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positive habitsThe photo to the right was taken during a shoot for the Aspire Magazine cover in December.

(Of course, I can’t use it for the cover because my eyes are closed, but I love that it shows my genuine delight in that moment. And I love that I can share it with you!)

If you were reading my blog back in January, you may remember that I started out the year featured in a local women’s magazine and now I’ve learned that by the end of year I’m going to be on the cover of a magazine that goes out to over 40,000 women all over the world!

You may also remember that back in June I talked about “ending the year strong,” and now we’re just about 4 months away from the end of the year.

If you’re not happy with what you’ve accomplished so far this year, it’s not too late to make decisive changes that will make a big difference in your life by the time 2015 rolls in.

And you want to know the best part? Transforming any aspect of your life – from health to relationships to doing meaningful work – only requires tiny little actions!

If you’ve been meaning to adopt some new positive habits (and don’t we all?), and New Year’s resolutions usually leave you frustrated, B.J. Fogg is the man with a plan.

He’s a social scientist and behavior researcher at Stanford University and an expert in positive change. (Note that’s positive change – acquiring good habits. Fogg says himself that he’s not the person to go to if you want to ditch a bad one.)

According to Fogg, only three things will help you adopt positive behavior change over the long term:

  • Thing #1: Have an epiphany
  • Thing #2: Change your context (what surrounds you)
  • Thing #3: Take baby steps

And when he says baby steps, he means seriously teeny tiny steps. So minuscule you’d think “but that’s hardly doing anything!” And that’s the point.

Identify an action that is so minuscule it takes almost no effort, and do it for five days. Want to exercise for 30 minutes every day? Waaayyy too big.

transform your life with positive habitsFogg’s habits take less than 30 seconds. Yes, I know: But that’s hardly doing anything!

But doing 15 jumping jacks after you use the bathroom all day long is doing something.

Attach that action to an anchor. In order to remember to do the tiny habit, you have to do it immediately following something else you do on a consistent basis.

“In the morning” is too vague. I wanted to drink more water throughout the day, so one of my anchors is “after I brush my teeth” (which I always do first thing in the morning) – and I put a big glass of water by my bathroom sink the night before to make it even more automatic.

Then force yourself to celebrate. Do something physical to affirm the tiny thing you’ve done.

Pump your fist. Do a happy dance. Say, “I rock!” After I drink my glass of water I say to myself, “Those ‘crease’ lines on your face from your pillow (what do you call those??) are going to disappear once you’re more hydrated!”

The emotion of celebrating glues the tiny habit because your brain wants to feel happy. And you’re teaching your brain that doing the tiny habit makes it happy.

It’s all about doing something consistently, building competence and confidence.

Fogg also has his subjects choose 3 Tiny Habits instead of one so they can see why some habits fail and learn from it.

Mine were:

  1. Drink large glass of water after I brush my teeth in the morning.
  2. Meditate for 2-10 minutes after I eat some protein in the morning (usually a hardboiled egg within 30 minutes of waking).
  3. Roll my shoulders forward and backward after I get up from the computer.

I’ve never missed drinking the water after brushing my teeth or meditating after I eat my hardboiled egg, but rolling my shoulders is not yet habitual, I think because getting up from the computer is not a strong enough anchor.

Please note that I meditate for 2-10 minutes daily. I originally set the goal of 10 minutes, but that amount usually triggered a thought that I didn’t have 10 minutes in the morning…and I wouldn’t meditate.

So I found an amount I figured might work – 2 minutes – and have managed to meditate daily since then. Even my brain can’t successfully argue that I don’t have two minutes (my brain still tries, but not successfully).

So I always get in 2 minutes, and often 10 minutes. But I know I wouldn’t have a consistent practice of meditating at all if I had set a hard-and-firm rule of 10 minutes or nothing.

Fogg also says that anchoring your habits first thing in the morning or last thing at night works best. At midday life becomes too variable.

I mentioned this at the beginning of the article, but it’s important to note that Fogg’s “3 Tiny Habits” approach only works in adding a new habit, not getting rid of one.

I’ve heard that you can create a new habit essentially to block the old one, like replacing coffee with green tea, but I’m not so sure how that would work over the long term.

Try adding 3 tiny habits to your days, and see if you, too, can transform your life one easy tweak at a time.

P.S. Speaking of tiny actions…would you please take a very tiny survey for me? (It could yield you $25!!) Just click this link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YTJBYB7.

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That’s Griffin in front of his lemonade stand last weekend.

When we were getting ready, I asked him how much he planned to charge for a glass. He said 50 cents.

I said he could do that OR he could offer the lemonade for free and have a jar for tips.

He was a little dubious. (His exact words were, “Why would I give it away for free? I want to make money!”) I shared with him the research findings that we are wired for reciprocity.

That means if someone does something nice for us we practically feel compelled to do something nice in exchange.

I explained that my hypothesis was if he gave away the lemonade for free, he might be surprised by what people gave him in return.

Griffin said he’d give it a try – but insisted that we make two signs – one advertising free lemonade and the other for 50 cents.

He decided to use the free lemonade sign first. Within a minute he had his first taker, and that person left a whole dollar! He never even picked up the other sign.

There were some people who didn’t have money and simply accepted the lemonade with a heartfelt thank you. Griffin even waved down several bikers and practically insisted that they stop and have some lemonade saying, “It’s really free!”

He genuinely delighted in every interaction. When I asked him which he preferred he replied, “It’s all great!”

By the end of an hour Griffin had given away a gallon of lemonade, exchanged a ton of smiles, pocketed $20, and learned a powerful lesson about himself and his fellow human beings. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful, sunny August afternoon, don’t you think?

Whether it’s at a lemonade stand or a blog post, I want to keep spreading the message about how our ways of thinking and being have a profound effect not only on ourselves, but on others as well.

Robin WilliamsEspecially in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, and with the feelings of helplessness any crisis evokes, I want to share with you the message of hope.

If you’ve ever felt totally at a loss when it comes to soothing a friend in crisis, I hope this article will help.

I remember when the surgeon came out after operating on my mom and said she had found cancerous lymph nodes (meaning the cancer had spread from her breast, meaning that she had a much bigger fight for her health ahead) and I felt the worst I had ever felt.

It took a lot of mental discipline to focus on what I did want (for my mom to be healthy and happy) and not on what I didn’t want (which seemed to be staring me in the face), but I discovered that it is possible to make that shift.

Danielle LaPorte said it well, “Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. They just can’t see it from where they’re at.”

I really believe you can sit with someone in their sorrow and pain and still see them for who they really are – a beautiful, light-filled spirit – and as they will be in the future.

I remember taking care of really sick kids in the hospital when I was a nursing student. I fought back tears all the time.

Once when I was giving physical therapy to a 2 year-old boy with severe cerebral palsy (who had been abandoned by his parents), my instructor had to pull me out of the room because I couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down my face.

I cried to my nursing instructor, “How do you do this every day? It’s just so horrible.” and she said, “You just do it. Because you can help. Because you can soothe. Because that is enough.”

It soon struck me that if I could be fully present and focus on what brought lightness into the room (a simple Cat’s Cradle from string was always a big hit), I helped.

When I could get a child to smile or laugh, I helped.

More than anything else, though, I remember how a mother or father’s face would light up when I asked them to tell me stories of when their child was well – and then projected a time in the future when she or he would be doing all the things they loved again.

There was grace, and yes, healing, in those moments.

I have never believed that we help anybody by focusing solely on their sorrows and limitations. Of course, I have great compassion for someone who’s suffering, and I’ll always try to soothe. (And you always know if you are soothing or not by the reaction you get.)

As soon as I can, though, I move beyond soothing and try to let them know that I also see their best and shining selves.

As it turns out, research supports this approach. A research study at Case Western Reserve University has documented patterns in the human brain that indicate that positive visioning is much more likely to have a positive effect on a person than an interaction in which the “helper” focuses on the problem.

The latter is almost always received as a negative judgment – even if it’s not meant to be.

Everyone has to look a crisis in the face and take it on. I’m a strong believer in learning from my mistakes, and like Maya Angelou, I truly believe that when you know better you do better.

So when you find yourself standing with someone in a crisis, focus on what’s happening with faith that change is possible.

Focus on what the person wants, rather than what they don’t want. Doing so moves them much closer to making positive, decisive change in the future.

Robin Williams once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” In honor of Robin, let’s make them good ones.

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When should you give up on your dreams?

August 12, 2014

Well, I still haven’t yet managed to pull together all the photos from my Epic European Adventure with Griffin to share with you. But I can share a few more favorite pics from our trip – this time from the top of the Eiffel Tower. As you know, we spent about 8 hours on the […]

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Simple Steps to Maximize Your Mindset (90% of success is based on this!)

August 5, 2014

Life has been so full with getting back to my life and work that I haven’t yet managed to pull together all the photos from my Epic European Adventure with Griffin. I’ll share more once I do, but for now you can get a peek at Panthera (the boat – in the background) in the […]

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The best personal development advice is in a business book

July 29, 2014

I just got back from my epic European Adventure with Griffin! Of all the wonderful photos I have from the trip, I’m particularly delighted to share this one of Griffin and my former client and current cher amie, Nadine. When I found out that we were going to have a 9-hour layover in Paris before […]

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Go Ahead: Judge Your Neighbor!

July 22, 2014

Yes, life would be so much easier and SO much better if everyone would simply conform to my perfect way of doing things. Fortunately, I’ve learned to care more about my happiness than being right, and that’s where Byron Katie’s The Work has been SO helpful. By doing The Work, I stopped being frustrated with my […]

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Does slow and steady REALLY win the race?

July 15, 2014

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson” As you may know, I completed my 5th marathon in March. But what you may not know is what got me into running marathons in the first place. When I was in my early 30′s I […]

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How to Make the Most of Summer (for no-or-low cost!)

July 8, 2014

A few years ago I realized that what I really want from the summer is to have fun and make memories with my family and friends – and the “Summer Bucket List” was born. I use this list to make sure that, when we’re mostly at home, we make the most out of our summer. And […]

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How I’m taking most of the summer off

July 1, 2014

Ever since my son Griffin entered elementary school (he completed 3rd grade this year), I have wanted to take the summer off to just “be” with him. One of the many reasons I quit my hospital job a couple of months ago is because I wanted the freedom and flexibility to make that dream a […]

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How to Stop Negative Thoughts from Derailing Your Dreams

June 24, 2014

If I had a nickel every time I heard someone say she is plagued by negative thoughts that keep her feeling stuck and small…I would have quite a nice pile of nickels. Since I wrote about quitting my job a couple of months ago, I’ve gotten a lot of requests to talk more about the faith […]

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