll be heading down one of the many walking trails, looking for that perfect bench overlooking a lake or river or ravine. That’s where I do a lot of my writing. I’m still in solitude, but for some reason, the natural surroundings make me feel like I’m transported to another place.

And that, my dear friends, are just three ways that I survive the loneliness of working for myself. Do you have other ideas to share?   Any other tricks that can help us satisfy our craving for camaraderie?

And for those of you who do not feel that sting of loneliness, please share your thoughts on working for yourself, by yourself. I’d love to hear the other side of this story.

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Does Someone Annoy You to Death???

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

“She drives me CRAZY!”

Do you know anyone like that? Someone who annoys the beejeebies out of you?  Maybe they’re arrogant, maybe they only talk about themselves, or maybe they are so overly bubbly that you just want to smack them!

We’ve all known someone like that, and a few days ago I was talking to my good friend Paul, complaining about someone who just rubbed me the wrong way. He listened patiently, then kindly, gently replied:

“What if you look at that annoying person with a fresh perspective? Look for her strengths and focus on those. Instead of adopting and internalizing what she says, try to adapt it and see how you can use it to become a better person.”

Now there’s an idea!!!

I never thought of it that way. After all, we each have our own story, our own struggles.  And I believe that many times those annoying habits are a result of protecting ourselves from the pain we have suffered in the past – overcompensating in some way.

So I’ve decided to test Paul’s theory and the next time I encounter that annoying, arrogant, bubbly person, I’m going to look for their strengths and focus on that. I don’t know if it will work because I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s worth a shot.   And if you get to test out this theory before I do, please share your experiences with us.  We can all learn from each other.

And in the meantime, let’s hope that we aren’t one of those annoying people that others are talking about!!!

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Make This Your Most Extraordinary Year Ever

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I just heard about this new idea that sounded fabulous to me. It’s supposed to help you through those times when, for whatever reason, you  begin to doubt yourself.  You ask questions like:

“Can I really do this? Am I good enough?”

I’ve been there so many times – when my confidence was shaken to the core, so I decided to try this new idea, and I’d like to share it with you.

Here is it:

Get a brand new, shiny notebook and title it: ALL ABOUT ME

That’s right – a notebook that showcases your accomplishments throughout your life. It could be that time you:

 

Made the basket ball team or the cheerleading squad

Got that promotion or started your own business

Volunteered to help a stranger – or a friend

 

Whatever it is, dedicate a page to it in your new notebook. Maybe you have an article that was written about you, a photograph, or a card someone sent you.

Do your best to create a visual of all your accomplishments, and put them into this notebook, telling the “story of you”. You are the main character!

Then, on those days when you are faced with a challenge and you tell yourself: “I just can’t do this”, pull out that notebook and look through it. Reflect on all those times you epitomized leadership, confidence, determination, and a host of other qualities.

Know that those same traits are inside you right now. You already have all the tools you need to accomplish anything you set your mind to, and this book is a reminder of just how far you have come.

I spent all day yesterday creating my own “Book About Me”, and I am pretty proud of all that I’ve accomplished. I truly feel like I can conquer the world.  And the next time I begin to doubt myself, I know that this will help me to stop, take a deep breath, and continue to move forward to experience my most extraordinary year ever!

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