At Your Service

As part of my Attitude Matters presentation I stress being of service and how each of us should consider ourselves in the service industry no matter what our job title.  It is easy to be of service to others from November through December, when the media and local causes focus on helping others, but I challenged a recent audience of college students to come up with ideas that make a difference to others year round.  After giving them a few suggestions, I asked for their ideas of what can be done, no matter what our income level, to be of service to others each day.

Their response was amazing and included:

-Smile at someone today, it costs nothing but makes a big difference.

-Give anonymous gifts throughout the year that help others as you see need.

-Have a positive attitude when dealing with others improves their day too.

-Donate clothing and items throughout the year to shelters/clothes closets.

-Participate in service projects through organizations they belong to.

-Give of your time not just money; everyone has time even if they are broke.

-Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card.

I was impressed with their answers for two reasons; they understood that the little things we do each day can make a big difference and that income level has nothing to do with the difference you can make in another person’s life.

I have expanded on their train of thought with my ‘Little Things Mean aLot” list. Look through this list and pick several to incorporate into your daily life and watch the world change.

Little Things Mean a Lot

1. Smile at everyone you meet today.

2. Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card each week.

3. Ask someone how they are and wait to listen without interrupting or telling your woes.

4. Open a door for someone who needs help.

5. Let the person with fewer items get in front of you in the checkout line.

6. When you take a coffee break, offer to fill up someone else’s cup.

7. On your daily walk or run, move someone’s morning paper from the street to the front door.

8. When you buy groceries or supplies, buy at least one item extra each time and donate to someone or a cause such as homeless or women’s shelters, local food pantry, etc.

9. Find out what your local schools are in need of and donate something each month. This could be as simple as boxes of Kleenex, paper, pencils or office equipment when you upgrade.

10. Contact a local nursing home and see if your talents or time could be of use.

11. Save your change for a month and donate to a local cause of your choice.

12. Make it a point to ask a family member or colleague, “What can I do to help you?”  It might throw them off at first but they will be pleased!

13. Clean out a closet, a storage box, your basement or attic and find places to donate items you no longer need.

14. When you are out for a walk or just walking across a parking lot, pick up trash you see along the way and dispose of it. I carry extra plastic bags in my car just in case there is no waste container in sight.

15. Call someone you haven’t talked to for a long time and listen more than you talk.

This is only a beginning.  How can you help? Send your ideas of “Little Things” to darla@darlaarni.com and I’ll create a master list to share.  Maybe it’s not that we don’t have the time or money, maybe it’s that we just don’t an idea of what to do.

 

5 Ways to Cope with a Bad Day

It happens to us all, you wake up feeling out of sorts, crabby or cloudy.  You don’t know why, you just do.  If someone asks what’s wrong you have no answer.  If they ask you more than once you might bite their head off!  You don’t want to feel this way but you can’t seem to shake it and it’s just not in you to fake a good mood.  When those off days happen and you’re not your best self, there are ways to manage yourself so your mood doesn’t get out of hand and ruin your entire day.

 1. Bite your tongue!  Don’t say everything out loud that pops into your head.  Activate your inner filter and block statements that could sound hurtful, out of line, or crass.  This is no time for bloviating; say what needs to be said with the least amount of words and move on.

 2. Do no harm.  Lashing out at others physically or verbally, will make matters worse and could escalate into conflict you will regret later.  In every situation there is a choice point; choose to deal with your mood in a positive non-confrontational way instead of blowing it out of proportion.  I still struggle with this and beat myself over the head later when I realize how one comment or attitudinal gesture left undone could have saved the day.

 3. Breathe.  I’m not talking about the shallow, automatic, keep you alive breathing we take for granted.  Sit back in your chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth ten times.  It sounds simple and you’ve heard me say it before but millions of people tap into this powerful practice that brings relaxation and clear thinking, and I believe you are worthy of it too.  Just when you can’t stand ‘it’ one more minute, purposeful breathing can bring calm to your chaos which is why it is often a key component in anger management programs.

4. Don’t fight it.  Your off feeling will not last forever and soon this bad day will be history.  As my mother always said, “This too shall pass”, and while I hated hearing it I have to admit she was right. (But don’t tell her that, okay?)  Accept your feelings as transient and get busy with life.  When I have off days I draw a sad face or write the words, ‘bad day’ on my planning calendar; more often than not, a week later, I have no idea what that bad day was about!

 5.  Be antisocial.  Really.  If you are having one of those days it’s a good time to avoid the water cooler, put off lunch dates and isolate yourself.  The time alone can be rejuvenating and keeps you from being aggravated by others.  Retreat into your personal cave of choice and emerge tomorrow a better person.

Blame Game

I see a terrible trend developing, the lack of personal responsibility and how it impacts those around us. Whether it is a national crisis or a fingernail breaks, we are quick to blame someone else. And it’s not limited to adults or politicians, if you have the opportunity to spend some time around children, especially in a group, you will frequently hear the excuse, “It’s not my fault.” While admittedly there are times when something truly isn’t our fault, more often than not there was an element of choice involved in the incident and we made it.

Blame doesn’t solve the problem or offer valuable insight; it just gets the spotlight off of us for a while and shines it on someone else. Passing along the blame to someone else doesn’t even make you feel good; it just makes more people feel bad.

Maybe our problem is comprehending the difference between blame and responsibility. Being responsible is being accountable, reliable, distinguishing right from wrong. Blame on the other hand involves putting the responsibility on someone else, accusing and (I love this part), failing to find sympathy or understand.

Here is a perfect example. At one time I needed to move my mother’s phone service from one room to another within a nursing home facility. Because my mother has severe dementia and I wanted to be able to check in with her without interruption of service, I called several days ahead to schedule the change and was assured there would be no problem.  My mother was moved down the hall and no phone service. OK, I can be reasonable, so I check the next day, no service. After three days of no service, meaning I cannot check on my mother and she cannot call me, I called the phone company. I was told there was a problem with the initial order, and it would be another week before the phone was connected.

At this point I was still calm so I asked what the problem was and was told they really couldn’t say, but it was internal, nothing I did. I asked to talk to a supervisor, they gave me the same story, no one could tell me why but it would be, at the earliest, a week. I explained I was anxious about it taking so long because of my mothers dementia.  I also pointed out that the move is down the hall in the same facility in a town of 2,000 people.  How hard can this be? (Perhaps by now I am getting testy.) She can’t tell me anymore than that, would I like to talk to her district manager?  Of course I would! After going relating my story and getting the same response I began to plead, “Can you understand why I am upset and concerned? This is a safety issue, my mother has severe dementia.” The very curt reply was, “Well my mother is dead.”

At that point I realized I was getting nothing from this exchange. Did I want to find out why it happened? Maybe a little, but more important to me was I wanted someone to understand, I wanted someone to say, ” I don’t know why this happened but I am so sorry and I will do what I can to fix it as soon as possible.” It wasn’t just that it was taking longer than expected; it was that with every call to the phone company all I heard was blame passing with no hint of empathy and understanding, no personal responsibility. I knew I couldn’t change the outcome, but I would have been satisfied to have someone treat me like a human being.

We all want the human touch. We all want to feel the incidents of life, big or small, matter. Every encounter with another human being gives us a chance to practice personal responsibility instead of passing blame. Sometimes it just requires being quiet and not adding to the whininess of the world.

 

Integrity Matters

thewoodenshoes / Foter

There was a time I considered integrity a given; a man’s word was his bond and most people had personal integrity.  Similar to thinking everyone in the world has the same value system, same code by which they live and make decisions for their lives. Unfortunately that is not the case.

In the past year several public figures and entities have fallen from grace due to their lack of integrity: John Edwards, Bernard Madoff and Claremont McKenna College officials who lied about its students’ SAT scores to boost its position in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of colleges to name a few. Our economic situation has brought to light questions of integrity as it pertains to large financial institutions, big business, and politicians.  Have we become a nation that lacks integrity or are our expectations simply out of touch with reality?

A common theory is that people want to fit in, be seen as successful or become famous and will sacrifice their integrity to do so. Corporate Attitude Strategist Kevin Burns sees it this way, “Anyone who gives up their personal integrity in the workplace in order to fit in really doesn’t seem to stand for anything. I mean, how could you? If you are prepared to give up your personal integrity in order to be liked and in order to fit in then you really don’t have anything that you stand for do you?”

In the workplace, home and relationships, integrity works. Why does it work? Because integrity is tied into everything that makes people feel valued, safe and good about themselves. And when people feel good about themselves in a grounded, non-superficial way they are more productive, more creative, more responsive, and in turn want to do their best to make others feel good also.  When integrity exists you can say goodbye to the mob mentality that tells you in order to fit in you must take on the attitudes, opinions and beliefs of everyone else. That sort of thinking reminds me of high school, not adult America.

So where are you on the integrity scale? Take the following quiz I found on www.cheatingculture.com and see how you score.

1. You’re a young lawyer who could lose your job if you don’t bill enough hours. All your colleagues are padding their hours. Do you pad yours?

2. Your next-door neighbor offers to hook you up with free cable television. Do you take the offer?

3. You’re an accountant who discovers that a company you’re auditing is inflating its earnings. Your boss says to go along or you’ll be fired. Do you comply?

4. You move to a state where auto insurance is sky-high. Do you keep your car registered at your old address?

5. You’re a CEO with a chance to make $100 million by cooking the books. The worst penalty you could face is two years in a country club prison – and you could keep the $100 million. Do you cook the books?

6. A friend offers you a dirt-cheap illegal sublet in a prime apartment building with a waiting list. Do you take the offer?

7. You don’t have enough money to pay your taxes at the end of the year. Your accountant recommends some made-up deductions, saying the IRS doesn’t audit anyone these days. Do you go along?

8. You’re a minor league baseball player trying to make the majors. Most of your teammates are taking steroids to hit better. Do you also dope?

9. An HMO denies a certain treatment to a patient under your care. Do you lie to the HMO to make the patient’s condition seem worse so they will get the treatment they need?

10. You’re a car salesman paid on commission. All the other salesmen are saying that the next shipment of the hot new model everyone wants is due in three weeks – when it’s really six weeks. Do you also say three weeks?

Score

You are:

Ethically Challenged – if you answered yes to all questions.

An Ordinary American – if you answered yes to half the questions.

A Saint – if you answered no to all questions.

Why not make integrity matter in 2012!

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” – W. Clement Stone

Lessons Learned

Camdiluv ♥ / Foter

My daughter turns seventeen today! Seventeen isn’t a milestone birthday for anything in particular; you don’t start school, or get your license or become legal to drink, but it is very important to me. I did many things in my life before I got married and started a family, and at the age of 38 I was truly blessed with a daughter!

She would say I have been a great mom but I haven’t felt that way myself and maybe all mom’s think they could always do better.  I like the way we are and even if she wasn’t my daughter I would want to be her friend. I admire her courage, integrity, spontaneity, intellect, height (she is 5 inches taller than me), tenacity, spunk, opinions, and heart.

For the past seventeen years I believe I have been more the student and she the teacher. At each stage I have learned valuable lessons from her and in honor of her birthday am sharing some with all of you.

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Daughter

  • Onions are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well.
  • Even though powdered cocoa looks like chocolate, it doesn’t taste near as good!
  • Pumpkins are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well either. (And it is very embarrassing to your mother if you choose to try it out on live television!)
  • Just because you like peaches one day, doesn’t mean they won’t end up on the floor the next.
  • Spoons are nice, but sometimes your hand works better when you’re really hungry.
  • Boxes of cake mixes make great building blocks and step stools.
  • My most expensive silk negligee  looks better on a toddler as a Halloween costume than it ever did on me.
  • A piece of masking tape can occupy a person for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Sliding on the tile floor in your stocking feet is really fun.
  • Everything doesn’t have to be done a certain way to be right.
  • Relaxing is not a crime.
  • You can accept others easier if you accept yourself.
  • Perfectionism is overrated.
  • Family traditions are important and very comforting.
  • We can agree to disagree and still be okay.
  • Mom’s aren’t always right and that’s okay too.
  • It is fun to share makeup and clothes!
  • Families are happier with a puppy in the house.
  • Privacy is important!
  • You never get too old to need your Mom.
  • We will learn from each other the rest of our lives.

Valentine Variety: Crafty Projects for all Ages!

aussiegall / Foter

Whether you are a child, in love, or just a hopeless romantic, Valentine’s Day will always be a holiday to look forward to with great anticipation. Looking to try something new? Here are three easy ideas you can whip up in a few minutes that require more thought and caring than big bucks!  I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Heart Felt Puppets

Finger puppets are a cinch to make with two hearts cut from felt or other heavy weight fabric. Glue the edges together leaving the bottom open for fitting onto your finger. Decorate the hearts with fabric paints, yarn, pom pons, google eyes, glitter, and other trim to create a neighborhood full of friendly finger puppets to play with or give away. This project is suitable for any kid whether they are 3 or 33! They are great for quiet play to keep children entertained but can work for adults too. Heart felt puppets could also be used to adorn a special bottle of wine for a friend, add Valentine flair to candy pops or suckers on a stick, or make larger versions to use has as gift wrapping for a special piece of jewelry or other small gift.

Stuck on You

It is harder and harder for kids to come up with something creative they can give to adults on Valentine’s Day. These hearts won’t get pushed into a drawer because they can be used all year long. To make, cut heart shapes from colorful, thin foam sheets you can buy at any craft store, then add embellishments with craft glue and cut out letters, glitter, smaller foam shapes, decorative ribbon and more. With your creative magic they can become faces, message boards for words of love, or mini works of art. After they dry, attach a stick on magnet to the back and they are ready to give. These magnets will have a life long after Valentine’s Day as they decorate and hold up messages on file cabinets, desks, and refrigerators everywhere. I still have some from several years ago on my fridge today!

Button Up Hearts

To turn any shirt into a Valentine Shirt, cut tiny hearts from craft foam, cut a tiny X in the middle and fit over the buttons of your finest white shirt. Presto, you just went from drab to dazzling! Hmm do you think you can get Dad to wear them to work on Valentine’s Day!

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk!

joelogon / Foter

It is really difficult for me to say the title of this post without channeling Olivia Newton- John and launching into a very subpar version of her ‘Let’s Get Physical’ video. In fact, as I type I am having a strong urge to don a headband, leotard, leggings and legwarmers for the rest of the day!

Wait! If I didn’t lose you with that visual please stick around because there really is a message in this detour.

Communication skills are important in personal relationships and business. Unfortunately, the bulk of the information and training focuses on the spoken word, often leaving the body language to chance. And trust me; the ‘body talk’ speaks volumes! The tricky part about non-verbal is we all pick up on it and know what it means but if you confront the non-verbal communicator they can easily claim they don’t know what you are talking about. Most non-verbal communication clues can be positive or negative but I have found my audience members intuitively know what’s going on and rarely make mistakes when reading the non-verbal clues. So what’s the deal? If we can see it in others and know the clues, why can’t we control it in ourselves?

I’ll tell you why, we are creatures of habit or in denial or maybe we just don’t care enough to pay attention to our own ‘body talk’. If you are choosing not to master your non-verbal communication skills you could be sending mixed signals and quite possibly hurting your relationships at home and work.

Here some non-verbal clue categories and what they communicate:

Body Posture or Angle: We say we are listening but clearly have our body turned away as if to block connection. The reverse is, we respect or like someone so we fully face them, lean forward and perhaps touch them lightly if we agree on a point or view they share.

Eye Contact or No Eye Contact: Clearly a clue of how someone feels about you and can tell so much more than the words they choose to share. Pretty obvious; eye contact means you are present, darting eyes or no contact means you’d rather be somewhere else and you are not present.

General Attention Clues: We feign attention yet continue shuffling papers, taking texts, checking calendars, etc. during a conversation or meeting. You can say you are there but in truth you are not.

Arms and Legs: Crossed arms clearly say you’re not agreeing, not interested or you are guarded while your words may say ‘sure that’s a good idea and I will get back to you on that.’ In addition, crossed body parts can mean you are nervous and need to protect yourself until you feel more secure communicating.

What to know more about non-verbal communication? Check out this body language guide on The Grindstone website; http://thegrindstone.com/uncategorized/a-guide-to-the-importance-of-body-language-in-business-298/ .

Now where did I put that leotard?

 

Perception Deception

Steve-h / Foter

Perception seems like such a straight forward thing. We assume that what and how we perceive something, whether it is the weather, our boss, our relationships, a news story, or the size of our hips, is reality. Not so fast. We might physically see or experience the same thing as someone standing next to us, but we perceive it differently. That’s because perception involves taking what we see or feel and running it through our mental filters that are based upon our own past life experiences.

Too often we rely on our limited experiences to make judgments and decisions every day. We perceive situations, food, music, individuals and even whole countries by an often outdated, second or third hand experience.  If you’ve attended a high school class reunion or happened to run into someone who knew you as  a child, you know what I’m talking about. No matter what you have become, done or accomplished former classmates assume you to be as you were ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Our experiences have changed us but those who knew us before often hold onto their past view of who we were.  Is it any wonder we have discord and misunderstandings in the world?

Let go of preconceived notions and expand your day-to-day experiences, pull yourself out of the rut of ‘same old, same old’ and learn to fully appreciate the variety that exists in the world.  Where do you start? Small, of course and work up!

1. Retrain your palate.  Are you a regular who eats the same thing for lunch or breakfast? Is Wednesday always meatloaf and Friday pizza? Has it been years since you set foot in a new restaurant? Mix it up a bit and try that new Mexican place, give Brussel sprouts a chance, or grill salmon the next time instead of burgers. The worst is you won’t like it and you get to try something else the next time!

2. Culture won’t kill you  Do you remember a museum as some place an adult made you spend hours of time when you really wanted to be outside? Many museums today now have interactive exhibits; often feature local artists, and shows that change every few weeks. Check out what museums within a sixty mile radius have to offer and note the exhibits or special activities they have planned for the summer.

3. Ear for music I always loved stations that played music from my college years but shied away from current pop and country. Then my daughter got an iPod and as I downloaded tunes for her, guess what? I actually liked many of the songs! Now I find myself tuning into different stations in the car and learning lyrics to new songs. My taste of music has expanded and so can yours.

4. In your own backyard Often we plan elaborate trips and vacations to far away places but spend little time exploring what is within a few hundred miles of our home. I’m not saying give up your get-a-ways, but also take time, save money and energy by exploring the sites within your area. A quick, on-line search can reveal a year’s worth of day and weekend trips to satisfy your quest for adventure.

5. Set in your ways Do you always sit the same place at the dinner table, church, in the car, or the family room? We can become so comfortable in ‘our seat’ that we become irritated when someone dares to sit there! Let it go and try moving yourself around so you have a different view of the same old places. You might like it.

No excuses, branch out, stick your big toe in the water and dare to try something new. Be brave enough to open yourself up to new experiences, new points of view, and perhaps new connections.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Leo Tolstoy

 

 

To Do or Not To Do? That is the REAL Question!

kevin dooley / Foter

It‘s  January, the start of a new year and the start of new lists. Or at least that’s what everyone says we should do. But we know from  experience that the well-intentioned lists of January often turn into the regrets of February, (OK, maybe March or April if you are really good.) Why does this happen? It happens because the sugar high from goodies ingested during the holidays impairs our judgment and we tend to get a bit too lofty in our goal setting. As reality sets in and we move into the implementation phase we back off, regroup, or just forget the list altogether. Not a good recipe for success is it?

I first noticed this phenomenon in a kick-boxing class that met three days a week at our local YMCA.  All year long there was plenty of room in the class, in fact there was space left over so you could kick and box with all your gusto and never hit another human being. I loved that! Then January rolled around. Instantly the class became crowded with people who apparently put ‘get in shape’ on their New Year’s Resolution list. I got elbowed, stepped on, punched and kicked from every direction. The exercise high of getting into ‘the zone’ was  replaced by a ‘get this over and get out of here’ attitude.  By mid-February it all changed; while we gained one or two class members the rest had either given up or decided to try another class.  And so it goes, each year we set unrealistic goals, which are often the same ones we had last year and the year before, get discouraged, and go back to our old habits.  Which makes me think the whole resolutions list is overrated. What if instead of resolving what to do in the year ahead we make a list of what we won’t do? Maybe it’s easier to get rid of a negative behavior than it is to add a positive one. So that’s what I have done. The difference is, my list should be adhered to for the rest of your life, not just 2012.

Darla’s Top Ten “Not To Do” List

1. Do not take your blessings for granted. Practice gratitude for little the stuff each day.

2. Do not be quick to judge, criticize or blame. Its 3 things but they go together to create a negative energy drain in our life and relationships.

3. Do not harbor negative thoughts. They are like poison and multiply fast!

4. Do not hold grudges. Let it go. Really.

5. Do not cause pain for yourself or others. There is already enough in the world. We don’t need to create more.

6. Do not try to do it all.  Asking for help is not failure.

7. Do not limit yourself.  Expand and think big for yourself and others.

8. Do not be afraid. Fear is not fatal and comfort zones do expand.

9. Do not neglect yourself. Nurturing yourself is not indulgence.

10. Do not worry.  It’s just a bad habit and keeps you from the reality of NOW.

I  know this doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a start.  What would be on your Top Ten “Not To Do” List?   Right now I’m going to make a copy of mine and post it in a prominent place. Happy 2012!

Meet Dexter

  I would like to introduce you to Dexter, our 2-year-old Yorkie who is wise beyond his years. I’ve learned a lot from Dexter and decided perhaps you too could benefit from his particular brand of wisdom. From time to time, I will share an insight, a view, a preference and an occasional cute picture from Dexter that will serve to inspire us all!

First a little history. I have several friends who have Yorkies and for a while our daughter had been hounding, I mean politely mentioning, how ‘cute they were and wouldn’t it be just great to have our own’? We heard it so much that we started to believe it ourselves and started a secret search to find one that would be the perfect match for our family. In our quest we realized there was a Yorkie breeder living in   our area and gave them a call. One of her dogs recently had two pups, a male and female, but they were both spoken for. She assured us that there would be others available and we prepared to wait. Lucky for us she called us back a few weeks later saying the family who had the male dog changed their mind and would we be interested? Of course we said yes and my husband and I went to check him out. He was his adorable self and on the spot decided he was meant for us. He had been named Dexter and become used to it so, despite the fact that the only other Dexter I’d ever heard of was a serial killer, we accepted him name and all!

As you can tell from the photo, he is an avid sun worshiper. His best friend is Sparkle, our 11-year-old saved from the pound terrier mix, and they both enjoy wrestling, napping and any brand of doggie treats! Dexter has become quite close to my husband, Paul, who swore he would never have a little dog in the house. It seems he has changed his mind!