What Are You Feeding Your Brain?

dreamstime_xs_46622325We all know that we need to have a healthy diet to physically nourish our brains as well as our bodies.  Without the proper nutrients, in adequate amounts, our brains can’t function properly.

We also need to be aware of what thoughts and beliefs we are feeding our brains, about ourselves and about the world.

Are your thoughts telling you that are worthy or worthless?  That you are capable or incompetent?  That you are smart or stupid?  That you are a success or a failure?    Are your thoughts telling you that people in general are good or evil?  That the world is beautiful or ugly?  That life is full of hope or hopeless?  You get the idea.  Our thoughts become our beliefs which become our reality.

We also need to pay attention to the subtle messages that creep into our brains.  Think of the movies you see, the television shows you watch, the books you read, the music you listen to, the people you follow on social media.  What messages are there?  Are they positive or negative?  How is this impacting your brain, how is it impacting you?

I am especially concerned with what messages are being sent, received, and believed about women.  Take a critical look at the messages you are receiving.  Are women portrayed as smart, strong, independent people?  Or are they portrayed as objects or as inferior beings?  What messages about women are your daughters, granddaughters, and nieces receiving?  Are these message that will help or hurt them?

Too often I think we just soak in whatever messages are there, like mindlessly eating junk food, without thinking if these messages are good for us.  Is it time for you to feed your brain more positive thoughts and messages?

Self-Empowerment

dreamstime_xs_65105548, resizedEmpowerment is external, self-empowerment is internal.

Empowerment is when someone has power, permission, and/or authority to do something.  This often comes from outside the person.  For example, our supervisor might empower us to make decisions related to the business.  We might empower our attorney to make legal decisions for us.  Laws might empower women to have more equal status in the workplace.

Self-empowerment comes from inside of us.  It is when we give ourselves the power, permission, and/or authority to do something.  This might be to grow and develop into the person we want.  It might be to create the life we want.  We have the power within us to create what we desire.  Often what stands in our way is that we do not think we have the right to it.  We need to give ourselves permission to go after what we want.

Self-empowerment is when we use our power to take control of all aspects of our life.  It is when we take responsibility for our choices, our thoughts, our actions and the consequences of these.  It is when we decide what we want, develop a plan on how to achieve it, and implement the plan.

This applies to our professional and personal life.  Each impacts the other.  An important benefit to this is that the knowledge and skills that make you successful in one aspect of your life can assist in another.  For example, skills that you learn to deal with less-than-desirable co-workers can often be used to deal with pesky relatives who refuse to fall off the family tree.

To take control of your life it is important to be aware of what makes you you.  What are your thoughts?  Values?  Beliefs?  Passions?  Goals?  Motivations?  Who are you, and why are you the way you are?  This helps you determine why you do the things you do.

My writing is designed to provide you with opportunities to think about various topics.  From this you might gain a new perspective about yourself, your thoughts and beliefs, your motivations, and your actions.  After that, it becomes easier to make changes in your thoughts and behaviors, if you decide to do so.

 

Gain and Pain

dreamstime_xs_35911205, croppedYou have probably heard the concept that we have two basic choices.  We can choose long-term gain for short-term pain or we can choose short-term gain for long-term pain.

Most of the decisions I have made in my life were long-term gain for short-term pain.  In college I regularly choose to study instead of party.  In my careers I regularly chose to work long, hard hours and to do my best rather than slacking.  I have usually chosen to do what was right or responsible rather than what I felt like doing at the time.

These decisions have paid off for me.  I consider myself to have a happy, successful life, both professionally and personally.

What I realized the other day, though, was that I am at a point in my life where I can ease up.  I can do more of what I want because I want to.  I’ve reached the long-term gain and I don’t really need to worry so much about the short-term pain.  I’m glad I’ve made this realization now, where I can enjoy it fully.

If you are like me, and have consistently made the long-term gain decisions, I suggest that you stop and access where you are in life.  Could you do a little more of the short-term gain items?  With where you are now, is there much long-term pain to worry about?

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 SusanLFarrell.com.

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.

Clean as You Go

dreamstime_xs_71944316A food service concept is “clean as you go.”  Basically, that means that you keep your work area clean.  As you complete one task, you clean the area before beginning the next task.  If you spill something, you clean it up.  As you have time, you wash pots, pans, and dishes.  All this helps keep food safe.  Plus, it is easier and more efficient than trying to clean a disaster of a kitchen at the end of the day.

This concept is something that can be used in our professional and personal lives.  As we complete one task, we can clean our desk, kitchen counters, or other work area before moving to the next task.  If we make a mess, we can clean it up immediately.  It can make us more productive.

We can use this concept from a mental standpoint.  When we complete one task, we can clear our minds before starting the next task.  It can help us focus.

We can use this concept from an emotional standpoint.  If there is something bothering us, we can deal with it rather than ignoring it.  It can help our emotional health.

The concept of “clean as you go” really is that we take care of things when they are small and easier to do rather than waiting until they are large and more difficult to do.

Life Happens, but…

dreamstime_xs_88002753A friend and I were discussing how difficult it can be to accomplish things because “life happens.”  I have been thinking quite a bit about that conversation and I have decided that “life happens” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, things happen.  Usually, though, we can manage this either through better planning or through making better choices.

For example, we all get sick sometimes. If we plan that things like this will happen, then it’s not as disastrous when they do happen.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I work ahead.  I like to have blogs written a few weeks in advance of posting.  If something happens, I can still post a blog.  That only takes a few minutes, compared to writing a blog which can take a couple of hours.  I rarely wait until the last minute to do something.  Not only do I not have to explain to clients why I cannot keep a deadline, it also greatly reduces my stress.

We can also plan financially.  If we have an older home, we can plan that we will probably need to replace appliances, the furnace, or maybe even the roof within a certain number of years.  There is also always the possibility of unplanned unemployment.  By saving money now for emergencies, it is not as detrimental when it does happen.

Making better choices interrelates with better planning.  If we make the choice to use our time and money more wisely, we will have those resources to help us when “life happens.”

Making better choices sometimes involves telling people “no.”  Everyone wants more from us than we can usually give.  It’s acceptable to set boundaries and tell people that we cannot help them.

Sometimes making better choices involves being realistic about how much we can do and telling ourselves “no.”  We may want to do more, but it might not be feasible.  For example, I would like to adopt almost every kitten that needs a home.  It’s not feasible for me to become a crazy cat lady, at least not if I want to stay married!

Frequently it’s not so much that “life happens” as it is that we haven’t planned and/or chosen as well as we could.

Did You Do Better?

dreamstime_xs_83897954When we tell ourselves that we did something well, that’s positive.  Maybe we did well in an interview, in a discussion, or in confronting an employer, employee, or customer.  Maybe we did well in something that benefits our health, such as exercising.  Maybe we handled a difficult situation with a friend or family member with respect.  When we give ourselves credit for doing something well, that helps our self-esteem and helps us to do well again.

Sometimes, though, we do not do well.  We handle a situation poorly.  Unfortunately, when this happens we sometimes focus too much on how poorly we did.  We then sometimes extend that into other areas.  If we are bad at “A” then we must be bad at “B,” for example.  This, of course, hurts our self-esteem and makes it more difficult to do well next time.

When we do not handle a situation well, or do not do as well as we could at something, it’s important to recognize it and learn what we can from it.  But it doesn’t do us any good to beat ourselves up over it.

A question that helps me is, “Did I do better than I normally do?”  If the answer is “yes” then I know that at least I am improving and can do even better the next time.  It encourages me to keep trying rather than giving up.  As long as I am progressing, there is a good chance that eventually I will do well in that situation.

Often it is not a matter of doing “good” or “bad” but doing “better.”

It’s Still a Good Day, a Good Life

dreamstime_xs_70038545I think most of us get frustrated and sometimes angry with things that happen every day.  People are inconsiderate.  Things don’t go the way we want.  Stuff happens.  These negative occurrences can get in the way of us recognizing and focusing on the positive things that are happening.

To manage this, something that I have asked myself for years is: “If this is the worst thing that happens today, will it still be a good day?”  Almost always the answer is “yes.”  As soon as I realize that it will still be a good day, it helps me put the situation into the proper perspective.  It makes it much easier for me to put the negative incident behind me and focus on what I want to do.

Sometimes, however, what happens is extremely bad and no, it is not a good day.  The worst day of my life was when my father passed away.  Nothing would have made that a good day.

What I have recently realized is that when the answer is, “No, it is not a good day” a good follow-up question is, “Is it still a good life?”  I have only used this once so far.  I had fostered and then adopted three kittens.  I had them for less than four months and had to have two of them euthanized on the same day.  It was one of the worst days of my life.  Realizing that even with losing them, I still had a good life, even a great life, helped put things into perspective and gave some comfort.

If you can use either of these questions to help you with the difficult situations you face, please use them.

Self-Limiting Belief Systems

dreamstime_xs_30823517We all have belief systems.  We all have beliefs on how the world is and who we are.  Some of these can be beneficial.

For example, a belief system that I have had since I was a child was that if I wanted something, I needed to work for it.  If I wanted “A’s” in school, I needed to study and do the assignments well.  If I wanted nicer clothes than what my parents could afford, or more books, I needed to earn the money to buy them.  As an adult, this belief system continued.  I needed to complete college, to work hard to get promotions, to get raises, to earn money to buy the things I wanted.  I needed to save money, to invest money, so I could take care of myself in the future.  My husband shares this belief system and together we have been very successful.

Sometimes, though, we have self-limiting belief systems that can get in our way of being successful (however we define success).  “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve it” limits our ability to achieve what we want.  Too often, these self-limiting belief systems do not even have a basis in reality.  We believe them because we have been telling ourselves these things for years.  This is something that probably most of us need to address, at least at some point in our lives.

I am beginning to realize, though, that belief systems that worked well for us in the past may become self-limiting as our lives change.

The reason I say this is that my husband and I are at the point where we can retire.  We may semi-retire first as there are still things professionally that we want to do.  However, we want to have time to do things we want, like travel, while we are still healthy enough to be able to do them and enjoy doing them.

The belief system that I have always had, to work hard to earn money, is hindering the new belief system that I am developing on what semi-retirement means to me.  I can slow down now, I can do things I want to do, rather than what I have always had to do.  This is a new concept for me, and is a difficult adjustment—not unpleasant, but difficult.

For example, a friend and colleague recently asked if I would be interested in being a delegate for a professional association.  One of her selling points was “It would look great on a resume.”  Initially I agreed that, yes, it would look good on a resume.  Then I thought a little more.  I no longer need to build a resume.  The question now isn’t whether this will benefit me professionally, will it make money for me, but do I want to do it?  Do I want to take time away from what is most important to me professionally (write books) to do this?  Do I want to take time from personal pursuits (travel) to do this?  The answer was a very easy “No.”

We do not change our belief systems overnight.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  I know I will be working on my change for some time.  And that’s fine.  The important thing is that I am consciously working on it.

Do you have self-limiting belief systems?  Any that have always been limiting and need to be addressed?  Any that may have served you well in the past, but now, not so much?