Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Know What's Nudging You? Know What's Nudging You!

In last Sunday's New York Times Business section, there was an article on the power of nudging.  
Nudging builds on a series of trials to see what 'it' is that gets people 
inspired to change what they're doing or to do something new. 
The article sighted nudging to inspire people to job hunt, to pay taxes and to get their attics insulated, actions that promote individual and community prosperity. For job seekers, it, the nudge, is journaling about one's feelings of being unemployed, or whatever else comes up around job hunting. To get people to pay taxes, the nudge is messaging about how others in the community are paying their share. In trying to get people to insulate their attics, researches were surprised to find that financial incentives didn't work. However, providing a service to help clean up accumulated messes in people's attics was just the nudge needed. The results of such nudges --versus those who didn't receive nudges: jobs were found more quickly, more people paid their taxes (and on time) and there were communities of homeowners' whose cleaned and insulated attics resulted in significant reductions in their heating bills. 
Flipping through the Pink section of the SF Chronicle, I came upon the horoscope page. Mine (Capricorn) read something like: You will enjoy shopping this holiday season. As it turned out, I was planning to go shopping that afternoon. And, prior to reading my horoscope, I had had visions (nightmares) of too many cars on the road, stores jammed with people and products that I didn't want, and the doubt (dread) of not being able to find just the right gift for everyone on my list. 
However, something happened upon reading: You will enjoy shopping this holiday season. I said to myself in that moment: Wow. Really? I'm going to enjoy it? A switch went on, a bright, in-the-holiday-spirit kind of switch. At the same time, the switch of doom disappeared. I'd been nudged
And to my surprise, my positive attitude carried me through the crowds and ugly ties and towards just the right scarf and …given who might be reading this, I don't want to give any other my day's just-right finds away.
My nudge came about coincidentally. On further thought, it's possible that the nudge article primed my pump to be open to such nudges). And this got me thinking further. Nudging is not only for economists, governments, educators, parents, coaches... 
Why not build in personal nudges when we need them? 
Try some out, see what happens: inside and out. Start simply. Smile, laugh, breathe, give a hug… It takes being conscious of our feelings and thoughts and subsequent actions, those that make us anxious or frustrated, so that we may nudge them into a more beneficial, positive place, and those that energize and calm us so that we may access the appropriate nudge as needed.

Happy and Merry Nudging,


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Solving the Priority Puzzle

"I've got so much on my plate that I care about. How can I do it all?" "I value this, I value that. How do I choose to say 'yes' to this and 'no' to that and not feel guilty in the process?" In a word, how can I be true to all my values including self-care, family, friends, career, community…?
It's true. We often live in a conflicting/conflicted state, particularly when everything seems essential 'right now'. This sense of urgency grows, as does an unnecessary stress level, every time we look at the clock tick-tocking the precious minutes away.  
Here are 5 how-tos about living from and for all your values with integrity 
in the long and short run.
1. Choose contextually  Rather than take a panoramic view of all your values all the time, narrow your lens to what is most important now. Not forever, just now. This now may require an hour, a day, a week or month. Focus primarily on that priority. You are not relinquishing your other values; you're honoring them, in turn. This brings us to...
2. Convert guilt into commitment You have assessed the myriad responsibilities and desires in front of you. With everything you know, you've prioritized and chosen where and how to devote yourself for now. As essential: assess what is enough (does it always need to be 'perfect' or will 'satisfactory' or 'cursory' suffice), then put in the energy, time and resources needed to each prioritized value as it reaches the front of your cue. 
3. Communicate Share your values and priorities. If gone unstated, others may feel shunned rather than enlightened by your thoughtfulness around what, why and when you're saying 'no' and 'yes' to commitments.
4. Ask for help/reprieve  Who can assist you? What might be renegotiated? As important, what can be put off or let go of all together? 
5. Take continual care of yourself  Like your breath (are you breathing?!), life is an ebb and flow of busyness, overwhelm and calm. Rather than victimized, you can choose how to be regardless of the circumstance. How? Through moment-by-moment practices. Smile when the phone rings. Breathe before answering an email. Schedule and take breaks - walk outside or take a nap for 10 revitalizing, centering minutes (particularly in the afternoon). Laugh!

Design your life's puzzle,


p.s. I invite you to sign up for my weekly blog.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weeds or Wildflowers: Where Does Your Attention Land?

Experiences matter. 
Experiences of worry and anxiety or happiness and love can make real changes in your neural networks. Your attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: It highlights what it lands on and then sucks it into your brain—for better or worse.
There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from what it rests upon. Based on what we’ve learned about experience-dependent neuroplasticity, a modern version would be that the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. 

Consider two mind-focused options & outcomes:
1. Self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress = a brain shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness, and guilt.
2. Resting your mind on good events and conditions (someone was nice to you, there’s a roof over your head), pleasant feelings, the things you do get done, physical pleasures, and your good intentions and qualities = over time, a brain with a different shape, one with strength and resilience hard-wired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, positive mood, and a sense of worth.

Reflect back over the past hour, day, week. Where has your mind been resting? 
Are you creating, thus experiencing a life of weeds or wildflowers?

Living mindfully,


(excerpted -with my amendments- from Dr. Rick Hanson's, Hardwiring Happiness.) 

Friday, September 6, 2013

What's Worth Doing in Your Life? Is It Worth Dying For?

Sushmita Banerjee was committed to helping poor Afghani women receive medicine they would otherwise not have access to. She also wrote about and had a movie made about escaping the Taliban. Until they caught up with her. "They had heard of the dispensary I was running from my house. I am not a qualified doctor. But I knew a little about common ailments, and since there was no medical help in the vicinity, I thought I could support myself and keep myself busy by dispensing medicines. The members of the Taliban who called on us were aghast that I, a woman, could be running a business establishment. They ordered me to close down the dispensary and branded me a woman of poor morals.

"They also listed out do's and don'ts. The burkha was a necessity. Listening to the radio or playing a tape recorder was banned. Women were not allowed to go to shops. They were even prohibited from stepping out from their houses unless accompanied by their husbands. All women had to have the names of their husbands tattooed on their left hand. Virtually all interaction between men and women outside the confines of their own homes was banned."
She was gunned down this week. 
What's worth doing in your life, despite the odds? Are you doing it? 
Passion and purpose,


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Too Much or Too Little - It's Up to You

What is meaningful living if you don't take risks
embracing all that comes with venturing into unchartered waters? 
What life-enhancing risk is waiting to be unleashed by you?
What is holding you back? 
Ask yourself, "What will my life be if I choose not to take the plunge?" 
If your answer is, "Not well-lived," then get yourself to the cliff's edge.
Conviction trumps fear when the risk is right. 

Personally, I covet the epitaph: "This Woman Died From Living Too Much."

Supporting you to dive in...rather, to take flight,


Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Take a Hit and Rise Up Soaring

    You've been positive, you've been focused, you've garnered support from mentors and confidants, but alas, you've not attained your desired outcome. Maybe it's 'the' perfect new job, a career-boosting client or Ms. or Mr. Right who makes your heart sing. Not receiving the offer, landing the contract, or being rebuffed is a major hit. A panoply of responses overwhelms your mind, heart and body. "It isn't fair!" "Now what?" "What's the matter with me?" you hear yourself repeating. All you see is a blurry gray void. Frustration, anger, sadness, embarrassment and physical exhaustion seep from every pore.
     How do you move from devastation to righting to walking to soaring? 
  • It starts with wallowing! Wallow? Yes! (Of course, wallowing does not include hurting yourself, others or a wall!) A first step of recovery is recognizing your authentic reactions. The key here is: wallowing is only the first step. Staying in that place, however, is not self-honoring. One powerful practice from a Native American tribe is repeating a sorrow or negative circumstance three times only and then letting it go.
  • It's remembering and reclaiming who you are, job, client or partner aside
  • It's making new choices about:
    • what you say -  "I'm valuable." "I wonder what's next?" "I've got potential."
    • what you see - a vast horizon of possibilities (with 8 billion people on the planet, it is quite likely that other career options, clients and partners exist)
    • what you feel - open, curious, proud, energized, or at least looking forward to being so
  • Activate and boost these choices by engaging in activities that make you say, see and feel these ways: exercise, hobbies, meditation, being outdoors,...
  •  It's about connecting with supporters, asking for help in refocusing and restarting your efforts
  • It's having gratitude for yourself, your supporters, your learning (from this hit and otherwise), your presence in the present and a future that you are going to create
What do you do to survive and thrive from a hit? Please share your tactics!

Supporting you,


Friday, August 16, 2013

Nay, It May Not Mean What You Think It Does

    Whether you're aware of it or not, up to 92% of your communication is exhibited through your body language. While you can try very hard to control it, involuntary shifts in your body language during an interaction reveal that you're having a reaction to what's being said. Being authentically curious during a conversation, facilitated by a smile -- because your physical body affects your language and your emotions and vice versa -- opens up possibilities that a ridged forehead and rigid mindset prohibit.
     Since communication is a two-way street, it's just as important to pay attention to another's body shifts, eye and other facial movements and changes in skin coloration as clues to a match, or not, between what you're trying to convey and what they're hearing.
     Here are two essentials to keep in mind as you interact:
        1) Communication (words) involve three components: Your words, the words themselves, and another's words. Given that we each have our unique understanding about what words mean, we cannot assume that the words we use carry THE universal definition and will therefore be clearly understood by everyone else. Everyone's unique experiences drive their unique definitions of words that may or not fit your or the dictionary's definitions. Shifts in another's body language as you're speaking may be a clue that there is a disconnect. Checking for understanding is essential. Just ask!
        2) Look for patterns versus isolated instances of body shifts as clues about what's really going on for the other person. As with words, we each have our unique understanding about what body language means, so wcannot assume that movements are universally made and understood. Someone placing their hands tightly over opposite elbows while you're speaking may signal a retreat because that's what you do when you don't like what's being offered or requested. But they're not you (neither the person nor their body language). Their gripping action may just as well mean that they overdid it on the golf course over the weekend, so they're trying to ease the ache in their elbows! Don't assume. Ask if you see/sense that there might be a disconnect. 
The goal in communication is to authentically connect so that 
you can each get what you want from the interaction.
That requires speaking, listening and observing.

Do you know what I mean?
Nay, What Do You Mean?!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Words: They're a Natur-al Thing

     I'll bet that you've all looked up in the sky to behold a dog or spaceship or whale-shaped cloud. Maybe you've been hiking where you've seen figures frozen in the rocks, like my son Jack and I have at Pinnacles National Park, of huge bullfrogs. Such serendipity! 
     A few months ago, I decided that, rather than depend on happenstance, I would set out to intentionally look for and photograph every letter of the alphabet-in nature. I was in central Oregon, a magical place teeming with natural wonders: snow-capped mountains, towering waterfalls, wildflowers and plants though changing hue and fading in the Fall, rushing rivers and a host of animals including scampering chipmunks, dappled horses and enormous black cows. I also decided that because the area is farm country, I could capture letters found there (love those barn doors each faced with an X!). 
     Never did I imagine how fun this goal would be, nor how surprising. For ten days, no matter where I went, I was on the lookout for those 26 letters. That smooth cliff reflecting in the still Crooked River became my U. That horse's head, an artistic P. Looking down while on a hike was, what? A round piece of lime green moss with a little tail and a little piece of bark right in the middle, my perfectly shaped Q! Surprisingly, the hardest letters to find were D, which I finally spotted as a 15-foot high rust-colored rock, and C, which I found on day nine in a half-circle cluster of pinecones on the ground. 
Focused creativity is intoxicating. What are keys to keeping it alive? 
1. Be specific about your overall outcome.
2. Be realistically time-bound.
3. Take breaks - outside (this will allow you to literally refresh and reenergize).
4. Celebrate your successes along the way.
I wrote on my FB biz page a few months ago that I'd taken some of my letters, formed a word and submitted them to the City of Berkeley for an art contest to be considered for placement in the offices for a year. While my photos were not selected, I promised to share them and have since turned them into a card reading: ...well, what do you see in nature?!

, Dana

Friday, August 2, 2013

Are You True Blue?

No, this picture's blue hues have not been doctored. However, this pool should not have been here at all. At least that's what the geologists and engineers, the experts, thought. In 1966 the McKenzie River was dammed upstream, blocking the waterfall that used to cascade into and create the pool. Or did it? Mysteriously, water continued to fill this area up! How was that possible, the experts asked? Ah ha! From underground, the McKenzie River 'springs' back to life, creating this mini-lake, sans waterfall, as cold as ice and as pure as it is translucent. (Faint ripples on the old waterfall side of the lake reveal its source!)

How often do you get distracted or diverted by 'expert' influences from your natural flow? Worried about what others might think of your ideas, your hopes, your desires? Covering your struggles and pain with busyness or anger or by relying on a favorite vice?

Diversions keep you from facing what 'is', creating a pent-up reservoir. Hiding who you are robs you of living authentically and in the present. Life, and you, become an unnatural, manipulated blue, your true expert within held hostage

How can you access your true expert? Find your natural flow? Two trails can lead to your blue pool:
1. Begin by embracing COURAGE. Courage to stop, look and listen. Might you discover what you really value, so much so that it doesn't matter what others say? Be ready to move forward once you access such reasons to be; they're powerful! Might you get mentally or emotionally bruised in the process? Those can only and will heal if exposed and tended to. 
This brings me to the next trailhead: 
2. Let others SUPPORT you. No one, including you, has to, or is on the planet to go it alone. Yes, asking for support is vulnerable, but once you've activated your courage, use some of it to ask for the comfort or guidance you need. Be surprised neither by others' willingness to help you nor by your growing energy to take deep care of yourself and others. 

Here's to being true blue


Friday, July 26, 2013

Three Steps to Maximizing Your Mentor/Mentee Partnership

Why mentoring? If you've ever been a mentor or a mentee, I'd bet you'd agree: the pride and satisfaction a mentor receives in sharing her expertise and experiences with another to help her reach her goal, and likewise, the pride and gratitude the mentee receives in attaining her goal because of the support she has gotten, are invaluable.
The foundation of mentoring is a partnership 
that is mutually thoughtful, caring, honest, committed. 
Last evening at the Women's Initiative for Self Employment 'Connect' event, I had the opportunity to share with a room full of budding entrepreneurs and established business people what I believe are the three key components of an invaluable mentor/mentee relationship. Below is a synopsis.

The three components of a successful mentorship relationship are:
1. How do I know I need a mentor?
2. How do I connect with the right one?
3. How do i maximize my mentorship relationship?
* I'll sprinkle in mentor/mentee protocols denoted by P.

1. How do I know I need a mentor?
You know you're ready for a mentor when you get to a place in your business' growth that requires expertise that you don't have. You're ready to seek a mentor when you can articulate your specific goal or need.

2. How do I connect with the right one?
Research, research, research!
a. Brainstorm what types of people might be able to help you. People with the same business and who are where you want to be. People who have the specific skills you need...
Use the internet to help you uncover potential mentors.
Network, network, network!
b. Once you have some broad topics of types of people or specific individuals identified, contact all your current contacts via your Facebook Biz Page (do you have one yet?!), LinkedIn, email, phone and in person, asking them if they know of someone to introduce you to to help you with your specific goal or need.
*The most effective, efficient way to get the help you need is to specify your goal/need. You may also want to send a draft of an introductory email to your contact to use to introduce you to a potential mentor.
c. Once a potential mentor has said yes to the introduction, email the potential mentor, stating your specific goal/need and asking for a 10-15 minute call and suggest a few times. 
d. During the call: clearly state your goal/need, discuss and decide if you two are a good fit, and if you're a 'go' discuss a time-bound timeline (ex. 3 mos., speak every 2 weeks, 1/2 hour), and set up the first meeting. Thank your new mentor for agreeing to mentor you! 
*If it doesn’t seem like the right fit, thank the person for their time. Ask if they have any suggestions of someone who might be able to help you reach your goal. Ask if you may use their name when you make contact with your new potential mentor.
*Meetings can be in person, via skype or on the phone, whatever is most convenient for the two of you.
P: Honor the stated time of each meeting. When it's 2-5 minutes before the end of the meeting, the mentee should mention it.
PThank your mentor and your friend! Email 3rd choice, call is 2nd, a hand-written note is most impactful. 

3. How do I maximize my mentorship relationship?
Mentor: provide specific steps for your mentee. Explain them clearly. Give clear, non-judgmental feedback on steps taken. Pay attention to what the mentee says AND how she says it - remembering the foundation of the relationship: thoughtful, caring, honest, committed. Your goal is to help her feel safe and supported to try out new things, to learn, to move her businesss forward. Underscore that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Mentee: Connect when and where you've agreed to. Call if something comes up.(You and the person who introduced you are on the line!) Ask clarifying questions (there is no such thing as a stupid question). Do the work you agree to do! If at anytime you feel the steps are too many or too few, be honest! Address related issues or snags as they arise. Stick to the time agreed upon. Thank your mentor at the conclusion of each meeting!
Final agreed upon meeting: Review/assess/celebrate progress: Do you need more time together? Are you ready to say goodbye? Discuss next steps in any case.
P: Thank your mentor verbally and send a hand-written note.

Ideally all of us will be mentors someday 
so that we can continue the circle of being helped and helping, being helped and helping.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Take the Learning Road, Hopefully Ever Less, the Less Travelled

This week on my FB biz blog I've been exploring ways that we can pay conscious attention to details in order to maximize care and ongoing growth of ourselves and others. I understand that self-exploration - what's working and feels good, what needs to be added or tweaked and what needs saying goodbye to altogether can either take a toll or prompt inspiration. 

The difference lies in our beliefs about failure. Who wants to venture into something new and fail? Who wants to admit faults about who we are, what we're doing and how we're affecting others?

Rather than avoid potentially unsavory self-revelations and risk-taking 
because of the concomitant shame, anger or frustration, 
such activities can actually engender freedom, advancement and happiness.

How? If we enter our explorations with what Stanford professor Carolyn Dweck calls a 'growth mindset' then our successes and failures are defined by the effort and learning that result, not the result itself. 

And, in the age of mach-speed technological innovation, a persistent learning mentality in both our personal and professional lives is a necessity. Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly declared, "You will be a newbie foreverGet good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soliciting help, and helping others with what you learn (the best way to learn yourself)."

It's a matter of venturing into the shadows in order to bring forth the light.

Step in to step out!


Friday, July 12, 2013

The Eyes Have It!

This week on my biz FB page I've been discussing the visual aspects of interacting, i.e., the smile. While that word, smile prompts us to think of the mouth, lips and teeth, the key to a genuine smile is farther up the face, i.e., in and around the eyes. That's because the muscles needed to truly smile with our eyes are involuntary. So, where there are no pillows below the eyes or crow's feet while smiling, well, you're experiencing a mere courtesy smile. (Isn't that reason enough to avoid Botox!) Make you smile?! This prompts the question: In certain circumstances, which is better, a disingenuous courtesy smile or no smile at all? Or, how about bringing forth an authentic smile and seeing what happens to you and to 'them'. Everyone might be surprised by what possibilities arise.
I encourage you to find reasons to smile, even laugh everyday. Why? According to Help Guide, research shows that smile-inducing laughter has physical, mental and social benefits. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.
Perhaps best of all, this priceless dose of happiness, when administered authentically, is easy to use, fun(ny) and free!

The eyes have it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Architecture as Provocateur

Oh, those stairs. Steep and straight with no exit left or right should the climb become too much. Up OR down. Or, not at all. Eyes and imagination alone taking the trip. And that diagonal line slicing the incline in half, the brilliant light above, so inviting, so enticing; the dark shadow below, providing respite from the day's heat. Or perhaps, a foreboding of what lies up there in the beyond. What is at the top, if indeed that is the top? Is whatever 'it' is, worth the climb?
Visiting Richard Meier's exquisite J. Paul Getty Museum recently, I was struck by 
the power of architecture + the play of light and shadow to evoke essential questions about the lives we create for ourselves. 

Questions such as:
Do I know where I'm headed and more importantly, why? 
Who can I, do I, want to be and what can I, do I, want to do? 
Am I willing to take risks, to challenge myself to the end despite the effort required, my fears of failure, naysayers and the unknown?  
When climbing, if I discover a compelling 'no', am I willing to stop, review and retreat?  
What will it cost me if I don't climb at all?

PLEASE SHARE: How about you? 
What or who inspires you to reflect?
What or who drives you to say 'yes' or 'no' to a climb?
How do you address challenges on your climb?
What is a climb worth taking?


Monday, March 25, 2013

You Can Do Well While Doing Good

Want to send a low-income East Bay woman to biz school? Join the Women's Initiative for Self Employment raffle and help bring one more woman closer to developing a business plan and becoming a confident leader of her own life and owner of a successful business! Raffle tickets are just $25 and may be purchased from me - call: 510.919.2944; email:; or stop me (I'll have them with me) if you'd like to support Women's Initiative in this way.  

                                      You can do well while doing good!
4 blissful nights at a luxurious Lake Tahoe cabin
 iPad Mini
$300 cash
Dinner for 6 at B-Side BBQ 
Friends' spa day at 17 Jewels Salon

PLUS: Cocktails for a Cause (and say 'so long' to tax day!): The raffle drawing is on Monday, April 15th at Monaghan's Bar and Restaurant,  2820 Mountain Blvd., Oakland. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from cocktails sold during the Women's Initiative evening are being generously donated by owner, Sharon Monaghan.
Please join me to raffle, share a sip and be merry!