Archive for June 2011

Inspiration Is Everywhere (If You’re Looking For It)

This week I’ve been in NYC on equal parts work and pleasure. I lived in NYC in my twenties, and so when I come back I try to jam-pack my visit with as many meetings and meals as I can squeeze in. What I love most about the city is its energy and the sense of endless opportunities, and this week I definitely got my fix.

But this week, I got something more. I got unexpected bursts of inspiration, whimsy, and hope in unusual places. See, I’ve been working hard at noticing more. Noticing what’s going on around me, noticing how I’m feeling about it, noticing the beauty in just about everything. It’s part of what I’m learning to do through the life coach training program I’m doing with Martha Beck. I’ve discovered that when I tune in more to each moment and what’s happening around me, life just feels better.

So when I was in NYC this week, I decided to notice. And as it turned out, the city had some messages for me. Literally.

The first message was on the stairs leading up from the subway station on 28th and Broadway. I had just dropped my 6-year-old son off at science camp and was feeling anxious about whether or not he’d do okay. They were going on a field trip after all, and he’s not a NYC city kid. I was thinking about what his day might be like as I walked up the stairs and saw these words written in black paint along the back of one step:

Everything is going to be alright

I had to laugh. Thanks universe, I thought to myself. And somehow, I knew that message was for me.

The next message came the following afternoon. I had a free hour to exercise, so feeling nostalgic, I grabbed my iPod, laced up, and ran to Central Park to do my
old running loop. Amidst a ton of other runners, bikers, roller bladers, tourists in horse-drawn buggies, I ran and thought about the meetings I’d had, the work I wanted to do, the dreams I wanted to accomplish. My mind was racing as I tried to sort through my jumble of thoughts about what I should be doing next, where to focus my energies, how to make the most of the opportunities I was being presented with. That’s when I started noticing messages along the running trail. Written in all caps in chalk every couple of hundred meters or so were the following words:

Become Your Dream

Well, that message couldn’t really have been any clearer. I laughed again as I wondered about who had scribbled all these messages, curious about their motivation and thinking about how many people had read and were internalizing this beautiful message. I finished my run feeling sweaty, exhausted, and exhilerated.

The last message (at least handwritten one) of my trip came two mornings later. I was meeting with an old friend at Union Square to share a bagel and sit in the park to catch up. We had a long talk about the things I’ve been trying to practice in my everyday life – living in the moment, being present, and noticing. And as we walked to the subway station to hug goodbye, we walked over the following message scrawled on the sidewalk:

Be mindful even if your mind is full

It was just what I needed to hear, just the send off I needed as I went back to my friend’s place to pack up my things so I could move on to the next leg of my journey. Because that message confirmed to me what all this noticing has pointed out – when you are living your life in the moment (not fixated on what went wrong last week or what might happen in the future), life can be truly magical. And who doesn’t need a little magic in their life?

How about you? Have you ever gotten a message in an unusual way? How did  you know it was for you and how did you react?

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Strategies for Dealing with Disappointment

Disappointment is tough. I know because I experience it frequently as a writer and speaker always putting myself out there. It’s part of the job for me, and even though I’m pretty good at letting it go and moving on, I still need to consciously get myself through when the disappointing news first comes up.

How about you? Maybe your crush didn’t like you back. Maybe you didn’t get the grade you wanted on your midterm. Or maybe, through no fault of your own, your summer vacation just didn’t go as you planned.

Whatever your circumstance, disappointment is something we all feel from time to time.

* Sometimes we’re disappointed in ourselves: we didn’t get the right grade…we didn’t get into the right college…we didn’t score the winning goal.

* Other times we’re disappointed in others: our best friend shares a trusted secret with someone else…our mom reads our journal…our father doesn’t get off work in time for our graduation ceremony.

* And then there are the times we’re disappointed in the world: things just don’t work out the way we think they should.

And while it’s normal to feel disappointed from time to time, lingering in that feeling can be seriously disempowering, making us feel blue, blah, betrayed and bothered. And when we’re focusing on these negative feelings, it’s all-too-easy to let the emotions behind them seep into other areas of our life.

The good news is, there are some simple tools for handling disappoinment that can nip those feelings in the bud. Here are a few tricks that every smart girl needs to know:

  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself: Disappointment is often the result of having unrealistic expecations. And while I would never discourage anyone from dreaming big, remember that goals are something to strive for, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t reach every goal exactly as you planned. Instead, try setting goals to do your best and be true to yourself in your quest for success.
  • Don’t place expectations on others: If you take away one thing from this affirmation, let it be this – the only person whose behavior and actions you can control is yourself. While it’s okay to find someone else’s actions disappointing, don’t give that feeling too much power. Often times, what other people do or don’t do has nothing to do with us…it’s about them.
  • Give yourself a break: Hey…even when our goals are realistic and we’ve done all the hard work to ensure the outcome we want, sometimes life throws a curve ball and things don’t work out as planned. When this happens, why not be nice to yourself and tell yourself the same kind of supportive things you’d tell a friend in a same predicament?
  • Avoid using the word “should”: Have you ever said something like, “this should have happened” or “she should have called me” or “I should have done better”? Then I ask you this…what good does “should” do? Since we can’t change the past, then throwing the word “should” around is really a waste of energy. Why not focus on what might happen differently the next time?
  • Don’t “awfulize”: If you say things like “it’s awful” or “I can’t stand it” or “it’s the end of the world for me!” then what you’re really doing is magnifying your disappointment. Words are powerful things, and what we tell ourselves has a bigger impact on our feelings and emotions than anything else. The truth is, you can stand it. And while you may not like it, the disappointment you’re experiencing is not the end of the world. Try putting things in perspective and see how your emotions change for the better.

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How do you handle disappointment? If you’ve got some tips to share with other smart girls, leave a comment!

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How to Get Real About Your Dream Career

What’s your dream job? A doctor? An actor? A business executive?

Whatever it is, if you’re like most teens, you’re pretty sure that you’ll eventually land a job doing it. In fact, a recent poll by Junior Achievement found that nearly 75% of students answered “definitely” or “pretty sure” when asked if they would ever have their ideal job.

When I was a teen I changed my mind about my dream career at least once a month, and while my parents and sis used to bust on me for being so “wishy washy,” looking back I think it’s kind of cool that I felt the world was wide open. And despite the fact that I was an “average” student and was by no means a super over-achiever, I too felt pretty sure that whatever I ultimately decided to do would eventually happen for me.

To make sure you’re moving in the right direction, here are six things you’ll want to have in your back pocket:

* A Dream: Until you’ve set your sights on something, it’s hard to work towards it. Don’t worry…that doesn’t mean you have to know exactly what you want to do this moment. Dreams can be approached in a big-picture way (like, I want to help people or I want to do something creative, and so on).

* A Plan: Once you have a dream, creating a plan or setting simple goals can be a great first step towards moving forward. Again, plans and goals can be simple and broad (like, I’d like to volunteer with an environmental organization or I want to join the math club). Try writing down your goals or plan in your journal – once your plan is in writing, it somehow becomes more important!

* An Education: No matter the career dream, a good education is key. For some careers, a strong background in math or science is a must-have, while others will require writing and research skills. Even if you don’t see the relevance in what you’re studying in school today (how I felt much of the time in high school!), I guarantee that, with the right attitude, you can take away something that will help to propel you forward. Plus, who knows what educational requirements you’ll need down the road? By working hard now, you’ll make sure that all doors stay open to you!

* Motivation: As teens, there always seems to be somebody pushing us forward, whether it’s our parents pressuring us to make grades or an involved teacher who wants to make sure we reach our full potential. But as we move on to college and beyond, it’s more and more important that the person pushing us forward is ourselves. Being self-motivated to reach our goals and always do our best can have more of an impact on our fate than all the cheerleaders in our lives put together.

* Determination: Sticking to it and never giving up is something that most successful career people have in common. The really cool thing about determination is that once your personal determination gets you through a tough situation or results in a victory, it becomes more and more a part of how you approach challenges and life. The next time you feel the odds are stacked against you, why not discover how a determined attitude affects the outcome?

* A Positive Attitude: We’ve all heard about the “power of positive thinking” a kabillion times, but have you ever experienced it for yourself? The amazing thing about having a positive attitude is that, even if the outcome of a situation isn’t exactly what you had hoped for, maintaining a positive attitude can make sure it still results in something good. If we can take this same energy and apply it to getting the most out of our experiences, our chances of reaching our career dreams get that much better.

For more ideas and inspiration, check out my book In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers where I profile 50 women to find out what it takes to be successful!

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Call for Teen Girl Delegates for the UN’s International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration!

How would you feel about being a delegate for the United Nation’s International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration in New York City this August? Teen and teen online destination AllyKatzz is offering you the chance.

This August 11th, 192 female delegates ages 11-24 will join together at the UN for the special celebration will which include lots of press, powerful women, celebs, ALLY Award winners, UN youth champion Monique Coleman, and tons of girl power. According to AllyKatzz, it will be “the day when girls from around the world speak up and change the world.”

To throw your hat in the ring to be a delegate, you need to apply by writing an essay sharing your vision on how you hope to accomplish one of the following “Millenium Goals” – end poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnership.

To find out more and apply to be a delegate, visit AllyKatzz here. Applications are due by June 30, 2011. Good luck!!

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