Act “As If”

My friend Carolyn is a cautious driver. The one exception occurred many years ago. On that day, a very surprised Carolyn was pulled over by a local sheriff for exceeding the speed limit. She dutifully accepted a ticket for the moving violation and scheduled a date to attend traffic school.

Several weeks later while sitting in class at a certified traffic school my friend felt antsy and bored. She had never taken a traffic class and was looking forward to the learning experience. Unfortunately, the course, designed in lecture format, was delivered by an instructor who droned on and on ignoring any opportunity to make the material even a tiny bit interesting.

Carolyn, an innovative and creative individual drove home disappointed. Later that evening over dinner, she lamented her lackluster experience to husband Michael. It was during that conversation Carolyn experienced an “aha” moment.
A thoughtful young businesswoman looks away from the camera before a dark background with copy space.

She suggested Michael, an author, lecturer and all around humorous fellow could breathe life into a traffic class. After all, there is certainly no law against making learning entertaining.

That conversation took place over twenty years ago. Since then, Carolyn and Michael have helped ticketed offenders become better drivers while enjoying fun and interesting classes. In fact, they even named their operation Fun Traffic School.

When was the last time you turned a negative experience into a positive outcome? We cannot prevent unwanted situations from crossing our paths, but we can learn the art of converting the lessons learned into something positive by applying a strategy called reframing. I love that term! That is exactly what Carolyn did. While rewinding the mind-numbing traffic class, my creative friend put her spouse in the picture. She visualized Michael running the program.

Advancing a step further Carolyn researched the traffic school industry and found it to be an ideal business to launch in her geographic area.

The art of reframing experiences may take some practice. The first step is to get rid of any limiting beliefs. For Carolyn, it was easy. She believed traffic school need not be boring. But let’s make this a little more personal. Imagine wanting a promotion you worked extremely hard to achieve. You feel you deserve it; however, you also know the boss’s pet is vying for the same opportunity. If you give into thinking; she is the fair-haired child…I don’t have a shot at trumping her alliance with our manager, you create a limiting belief. What to do? Power through that crippling thought process. Realize the situation does not have inherent meaning. You see it that way because you have assigned it those thoughts. Furthermore, you are also projecting a premise that only buddies of the boss get promoted.

Now that you understand the negative context you created, work on changing the picture. You may have to use baby steps. Rather than thinking, I’ll never get the promotion, reframe your internal dialogue. Tell yourself repeatedly…I have a good chance at it.

Think positive and list all the reasons why you should be promoted. Then do what Carolyn did. Explore and research. What other steps can you take to make the promotion a reality? Perhaps an aspect of your resume requires upgrading? Obviously your competition has qualities the boss admires. If your level of expertise is evenly matched to hers, the answer may lie in your soft skills. Personality plays a role in how others perceive you. Take a step back and review what increases your likeability factor. Are you enthusiastic about your work? How do you rank your communication skills? Do you show a genuine interest in others? Think of someone at work you admire. What makes that individual so special? Use that comparison to fine tune any of your sub-par soft skills.

Ready for the final reframing?

Visualize yourself in the new position. Carolyn pictured Michael in the frame as seminar leader. Follow suit, then take this a step further. Act “as if.” In 1884, American philosopher William James encouraged followers by espousing… “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” If you really want that promotion write your own ticket. Act as if it already happened. Chances are just like the creation of Fun Traffic School, the job is yours.

Finding Your Passion

Pensive Young Woman with Thought Bubble of Greatness Just Ahead Green Road Sign.
I met a man named Michael who told me how much he was looking forward to one day owning his own push broom. No, he wasn’t in the custodial services industry; my new acquaintance is currently an artistic director at a rented local playhouse. Each season, when the final curtain goes down Michael takes up the broom and gives the stage a thorough once over. Pushing that broom across the floor both inspires and reminds him to keep pursuing his dream of one day opening his own 250 seat theater, equipped with broom.
theater

Giant-sized dreams are passion based. Oprah is quoted as saying: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Michael of the push broom dream did not start his career as an artistic director; however, he was always passionate about theater. Like many individuals in the entertainment industry, his theatrical career began in the chorus line. Over the years he honed his skills, added significant credits to his acting career and subsequently evolved into his role as the executive of a theatrical organization.

Have you identified your push broom dream? It begins with defining a passion that makes your heart sing. Passion is the foundation upon which dreams flourish and grow. Passion is the driving force fueling your dreams and keeping you going when life surprises you with setbacks, sprinkles in disappointments and erects speed bumps in your path. Passion brings out the incurable optimist in you and provides the positive energy and stamina required to achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.

Not feeling the passion yet? Granted, it is not always evident. Sometimes it lingers beneath the surface requiring some excavation. Often clients approach me with a desire to reinvent themselves but have no idea where to begin. Here are some recommendations:
• Visit a bookstore. Of the many departments, where do you linger? For me, it’s easy. I could spend an entire day in self-help racks. It was during this very exercise I discovered a passion for coaching.
library books
• Follow your curiosity. I love the scenes in the movie Julie and Julia when a determined Julia Child embarks upon a number of endeavors before discovering food was her true passion.
• Sign up for courses that interest you and attend speaking event to learn more about a subject that piques your curiosity.
• Interview individuals in a profession that interests you
• Another method is to opt for a course like the one created by Janet Atwood the author of several books on finding your passion and discovering your life purpose. You can learn more about her method at www.thepassiontest.com. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can also be helpful in determining your personality preferences which can help point to your passion triggers. More information at www.myersbriggs.org
• Do not limit yourself to a singular passion. Perhaps you would enjoy creating a composite career. For example, when my friend Christine left corporate America she discovered a passion for both art and writing. Her days are divided between creating lovely works of art and working on her memoir or writing poetry.
Dance With Me Christine Hall’s “Dance With Me.”

Another friend of mine, Dominique, owns a lucrative computer repair business. She loves her business but is also passionate about public speaking and has earned numerous awards as a member of Toastmasters International.
• Volunteer your services. If the idea of owning your own bookstore appeals to you, start by volunteering at a local library. If you are thinking of a culinary career, ask a caterer if you can assist with prepping and food setup.
• Ask yourself what you care about. I am working with a client now who is preparing to leave her banking career and run for office in her local community. She lights up like a Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center when she talks about having a seat on the city council. What is it that lights you up?

Keep searching and maintain an open mind. Eventually you will uncover your passion and set your sights on acquiring your own push broom.

Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking Patterns

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Ever watch two kids get in a tussle and be given a time out? I witnessed this occurrence recently. Sentenced to separate spaces two little boys tearfully dragged their tiny feet to the appointed corner to wait out the clock. What happened next can only be attributed to the blissful innocence of childhood. Thirty seconds into the time out Little Boy A became totally entranced in the scurrying of a large ant as the insect traversed the wall. Meanwhile, Little Boy B found his neon green shoelace an interesting object to remove from his shoe and twirl around his fingers. What was supposed to be a quiet time of reflection and repentance was quickly converted into exploring other options.

When the bell went off signaling punishment was over, both boys were told to apologize and shake hands. They did so grinning and giggling probably not even remembering or caring about the earlier disagreement. It never occurred to them to hold a grudge or debate who was wrong.
Four-year-old boys of twins, in white linen shirts, one embraces another, isolated on the white

Children have the innate ability to quickly move on. No muss, no fuss, no hard feelings. They simply resume fun and frolic. Not always the case with adults. We sometimes dwell on frustrating situations long past the event. Ever catch yourself replaying an incident over and over in your head like a bad dream? Complaining about the injustice to anyone who will listen? How about the inability to quickly rebound from making a mistake, losing a sale or missing an important deadline?

Whether you mentally beat yourself up for a blunder, or cling tightly to the memory of an unfair situation, it’s time wasted! Not only are you running down the clock when you could be doing something far more productive, pondering over provoking incidents can lead to depression. The technical term for getting caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts is rumination. Stop and think how counterproductive this is.

The late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, who taught psychology at Yale, noticed women, more than their male counterparts tend to spend countless hours over-thinking negative experiences. Replaying the scene over and over in your head is like repeatedly watching a bad movie. Not only are you punishing yourself, the act of ruminating accomplishes nothing because nothing changes.

When you find yourself cohabitating with this negative intruder inside your head it’s time to take action. You can get from stomach-in-knots anxiety to peaceful calm by applying one or more of the following strategies.

• Reframe the situation by examining it objectively from 30,000 feet. If you lost the big sale, make a physical list of the reasons your customer said no. Perhaps there were things you could have done differently. Make note of those actions and consider it a lesson learned. Next, remind yourself the past cannot be changed. It’s over, time to move on.
• Change the scenery. Get out of your head and make plans with the most positive person you know. Being around an optimist will help you shake the negative cobwebs from your psyche.
• Change the channel. That’s right, do something to distract yourself. Dive into that novel on your night stand or head off to the gym. Bake some cookies, go for a bike ride or watch a silly sitcom. Surely there is something more worthwhile that requires your attention.

Side shot of woman on bike

If all else fails and you are determined to ruminate on a situation, time it out. Get out the kitchen timer and allow yourself 45 minutes to acknowledge your displeasure. Then, when the bell rings signaling you’ve spent the better part of an hour fretting and employing negative self-talk, stop the nonsense. Come out smiling like the little guys after their time out. Let your negative thoughts evaporate and focus on the positive. Now, go do something that makes your heart sing!