June 2015


“Your expectations set the limits for your life. If you never expect anything good, you’re never going to receive anything good.   If you don’t expect things to get better, then nothing will get better.” – Joel Osteen

I just had one of my most memorable and wonderful birthdays. My heartfelt thanks go out to all my friends, family, readers and clients who sent me your best wishes, cards and gifts! Rick and I spent the day at our favorite recreational spot, Disneyland, and experienced a number of mini-miracles that made our day extra-special.

We go every month with our Annual Passes, and some visits are more crowded times than others. This month, not only are all the kids out of school, but it’s also Disneyland’s 60th anniversary and there are lots of “Diamond Jubilee Celebration” attractions and events designed to maximize attendance.

Rick is a native New Yorker, so jostling crowds don’t bother him. I, on the other hand, was raised in the wide-open spaces of the Southern California suburbs where I never saw a parking meter until I was in my 20’s. Crowds bother me. A lot. I hate to admit it, but hot days, jostling crowds, long lines, crowded restaurants and baby strollers bumping my heels sometimes make me feel pretty cranky.

Anticipating that the day was going to involve crowds, I did my early-morning prayers and preparation to expect THE BEST from the day, regardless of whether it was hot, the lines were long, and other guests were less than polite. No matter WHAT outer circumstances we faced, I reminded myself that my own ATTITUDE would be the #1 factor determining my experience.

I stated aloud (so God/The Universe and my own subconscious mind would be sure to hear and remember THE BEST scenario that I wanted to experience): “Today, we have a great time at Disneyland. My birthday is fun, light, and happy. People are kind and thoughtful. I am patient, relaxed, compassionate and happy. I am Priceless!”

It was Tuesday, but when we arrived at 11:30 am, it looked more like a normal summertime Friday. We just waded in with a smile and the crowds parted. We walked right up to the hostess stand just as our favorite restaurant opened and requested the first available reservation at noon. That turned out to be perfectly timed for the arrival of our dear friends, who came all the way to the Park just to have lunch with us and then run off to a family function. How kind and thoughtful!

While we waited for our friends, Rick bought me a cute Minnie T-shirt (yet another in his week-long extravaganza of birthday presents for me). Since there was nobody else in the shop, the two salespeople were relaxed and chatted with us for quite awhile, even giving us the “insider” scoop about the best days and times to avoid crowds in the Summer. How kind and thoughtful!

After lunch, we found one of our favorites rides temporarily closed, so we opted for a spin around the nearby Rivers of America on the S. S. Mark Twain steamship, an authentic replica of the three-story paddle wheelers that Samuel Clemens used to pilot on the Mississippi before he became Mark Twain.  I always assumed it was on a track, but on Rick’s birthday a couple of years ago, someone told us that guests can request to steer the boat.

Rick went up to the Pilot he spotted on the dock and asked if we could steer on this trip, but she said, “Sorry. We don’t take requests anymore. We just pick people at random now.” We didn’t allow ourselves to feel disappointed. We just smiled and relaxed on a nearby bench, looking forward to the trip. I was focused on manifesting room for us in the shade on the second deck because it was a warm day.

Just before boarding time, the Pilot came over to us and said, “Nobody has been picked to steer on this trip. So I guess you’re it!” We had a blast, with Rick steering and me chatting with the Pilot in the wheelhouse, enjoying the best view of the river imaginable. Before we left, she took our picture holding our official “Pilot’s Certificate” dated June 23, 2015, with both our names on it, stating that we are “qualified Pilots of the S. S. Mark Twain.” It is now proudly displayed in our Disney curio cabinet – a unique Diamond Jubilee keepsake that we couldn’t buy in any store. How kind and thoughtful!

Before the evening’s big finale to our special day, we walked to our favorite restaurant adjacent to Disneyland, the Napa Rose.   Dinner for two in the four-star restaurant’s lovely dining room was a tad too pricey for this trip, so we decided to splurge on shared appetizers and a couple of glasses of good wine in their comfy lounge. The servers are first-rate professionals, and ours couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive.   Unfortunately, she misheard our order and brought out the wrong appetizer. She rushed it back to the kitchen for a replacement while we relaxed and enjoyed our wine. We had plenty of time, so no sweat!

After a delicious, leisurely meal, including two great desserts, the check came. Without saying a thing, our server had comped our appetizer and my “birthday” dessert. As a result, our tab was about half of what we expected.   How kind and thoughtful!

At the end of our magical day, waiting for a tram that would take us back to the parking structure, I felt tired, happy and entirely fulfilled. This turned out to be one of the happiest, smoothest, most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had. I choose to believe that is because I EXPECTED the Best and I determined to be MY Best. And I GOT the Best!

****************** The Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ********************

I invite you to offer someone you care about a truly unique gift that can change their life — ONE HOUR of Personal Success Coaching! It is absolutely F*R*E*E* of charge, with no obligation and no strings attached! And if YOU haven’t coached with me in awhile and would like a “tune up” session please give yourself this gift!

To schedule a F*R*E*E* HOUR of phone coaching that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make this the BEST year yet, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or call toll-free 888-503-8145.

 

June 21, 2015

I was originally planning to take this week off from writing the blog, to give myself time to celebrate my upcoming birthday week. But since today is Father’s Day, I decided to re-post a slightly-edited version of my 2014 tribute to fathers and share again with my beloved readers the important life lessons that my own wonderful father taught me.

“Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – Maya Angelou 

Happy Father’s Day!   I gratefully acknowledge everyone who is a father or who acts as a role model/mentor for someone else.

Today’s quote from the late wonderful poet and writer Maya Angelou perfectly describes the way my father, Harbison Parker, lived his life. Although his years on earth were far too short, he lived each of them with maximum gusto and I am quite sure he had no regrets when he died suddenly at age 57, right at the beginning of my Senior year of High School.

My mother was my source of unconditional love, whatever minor discipline I needed, and the usual “always wear clean underwear for the ambulance” practical advice. My Dad was my Playmate, Teacher, walking thesaurus/dictionary/encyclopedia, and my #1 Role Model. I don’t remember him talking to me directly about rules to live by. Instead, he just lived his life on his own terms and I learned how I wanted to live mine by observing how he did it.

Here are the key guidelines for abundant living that I got from observing the happiness and fulfillment my Dad derived from living by them himself:

  • 1) Be happy – Other than the day President Kennedy was assassinated, when I saw my him cry for the first time, Dad was invariably optimistic, cheerful and humorous. He loved to laugh at and tell jokes (especially bad puns), watched all the 60s comedy TV shows with me, and could find the hidden humor or irony in any problem. From him, I decided that hanging out with happy, positive people is the only way to go! While I got my inclination to worry from my mother, I got my sense of humor from my father. Guess which trait has helped me more in life?
  • 2) Be curious – My Dad was the most insatiable life-long learner I’ve ever known. He never passed a used bookstore without buying something. He left behind boxes of notebooks and reading materials on everything from Elizabethan poetry to paranormal science. It’s too bad he didn’t live into the Internet Age because he would have spent hours and hours Googling anything and everything. I learned from my Dad how fun it could be to know a little bit about a lot of things (which led a High School English teacher to dub me the“Renaissance Woman”). Dad never pontificated about his own views, but sought to learn from others’ opinions. His attitude set me up for career success because coaching requires listening more than talking, being curious instead of judgmental, and having a wide variety of resources at my fingertips to support my clients’ needs.
  • 3) Be creative – My Dad was one of the most creative problem-solvers I’ve ever known. He was an amateur inventor who came up with what he believed was a breakthrough system for teaching reading that was better than phonics. Unfortunately, he died before he got to finish it. My Dad taught me to stretch my imagination and ingenuity with his creative inventions, like a teeter-totter I could play on alone, consisting of a long board balanced on an old oil drum and weighted on the other side with bricks that were equal to my weight. (This was in the days before “helicopter parenting” and Cal OSHA, you understand.)
  • 4) Be of service – By Dad’s example, I learned that while life can be enjoyable when we meet our own needs, it can be truly fulfilling only when we help others meet theirs.  He voluntarily gave up a lucrative professorship at the University of California to teach at a community college where he felt he made a bigger difference teaching remedial English to working adults striving to improve their lives.

Dad took a personal interest in Mrs. Edwards, an elderly woman in his night school class who wanted to improve her English. One day he hitched a trailer to our station wagon and filled it with boxes of hand me down clothes and a used refrigerator. Then my parents, Mrs. Edwards and I drove from Orange County, California several hours south to Tecate, Mexico to give her extended family these precious gifts. I was just eight, but I still remember what the dirt-floored, one-room adobe shack smelled like and all the flies buzzing about. I am certain those strangers never forgot my Dad’s generosity.

Looking back, our relationship reminds me a lot of the bond between Atticus Finch and his young daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Atticus, my Dad was older when I was born, so we didn’t do much physical play together; our father-daughter bond was more spiritual and mental. And luckily for me, like Atticus, my father demonstrated by his daily life exactly how to be self-confident and stand up for one’s principles, while remaining respectful of the different abilities, lifestyles and opinions of others.

In short, Harbison Parker was my #1 Role Model for how to “love life, engage in it and give it all you’ve got.” And I feel blessed to be his daughter.

****************** The Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ********************

I invite you to offer someone you care about a truly unique gift that can change their life — ONE HOUR of Personal Success Coaching! It is absolutely F*R*E*E* of charge, with no obligation and no strings attached! And if YOU haven’t coached with me in awhile and would like a “tune up” session please give yourself this gift!

To schedule a F*R*E*E* HOUR of phone coaching that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make this the BEST year yet, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or call toll-free 888-503-8145.

 

 

“If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” – Henry Ford 

My job, first and foremost, is to provide “safe space” for my coaching clients to be 100% themselves.   They know that in our conversations, they have complete confidentiality and freedom to speak their truth without fear of being judged or made wrong. I may not always agree with their point of view, but I strive to be respectful of it and to keep asking objective questions until I feel that I thoroughly understand it. Only when I understand their point of view can I suggest other possible approaches they might consider before speaking or acting in ways that could have unintended repercussions.

Yet, despite near-daily practice with hundreds of clients for almost 11 years, I still slip up from time to time. When I’ve had a particularly long or hectic day and my mental and emotional energy “tanks” are depleted, I can sometimes forget to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I may get attached to my own point of view or jump to conclusions. I might even hurt some else’s feelings by a poor choice of words or tone. In short, just like you, I sometimes say things I later regret.

For effective communication, there is nothing more vitally important than following the Golden Rule. If we want to build positive, lasting relationships, we must treat others as we want to be treated. The key, as St. Francis of Assisi said, is to “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.” 

I had a painful lesson in the consequences of NOT doing this just the other evening. It came at the end of a long and hectic day spent trying to balance focused coaching with fielding a barrage of eager emailed requests for free coaching sessions (YES, this is a GREAT “problem” to have!). In the evening, I felt physically tired and emotionally depleted. In fact, I felt downright cranky.

Sitting numbly on the couch in front of the television, I heard the ding of an incoming email on my phone. I knew that I should wait until morning, and give myself a chance to relax and replenish my patience stores. Instead, I peeked at it and discovered a very upset message from one of my clients, describing something unfair she felt another of my clients had done to her.

Once again, my better judgment whispered to just leave it alone until I had a clearer head in the morning, but instead I inserted myself into the disagreement, which I had no business doing. My client fired off the email to me simply to vent her frustration; she never asked me to get involved! Nevertheless, armed with only the bare-bones “facts” presented from her point of view, my own tired, cranky Ego made a snap decision to jump headlong into a delicate, complex situation.

Over the years, I have recognized that my Inner Wisdom/Intuition almost always tries to stop me from acting impulsively. Whenever I listen to that wise inner voice, I invariably feel relieved that I didn’t take the bait and speak or react impetuously during a stressful moment. Whenever you feel gripped by a strong negative emotion that is urging you to fire off a biting, angry or snarky response to a perceived wrong, I recommend listening instead to that wise inner voice, which is undoubtedly urging you to STOP and cool off before you respond.

Instead of listening to my wise inner voice, I impulsively picked up the phone just before 9:00 pm and called client number two, purportedly to get “her side of the story.”   But when she answered the phone, my words spilled out as though something had taken control of my vocal chords and was using them without my permission. I grilled her with a rapid-fire barrage of questions – first accusing and then judging her “guilty” of exactly what client number one THOUGHT she had done.

I could tell she was taken aback, but to her immense credit, she didn’t lash back or even act defensive. As she did all she could to field my accusatory questions as calmly and clearly as she could, it slowly began to dawn on me that there really were two sides to this story, as there always are. The indignant, self-righteous Ego voice screaming in my head subsided and I began to regain control of my thoughts and emotions.

As her side of the story emerged, it became clear that there were NO bad intentions on either side – just a misunderstanding caused by both of them making assumptions that turned out to be wrong. And then I fell into the same trap myself by assuming that what client number one had told me was 100% right and that my other client’s actions had to   be wrong.

Throughout the call, I could hear a bone-weariness in my client’s voice, but I just ignored it. Only later did I recall what she had shared with me only a few hours earlier about her own extremely hectic and emotionally difficult day. I am sure that she was feeling far more tired and emotionally drained than I was. Yet, she kept her cool when I lost mine.

After we hung up, I felt progressively worse, as I thought back over my lack of emotional control, harsh tone and judgmental manner on the call. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to clean it up with her ASAP. It’s best to convey something like this by voice, rather than writing, because it is so hard to accurately interpret tone and intent in written messages. But it was too late in the evening to call her back and I didn’t want to leave her feeling disempowered, so I texted her.

I did my best to follow the integrity training I got from Landmark Education to avoid making excuses or making it about ME. As straightforwardly and sincerely as I could, I sent her this apology:

“I apologize for sounding upset. I am not mad at either of you wonderful women. You are two of the nicest, most giving people I know.   I am just frustrated that things went wrong for both of you through miscommunication. Nobody had bad intentions. Just another example of The Four Agreements and how hard we all have to work not to make assumptions. And I admit that somehow I took it personally [another of The Four Agreements]. I can’t even say why I would! I just introduced you to help you both. The rest is entirely none of my business. I let myself get emotionally involved and that was wrong. I apologize again if I offended you or made you feel wrong.   You had a very tough day and I entirely overlooked that, too. The last thing you needed is a call like that. Hope you will forgive me.” 

To her further credit, she responded magnanimously, “No apologies needed. I know you have the best intentions for me and all your clients. I felt bad about any frustration it caused you. Thank you for calling me to talk through the concerns. You pointed out some valid points.”

Wow. How KIND she was to me in response to how UNKIND I was to her! Whose energy do you think influenced the other’s more? Her powerful positive energy had a much greater impact on ME than my negative energy had on her. Positive energy is always stronger than negative energy. She demonstrated what it means to truly live the Golden Rule and it is a lesson I will strive to remember.

Ironically, just a few days before my self-inflicted drama, I coached another client about how important it was to think carefully before she responded to an injustice perpetrated on her two young children. The Vice Principal of the private school her kids attend called to tell her that they must serve 15 minutes of detention during the last week of school because they had been tardy to their first classes too many times. She was incensed because the school is way across town and their few late arrivals were due to heavy traffic.

After forwarding her an inspirational thought from minister Joel Osteen I had received that very morning, she was quickly able to regain a positive perspective and respond in a very effective way. Instead of dressing down the overly-strict Vice Principal, she wrote a calm, measured email to the Principal stating why she felt her children should not be punished for something they could not control. “It is perfectly OK if you want to fine us parents, but I cannot allow my children to be humiliated for something they didn’t do.” The Principal immediately wrote back, assuring her that they would waive any punishment and expressing appreciation for the strong support she and her family have shown the school over the years.

Here is the thought that helped my client express her position in a committed, but positive way that garnered a positive outcome.

Guard Your Mouth [by Joel and Victoria Osteen]

Today’s Scripture: “He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3, AMP

We’ve all said things we wish we could take back. Scripture says that when we guard our mouth, we keep our life. That’s because our words determine the direction of our lives, and wrong words can get us off course very quickly. 

The Bible tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. There’s no neutral ground. We are either sowing seeds of life and productivity with our words, or we are sowing seeds of ruin and destruction with our words. 

Today is a good day to take inventory of your words and make the decision to sow only good seeds. Sow seeds of life by speaking God’s Word over yourself and those around you.   Make the decision today that your words will bring glory to the Lord as you guard your mouth and keep your life!” 

May these words of wisdom remind us to think before saying and doing things we will wish we could take back!

****************** The Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ********************

I invite you to offer someone you care about a truly unique gift that can change their life — ONE HOUR of Personal Success Coaching! It is absolutely F*R*E*E* of charge, with no obligation and no strings attached! And if YOU haven’t coached with me in awhile and would like a “tune up” session please give yourself this gift!

To schedule a F*R*E*E* HOUR of phone coaching that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make this the BEST year yet, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or call toll-free 888-503-8145. 

 

 

 

“I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time.   So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” – Dan Millman

One of the biggest challenges my coaching clients seem to face is how to sort out multiple priorities among all the important tasks and projects they want to accomplish each day. With a demanding full-time job and a side business to manage, along with a family that needs their time and attention, how on earth are they supposed to find time for their own personal needs like daily exercise and Personal Development time? Where is that elusive “life balance” everyone wants?

I show them how to prioritize and manage their many accountabilities with ease, using a simple system I learned years ago. I call it the “Big Rocks” weekly scheduling system, after a memorable demonstration by a time management/efficiency expert.

First, he placed a big glass jar on a table. Next to it, he placed four glass jars containing rocks, pebbles, sand and water. He asked the audience in which order he should put the four substances into the jar so that ALL of them would fit. Looking at the four containers separately, it didn’t seem that the rocks, pebbles, sand and water could all possibly fit into the one big jar, but he promised they would if they were put in the right way.

Finally, someone got it: Put the BIG rocks in first, followed by the pebbles (which filled in the open spaces between the rocks), then the sand that sifted down into the cracks between the pebbles, and finally the water, which seeped down between everything, filling the jar to the top. Yes, all four items did fit into the available space, even though it looked impossible when you considered them separately.

The point he was making is that if you take care of the BIG tasks first, all your other tasks can be done with ease. But if you eat up most of your day checking off a long list of meaningless “little stuff,” you won’t have enough time and energy left to accomplish the truly IMPORTANT things that will make the biggest difference for you.

In addition to this great prioritizing insight, I also learned another key principle of productivity from the book “Master Your Workday Now!” by Michael Linenberger. He asserts that, while you may like to think you attend to the most “important” tasks first, the truth is, we all invariably do the most URGENT tasks first, whether or not they are the most IMPORTANT to us. These may or may not be your personal priorities, but they are tasks with a short deadline that your boss, church committee, spouse, kid’s teacher or customers say they MUST have your help with right NOW.   You will put out these fires first because alleviating the internal pressure caused by the feeling of urgency trumps all.

Linenberger believes that, as a rule, we can handle a maximum THREE such urgent matters each day. When more than three urgent tasks are competing for your attention at once, your brain loses the ability to prioritize and accomplish them. Most of the time, attempting to accomplish more than three urgent “Big Rocks” causes your brain to shut down and not finish some or all of them, or makes you to try to get them done in a slap-dash way that produces poor results.

What is the best way to accomplish your most urgent and important Big Rocks tasks each day? Rule #1 is DO NOT schedule yourself for more than THREE Big Rocks per day. These are defined as tasks that must be done by YOU (meaning you cannot delegate them to someone else) and must be done or worked on TODAY. If it can be delegated, ask for help! If it can be put off to a later time and still be done properly, schedule it as one of your “Big Rocks” for another day.

All this talk of urgency probably doesn’t sound very easeful, does it? So how do you accomplish three Big Rocks, along with the rest of your To-Dos every day with a feeling of ease and control? Simply PLAN your Big Rocks in advance! Here’s how Mr. Linenberger’s book taught me to do it:

  • 1) For 20-30 minutes each weekend, sit quietly with your long To-Do list of upcoming tasks and projects and your day planner calendar. Study your list carefully and decide which tasks are going to be your Big Rocks to accomplish during the coming week.
  • 2) Schedule a maximum of THREE Big Rocks tasks per day into your weekly planner/calendar at the TIMES of day you think they should be done. Some Big Rocks will be appointments at set times, such as a job interview at 10am on Tuesday, a dentist appointment at 3pm on Friday, getting your car’s oil changed on Thursday morning, going to your kid’s soccer tournament Thursday at 4pm, etc.   Other daily Big Rocks will be projects and tasks that YOU must choose the best day and time for YOU to work on. In that case, you will be BLOCKING out times that you feel are optimal for you and the results you want, such as making prospecting calls from 10am to 11am each day, writing a report that’s due by the end of the week from 2pm to 5pm on Tuesday, practicing the cello each day from 5 to 6pm, in preparation for a recital in two weeks, etc.
  • 3) IF a conflict arises between a previously-set appointment (which, of course, you wrote in your planner the minute you set it) and a Big Rock task or event that came up later, your weekly planning time alerts you to either change the standing appointment OR negotiate a change for the task or event. Being in integrity requires that you notify anyone else who will be affected by such changes, just as soon as you become aware of them. If another’s expectations are not going to be met, alerting them ASAP allows them time to either get someone else to fill in for you or to negotiate a new time for you to accomplish it.
  • 4) After scheduling the Big Rock tasks and appointments for each day of the coming week, you then can fill in the rest of the open times with your “Pebble” tasks. These are not as important as the Big Rocks and/or they can be done at flexible times, so you can fit them in after you see what the Big Rocks schedule looks like each day.
  • 5) After that come the “Sand” and “Water” items, such as errands. If these small items don’t get done today, it’s not a big deal; you can still fit them among the Big Rocks and Pebbles another day this week. Try to be efficient by looking at your To-Do list for multiple errands that can be done in the same trip and block those out for 30 minutes or an hour in a given day. TIP: Always have something useful to read or listen to while you commute or are stuck waiting somewhere for a few minutes.   Don’t waste precious time playing games on your smart phone when you could be reading a good book or listening to a recorded training call.

IMPORTANT: In order for this system to work,

  • You absolutely MUST keep a daily/weekly planner that has slots of at least 30 minutes for each day. (My coaching appointment calendar has 15-minute time slots from 8am to 8pm each day.) AND
  • You must keep ALL of your appointments – business, personal, doctors, kids’ sports, social engagements, etc. — on the SAME planner/calendar. If you have multiple calendars going for different areas of life, you will eventually double-book yourself or miss something important and tears will flow.

My clients who faithfully use this simple “Big Rocks” weekly scheduling system report that it really works! They have a greater sense of control over their time and no more stress caused by double-bookings or forgotten appointments. And they have a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day because they were able to complete the things that really mattered, instead of just checking off a bunch of little tasks that can’t help them reach their Big Goals.

If you will devote just 30 minutes each weekend to planning and scheduling the week ahead, I promise you will gain a greater sense of control, lower your stress level, and begin to create that “life balance” we all crave. Seems totally worth it, doesn’t it?

****************** The Gift of Dreams Fulfilled! ********************

I invite you to offer someone you care about a truly unique gift that can change their life — ONE HOUR of Personal Success Coaching! It is absolutely F*R*E*E* of charge, with no obligation and no strings attached! And if YOU haven’t coached with me in awhile and would like a “tune up” session please give yourself this gift! 

To schedule a F*R*E*E* HOUR of phone coaching that will help clarify your Big Goals and get you into ACTION to make this the BEST year yet, please email me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or call toll-free 888-503-8145.