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?

Lessons from Steve Jobs

Steve JobsWhen someone as huge as Steve Jobs dies while still in his prime, it gives us pause in who was the man behind the accomplishments, behind the inventions. Steve has been compared to Edison and Einstein as the inventor of the 21st Century. We often don’t know the real story of Thomas and Albert, except what they tell us in history books. However with Jobs, with his life on the web, we have the great opportunity to uncover what made him a revolutionary, a game changer in the world of technology.

This man was truly a visionary in every sense of the word. He had many practices in his daily life that made him remarkable. He shared a few in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s definitely worth a look.

Here are a just a few to consider for yourself:

1. BE A RISK TAKER

Apple coined the term “Think Different” when he came out with the first iMac in 1998. He put iconic courageous people, like Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, to remind us that being a risk taker pays off. It also definitely paid off for Apple too in revolutionizing the personal computer.

Taking Risks is an essential part of being a success, not just in business, but in life. It isn’t easy to be a risk taker, putting yourself out there for scrutiny and criticism. It takes determination, a confidence in yourself, so that others won’t sway you from taking action.

There are some people who just don’t care what others think. I so admire those people because it is human to be concerned about others’ opinions. The key is finding others who will support you no matter what, those who encourage you taking risks and achieving big dreams. I know the times when I risked big, like moving to NYC with no job, had the biggest payoffs, knowing that I had the support of family and friends.

Where are you taking risks? Where could you step up be a greater risk taker? Who can you have on your support team to cheer you on in your risks?

2. BE RESILIENT

Jobs and his company Apple are such great examples of resilience. In 1985, Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he started, but that didn’t stop him from creating what he loved. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” He joined 2 startup companies, including Pixar, where he revolutionized computer-generated animation with Toy Story.

He was later brought back to Apple in 1998 when the company had lost its vision and couldn’t compete against Microsoft and Dell. Yet Jobs didn’t lose hope. He soon produced the iMac, and Apple became the comeback kid. Now Apple is the trendsetter, making anything they put out – GOLD!

In life, you are going to have setbacks, blocks and utter failures. The setbacks exist to test you and encourage you to grow bigger, stronger, so that you can face even bigger challenges that will most definitely come your way. While it’s much easier to just give up, life isn’t as fun or fulfilling that way. You can’t have the life you want without going after it. Go out there and demand the life you deserve and be unstoppable in getting it.

Where are you not going after what you want? Where have you settled? Where you could show more resilience? What steps could you take now to achieve your goals and dreams?

3. BE YOURSELF

“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.” Steve Jobs followed his heart in almost everything he did, even if it was unpopular because he had a vision and wouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of that vision. He became unstoppable in creating what he knew to be the best product. He didn’t let naysayers stop him. He stayed true to himself, his vision and his heart.

Staying true to yourself is critical to living a life of success. So much of our lives is filled with input from others, that we often forget to listen to our own inner voice. What is it that you want? Remember to listen to your inner voice and act from there. It’s YOUR life, so make sure it’s YOU living it.

Where do you stay true to yourself? Your vision? Do you let naysayers or circumstances get in the way of your vision of what you want to create in the world? Where can you choose to follow your heart?

We are all visionaries. We have a vision for our life, a vision for our world. If you follow these practices from Steve Jobs, you too can fulfill on your vision. Remember in your quest, to use Steve’s own words, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Changing Lanes – First Look in the Mirror

How many of you have had a boss or coworker who annoys or frustrates you? If you aren’t raising your hand right now, you are a lucky person, but pay attention because they are coming.

Before you change lanes and ditch the job, take a look in your mirrors. Often times, the solution is simply to look within and see where you can shift your judgments about that person and see them through a different lens.

A recent experience in my own life illustrates this. Someone I was supervising was annoying me. She was asking for more breaks because she was exhausted from the job intensity. I saw her as a complainer and whiner. All I wanted to say to her is “Suck it up and get over it.”

But I knew that wasn’t the solution. I was committed to finding a way to keep the relationship intact and empower her to step up in the position because I wanted to believe she was doing the best that she could.

I needed to look in the mirror and see where all the judgments were coming from. Within the mirror, I noticed where I was responsible for the situation. She was voicing her needs and expectations and I wasn’t. I had needs and expectations that I assumed the team would execute without explicitly stating them to the team. That had set me up for the frustration and annoyance I was feeling.

Once I realized that, I knew there was something I could do about it — voice my needs and expectations for my team. I did, and the frustration cleared. Everyone on the team, even the “complainer,” stepped up and met my expectations and they got more breaks. A win-win solution.

What I was annoyed by — voicing needs and expectations — was exactly what I personally needed to do. It always seems to work out that way. I invite you to look at where you may be frustrated and want to change lanes and see if you need to look in your mirrors first.

Where are you feeling frustrated with someone at work? Are there unvoiced expectations that may be causing it?

The Power of Speaking Your Truth

After the long journey I have had to reclaim my voice and speak my truth,
I still struggle sometimes to speak my truth, but I know that it is a practice, a choice in every moment. Before I needed to fit in; I needed to belong. Now I know I have the choice, and it is very real and conscious. I continue to search for opportunities to uncover areas where I may be suppressed and I can choose self-expression. With every choice I make to express myself, my roar is reclaimed, and I seize another opportunity to speak my truth.

Deep within my soul, I know I was given the responsibility of reclaiming my voice for a divine purpose. I know I am meant to share my journey as an example for others to reclaim their voices, to reclaim their own roar. Much of my work as a life coach and motivational speaker now involves empowering women and girls to speak their truth and roar. I am constantly inspired by courageous women who allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to look at where they have been silenced. I become energized as I watch them reclaim their voices, and speak their truths. I am honored to be part of that process. A self-expressed woman is beyond strong. She is invincible.

You can read more of my story in the upcoming book – Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories From Inspiring Women – launching August 9th. Click here to purchase the book.

Mentoring – A Crucial Tool for Success

Mentoring is one of the most effective tools for success, both personally and professionally. Utilizing the people around us to enhance our skills and confidence, connect us with important people, and advise us in challenging moments creates a more direct path to achieving our personal and professional goals. Effective mentors open the doors to success rather than needing to break them down ourselves.

Spotting a Mentor
– Mentors are everywhere – sitting across the conference room table, but also across the table in Starbucks. By looking outside the box, the opportunities are endless. Don’t just stop at one mentor either, find many. A variety of mentors can support different mentoring needs, which also prevents over-relying on just one person to meet all of our mentoring needs. The more people looking out for our best interests, the better.

Utilizing a Mentor – Clear communication of expectations allows the mentoring relationship to be successful. It’s essential to clearly express the mentoring needs: acclimating into a new position, attaining a job or promotion, or seeking advice on navigating group politics. Knowing the mentoring needs, a potential mentor can assess how successfully he/she can meet those needs. Equally important is a structure that works for both parties, whether it’s face-to-face meetings every two weeks or occasional email exchanges. Ensuring both parties are clear in the expectations minimizes frustration and disappointment, creating a more effective relationship.

Keeping a Mentor – A mentoring relationship is first and foremost, a relationship. Both parties need to benefit from the relationship in order to sustain it over a long period of time. Invest the relationship with time and attention by getting to know the mentor as a person. This will also provide opportunities to reciprocate and support the mentor, further investing in the relationship. Mentoring relationships, like any relationships, require attentive care to ensure it’s mutually satisfying and therefore, long-lasting.

Investing in strong mentoring relationships allows us to gain access to information and opportunities vital to our development by looking for mentors outside the box, expressing expectations clearly and investing in the relationship. While enjoying the benefits of being mentored, remember to pay it forward and mentor others along their journey.

What’s a Better Answer – Yes or No?

We are taught when we are younger, ask and you shall receive. In a world where we are never enough, asking and receiving does nothing to satiate that hunger to have enough, to be enough. The grass is always greener on the other side, despite what we have achieved and received.
When we always get what we want for, we are never enough. The “Yes” from others can reinforce a lack within ourselves.

When we are told “No,” we are given a wall, a barrier. The “No” is an opportunity to question whether we want it and how much we want it. We are forced to question ourselves. The “No” is a mirror to look inward and determine what we really want.

  • Is it something we really want or something we think we should want?
  • If it is something we truly want, are we willing to go around the barrier, maybe even break through the barrier to get it?
  • Are we willing to demand what we want and do what is necessary to get it? Even if it means transforming yourself?
  • Are you willing to let go of your pride, your judgments, your perception of yourself for what you want?

All of that is behind the “No” – your growth, your opportunity to look within and know yourself.

So encourage more “No” in your life…and know yourself.

Loving Your Ugly

To really love ourselves fully, we must love all of who we are – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

For me and many people I know, it’s much easier to love and embrace the good – the best parts of us – our talents, positive personality traits, and the most attractive parts of our body. The bad parts are a little more difficult to love. Our ugly parts, the ones we often want to ignore or forget, are much more challenging to accept and appreciate. However, it’s these ugly parts that are the most crucial for us to love in order to be authentic and at peace in our life.

When we think of these ugly parts of ourselves, they’re often things we’re ashamed of, feel guilty about, and try to hide from others (and sometimes even ourselves). They might be parts of our personality, aspects of our body, or even actions or experiences from our past.

The ugly part of myself that I’ve been learning to love is the aspect of my personality that bulldozes people. This “bulldozer” comes out when I want something to go my way and there are others who think it should go another way. My actions and attitude will flatten them and silence their voice.

We are taught from a young age that we can only show our good sides, and we must hide the bad ones. Because we usually hide these ugly parts, we often think we’re the only ones who have them. If we start telling the truth about the ugly parts, we will begin to see that we are not alone – it’s just part of being human.

If we can embrace our humanity with compassion and forgive ourselves for these ugly parts, we don’t have to be driven by the need to hide them. Doing this allows us to become more authentically who we are and also allows us to regain the energy that we’ve used to hold down and hide this ugly stuff.

Sometimes, people confuse “loving” with approving or condoning, especially when our ugly parts hurt others or ourselves. The bulldozer part of me is definitely not something that I approve of or condone. However, “loving” can mean that we give up making it wrong and become more neutral about it. In other words, we accept it as part of being human and part of who we are. I can accept and embrace my bulldozer as one part of the spectrum of my humanness. I don’t have to beat myself up when it comes up, but just own it and apologize when it squashes people.

Here are a few steps to help you love your own ugly and to accept yourself fully:

1. Tell the Truth to Yourself – Before we can shift or change anything, we need to know what we are dealing with. Examine all the thoughts, feelings, and judgments you have about your ugly parts (or some specific ugly part you want to make peace with). It often takes a lot of courage for us to shine a light on something we try to keep in the dark. However, we can’t love or embrace what we can’t see.

2. Be Willing to Give Up the Judgment – Our thoughts and judgments about an ugly part of ourselves can often seem like the “truth.” However, they are just our thoughts and judgments. If we can begin to separate our judgments from the truth, there is space to see something new.

3. Find the Value – Everything has some positive value, even the ugliest stuff. There is a gift, something to appreciate, that this ugly aspect of who you are provides. This is often a difficult step since we have spent so much of our time and energy judging this part of who we are. Although it may be difficult to find, seeing the value of your ugly is the key to finding compassion and forgiveness for yourself.

4. Embrace and Integrate – Once we find the value, we can begin to embrace it for what it gives us rather than hate it for what it takes away. The protective walls containing the ugly part start to fall away. The negative charge around it diminishes. When you embrace and integrate the ugly, you will find more freedom and ease to be your authentic self.

5. Share with Others – Sharing with other people can remind you that you are not alone. Friends and family can also support us by reminding us to love that ugly part when we forget. Sharing can also inspire others to do the same – to love and accept all of who they are.

Please be gentle with yourself as you do this work. It can be quite challenging and vulnerable, but can have a powerful impact on your life in the process. Also remember that you don’t have to do it alone. I often do this work with people I trust since it can be scary to look at the ugly. But, the freedom and peace that comes from doing this, makes it worth it.

Sara Nowlin is a speaker and life coach, specializing in authenticity and self-expression. Her signature program, The Truth about Ugly – Redefining Self-Image, focuses on embracing and owning all of who we are so we can be free to be ourselves. For more information – http://www.saranowlin.com