Wake Up – Giving Gratitude

This speech was inspired by my mom’s miraculous and heroic recovery from a big-time health scare a few years back.  It woke me up to what’s truly important in life.

This speech was designed for a 2013 speech competition for Toastmasters International where I won at the Division level.  Even though the video was filmed by my friend and not a professional, it’s a great way to get the full experience of the story.

If you prefer the written word, below is the full script in its 16th edition :)

 

 

Speech Script - (This includes body language cues as well – a true script)

Wake up Sara – Wake up. Your phone just rang…

Ugh…

Wake up…rise and shine

Let me tell you something…This…does not rise and shine. What this does is rise and…grab a cup of coffee. But I begrudgingly get up and shuffle into the other room to find my phone.

6 voicemails and 4 texts from my dad?

What did I miss? (in a panic)

“Mom is in the ER”

“Mom is out of surgery”

“Where are you – call us“

There’s an ache in my stomach.

Mister Contest Chair, my fellow toastmasters and most honored guests. Have you ever had a moment when your life became one big wake up call? When you knew that your life would change forever?

For me December 2nd, 2010. It was the beginning of a series of wake up calls that taught me how fragile yet powerful life can be.

WAKE UP CALL #1 – Life’s a roller coaster – We need to prepare for those…unexpected turns.

I called my dad in California, I found out my mother was in total system failure. It started with gallstones, but her blood pressure BOTTOMED OUT. Her major organs…shut down.

She had a 1 in 4 chance of survival.

My DAD WENT ON TO EXPLAIN, The doctors thought that to best fight the infection was to induce…a coma…But EVEN THEN it wasn’t good.

After I hung up, and all I could do was collapse on my bed and sob and sob and sob (quiver in voice). But then I sit up – (wipe my nose and flick) wait a second – my mom’s a fighter. I have to fight with her.

WAKE UP CALL #2 We must never give up the fight.

I start my fight with a prayer. (get on knees) I pray and pray, and send her lots and lots of love.

(Get back up) As I continued, I had this vision – A LOVE CIRCLE – a circle of women surrounding my mom, breathing for her and sending her love. It was so real; I got goosebumps.

FINALLY I Flew HOME and As I walked into her hospital room, I could barely recognize her– swollen with fluids and medicine, tubes and machines everywhere. It was like I was watching A TV DRAMA but there were no hot doctors…This was real life…

I sat down next and held her hand, she squeezed back tight. She was still fighting. I had to keep fighting with her…but how?

The love circle! Now I know this sounds a little crazy and…even “Hippy…Dippy (head nod)”. But What can I say– I lived in San Francisco for 8 years—I’m a hippy …(adjust clothes and nod head) in disguise. Shhh

But I didn’t know if my aunts who flew in from Minnesota (with accent), home of the SPAM museum, were would be up for such a crazy idea.

I finally mustered the courage to ask, and they happily agreed…(thumbs up) Groovy!

So we circled around her – (Act out – holding hands and take a deep breath.)

A few hours later, 10 days in a coma, my mom woke up! We must Never ever give up the fight.

In the following days of her recovery, SHE HAD TO learn to walk again. She had to learn to do everything again. WAKE UP CALL #3 – Now’s the time TO STEP UP and focus on what’s really important.

I had never needed to take care of anyone in my family before. That was my parents’ job. Now is the time for me to be a mom to my mom.

As she fought her way back to health, I stepped up to tend to her every need. SO I WOULD adjust the pillows under her legs again and again and again. Surely, I…wasn’t this high maintenance when she took care of me… miss drama queen.

So I continued to step up day after day, doing everything I could. I even tried BURNing INCENSE to clear out the toxic energy… (hands on hips) but the cranky nurses put the kibosh on that one. Something about oxygen and open flames??? I don’t know. (shrug)

But we knew she was on her way to recovery when her hands that were swollen like sausages had returned back to their natural STATE… wrinkled. (with smile – clap with excitment)

When the doctors informed us that my mom would make a full recovery, it hit me how close I was to losing her. I almost lost her once, but Now I have a 2nd chance (smile).

I SAT DOWN next to her AND WE SHARED FROM OUR HEARTS. We shared our fears AND frustrations. SHE GETS FRUSTRATED THAT SHE NEVER WINS AN ARGUMENT with my dad…the attorney… I GET FRUSTRATED WHEN DAD TELLS ME TO BE “Smart” WITH MY MONEY…….tsk…whatever that means…

But most of all…we shared our deep deep love for one another.

 

Two years ago, that phone call changed my life forever.

Please, please don’t wait until you get that phone call.

WAKE-UP – LIFE IS A ROLLER COASTER FULL OF UNEXPECTED TURNS. AND IF LIFE TAKES YOU down

WAKE UP AND NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT

WAKE UP AND STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE

Now is the time to…

Wake UP!

Going for Gold? Go Within

With my fascination of Olympics, I have been in awe of all the tremendous hard work and difficult decisions that the Olympians have had to make over their lifetime to achieve their ultimate goal – GOLD!

With so many difficult decisions and sacrifices they have made to pursue their dreams, they had to look within, trust their gut or intuition to determine which way to go.

You have probably heard someone say, “Go with Your Gut!”  That’s what I often say when someone is struggling with a  decision to make.  The reason for this simple answer is that we truly do know what is best.  We have the wisdom within us to make those difficult choices.  It’s that quiet whisper that nudges you to make a choice that is consistent with who you truly are.

It’s not always the easier choice.  In fact, it is often more risky, more uncomfortable, but oh so much more rewarding.  In his famous 2005 commencement speech, Steve Jobs encourages “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.“

Every time, I am struggling with a life decision, especially the bigger ones, I waiver between what my inner voice says and what I think I should be doing.  The suffering that occurs in my head – should I – shouldn’t I.  In the end, after all the back and forth, when I go with my gut, I am so much happier and it more often works itself out.  When I follow the “should,” I often create more struggle and suffering.

Now this is not to say, seek out the advice and opinions of others or consider all options.  I am a big fan of checking in with others – the people who know me well or have some experience with the issue.  Sometimes, I seek out direct advice.  Sometimes, it’s just listening and teasing out what’s going on underneath the suffering.  They can provide new information to assist in making a stronger choice.  Who do you reach out to for advice or support?

Now you may be saying to yourself, “How can I trust that voice? I have made bad choices in the past, I don’t know if I can trust myself.” Self-doubt can run rampant in tough decisions.  Look – I get it.  Why do you think I suffer so much in decision wavering?  I am afraid of making the wrong decision. So I sit on the fence, which can be really uncomfortable – Ouch!

So it’s time to get off the fence and make a choice.  Remember you aren’t married to your choice – you can always make another choice later. As I look back on those bad decisions, I realized that I wasn’t following my inner wisdom, my fear or need to prove myself.  It was more in quick reaction rather than taking a breath, settling in and finding what was the deeper wisdom.

So the next time, you are going for gold or simply struggling to make a decision, take a breath, listen to that quiet wisdom, and step forward!

A Deeper Look

  • What would you do if you listened to your inner wisdom?
  • Who can you seek out for support?

Creating Your Definition of Success

success-coaching-header

We all want to be successful in life, but what does that really mean?

Well, if you go by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Success is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” But what if you have wealth and fame and no happiness?  There are plenty of cases where we have seen wealth and fame backfire on celebrities and other people in places of power.

We learn the meaning of success from our family, friends, and society as a whole from a very young age. And that definition continues to be reinforced as we grow older and new expectations are inserted – job, salary, family, etc.  Sometimes that works for people, but many times it causes undue suffering.

What if what’s important to you isn’t in the standard definition of success?  Does that mean you won’t be considered successful?  In my humble opinion – Of course not!

The danger is that if we aren’t considered a success by others, we won’t consider ourselves successful.  Even more dangerous – we may consider ourselves a failure. I have definitely traveled down this dark dangerous alley – beating myself up along the way.

After a good self-inflicted assault, I realized that I must create MY OWN definition of success.  I haven’t been one to follow the path of others; I like to take blaze my own trail.  So why wouldn’t I blaze my own definition of success?

So I invite you to take a deeper look as to how you define success.  Is that what you really want out of life?  Or is that what other have said that you should want?  Are you striving for that will make you happy?  Or will it make others happy?

It is your life, so you get to define the terms…you get the final say in your success!

Looking Deeper

  • How would you define success?
  • What’s important for you to feel you have a successful year, a successful life?

Rethinking Resolutions for Real Change

With the New Year comes new hope and often New Year Resolutions.  Did you make any resolutions for 2013?  Or are you like me in hesitating in making any resolutions because they usually fail by February anyways.

Resolutions fail not because they are a bad idea, but because we go about it backwards.  We look at what’s wrong in our lives and create a goal like losing weight or getting organized to counteract the wrong in hopes to become happier.  While that strategy can work in some cases, it is challenging to sustain and often doesn’t produce the happiness we had expected.

By starting with end result – the happiness, prosperity, or peace we are seeking – we open the door to more opportunities to experiencing that feeling and therefore more successful!

Here are a few tips I follow to create Resolutions for Real Change in my life:

1. Listen to Deeper Desires – What is it that you really want in your life?  One way to figure that out is to take the resolutions you often make and ask the question “What will that provide?”  With each time you ask that question, you dig deeper to your true desires.  I recommend 3-5 rounds to get to the heart of what you really want.  When I dig deeper to my resolution of losing weight, I discovered the desire to be energized about life.

2. Declare your Commitment – Once you discover what you really want, you can declare a commitment to creating that desire in your life in 2013.  A commitment inspires you into action.  A commitment doesn’t require perfection, but simply the willingness to get into action regardless of past performance.  My Commitment is A Life Full of Energy.

3.  Get into Action – With an inspiring commitment, now it’s time to get into action, any action that supports your commitment.   Brainstorm a list of aligned actions to encourage variety and flexibility, which leads to greater success over time.   Taking simple actions every day in support of your commitment will allow you to create what you really want for your life.  With a Commitment to a Life Full of Energy, I can exercise, socialize with friends, go out dancing or Zumba, or sing along with the car radio.

4. Create Community – With any sustained change requires a support team to hold you accountable and encourage you when your commitment fades, as it commonly does.  To be most effective, be specific with how each person can support you.  Will it be asking for encouraging words every day?  Will it be inviting a friend to join you in creating a similar commitment?  While it can seem vulnerable to ask for help, we succeed that much faster, that much greater when we include those around us.

5. Celebrate Small Successes – Celebration is critical to success and satisfaction as a whole.  If we continue to strive for the next goal without celebrating and acknowledging the progress made, we don’t recognize our growth and are often left still feeling “not enough.”  Celebrating can be simple with a manicure, or even FREE with a Shout-Out on Facebook or 5-second Dance Party with a friend.  Celebration often provides the needed inspiration to keep your commitment alive.

As you step into 2013 with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to change, remember that real change is like a roller coaster with highs and lows.   While the journey may be simple, it may not be easy.  Show yourself compassion when you make mistakes.  A sense of humor can help too!

May 2013 be a Year of Desires Fulfilled!

Thank You…More than Just Being Polite

THANK YOU…How many times do you hear it in a day? How many times do you say it in a day? If I consciously counted, I am sure there are at least dozen on each side of the Thank You.

However, I have difficulty remembering any that actually made an impact. Most could be categorized in the humdrum automatic social politeness. Rarely does the Thank You leave a lasting impression. Our Thank You’s can quickly become hollow in meaning, but they don’t have to be.

A thoughtful Thank You can create an opportunity for someone to not just be acknowledged, but truly seen. Whether it’s family, colleagues or customers, people want to know they matter, they make a difference in the world. Let the people in your life know they matter to you, they have an impact on your life.

Just after Superstorm Sandy, I had the pleasure of meeting Terry, a utility worker from California restoring power to a Queens neighborhood. Even after six days of exhausting work clearing trees and repairing power lines, he was proud to serve his country in desperate need of rebuilding. He was willing to put his life on hold for weeks to bring light to a community living in darkness. As a native Californian, I was so grateful for his generosity and sacrifice. As I thanked Terry, he quietly smiled – while probably not used to hearing gratitude in that way, it was apparent he was touched by my words and being seen for being a True Man of Service.

Here are a few tips to turn your Thank You from automatic to awesome:

Make it Personal– I find myself saying Thank You more as an automatic response than an actual Thank You. Whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store or the person holding the door open, a personal Thank You with eye contact and a smile interrupts the automatic and allows it to actually be heard as a message of gratitude rather than a required politeness. If you really want to interrupt the automaticity of thanks, you can use a sales clerk’s name (from their nametag). It often gets an extra smile.

Sprinkle in Specificity – This is a great strategy for the workplace. A simple Thank You is appreciated with colleagues; it is even more appreciated when there are some specifics attached to it. Adding some details with what they specifically did creates an environment that shows that you truly see them, their hard work and their contribution to the company. Thank You with specificity builds loyalty and encourages people to work even harder.

Top it off with Heart – A heartfelt Thank You is an amazing gift to give someone. Those are the ones I remember, the ones that remind me that I am making a difference in the lives of others. With Thanksgiving days away, a great way to thank your friends and loved ones is to acknowledge them for not just what they do for you, but how their actions have impacted your life. Share with them how they have made a difference in your life. I know this may be outside of your comfort zone and could even be a bit awkward, but the benefits can far outlast the awkward moment.

With Thanksgiving around the corner…Who can you thank in your life? Whether it’s a stranger, like Terry, or a loved one, I encourage you to acknowledge them with a personal, specific and heart-filled Thank You.

Turning Crisis into Triumph

The last few weeks, ok…more like the last few months, I have been struggling with a problem that I haven’t had to deal with ever before. If I was being truthful to myself, I would even call it a crisis, a financial crisis. It has pushed me and pulled me in ways that I could have never envisioned I would experience at this point in my life.

Now I have struggled financially off and on over the years, but never to this extent. Due to some life circumstances and some mental roadblocks, I find myself in new territory.

You may not be experiencing a financial crisis, but you may have some other challenges that are testing you, whether it’s a relationship, an academic or work situation. Unfortunately, as part of being human, we all are tested now and again.

Rather than focusing on problem and feeling disempowered, what we can do is reclaim our power and find a route to overcome the challenge. While I haven’t fully resolved my financial crisis, I have found some steps to begin to turn the challenge in the direction of triumph.

1. Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but…

Telling the truth in this area can be very challenging for me because I want to appear successful both to others as well as myself. However, ignoring the problem only made it worse. However, my work is about being authentic, so I thought I better walk the talk. So I sucked it up and began to tell the truth to myself and the people who loved me. When I did, the sense of relief was palpable. I found out I wasn’t alone and it didn’t diminish their image of me and my success. In telling the truth, I was able to finally take real action to shift the crisis into triumph.

2. Look for the Lesson

This is the crux of turning any challenge into triumph. While isn’t always easy or fun to look for the lesson or gold while in the middle of a crisis, this has been the quickest way for me to turn the tides. Sometimes I resist the lesson because I secretly like the drama of being in crisis. I am definitely good at the drama too. :) Yet, I know the struggle and suffering leaves me feeling powerless, so I look for the lesson or gift to reclaim my power in the situation.

As I look for the lessons in this financial crisis, two come to mind immediately. The first is my stepping up in financial responsibility – essentially putting my big girl panties on. I am now intimately connected to my bills and bank accounts in ways that will set me up financially for the rest of my life. The second gift is willingness to accept help. Being fiercely independent, I always hesitated to really depend on people because I didn’t want to be a burden. However, in this situation I have to make many requests for assistance, depending on people on a deeper level than ever before. This leads to the final step to turn challenge into triumph.

3. Seek out Support

The support from others was essential in helping me find solutions to turnaround the financial crisis. Whether it was simply a consoling conversation, advice on pinching pennies or job referrals, I was grateful for all the support I received to know that I wasn’t alone. Most people, especially our loved ones, are eager to help out in some way. The more specific we can be in our requests, the easier it can be to for supporters to step up. With our support team by our side, we can step up and out of our crisis and into triumph.

Whenever I am in trouble or even in the midst of a crisis, I am reminded of Christian D. Larson’s wise words. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” Whether it’s a health crisis, a financial crisis or a relationship crisis – we can all find ways to not just survive the crisis, but more importantly you can find a way to thrive from it.

Honoring the Heroes of 9/11 with Love

As I sit and listen to the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, I am overwhelmed with the amount of loss and grief that still exists for the families and country  eleven years later. I am also equally present to the incredible  love that lives on in their memories.  The reading of the names is such a beautiful tribute to honor each individual, especially as they are read by the family members of those who were lost.  With each name, there is a hero who is remembered.

I am especially moved by the young children speaking of their fathers and mothers who they lost at such a young age.  The love they have for their parents is so profound and evident when they speak of their heroic parents.

While wiping my tears, I wonder what I can do in honor of these heroes.  What can I do to make the world they leave behind a better one for their children and generations to come?  The only word that comes to mind is LOVE.

Love the ones we lost and love those who are still here.  Love those who risked their lives to save others.  Love those who are sick as a result of 9/11. Love for the country who united together for one another.  Love for those deployed and their families who serve with honor.  Love and embrace my loved ones.  Love to continue to bring people together and create community.  Love to counteract the fear, ignorance and hate that still exists in the world.    Love for all of our heroes!

What will you do today to honor our heroes?  Where can you show love in your life and community?

Valentine’s Day – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

heart-in-hands200x150Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is often loaded with mixed feelings and thoughts. Between the countless ads on TV, store aisles filled with candy and cards, this day has become overshadowed by capitalism than it’s original intention – Love.

I too find myself forgetting about the true purpose and getting sucked into the things rather than the love. So why not look a little deeper at this holiday named after St. Valentine. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and even the ugly:

The Good Stuff – The cool part about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a day about all types of love, not just romantic love. In a society where we can get caught up in our busy lives, we can forget to stop and celebrate all the love in our lives. Love is an essential part of our lives and for the world to keep us happy and healthy. So the more we remember and celebrate the love that we have around us, the better.

Suggestion: Tell the important people in your life that you love them: message on Facebook, send a text, or go old school and call them.

The Bad Stuff – Expectations…unfortunately this holiday is loaded with them. With advertising everywhere you look, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations around romance, flowers, cards and candy. The problem is not that we have expectations, but that we aren’t talking about them with our loved ones. When we think our loved ones should just know what we want, we set them up for failure and ourselves for disappointment. Even more problematic, when we believe our expectations aren’t met, it’s can become evidence that we aren’t truly loved by that person. The best way to alleviate some of the disappointment and stress is to talk about it, get it all out on the table.

Suggestion: Chat with your significant other around expectations for the day to make sure the both of you are on the same page. And try not to make it mean anything if your expectations aren’t met.

The Ugly Stuff: Singles can often be left out of the Valentine’s Day festivities. Even though the holiday is about love in general, the commercial side makes it about romantic love. But the day isn’t just for the couples – celebrate being single and love yourself and the friends around you!

Suggestion: Grab your friends, your family and other loved ones and have a V-Day Party! Celebrate with the great loves in your life! You could even exchange cards and candy.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating the ones you love!

Reflecting back on 2011- Preparing for 2012

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different from 2010? It is an important question to ask and ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? . If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition.

When I reflect on the year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly hangs on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s important to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. It’s also important to consider, if we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important as the ugly stuff.

When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write it down. You can be more thorough and visually see your year on paper.

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – professionally, personally, financially? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad Stuff – What disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not so pleasant surprises? What mistakes did you make that you learned from? Try to bring some compassion and forgiveness to these moments, so you can let go and move on. If there are some lessons to learn from these experiences, be sure to take those with you into 2012.

The Ugly Stuff – What were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? The important part is that you have survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to bring up the memories, the feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson, the gift, in these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that they don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

Reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011 will give you the opportunity to celebrate all your successes, learn the important lessons, and let go of any excess baggage to make 2012 the best year ever!

Gratitude Lists – Top 10 Reasons to be Grateful

Having yesterday off to give thanks, I felt compelled to sit down and make a Gratitude List to remember that I have an amazing life, even when things don’t appear so amazing.

Stopping to recognize what’s good in your life can shift your mood, your attitude immediately. If you are being grateful, it is impossible to be disappointed or complaining simultaneously. If you are ever wanting to shift your mood or attitude, then pause and be grateful.

You to can make a gratitude list. You can wake up each morning and write a list of 5 or 10 things. This can start your day in a positive way. Or you could write your list just before bed and be grateful for the day you had. It’s a powerful tool to use and choose how you want to show up in your life.

Enough about why it’s important or helpful – here is my list.

My Gratitude List – Top 10

1. My mom’s health – Just last year at this time she was in a coma – now she is fully recovered and healthy. What a miracle she is!

2. My family’s love and support – I have made big life changes over the last few years, including quitting grad school, and they have supported my decisions all the way.

3. My sister’s sense of adventure – My sister is currently living in Thailand, teaching English and traveling throughout the Southeast. What an inspiration!

4. My boyfriend’s love – It shows up even in the small stuff. I was feeling ill yesterday after dinner and he sweetly took care of me.

5. My breath – With each deep sigh, I am reminded that I am still here on this planet, able to take action, achieve my dreams and fulfill my purpose.

6. My job at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center – The opportunity to run their Girls’ Leadership Program is just a perfect melding of my passions and talents. I love the program and the people I work with.

7. Opportunity to Write – I love the opportunity to have my words make a difference for people. What a blessing to inspire and motivate with the written word.

8. My past traumas and pain – Now this one may seem odd to include, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of healing that I use on a daily basis. They have truly been gifts, just wrapped in ugly paper.

9. My friends – Too many to name here – I am continuously amazed and inspired by my friends who support me, encourage me, kick my butt when needed, but most importantly love me unconditionally.

10. My relationship with the Divine – I haven’t always had a close relationship to the Divine or God. I have spent many years developing this relationship, deepening and strengthening this bond that now seems unshakeable. I know that this investment has allowed me to surrender and fully thrive in this world, and live this amazing life.

REFLECTION
What are you grateful for? What would be on your gratitude list?