Use the Back of Your Brain

dreamstime_xs_62496032When I was in college it always took me awhile to complete the research for papers.  The major reason was that I always found so many interesting studies to read.  They might not have been relevant for the paper I was writing, but it was hard to resist reading them anyway.

One related to brain functioning.  It said that either the subconscious or unconscious (I forget which—or maybe it was both—let’s call it the back of the brain) was always working.  Since it was always working, we might as well have the conscious part of our brain (let’s call it the front of the brain) tell the back of the brain what we wanted it to do.

I was going to college full-time and working 30-40 hours a week to pay for college.  I needed all the help I could get to make best use of the time I had, so I started experimenting with this.  I would tell the back of my brain things like: “I have to write a paper on XYZ.  What should I include?  How should I organize it?”  Then I would work on other things for a day or two.  When I sat down to work on the paper, the information flowed.  I had much more information than I ever had when I tried to write something “cold.”

The more I used this technique, the better it worked.  I still use it.

For example, a few days ago I had the idea that this topic would make a good blog.  If I had sat down and tried writing it the minute I had the idea, I would have struggled.  Instead, the front of my brain told the back of my brain to work on this idea.  Now, the thoughts are pouring out, faster than I can type.

I use this for large projects, such as writing books.  With a book, I tell the back of my brain to work first on the overall concepts and content of the book and as I start writing, I tell it to work in more detail on the next chapter.  It works!  I have more trouble finding time to write than I do in getting thoughts on paper once I have time to do it.

I also use this for little things such as planning parties, holiday dinners, and vacations.  People comment on how organized I am.  To a large degree, I think it is because I use the back of my brain to work on things while the front of my brain is focused on other items.

If you don’t already do this, I suggest that you try it.  If it works, you might find that you are more productive.  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost a thing.


The Best and the Brightest

dreamstime_xs_29054082A friend and I were reminiscing at our 40th high school reunion about, of all things, high school.  During the conversation, she made a comment about how she and our other friends were surprised that for so long my goal was to become a secretary.  The reason it surprised them, she said, was that I was one of the smartest in the class and could have done anything.

That conversation brought back memories that I have not thought about for a long time.  On one level, I knew I was one of the smartest in my class.  Grades weren’t a secret and mine were consistently at the top.  And yet I did not think I was smart enough to go to college.  It probably wasn’t until my senior year that I finally realized that if I wasn’t smart enough, who was?  There were plenty of students, with lower grades than mine, that were planning on going.  If they could, why couldn’t I?

The result is that I went to college, obtained two bachelor of science degrees and a minor, graduated magna cum laude, and did it in 4 1/2 years while working 30-40 hours a week at 2-3 different jobs.

I was one of the best and the brightest, yet I didn’t see it.

Are you in that situation?  Are you one of the best and the brightest and don’t realize it?  Would you have greater success in your life if you recognized that you are capable of achieving it?

Are there girls in your life (daughters, granddaughters, nieces) that might be in that situation?  Do they realize that they are one of the best and the brightest, that they can do anything they want?  Would some encouragement from you help them see themselves more clearly?  (And remember that boys need encouragement, too.)

Often, the thing holding us back the most is our own self-perception.  We can change that!

Aim Higher

Blog Drawing SquareI recently attended my 40th high school reunion.  During a conversation with a friend since elementary school (not an old friend—neither of us are old!) I was reminded of something one of the high school guidance counselors told me many years ago.  He explained it differently than I will here, but the concept is the same.  (Since we were face to face, he could talk with his hands as well.  That doesn’t work so well in a blog.)

Imagine a vertical line.  Near the top of the line is point A.  Around the middle is point B.  Near the bottom is point C.  He said that he would rather see students aim for point A and only achieve point B than to aim for point C and achieve it.  Even if they don’t achieve point A, by achieving point B they will have achieved more than if they settled for point C from the beginning.

At the time, I couldn’t begin to realize how important that concept is.  At least I grasped enough that it encouraged me to go for a bachelor’s degree rather than an associate degree after graduating high school.

I hate to admit it, but there have been times in my life when I did not try for point A because I did not think I could make it.  Sometimes I aimed for point B and got it, but sometimes I settled for point C when I could have done more had I aimed higher.

Have you done this?  Are you doing this now?  Could you achieve more if you aimed higher than you thought you could achieve?  What could your life be like if you did?

College Bound

1, SF_52WeeksOfWisdom_FINAL COVER_022215, front_edited-1, squareFarrell_Don'tActLikePrey_FULLCOVER_FINAL_090714, cropped_edited-1Are there any women in your life that are going to college this fall?  Someone who has graduated from high school and is starting the next phase of her education?  Someone who has been in the “real world” for awhile and has decided that a college degree is what she needs to accomplish her career goals?  Someone who is going back to college for an advanced degree?

If so, my books would be great gifts to let them know you are thinking of them, as well as assisting them in meeting their goals through self reflection.

Don’t Act Like Prey! A Guide to Self Leadership for Women uses stories and metaphors to discuss the costs of being passive, the costs of being aggressive, the benefits of being assertive, and how to find the delicate balance of assertiveness.

52 Weeks of Wisdom, A Guide to Self Leadership for Women provides 52 short stories to encourage the reader to think about what she does, why she does it, and does she want to change.

For additional information, and to order from your preferred supplier in your preferred format, go to

Show What You Know

dreamstimefree_2404805My husband and I went to a baseball game recently.  Listening to the National Anthem brought back a memory from grade school.  The experience turned out to be one that probably shaped my life more than I thought.

I was in 5th or 6th grade.  The teacher gave us an assignment for the next day:  learn “The Star Spangled Banner.”  I was more than a little concerned—that’s four long verses!  When I got home and told Mom, she told me I’d better start working on it.  After supper, she helped me.  By the time I went to bed, I had the entire anthem memorized.  I didn’t really understand all of it, but I had the words memorized, and in the right order.

At school the next day, the teacher called on my classmates to recite the song.  One by one they went to the front of the class and recited anywhere from a few words to a few lines.  A couple may have recited the first verse.  That was it!

I remember wondering what I should do.  I knew the entire anthem.  That was the assignment and so that’s what I did.  Part of me thought I should stand up and demonstrate what I had done and what I knew.

But part of me wanted to belong.  I didn’t want to stand out from everyone.  I didn’t want to be different.  It would be easy to recite less than what I knew—maybe one verse.  That would be a good compromise, wouldn’t it?  Demonstrate some of my knowledge while not being too different.

I still hadn’t decided what to do when the teacher called my name.  As I was walking to the front of the class, though, I decided to do it.  I had spent the entire evening learning it, Mom had spent time helping me, why shouldn’t I show what I knew?

When I finished all four verses, there was a brief silence (and I thought, “Oh no!  What did I do?!”) and then wild clapping.

My classmates didn’t care that I learned more than they did.  They weren’t going to shun me for that.  It was all good!

I think it is good to show what we know.  If we don’t, no one will know except us.  And others need to know if we are going to succeed.  I have since learned that it’s important to be respectful, to use a certain amount of courteousness and tact at times, but don’t be afraid to show what you know.

Common Courtesy—Not So Common

dreamstime_xs_87916289, resized_edited-1I’m beginning to believe that common courtesy is an oxymoron.  Courtesy is not so common anymore.

You do not hear the little courtesies (please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me) as frequently as in the past.  You also hear more obviously discourteous behaviors (yelling, screaming, interrupting).

I think part of this is related to television.  Think about the lack of common courtesy in many of the TV shows; think about how people are treating each other.  Even in many of the news programs, it’s not about a civilized discussion, it’s about who can outshout the others.  When people watch this enough, they begin to think that this is appropriate behavior.

I think part of the lack of courtesy is related to social media.  It’s easy to slam people and their views when you don’t have to do it to their face.

I think another part is related to parents who don’t teach their children manners.  Too many parents let their children do whatever they want.  Children need to be taught what is acceptable behavior, and this means teaching boundaries.  It also means that when children display negative behavior, there is a negative consequence to their negative behavior.  If the child is allowed to continue with the negative behavior, it reinforces that the negative behavior is acceptable.

I think the root of lack of courtesy is lack of respect.  Too many people do not respect other people.  They do not respect that other people have the same rights they do.  They do not respect that other people have the same right to their views and beliefs.  They do not respect that other people deserve to be treated the same way they want to be treated.  And too often children are not taught to treat others with respect, both directly and by example.

I know this is not an easy issue to solve.  But if each of us try to treat the people around us with courtesy and respect, it will at least make our little piece of the world a little better.  And who knows?  Maybe it will spread!

Take It Off the List

dreamstime_xs_34342688Do you have things on your to do list that have been there for weeks? Months? Longer?  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Either do them today or take them off the list.  If you  haven’t done them by now, what makes you think you are ever going to do them?  Plus, if they haven’t been done by now, they must not be that important.

Keep in mind that a to do list is not the same thing as bucket list of things to do before you “kick the bucket.”  It might take a long time to accomplish some of the things on your bucket list.  It’s good to keep that list to keep you motivated to accomplish those things.

A to do list is not the same as your long-range goals and corresponding plans, either.  Those, too, can take a long time to accomplish.

However, for your daily or weekly to do list, I’m sure there are things that you can safely delete if they have been there far longer than a day or week.   Clean up your to do list so that you can focus on the important items.

Everything is Subject to Change

dreamstime_xs_76945264My husband and I saw a sign in Key West stating:

“Everything is Subject to Change.”

Yep, that pretty well sums it up.  Anything and everything can change at any time.

Although we can plan for what might happen, I think the best thing we can do is to try to be mentally and emotionally flexible and deal with changes the best we can when they occur.

Surface and Hidden Cultures

dreamstime_xs_79148620I met a woman recently who works with companies to change their cultures.  It was an interesting conversation and it prompted me to think about company cultures that I have experienced.

One in particular comes to mind.  It was a skilled nursing facility with a very high turnover in the nursing department.  The turnover didn’t make sense because the facility was positioned well in the area related to pay and benefits.  Other departments in the facility did not have the same problem.  I don’t remember whether the administrator finally investigated the situation closer or if it was a new administrator, but the result was that although the nursing staff complained about being short-staffed and having to work overtime, in reality, they liked the extra pay.  To keep the overtime pay, they were driving away new employees.

In looking back on this situation, I realized that companies might have surface cultures and hidden cultures.  Of course, it can be argued that whatever is happening reflects the true culture.  But for the purpose of discussion, let’s use the terms surface culture, what it appears to be on the surface, and hidden culture, what it really is.

In the skilled nursing facility mentioned previously, one department, on the surface, appeared to share the culture the rest of the facility had with not wanting to be short-staffed and in making new employees feel welcome.  In reality, the department had a hidden culture that drove employees away.  On the surface, they talked the talk of wanting more employees.  Underneath, they didn’t and undermined attempts to retain, and maybe even attract, new employees.

What is the surface culture of your organization?  Are there any hidden cultures in your organization?  If you are not achieving the results you want in your company, is this worth investigating?

This same concept can be used in our personal situations as well.  Are there hidden cultures in your immediate or extended family?  Is the surface culture one of support but the hidden culture one of sabotage?

Find a New Balance

dreamstime_xs_32614115We need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives.  We need to balance not only our time but also our energy, mental focus, and finances. We know this.  We try to do it.  The trickiest part, I think, is that our lives change and then we need to find a new balance.

If we change from being single to being married, it means finding a new balance.  If we go from being married to divorced, that necessitates finding a new balance.  We need to find new balances when we have children, as they grow, and again when they leave home.  We find new balances as our parents age and need more assistance.  Often if we start a new job or career and it requires more of our time, we need to find a new balance.

My husband is recently retired.  Of course, he has a major balance change.  Unlike some people, though, he is not having any difficulty in finding things he wants to do.

I’m finding that I also need to find a new balance related to his retirement.  I still want a writing career.  However, I also want to spend time with him.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, golfing, and other activities that we feel we should do now while we physically can.  My challenge is finding how to balance all the things I want to do.

My current plan is to consider myself semi-retired.  I have found that it helps me feel less guilty about not spending as much time working as I did.  I haven’t quite found a balance that feels “just right,” but that’s o.k.  Often finding a new balance is as much of a process as it is a destination.