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Trains Dream Symbol

Dream Symbol TrainDreaming of trains may represent your views of yourself or your relationship with others. They may provide clues to problem-solving, too. If your train derails, you should rethink your course of action. If you're catching a train, you're on your way to your goal. Missing a train may mean you're out of resources. Getting off before your stop can mean you're afraid of reaching your goal. Changing trains that you've found an alternative solution. Arriving at a train station may indicate you've completed a part of your life journey.


Mind the Gap between what you Think you want and what you Actually want


Mind the Gap between what you Think you want and what you Actually want

This one's inspired by one of Brené Brown's Daring Greatly read-alongs. It's about paying attention to the gap between your aspirational goals and actual behavior and values. Here are some strategies you can apply to various topics. 

1st Question: How do you want to feel?

If it's joyful, get clear on what makes you feel joyful. If it's abundant, get clear on when you feel abundant. If it's balanced, get clear on what makes you feel balanced.

How can you get clear?

Pay attention, write a list, align your values, and make the choice.

What are you doing when you're the happiest?

Be mindful when you're happy and figure out which choices got you there. Do they have to do with buying gadgets or spending quality time? Reading a book or going to a party? Might take a few months of observation and becoming aware, but it's well worth the effort.

What are you doing when you're the most generous?

What are you doing when you're feeling balanced?

Next step: assess if your values align with what brings you joy.

What level or importance are you allocating to the actions that go you to feel what you wanted to feel? How much of a distance or congruence is there between what you think makes you happy, what actually makes you happy, and what you do?

It's your choice.

Remember it's ok to work at it. It doesn't have to be perfect from Day 1. When you compare yourself to others, know that you are enough, no matter where you are. In fact, try to compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself, and acknowledge how far you've come. 

There was an episode in The Cosby Show where Denise wanted to be a teacher. She had a conversation with a teacher at their kitchen table, and it became clear that Denise hadn't really thought things through. She'd have to go back to school, study, get a degree, pay her dues, work for years before getting paid. I think it was Mercedes Ruehl who had the line, "people have to work really hard to make things look easy".

Don't let anybody fool you into thinking that it's all talent, or that what you want isn't worth working for.

Image by raghavvidya, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Go out and get what you want

20130101-233634.jpg "Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it." That's a quote from the Braveheart movie, 1997. When was the last time you took such empowering advice?

Well, take this as a permission slip.

Whatever you want to do, decide it, and do it.

Want to change jobs? Update your résumé, activate your network, search globally. Your options are endless, grab one. Want to go vegan? Stop buying animal and dairy products. If a traditional hotel in rural Germany is able to rustle up a tasty salad while 60 other guests are feasting on meat with all the trimmings, you can get your butt to Whole Foods and buy veggies. Stop making excuses, there is life after cheese. Want to write that book? Click on you word processing application right now. Go create. Then tell me about it in the comments or on facebook, I wanna hear about it.



Start the year off right

20121224-201148.jpg In Germany, we don't generally like boasting or exaggerations. Better to tell it like it is, even if it hurts. Some German managers I've worked with thought it was praise if they did not point out suggestions for improvement.

In the States, I'm confronted with a new "the biggest the best the fastest the you-name-it superlative" every day. Marketing and PR have become individual activities, and everyone's an expert or guru.

I'm going to try this year to find a happy medium, like the quote implies, and invite you to do the same. No reason to hide your light under a bushel, and hey - you got three PhD's? Well, it ain't braggin' if it's true.

Happy New Year!


What's behind it all?

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What's behind it all?

While I'm away on holiday in the Black Forest in Germany to celebrate my friend's wedding, I invite you to enjoy another post by Danielle LaPorte, her take on what we're really doing. In NLP, this practice can be compared to a technique called reframing. I try to employ it wherever I can, not in order to "talk things pretty," but because it feels better to focus on the positive and the end-goal than the negative of a situation or its challenges.

what’s the ‘big real’ of what you’re doing?

Do you know the story about the two stone cutters? When asked what he's doing, the first man replies, "I'm cutting this stone into bricks." When the second laborer is asked what he's doing, he replies, "I'm building a temple."

How much do we do in a day with our nose to the grindstone? Myopic, focused, making a list and checking it twice. Done. Done. And done.

But what have we done? Really?

There is a Big Real behind everything we do. Sometimes it's a negative Big Real. Sometimes it's a positive Big Real.

I'm not posting to my blog. I'm evoking the truth. I'm not working on my book proposal to have it to my agent by Sept 1. I'm writing a book that could spark people into true action, and it's burning inside me, and people want it and they want it bad. I'm not cleaning my house, I'm making it a Zen temple in which I can hear myself think and we can cozy up. (Okay, I'm just jokin' with that one. Vacuuming is vacuuming and it sucks hard. Pun. I know, I just caught it.) But you get my point.

What's became rote or banal for you that is really part of a great dream or vision or bad plot that you really don't want to be participating in? Working overtime? How about: making sure you're getting to Miami for your next holiday to flame your mojo? Hauling your ass out of bed for a run? How about: connecting with the power of your body and tapping into your creative thinking? Cutting people's hair? How about: your salon is a place where people heal and are heard and have their beauty nurtured. Waiting on tables: How about: you're learning and teaching loving kindness. Filing papers for your boss? Maybe the Big Real there is that you're helping a do-no-good company make no-good money while your own genius wilts on the vine?

Look up. Zoom back from the tasks and see the holy weaving of your time and love and action. Make it matter. Because it does.

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Effective Goaling, Part 3

happyholidaysWelcome to the final installment of the 'effective goaling' series. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. Allow 2009 to be your best year yet!

How's it going, my lovelies? Are you making the most of this private, personalized, hands-on goal-building tutorial? How has working through last week's questions made your goal easier and clearer for you? There's no time like the present, and if you're only just joining us today, please read the last two posts as well on how to set goals the SMART way and organize the steps you need to take to reach them.

As we are working on making our dreams come true, let's take a moment now to visualize ourselves and our world at goal. Imagining yourself in your goal-world is another strong stimulant and motivator for those times when life happens, obstacles appear, and things get in the way of our plan.  What does this look like: We've reached our target weight or bank balance, we moved into the house or country we wanted, we bridged the gap. We've identified our life's purpose and mission, we've created the personal relationships we needed or survived the separation that was tearing us apart. Who are you when you've reached your goal? I invite you this week to sit with yourself and find your answers to these questions and all the others that will arise if you let them.

What do I mean by, "who are you when you've reached your goal?" You are always (at least) the sum of your experiences and your decisions. The person you know now who's a comfy-couch potato on the weekends may be surprised by the new you who can't wait to try horseback riding with the other expats. You've always been a push-over but have now successfully implemented a plan to set healthy, respectful boundaries. What does reaching your goal mean to you, and what for your loved ones?

As you grow and change, your surroundings will, too, at least eventually as you change your outlook and attitude. However, long-term friends and family who may not be part of your process can be surprised when confronted with your new results. For example, they might only know you as the one who always takes care of everything, so once you start saying 'no', those long-term relationships will continue doing what they always did but finding different results. If reaching your goal will affect your interactions with others, how can you lovingly prepare those relationships that may be affected and enlist them for your support? As always, the follow-up question: When are you going to talk to them?

The new healthier version of you may have tons more self-esteem and get loads of dates, or the newly trained and educated you might find herself promoted into a higher pay-grade. What are your beliefs about thin and fit people? What do you think of people who earn salaries in the high-end six figures? What about thoughts like, "People that age shouldn't wear jeans" or "thin girls are cranky because they're hungry - only big girls are happy because they eat what they want." Maybe you grew up thinking you'd have to be agreeable in order to be liked? Whatever image you used to have of yourself and your role-models, now that you've reached your goal, are you still comfortable in your own skin, or is it time you found new, more supportive beliefs?

When visualizing yourself and what your surroundings are like once you've reached your goal, also pay attention to sensual details, like colors, smells, texture, sounds, and feelings. What do your surroundings look like? Are you in a lush green forest swinging on a hammock, or maybe collecting sea shells by the ocean? If the latter, which ocean? Can you hear the waves, taste the salt in the air? Can you feel the sun shining and warming your skin, or are you stretching out your hands over the logs in the fire place at the après-ski? Can you smell the shot of Amaretto in your hot chocolate? How does the new silky gown feel across your waist, or your skinny jeans on your butt, how easily do the running shoes slip off after the marathon? Are there children crying, people chattering, music in the background?

In case you grow anxious and start visualizing a nightmare, take a deep breath, know that you are safe, and that none of your fearful thoughts can harm you because they are not real. Focusing on the worst possible outcomes will only cause more stress, instead: concentrate on the good stuff! Yes, your delightful dream scenario may not be real yet either, but instead of causing stress it will put you in a positive frame of mind. As an exercise, try adopting an attitude of inverse paranoia for the next three days. Says Stan Dale (Human Awareness Institute), "I operate as if everyone is part of a plot to enhance my well-being".

Last but not least, remember to celebrate your successes, especially the small ones. Most televised or published "overnight successes" took at least a few years to materialize, and most people still have to work hard to make something look easy. Read this excellent article and watch a short video of Malcolm Gladwell when you scroll down the page. Reward yourself with things that you find rewarding, they may be visual check-marks on your to-do lists, a book or podcast, weekend trips, guilt-free time, baths, manicures, a new video game or chain saws - you name it.

One of my goals for 2009 is to continue providing you with valuable blog posts, and to that end I will look into more topics you may find helpful, as well as keeping the articles easy to understand, and as short and sweet as possible. As I will be taking next Saturday off to enjoy the season, I wish you all HAPPY HOLIDAYS, whatever and wherever you may be celebrating, and I look forward to seeing you back here next year. Til then, take care, be happy, and have fun!

Thanks to Wad for the free image.

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Effective goaling, Part 2

comfortzonecomicsmWelcome to the second of three blog articles on effective goaling. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about setting goals the SMART way. You know where you want to go, you're feeling good about it, you're motivated, and you're aware of what you are truly pursuing. Now let's get to the beef, the juice, the action! Let's start by having a look at that Time-box again: you have answered the questions of when you want the goal accomplished and when you want to make your first step. Can you be sure that you are able to begin your journey right now, or are there any inner or outer obstacles that you need to get rid of first? One way of finding out is simply starting and then dealing with obstacles as they arise. This is particularly advisable if you're prone to procrastination, so don't give yourself any excuses, get on with it!

The questions I invite you to work through this week are designed to help you figure out how to break down your goal into manageable steps. Few things in life can be accomplished from one moment to the next. Goals are complex, they have to do with change, they challenge the status quo, and they may even alter your personal relationships. What does the road to your goal look like? For example, if your goal is to learn a language, you may want to give yourself some time to figure out whether you'd prefer going to classes or doing a home-study course, you'd be well advised to set aside an hour or so on a daily basis for vocabulary training, grammar exercises, and perhaps invest in additional history and culture lessons to round off the experience. Immersing yourself even further by watching original movies without the subtitles, taking cooking classes of the region, and reading their most famous poetry are also options.

What I would ask you to do in the first instance is to brainstorm ideas of what you would need, who and what could help you reach your goal. As you may know, brainstorming means that you take note of every idea that pops into your head regardless of how wild and crazy it may appear - there is neither judgment nor censoring in brainstorming. I suggest to write the points down so your mind doesn't get a chance to wonder off too far into one direction, although some people have the ability to remember all the ideas they have. Personally, I'm not of them, I have to write things down or they're gone. Ready? Alright then, grab pen and paper, or open a new word-processing document, and start writing. If you get stuck, keep repeating the last thing you wrote down until another idea pops up - you have 8 minutes to find as many ways as possible to reach your goal. Go.

Done? Excellent. Now you take a deep breath and have a glass of water to rehydrate your brain and body. Let's take a look at all the wealth of ideas you came up with, and decide which ones you can realistically make work, and how. To continue with the language example, if you want to take additional classes to your home-study language course, the first step would be to decide which classes you want to take. Say history and culture. Where can you find out about what's on offer? Who can help you? You could ask your friends, or search the internet for educational institutes or evening classes at your city's college, or contact the embassies of the country whose language you're interested in. Maybe they also have a chamber of commerce or expatriate gatherings that you could join. Follow-up question: When are you going to go online / call the chamber / sign-up / send the necessary cheque? On a personal side-note, once you've learned the basics I recommend to try and find someone native to practice the language with, because you won't always learn how people actually speak through a book. Hey, if you have the resources - take a vacation! Travel! Broaden your horizon, even better. :-)

Once you figured out what the in-between steps for reaching your end-goal are, plan for them, think how long each step might take, which order they should come in, and add in some buffer times so you don't get stressed in case one bit or another takes longer than expected. Depending on how comfortable you are with detailed planning, you might want to get your organizer out (or calendar, or hand-held device, or blackberry, etc) and schedule certain time slots for your activities. Mondays 5.30 to 6.00 pm - vocabulary. Tuesdays 7.30 - 8.00 pm - grammar. Wednesdays 7.00 - 9.00 pm - meeting Jean-Luis and Françoise at La Madeleine for conversation. Thursday - night off! Going like this you could have the basics down in three to six months. Too long? Back to the brainstorming! More ideas, filtered out according to workability, put in order, and allot time. How about: buy audio CDs (next Saturday) to listen to in the car on the commute from work, subscribe to blogs or magazines (Sunday), and read for an additional hour every day. Is that realistic, or would "every other day" be more manageable?

This is probably where I've lost the more creative and free-spirited minds who don't like to be bogged down by conventional time-tables, who are used to working when they're inspired, be that last-minute-panic or simply less structured. I understand completely, so here are some questions that are useful to look at when trying to overcome any kind of obstacle:

  • Which resources do I need to work through the smaller as well as the bigger steps towards my goal?
  • Am I already using those resources, or similar variations, in other areas of my life?
  • Is this the first time I've encountered this problem?
  • How was I able to overcome similar obstacles in the past?
  • Do I know anyone who is successful in what I'm trying to accomplish?
  • How can I get in touch with them? WHEN will I do that?
  • Which support can my family and friends give me? WHEN will I ask for it?
  • What would I need to learn to deal with the steps and reach my goal? WHEN will I go out and buy that book?
  • How am I limiting myself, how am I standing in my own way?

Come back next week for more tips on how to reach your goals and make 2009 the best year yet. If you have any questions about goaling, find yourself stuck, or think there's another aspect I should have mentioned, please leave a comment and do not hesitate to contact me.

Til next time!

Thank you Mike for the cartoon!

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Effective goaling

bballhoop*goaling = pondering over, setting, achieving, and generally working with GOALS.

Welcome to the first of three blog articles on effective goaling. Right in time for the looming new year's resolutions that you might be tempted to make, or indeed for any other goal you want to set yourself. This is an invitation for you to take some time for yourself to make your life better than it already is. Set a goal, organize the necessary steps and support, learn how to deal with setbacks and obstacles, and celebrate your outcome. May I suggest you subscribe to my posts' RSS feed (available in the top right-hand corner) and you'll receive a convenient notification when the next installment arrives. Make this your own personal coaching alert, your own private "How to plan for success in 2009"- online course.

Last week we talked about being thankful for what we've achieved this year, now it's time to set some goals for what's ahead. Whether you want to learn a language, lose some weight, start a business, get married, or become the mayor of your hometown, you won't know how to get there if you don't know where you're going. First thing: set your goal. In case you haven't heard of it yet, one way of making sure your goals won't turn into regrets is setting them up the SMART way.

S - specific. "I want to lose weight" is too vague for your brain to kick into gear and actually help you achieve it. "I want a BMI of 25" or "I want to fit into a size 10" is better, because you'll definitely know when you've reached that goal. Same with, "I want to be more balanced" or "I want to be happier". "I want to remain calm next time my boss yells at me" is more specific. Find a way to describe your goal in your own definite terms. These should be terms that feel right and that your subconscious or your values cannot argue with.

M - measurable. The weight-goal is an easy one to quantify, e.g. gain 10 pounds, or lose 5. If you can't put a number on your specific goal, the question to ask yourself is, "How or when will I know that I've achieved it? How would my friends or any outsiders know?"

A - attainable. "Aim for the moon, because even when you miss you'll be amongst stars." W. Clement Stone said that, and I agree. I also think that it's better for the self-esteem in the long run if a couple of your goals actually do come true. In part this plays into knowing yourself, your strengths, and your limitations. Even Superman has his kryptonite, so there's no need to feel bad about them, and by acknowledging your challenges you'll save yourself arguing with reality. If you're unsure of what your areas for improvement might be but really want to know, don't be afraid to ask your co-workers, friends, and family for feedback. It's only natural we have blind spots, so it will be easier for other people to notice something we may struggle with. For best chances of success, make your goals attainable in a way that makes use of your strengths while stretching your comfort-zone a little. You'll be all the prouder for reaching it if there's a challenge that's not too easy. The other part attainability plays into is regarding the involvement of other people. Can you alone make this goal a reality, or would somebody else have to change in order for you to reach it? I'm not saying you have to do it all on your own, of course you can involve people and other resources to help, as we'll discuss next week. But if your goal is "Have Adam propose by Christmas", you might get disappointed.

R - relevant. Take a moment to listen to your inner self-talk. Is there a "should" involved in your goal? "I should set up a regular cleaning schedule and do the dishes every night" sounds to me like that's really a goal someone else might have for you. In fact, that sounds alarmingly like my mother! ;-) I'm not saying you don't want to live in a clean and sanitary household, and if that's your goal, you will find a way to make it reality. But it's also ok to take as long as necessary to question the goals you have and identify which of them will actually serve to make your life better, and which would serve the purpose of getting somebody else off your case. And that is another set of goals that may be achieved in different ways. Another - in my opinion - interesting tangent that you may want to explore is what your goal's good intentions are. What are you ultimately hoping to improve or achieve? Could it be that the goal you are working on is really a placeholder for another, superficially hidden, purpose? Talk to your coach about underlying beliefs and cognitive restructuring, you may find out some pretty interesting stuff!

T - timely. Or time-boxed, or time-limited, whichever you prefer, as long as you put a deadline on it. "I'll travel to France" is a great goal that will remain a dream until you actually set in motion the chain of actions and events that will get you there. By when do you want to reach your goal? When will you take your first step? When will you call that person who can help you? Check back next week to see what to do if your time-line isn't working out. And again, this is where working on your goals with a coach comes in really handy, because they are the best accountability partners. Did you know that WeightWatchers members who go to meetings lose 30 % more weight on average than members who follow the program online? Your coaching appointments will do the same thing, they help keep you on the straight and narrow, and your coach will call you or send you emails and ask you how you've been getting along.

There are many ways to aid your goaling, e.g. you can write affirmations every night, make a wishing board, a scrapbook, even go all out and buy one of Jack Canfield's "dream big" products - the imagery will serve as motivation and reminders to keep your goal fresh in your mind. However, keeping reminders, looking at pictures, even knowing exactly and SMARTly what you want to achieve isn't going to get you there. Just like when you go on a road trip, you'll need a map to figure out how to get to your destination, plus actually get in the car and drive. Check back next week for more tips on how to do just that.

Til then, have a good time!

Thanks to Raycan for the free image!

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