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Are you already failing at your New Year’s intentions?

We’re only halfway through January and already I’m failing.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions or goals? Less than a third of the people I talk with say that they do. Some tell me they set goals; others have a general notion of what they want to change or accomplish. A few just continue on with the status quo. A small handful does as I do and sets a particular word or phrase to focus on for the year. In one way or another, we all set intentions. Even if you don’t intentionally set an intention, you have set an intention to change nothing. As the old adage goes, not making a choice is still a choice.

This year, my word is HABITS. After nearly five years of feeling like I’m only moving from one health calamity to another, I’ve fallen into some unproductive patterns. Let’s not call them “bad” because they served a purpose, but basically, I’ve become very good at resting. While that’s a wonderful contrast to my old workaholic ways, it doesn’t exactly accomplish all that I set my mind to. On New Year’s Eve, while on the plane flying home from San Antonio, I laid out my Top 10 list of habits I want to embed in my life. By practicing these things, they will simply become a part of my being.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Interestingly, this was not Aristotle, as it is so often attributed. The statement was actually penned by Will Durant in his book ‘The Story of Philosophy’ while summarizing a portion of Aristotle’s ‘The Nichomachean Ethics’. Nerdy sidenote: One of my final papers toward my degree in Philosophy was a review of The Nichomachean Ethics. I do love some good ol’ Aristotle.

But I’m already missing the mark on excellence.

How do you handle the inner critic voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you’re failing? We all know that voice. I call that negative B—- ‘the Discourager’. The Discourager tells me I’m failing, missing the mark, never going blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. BUT IS IT TRUE? This is the question we must continually examine. Which brings me back to Aristotle. Basically and simply stated (because it could get really deep into philosophy and let’s face it, you don’t actually care about that), look at what a thing really is.

I shush The Discourager by saying, “Oh really? Is it true that I’m failing; or is it true that I am trying?” Failure can’t be determined, because we are just not done yet. You are a work in progress. Whatever intentions you have set for yourself, if you feel like you’re failing, give grace. So long as you continue trying, the story isn’t over. The first key to excellence, then, is a habit of not giving up. In the words of those famous philosophers, Monty Python…

“I’m not dead yet!”

 

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A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Photo of my 3 kids in front of a Christmas tree when they were little

Our favorite ornament on the tree was received by my husband 16 years ago. A round red globe holds a small framed photo of our children. When you press a button, 3 little voices ring out in an offbeat chorus, “I love my Daddy! I love my Daddy! I love my Daddy! Merry Christmas!!” The kids and I laugh every year about struggling to get them to say that in sync. I finally gave up and ‘settled’ for having it in a round. The imperfection and shared memories are what makes the ornament a treasured memento.

I said a long time ago — When life doesn’t go as planned, lean in and laugh. That’s where the magic hides.

This year, on Christmas Day all but one of our family of five will board a plane to San Antonio to celebrate the holiday with our sweet red-headed Alex. He has been at Air Force Basic Military Training (BMT) since October 30th. I have missed him so much!! 

Unfortunately, this Christmas our family is dealing with more injuries and disappointment. This time it’s not me; it’s Alex. Both my husband and I have had a hard time focusing on Christmas or much of anything else because our hearts are already with him in San Antonio. I know God won’t give us more than we can handle, but geez I wish he’d stop trusting our resilience so much!

With only a week and a half to go in BMT, Alex was persuaded to get the pain in his legs checked out. He had been pushing through it because it’s what we do when we’re on a mission to meet a goal. Right?? Sometimes that isn’t enough. Like when I was pushing through extreme pain walking only to learn after 3 months of effort that my pelvis hadn’t actually healed attached to my spine and I broke one of the bolts holding me together. I made YouTube video the day I received that news. (When life gives you lemons, make a cup of tea.) I bet you can think of a time you’ve been pushing hard toward a goal, proud of your 100% committed effort, only to have a wrench thrown in the whole deal. How did you respond?

But back to Alex…. He has level 3-4 stress fractures in both lower legs. Thankfully no joints are involved. He was pulled from his squadron and put in the Med Hold unit where he waits to heal until he has the ability to re-join another training flight in their week 6 of BMT. As we know, fractures of any kind take as long to heal as bones take; there’s no speeding it up. He and the others in Med Hold are in a…well, a holding pattern. Now they work at training their mental fortitude and resilience. Which is so much harder than training physical ability. In the example from your own life that came to mind, how well did you play the mental game? Did you give up or did you persevere despite a disappointing set-back?

Alex was supposed to be in the graduation activities December 27th – 30th, including leaving base on town leave and being one of the Airmen selected to unfurl the U.S. flag at the Alamo Bowl. He doesn’t get any of that now. BUT…. he still gets base leave on those four days and we are still flying down to spend the time with him. What a blessing!!! AND…. he still wants to see his buddies graduate, to congratulate them and celebrate with them. This is one PROUD MAMA!!

When life hits you like a truck and things don’t play out perfectly the way you imagined in your head, how you react determines everything. (It seems the holiday season itself produces all kinds of those examples.) Look for the humor, the gratitude, and the reasons to celebrate. Our resilience muscles grow stronger every time we get out of our own head and look around for the magic hiding in plain sight.

From me and and my family, we wish you a perfectly imperfect and magical Christmas! 

Wholeheartedly,

Elisa

15: Staying Balanced and Remembering the Need for Rest

What makes you happy? Undoubtedly, there would be numerous and varied answers to this question. Aristotle said, “One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly, one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” Let’s talk about what it means to be happy.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • After big weekend celebrations for my daughter’s graduation and birthday, I am exhausted!
  • Rest and balance are essential, which is one of the themes of Aristotle’s work, the Nicomachean Ethics, from which the above quote is taken
  • Everyone wants to be happy, but the extremes of life bring much unhappiness
  • Being kind to your body with rest brings happiness
  • Times of insane busy-ness have to be balanced with times of rest
  • It’s OK to plan in times for rest and relaxation
  • Aristotle advocated principles of moderation and balance, not pushing too far in either direction
  • What are the things and who are the people who take your energy from you? (these might be “EGR” people—”extra grace required”)
  • Identify the activities that cost you the most energy each day: “What you give your energy to, you’re giving your life to.”
  • Are you pursuing happiness? (which is not necessarily the same as FUN)
  • This summer, can you allow the time to slow down?  “Live life. Don’t just push through it like a machine.”

 

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Have You Heard the News?

squawking chicken

Last week I heard a disturbing piece of news. A deaf couple was mocked by employees at a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through window for their inability to hear. At least that is what their daughter tearfully alleged in a Facebook video that went viral. The video about the KFC experience has been viewed 1.4 million times and picked up by Fox, ABC, and NBC affiliates.

The 59-year-old was with her husband when she said a female employee at the window would not help her communicate her order. “She put her hands on her mouth. I said, ‘Ma’am, sorry, I can’t hear. I need to read your lips. Could you please move it?’ She keeps standing there,” described Cole. She said she ordered again and, to her horror, the young lady walked away and began laughing with another male employee.

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14: Everything You Need You Already Have

“Everything you need, you already have. You are complete right now. You are a whole, total person, not an apprentice person on the way to someplace else. Your completeness must be understood by you and experienced in your thoughts as your own personal reality.” -Beverly Sills, American soprano

My thoughts today are inspired by the graduation this weekend of my youngest daughter from high school and with her Associate Degree from our local community college. Coincidentally, she also turns 18 this weekend, so there are many milestones to celebrate. 

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • A story from many years ago about my acting career and Let’s Pretend Circus: we were offered a chance to buy the company for a mere $5000, which we didn’t have. I had forgotten that circumstances had already fallen into place to provide us the money for the down payment. After prayer with my friends at Bible Study, I realized that God had already given us what we needed. I burst through our front door upon arriving home and shouted to my husband, “God wants us to buy a circus!”
  • I had already been given what I needed because God knew what was coming for me
  • Graduation brings much apprehension, anxiety, and the fear of the unknown of what the future holds
  • Most often, we are afraid of the future because WE want to control the outcome
  • To graduates of high school or college: “You’ve already been given everything you need in advance because God knows what is coming. Believe in yourself and trust in God. You’ve already been given what you need.”

13: Finding Your Voice

Do you have a fear of public speaking? It’s a common fear for many people, even though many others–like me–use a speaking platform constantly in their chosen professions. So why does speaking in front of an audience prompt such immobilizing fear? How can it be overcome? Join me as we approach this topic today.

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”–Madeleine Albright

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • THE #1 FEAR for most people is the fear of public speaking (even ahead of dying!)
  • The problem with not using your voice is that when you don’t speak up, your opinions, expertise, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, kindness, and curiosity don’t get shared
  • Simply recognizing that using your voice is important doesn’t change the terror that comes with it
  • What can we do? Some people say, “Imagine your audience in their underwear,” or “Look over the tops of their heads.” Some advise to carefully script yourself, to use notes, or memorize your words
  • My advice is to speak from your heart because your words are intrinsically entwined with your heart. “The exact reason that people are afraid of public speaking is because their heart becomes vulnerable.” This is a risk you have to be willing to take!
  • Look at people and see them as humans who hear and understand what you have to say
  • “Stage fright” comes from a focus on self and a fear that your heart will be wounded
  • The best way to practice public speaking is to practice being vulnerable with your heart
  • You have to have complete confidence that they need to hear what you have to say
  • Value your voice and be vulnerable with your heart, then people will feel your genuine care for them
  • “You have so much to share with the world that people need to hear you.”  

Resources:

www.elisahayes.com  Check out my “Freebies” tab for great resources!

12: How is Your Communication?

How is your communication? Do you regularly use the language of inclusion or do you use your words to marginalize certain people? These are important questions to consider, and they can make a huge difference in your relationships and in your business.

Rollo May, an influential 20th century psychologist, said simply and accurately: “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.”

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • When you feel marginalized, sidelined, or just not quite included
  • The example of my youngest daughter in dealing with her high school as she finishes up her high school degree AND a two-year college program
  • Her journey has required grit, self-determination, and self-motivation
  • The problem: when she needs to communicate with the high school, she and the other “Running Start” students are not the norm and don’t need the hand-holding that the other students do—so they are marginalized
  • She and the others are spoken to with non-inclusive, condescending language
  • How do we wade through this non-inclusive language that marginalizes women?
  • For example, why use the word “mankind” when we refer to humanity (Doesn’t that marginalize women?)
  • Often, we communicate with a lack of empathy
  • If we take the time to listen and focus on the feelings of the one who is listening, our language will change
  • Why I believe it is the responsibility of the communicator to communicate with the language that you intend and in a way that it can be received correctly
  • How the same thing happens in business and the customer WILL go somewhere that they are seen, heard, and NOT marginalized
  • “If I feel marginalized by someone’s language, then I’m not likely to want to hear more of what they have to say.”
  • What are YOU saying?
  • Is our communication open, welcoming, and inclusive?
  • Can we continue in a dialogue of family and friendship, or is it just the language of commerce and cold, hard cash?
  • Be sure your language is such that includes ALL people! 

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Underwater? LET GO…for just a little while

duckingHave you ever felt swamped? Buried? Underwater with work?

In the last couple of months…ok let’s be honest, all this year…I’ve been the proverbial duck. Above water, everything looks calm. But beneath the surface, these legs are paddling like mad! Sometimes you just can’t swim fast enough.

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11: Dare to Dream Big

How big is your imagination? Do you dare to dream big—or does fear hold you back? Today’s show explores the idea of dreaming big and stepping out to do hard things. Before you go out to change the world, maybe you need to change things in yourself. Let’s talk about it!

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” This quote comes from American medical researcher Jonas Salk, and is the perfect lead-in to this episode.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • For 14 years, my company, Let’s Pretend Entertainment, has had one message: “The power of imagination is the power to change the world.”
  • You can’t change the world until you change yourself
  • Imagine your highest imagination–your biggest dream–Can you picture it?
  • Clarity of vision is important: “We can’t move forward without it, but we can move mountains with it.”
  • Why you must have faith–in yourself, in others, and in something much bigger than you
  • It’s when you have faith that miracles happen
  • When you have faith, the universe conspires on your behalf for extraordinary change and magnificent impact
  • As Chief Daydreamer at my company, it’s my job to lead the charge in dreaming big and making things happen
  • Why are people afraid to dream big? They have no faith
  • Steps up to dreaming big:
    • Believe in yourself and your ability to get sh*t done
    • Go out and do something really hard that pushes you beyond your boundaries
  • After my accident, I had to do the hard things required in my recovery. “I dreamed of a life that wasn’t crippled, even though my body was.”
  • What legacy can you leave in this world that makes it a better place for you and others?
  • John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University on September 12, 1962 and said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. That goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one in which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Resources:

www.elisahayes.com  Check out the Freebies section of my website for great resources!

10: Permission to Indulge in a Little Self-Pity

Do you ever feel sorry for yourself? Most of us do at one time or another. We may call it “having a pity party” or self-pity, but it’s something that prompts very different opinions. In today’s show, I’m giving you a little advice about why it’s OK to indulge in self-pity at times.

“Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress; only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” –Maya Angelou

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • When was the last time you felt sorry for yourself? After all, it’s a natural human response!
  • Sometimes we think that self-pity is bad and wrong in every way
  • Why self-pity is perfectly fine at times
  • If you say you never have self-pity, then you probably aren’t honest or even human
  • “The more you avoid something, the more energy you actually give to it.”
  • Why would you want to give an enormous amount of energy to something you don’t want?
  • Why it’s OK to admit that sometimes things just suck and you just feel sucky
  • Go to the pity party!
    • Show up for the appetizers and then leave
    • Own your self-pity and give yourself a time limit
  • My recent cancer scare and my anger that prompted a “pity party”
  • “Have I not been through enough?”
  • Why it’s OK to enjoy the “featherbed” for a little while and then go back home
  • Feeling guilty about feeling sorry for yourself just makes it worse
  • How to cope:
    • Have a glass of wine—just one!
    • Talk to a trusted friend
  • Howard Schultz said, “In life, you can blame a lot of people and you can wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, ‘Listen, I have to be responsible for myself’.”