Category Archives: Featured Articles

The Joy of No

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No…. Just hearing that word brings a feeling of joy to my heart.  Why?  Because I now know the freedom and peace which uttering this one simple word can bring to my life.

I have had to learn the hard way the pain of being a “yes woman” and piling too many projects and responsibilities onto the plate of my life.  But I am now enlightened to the power and serenity that becomes possible when one replaces “yes” with “no” on a more regular basis.

Choosing no

The word “No” can bring us freedom and joy.

A Simple Phone Call about a “Good Cause”

Let’s begin with a simple scenario…   You receive a phone call from a local organization asking you to participate on a committee or a fund-raiser.  It seems innocuous enough and besides, it’s for a good cause.  So you say yes and feel good about it at the time.

Then the other shoe drops…  You learn that you’ll need to attend bi-weekly meetings plus spend numerous hours working on projects related to your newly appointed role.  The nice idea of helping out turns into almost a second job and you find yourself spending more and more time on your new project.

Sadly, you find that you now have less time for your hobbies, your family, and your friends.  This may be okay if you feel passionately about what you are doing and if it’s in line with your highest values or fulfills one of your most important goals. But often, that is not the case.

I’m All for Volunteering, But…

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying you should never say yes when approached to lend a helping hand or contribute to a worthy cause.  What I am saying is that some careful contemplation and consideration is necessary before saying yes.

Make sure you get as much information as possible about what you’re being asked to do.  Ask lots of good questions to find out the specific responsibilities of the role, as well as the time requirements.  After getting this information, do a quick check-in with yourself to see what your gut answer is, yes or no.  Trust your intuition; there is a tremendous amount of innate wisdom to be found there.

If You’re Unsure, Delay Before Giving an Answer

If your answer is not a definite yes or no, I’ve found it’s helpful to delay before giving an answer.  A good way to buy some extra time is to say something like,

“I need to look at my current responsibilities to determine if I will be able to give this project the attention it deserves.  I’ll get back to you with my answer tomorrow.”

This type of response will give you some time to carefully consider the request and to determine whether it fits into your life in a positive way.  If the requester demands an answer immediately, say no.  It’s better to err on the side of caution than to commit to something that you may regret later.

Consider the Following Questions

If you have delayed your response to a request, take some time to answer the following questions during your consideration period:

  1. Is this project or task something I want to do?  If it is something you feel you should do but it doesn’t excite you, that’s a good sign that you might want to say no to the request.
  2. What am I willing to say NO to in my life if I decide to take on this new project?  It’s a good practice not to take on anything new unless you first let go of an existing responsibility. This will help you to avoid overwhelm.
  3. Which of my core values or primary goals will this project honor or fulfill?  If the answer is “none of them,” say no!  Find a project which will excite you, as well as honor your values and enable you to meet a treasured goal. 

The Enemy of the Best is the Good

A good rule of thumb is to remember one of Stephen Covey’s famous quotes,

“The enemy of the best is the good.”

There are many projects out there which are valuable and which seem like a nice idea at the outset.   But if you are spending so much time working on things which are good but not great, you won’t have time to engage in pursuits that you’ll really enjoy and which will bring you lasting fulfillment.

You don’t need to say no to everything which comes your way, but for those of us who are more prone to saying yes, it may be helpful to err on the side of caution.  Remember the wisdom of the famous anti-drug slogan, “Just Say No!”  It applies to many other situations in life…

On Success and the Tonight Show

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The Tonight Show with Jay LenoNOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in October 2010.

Last Friday, my husband and I went to see a taping of “The Tonight Show.”  This was something we’d wanted to do for a long time but kept putting off.  We are so glad we finally made it happen, as we had a wonderful time!  It was very interesting to see how a show like this evolves behind the scenes.  I recommend it to anyone who is curious and finds themselves in the Los Angeles area.

There Are Lessons Everywhere…

While we were at the taping, I had an experience that is worth writing about in this blog, as it relates to an ongoing issue that is one of the focus areas in my journey to heal my life.  This experience shows that there are lessons inherent in all of life, even things we thought would be purely fun and entertaining.  We should always be open to lessons and gifts in everything we do.

When we got to the NBC studio where “The Tonight Show” is taped, we were given numbers and asked to line up in an audience holding area.   As we were waiting, I noticed a few staffers pulling people out of line to interview them.  My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to smile at one of the staffers and use the power of my thoughts to manifest my becoming one of the interviewees.  It worked and I was pulled out of line a few minutes later!

My 15 Minutes of Fame?

I was asked to participate in a segment of the show called “Q & A with T & J,” in which audience members ask questions of Jay Leno and his guest, Terry Bradshaw.  I was handed my question to ask and was shocked at what it was… “How do you know you’ve reached success in life?”

As a person who is constantly focused on the issue of success and my associated self-doubt, I found it very interesting and perhaps more than coincidental that I would be given this question to ask on national television!

The taping was done and I asked Jay and Terry my question at the appointed time.  It was fun to interact with both of them and to get their humorous take on such a serious question.   Although I was excited to appear on television and posted about it on Facebook, I was disappointed to see that my question ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor.”   However, I did get to bring my group (which also included my father and stepmother) to sit in great seats in the studio, plus I was given a Tonight Show t-shirt, so all was not lost.

How Do You Know…?

All in all, my Tonight Show visit was a great experience, but I continued to reflect upon the question in the days that followed.  During a walk the next day, I posed the question to my husband, “So, how do YOU know you’ve reached success in life?”

His answer was a good one… He said that for him, success relates to freedom.  He knows he’s successful when he is free to spend his time as he wishes and can make empowered choices for what he wants to do in life.  Success for him doesn’t equate to a particular job title, dollar amount, or material possessions.  It is more related to how he spends his time and how much freedom he has to choose his professional and personal pursuits.

The American Dream?

We talked about how success varies from individual to individual and from society to society.  In our society, the most prevalent measure of success relates to career achievement and monetary earnings.  A person is said to be successful if he or she has a particular type of job or earns over a certain amount (which varies by region).

Home ownership is also a large factor in determining whether or not one is successful, such that the phrase “American Dream” has become synonymous with owning one’s own home.  This collapsing of concepts contributed to the mortgage crisis of recent years, but that situation is a bit off-topic for this blog…

Success vs. Failure

Are you a success or a failure? It’s all relative!

The limited definition for success in our society has many people feeling like failures because they don’t quite “measure up. “ This has been an ongoing issue for me, particularly in the years since I left my corporate job in 2003.  During the past seven years, I haven’t even come close to earning my previous corporate salary, and I’ve changed my career path several times due to acute feelings of disillusionment.   It has become habitual for me to consider myself a failure and that self-inflicted label has wreaked havoc upon my self-esteem.

Redefining Success

I haven’t really taken the time to profoundly consider my personal definition for success in a number of years.  In pondering the Tonight Show question, I remembered a quote I found long ago which deeply resonated for me.  Fortunately, I was able to rediscover this quote through the magic of the Outlook search feature.  It was published in professional coach Chris Barrow’s newsletter in March 2004:

“Success is doing what you love to do, when you love to do it, with people you love working with.” – Chris Barrow

I like this definition as much today as I did six years ago!  It dovetails well with my own definition for success that I have created subsequent to last Friday’s Tonight Show visit.

My New  Definition of Success

So how do I know I’ve reached success in life?  There are five key factors in my newly constructed vision.  I could write a complete post on each of these individual aspects, but I will briefly define them herein.

  1. Health – My recent health challenges have affirmed the truth of the old adage, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”  Health serves as a powerful foundation for success in all other areas of one’s life.  If we feel healthy and vibrant, we are much more up to the various challenges we take on and we can more readily withstand stressors along the way.  Achieving good health is an accomplishment in and of itself, especially as we age and health becomes much less of a “given” than it was in our younger years.
  2. Freedom – I steadfastly agree with my husband’s assertion that freedom is an integral component of success.  The freedom to choose the type of work we do and where and when we do it is a big part of how successful we feel.  I remember when I was first able to move to Lake Tahoe (and later San Diego) and work from home.  I think that’s when I felt most successful in my work.
  3. Happiness – Success is about so much more than career and money.  I believe a successful life involves joy and happiness each and every day.  If we can stop and ask ourselves at various times of the day, “Am I enjoying what I’m doing?” and answer with a resounding yes, we’ll likely feel much more successful people who feel somber and uninvolved in their activities.
  4. Connection – No man or woman is an island.  As human beings, we want and need to feel a connection to those around us.  We want to experience love and affinity and to develop functional and enriching relationships with the people in our lives.  If I feel connected to others and am able to communicate honestly and deeply with my friends and family, I feel happier and more successful in life.
  5. Growth – It is highly important to me to continue to grow and learn throughout my lifespan.  I want to always feel like I am evolving as a person and discovering new things about myself and the world around me.  I am successful if I can easily answer yes to the question, “Am I growing and learning new things each and every day?”

A New Fresh Outlook

So, have I reached success based upon my own definition?  Not yet, but I am definitely on my way… What’s more, I find this new definition infinitely more inspiring and empowering than the old one to which I subscribed.  I’m not suggesting that career and money are not important in life.  Of course they are, but they are not everything.  While I still hope to achieve career success and earn a decent income, it feels good for me to know I can still be successful in life without reaching those milestones.

Who would have thought I’d learn so much from a trip to see a taping of the Tonight Show?  I now move forward with my healing project with a fresh outlook and new goals.  As I proceed with the final four months of my journey (that is, if I don’t extend it beyond a year…), I am newly invigorated and feel hopeful and positive that I can and will heal my life!

How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

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Fold your sweaters and knits

If you look inside your closet, do you see garments that are in sad shape?  Do you see fading, pilling, holes, stains, scuffs, and other flaws in your clothing and shoes? Of course, some of these items may be old and past their prime, but others are relatively new and should be in much better shape.

Although there will come a time when even our most treasured clothes and shoes will need to be discarded, there are things we can do to extend the lives of our wardrobes.  This post offers a few tips I’ve found beneficial over the years that I hope will be helpful to you as well.

Buy Better Quality

Sometimes people are surprised that the t-shirt they bought at Target for $10 last year has become stretched out, pilling, and ready to be thrown away.  Now I am not one to knock Target or similar discount retailers, but we need to be realistic in terms of what we’re getting when we shop there.  The clothing offered at such stores is cheap for a reason, and the store is still making a profit despite the low prices we’re paying.  They are cutting corners somewhere and often in multiple places, including fabric type and weight, workmanship, and quality control.

It isn’t an iron clad rule, but it is usually true that you get what you pay for.  It’s fine to shop at lower-end stores, but don’t expect the things you buy there to last forever.  What I recommend is that you purchase wardrobe staples and classics at medium to higher-end stores and buy trendy pieces at the discount retailers.   Trendy items have a shorter shelf life anyway, so it usually isn’t a good idea to spend a large portion of your clothing budget for such things.

Store Your Items with Care

Do you hang your shirts and sweaters on the wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners?  Or do you use the plastic tube hangers that are only slightly better?  If so, please stop that!

Our clothes spend more time in our closets than on our bodies, so it’s important to store them properly.  I recommend that you fold sweaters and knits whenever possible, as they have a tendency to become stretched out when hung.  For other garments, I suggest the felt-wrapped hangers that not only protect your clothes; they also take up less space than standard plastic or wooden hangers.  You can buy the original brand name “Huggable Hangers” at either Target or The Container Store, but I’ve found a similar version at Costco (not currently listed on their website) that works just as well.

Laundry Tips

Most people wash their clothes after every time they wear them and this is often not necessary.  If you’ve only worn something for a few hours or if it wasn’t worn directly next to your skin, you might be able to get another wear or two out of it before a wash is really needed.    Sometimes a quick “spot cleaning” is all a garment really needs to be ready for another wearing.

When you do wash your clothes, here are a few other tips to help extend your clothing life span:

  • Use warm or cold water instead of hot.  Hotter water is harsher on clothing fibers.
  • Wash jeans and pants inside out to minimize color fading.
  • Hand wash bras and other delicate items and lay them flat to dry.
  • Use mesh bags and the delicate cycle when machine washing lace or embellished garments.
  • Hang clothing to dry on a clothesline or drying rack instead of using the dryer.

Shoe and Handbag Care Suggestions

The way we store our shoes also impacts how long they will last.  Store shoes in their original boxes (you can snap a photo to attach to the box for easy identification) or in a shoe rack, as opposed to piling them into a box or on your closet floor.   Use boot shapers to retain the shape of your boots in between wears.

To keep your shoes looking fabulous, I recommend using a Quick Shine sponge.  It’s quick and easy, leaves no mess, and is very inexpensive.  You can even keep one of these sponges in your handbag for quick touch-ups as needed.

Speaking of handbags, they retain their shape best when stored right-side up and stuffed with paper or fabric.  Many better purses are sold in cloth bags that can later be used for storage purposes.  The Container Store sells boxes and shelf separators which are useful for storing your handbag collection.