Monday, June 28, 2010

Are You Asking Yourself the Right Questions?

At church yesterday the minister asked all of us to participate in a short exercise. First we all closed our eyes and then she asked us to think about the question, "What is wrong with me?" How did this make us feel? Then, after getting up and shaking to dispel that experience, she asked us to close our eyes again and posed another question for us to think about, "What is right with me?" How did this make us feel? During the first part of the exercise, I know I felt very let down and sad - all the things that I would like to improve about myself ran through my mind in quick succession. Then, during the second part of the exercise, I experienced a mind shift. I began to think about the things that I do well and my spirits lifted. I found myself smiling! What a difference!

What are the "wrong questions" we often ask ourselves? These are questions like "How come ________ happened?", "who is to blame for this?", "can I do this?" and "why am I only _______ (you fill in the blank)?" All of these questions focus on our past and assign blame. They drain our energy and make us feel bad about ourselves and the situation. Asking the "right questions", though, has the opposite effect. They uplift us and make us feel good about ourselves and others. These are questions like "How can we solve this problem/fix this situation?", "how can I do this?" and "wow, I'm _______! How can I improve to become even better?" All of these questions are future oriented and are focused on finding solutions, not assigning blame.

What type of questions are you asking yourself? Over the next week, if you hear that pesky voice inside your head ask a "wrong question", pay attention to how it makes you feel. Then change it to a more positive one; one that helps you to look to the future. Bask in how good it makes you feel. It can become addictive!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Smiles

I've found myself visiting a number of different stores and other businesses over the past few days. I've always been fascinated with how businesses operate and I found myself checking out each store - how it is set up, what the staff are like, and things like that. The big thing that I noticed is what a difference a smile makes. Whenever I was greeted with a smile by a staff member, I automatically felt better about the store. It became a friendlier place. I felt as though my business was important to them - that I was important to them. And, as a result, I was more apt to stay in the store and browse. After I left each store, I also started paying more attention to how many people I saw smiling. I am sorry to say, I didn't see many. I remember someone telling me once that a smile is a visual hug. It makes us feel good about others and about ourselves. It tells people that they are important to you and that you are glad to be in their company. And have you ever found that when you smile, it is really difficult to think negative thoughts! It is a great cure for the blues. So the next time you walk down the street, think about smiling at the people that you pass. You never know, you may make someone's day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Believing in Yourself

Once a week I "meet" with a coach friend on the phone. We share business tips, chat about our successes and our challenges, and practice our coaching skills by helping eachother. The last time we talked I found myself telling her about my week. It had been a challenging one...you know, one of those weeks that you really wish you could just forget. I had received some disappointing news and I knew I was feeling hurt by it. But I was feeling something else too, and I just couldn't put my finger on it. After carefully listening to me talk for a number of minutes, our conversation went something like this:

Friend: "Cathy, can you personalize what you just said?"
Cathy, rather mystified: "What do you mean by 'personalize' it?"
Friend: "Over the last few minutes I've heard you say a number of times, 'when my business succeeds'. How about when YOU succeed?"

Receiving the disappointing news that week had made me feel a bit blue, and, as a result, I began to doubt my abilities to succeed. We all go through this from time to time. For me, it was a momentary lapse. I have found through experience that if I wait awhile, my mood will change and my thoughts will become more positive. It did get me thinking more about success though and what it means to me - and how we verbalize it to others. Often by listening to what we say, or by having a friend truly listen, we can learn things about ourselves that we aren't aware of. Over the next few days try paying attention to what you say. Listen to what pronouns you use. Like me, you may learn something about yourself that may prove to be valuable.