No Regrets

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The holidays are a time for family, friends, food, gifts, and joy. Last year I got a friend a baby monitor because she was about to have a baby boy. But it’s also a time for reflection.

I learned an important life lesson at an early age about reflection from my beloved grandfather. He was Irish with dancing eyes and a great storyteller…he unfortunately had a lot of health challenges, but for most of his life he put on a “happy face” for me.

It wasn’t till I was 17 years old, and he was near the end of his life, that he said to me, “I wish I hadn’t been afraid to do so many things in my life.” That regret he felt and the longing and poignancy in his voice broke my heart and I vowed to live my life doing things that scared me…no regrets for me!

As a result, I’ve lived a full life -as a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes wrapped up into this one wonderful life.

As many of you know, my 2011 adventure was turning my passion for travel into a travel agency business…San Juan Capistrano Travel.  To me, travel is like food -a basic requirement for the fullness of life.

Whatever it is that makes your heart sing, I encourage you to do more of it in 2012.  Seeing new places, meeting new people, learning new things, loving and laughing more…whatever is important to you, vow to do it in 2012. Live a life of no regrets.

Best to you and your loved ones during this wonderful season!

Warmly,

Ann

3 Step “Success Factor” Exercise

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I love the month of December.  Many years ago, I decided to give up any aspects of the holidays that caused stress or a feeling of “I don’t want to be doing this!”   As a result, I gave up shopping for gifts, attending any parties or events that I truly didn’t want to attend, and sitting in Southern California traffic.

Instead, I enjoy holiday music and surround myself with it often.  I delight in the beautiful light displays that so many lovingly create for our enjoyment.  I attend all the holiday activities in my town of San Juan Capistrano where I can mingle with my neighbors and watch the wonder in children’s eyes.   I do some baking and warm up the house with smells of pumpkin and cinnamon. And I volunteer with local agencies who are aiding those who need a helping hand. Those are things I love about the season.

And for me, December is time to take some time off for reflection and planning for the upcoming year.

In that spirit, I want to share with you a 3 Step “Success Factor” exercise that can help you remember your successes…this will boost your confidence as you plan your goals for 2012.

1.  Think of a success you’ve had in the past -can be long ago or recent.  Write out a few lines about it.  For example, here’s one of mine.

I was the first in my family to get a college degree -while I proceeded to get several -the first one, the bachelor’s degree, was in many ways the most challenging.  I was attending college while working one full time job, a part time job and a Saturday morning job in the career counseling office of the university.

2.  What did you have to do to achieve this success?  Here’s mine:

Prior to starting on the degree, I investigated possibilities, made appointments to talk with people at the university, attended an open house, researched financial aid and took the big step of enrolling.  I set goals, got excellent grades and graduated.

3.  What skills did you use to achieve your success and what qualities did you possess that supported your success?  For my example:

Courage to change, Research skills, Set goals, Studied, Read, Wrote, Discipline, Initiative, and Organization.

Feel energized?  These skills and qualities are always with you and can be applied to your next goal and desire! If you do this exercise with someone else, you can tell them about your achievement and let the other person jot down the skills and qualities you used.  This exercise is a powerful energy raiser… Give it a try.  I’d love to see your posting here about your previous success and how you will build on it for your next one!

The Optimist Creed

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I came across an inspirational piece today that I’d never read before.  It was written by Christian D. Larson, New Thought leader and teacher, as well as a prolific author of metaphysical and New Thought books.  Will Rogers, the cowboy/humorist, used this piece when he chartered the Beverly Hills Optimist Club in 1922.  He asked Mr. Larson if the group could use these lines as their credo – they changed the name of the piece to “The Optimist Creed” and it remains their creed today.

Being a natural born optimist, I enjoyed this and hope you do to!

“Promise Yourself” also known as “The Optimist Creed”
Christian D. Larson

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

What are Your Limits?

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I’m a possibility thinker.  I love helping others to dream big, to think of all the possibilities and then to choose one and get into action to make it happen.  Along the way, I’ve learned to embrace the word “limit”.  A word I never thought I’d like.  But here’s the thing.  Setting limits -limits that YOU choose -actually makes you more powerful.

When you set limits, you focus.  And focus is key to getting things done.  You set a goal, break it down to projects, break your projects down to tasks, set your limits, focus and get things done.  That leads to success after success.  And with each success you gain confidence.  You walk taller.  You shine brighter.  And all that attracts more possibilities, more opportunities, more joy, and more abundance.

So how do you set limits?  Here are 3 tips:

1.  Think of an area of your life that is overwhelming you.  Something that feels out of control.  Maybe you look at your desk and it’s a mountain of papers – every time you look at it you think of all the things you aren’t completing.  Or ever decide to check email and realize an hour later that you’ve just wasted your time focusing on a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter?

2.  Pick one area.  Let’s use email for this example.  What are you currently doing?  Checking email 10 times a day?  Maybe more?  Do you have a sound alerting you each time an email lands in your inbox?

3.  Set a limit that makes sense to you.  Maybe you’ll decide to check email twice a day -at noon and before you end your work day.  Make it an experiment.  Try it for a week and see if you’re feeling more in control and getting more done on the things that are most important to you.  If you find it’s truly hurting your ability to serve your clients, revise your limits and try another experiment.  Once you find a limit that works, practice it for at least 21 days to make it a habit.  Now choose another area and set a new limit.

Try this and you will find that you’ll get overwhelm under control, feel less stress and get things done.  You’ll also find that people will respect your time more if you have limits.  So give it a try.  Post your new limit here on a comment and keep us posted on your success!

Cruise Vacations: A Convenient Way to be Pampered

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Here’s a post about cruises from my travel business, San Juan Capistrano Travel -I’m building a new website/blog for that business but thought you might enjoy this one -self employed folks need their vacations too!

Next week -October 17 -23 is National Cruise Vacation Week.  Did you know that  10 million Americans took a cruise in 2010?   My husband Ted and I were one of them – as a matter of fact -between us – we’ve taken 25 cruises over the years!         ncvw2011logo72dpi

Cruising is an incredibly convenient way to travel.  Unpack once and  see several exciting destinations.  Your family or friends won’t have to haggle over where to eat or which activities to choose -there’s something to please everyone from the youngest toddler to the grandparents.  No one has to cook or clean -you’ll all be pampered by very attentive staff.

A cruise ship is truly a floating resort with beautiful atriums, lots of dining choices, spas, pools, sports, movie theaters -some have elaborate water slides, rock climbing walls, even a zip line!  For those who like luxury, there are high end cruise ships that provide a lower key feel with extraordinary cuisine and educational enrichment opportunities.

Trust me you won’t be bored on a cruise.  You get to choose how to spend each precious vacation day – lounge by the pool or go non-stop from morning till the wee hours -you’ll find a menu of activities to choose from on your cabin door each morning.  Read a book on your balcony while you gaze out at the beautiful ocean or dance till you drop in the disco.  Like to gamble?  Head to the casino to try your luck. Like it quieter?  Find the library filled with travel guides and the latest novels.

There are now 30 ports of embarkation in the US -meaning that half of Americans can drive to a cruise port.  Handy ports to San Juan Capistrano are located in Long Beach and San Diego.   Cruises are a great value and provide hassle free vacations.  No wonder the cruise industry keeps growing!

Don’t Network – Connect Instead

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“Relationships are all there is.  Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else.  Nothing exists in isolation.  We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”  Margaret Wheatley

Don't Network - Connect Instead

Here’s the whole thing in a nutshell:  When you help others, they often help you.  When you care about somebody, you want to help them.

Ferrazi suggests that instead of focusing on “networking”, focus on connecting and sharing your knowledge, time, energy and compassion.  He reminds us that if you strip any business down to its basics, it’s about people selling things to other people.  You’ve heard it before and it’s true: people do business with people they like.

Other tips:

1.  Share your passions. When you spend time with someone who shares one of your passions, you’ll both let down your guard and really get to know each other.  Have dinner with someone who shares your passion or engage in the hobby or activity.  For one period of time, I was getting lots of requests to have lunch with others -at the same time I was trying to lose weight so didn’t want to eat out as often.  I invited folks to take a walk with me instead and had many fruitful net-walking meetings.  You may like to meet people over golf, at a sports event or by inviting them to a book club.

2.  Treat business contacts like personal friends. There’s no need to draw a big line between the two types of relationships.  Build trust with business contacts by showing your human side -not just the polished professional.  Share what really matters to you including your interests and even your frustrations.  By being authentic and human, you’ll build stronger bonds.

3.  To Succeed, Make Others Successful. Be generous with others. Share your knowledge and your contacts.  I’ve built a very successful grant writing profit center by doing my best to help other grant writers succeed.  Your rewards may not come directly from those you are helping, but trust me, it comes back tenfold!

Solo Travel: It Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

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Between 2000 and 2006, I took three trips to Europe happily on my own. I drove all over Ireland, then journeyed to Venice & Florence and finally fulfilled a dream of going to Paris. Some things I learned:

Even though I was a fiercely independent traveler- in retrospect- I wish I would have done some parts of each trip as tours – a half day bus tour, a walking tour, maybe a guided tour of the Louvre. That would have given me an opportunity to meet some traveling companions and get the inside scoop from a knowledgeable guide.

I really do suck at learning languages. I wish I’d had a translator app and a smart phone! I did manage to learn a few useful phrases -it does go a long way in warming people up to you. I found an Irish pub in Paris (really!) filled with Aussies and some Brits so I got a dose of English most every night before heading back to my hotel. In Italy, I hung out in the centrally located piazzas every night -they’re always filled with people out for a stroll and socializing, sort of like hanging around Camino Capistrano in San Juan in the early evening – I almost always met someone who spoke English to chat with for awhile.

People in Ireland live up to the hype about Irish hospitality -pick one of the plentiful pubs -sit at the bar (even if you’re going to sip a soft drink) and in no time- you’ll find a friendly conversation. Riding the city tram in Dublin led to several enchanting conversations – I chatted with a group of teens who had me laughing so hard it hurt, or as they said, they put me “in stitches.” On another tram ride I enjoyed a lively conversation about my Kindle with a curious elder.
At the Dublin airport, waiting for my plane home, I met the “Seven Widows.” I had left a book, Anam Cara by John O’Donahue, on my barstool in a packed airport pub, hoping it would still be there when I got back from a restroom stop. When I got back to my seat, the Seven Widows were surrounding my stool, cooing over the book. Turns out they loved the author too. They told me their story: each was a widow and they traveled frequently together. They were on their way to the Canary Islands. They insisted I join them in drinking Guinness and blackberry brandy and in no time, we were truly Anam Cara which means “soul friends.”

The joys of traveling alone include doing what you want, when you want, while offering plenty of opportunities to meet new people -both fellow travelers and the locals. If you’ve been dreaming of traveling -don’t put it off because you’re single. Pick a destination, choose a date and start announcing to everyone you know that you’re going. Now you’re on the way to turning your travel dream into the experience of a lifetime!

Letting Go

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There is really no such thing as time management.  We all have the same 24 hours a day.  What you can manage is where you put your attention.  Where you spend your energy and time.  And for many of you, you may not be spending your precious time doing things you love or being in environments that support you in fully developing your true self.  One key is to let go of habits, commitments and even people who are not contributing to your life in a positive way. Here are a couple of tips to get you started.

1.  Name what’s most important to you.  Jot it down.  Is it time with your family, reading to learn new things, travel to new places, making a difference in your community?

2.  Take a good look at your calendar for a week and watch where you are spending your time.  Gently observe your routine habits – some habits that I know many of you may have that are not supporting your goals and passions are checking email too often, surfing the internet for too many hours, maybe too much t.v.?

Don’t beat yourself up -just see where you might want to make some changes to free up your time for those things that are most important to you.

3.  Start small.  This is huge.  This has been key to every success I’ve ever had.  Pick just one thing to change at a time.  Break it down into smaller pieces if you need to.  Then do it regularly for at least 21 days -for me 30 is better.

Here’s two examples.  Reading email too often.  Choose to look at emails twice a day -maybe right before lunch around 11:30 a.m. and then near the end of your work day -maybe at 4:30 pm.  Get a calendar and mark off each day for 21-30 days that you succeed in doing this.  Take a deep breath if you’re tempted to open those emails first thing in the morning.  The urge to fall back into your old habit will pass.

Second example is to look at your current commitments and see which ones are supporting what’s truly important to you and which ones are draining you of energy and/or time.  Choose one small one that you can let go of.  Then contact whoever you need to and let them know that you no longer have time for the commitment.  Stand steady -in addition to freeing up your time, you will be giving someone else an opportunity to do what may be important to them.  Then decide carefully what you will do with your new free time.

I hope these tips help you to get closer to living YOUR life -the life you choose.  Let me know by commenting here on this blog if you are making changes -we’ll cheer you on!

Do You Charge What You’re Worth?

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There’s a good chance you don’t. You may think you don’t have enough experience. You may fear that you can’t deliver high quality services. You may just not feel “good enough.”

If you are a true beginner you might want to charge a lower fee in order to gain experience; however, before you do this, I urge you to talk to a coach or a trusted advisor to do a “reality check.” You may not be able to see clearly all the life experience, knowledge and value you are bringing to the table.

If you are not a beginner, here are a few tips to effectively master the emotionally loaded topic of how to charge what your worth.

1. Pricing is an art not a science. There are no hard and fast rules. You can experiment. Establish a baseline by calculating the amount you absolutely must have each month to meet your expenses then double that amount to account for those variable life insurance quotes, savings, retirement and other business expenses you may not be taking into consideration.

You may want to triple your initial amount so that you’ll have money left over for travel and other enjoyments. Divide your total amount by 20 hours a week for 48 weeks (or the number of weeks you expect to work in a year). I say 20 hours because some of your time will be spent on marketing, administration, professional development, research, etc. If you will actually be delivering billable services more than 20 hours a week, adjust the formula to fit your situation. This amount is the minimum you need to be making during each hour of service.

Try a price on for size and see if you feel satisfied with delivering your service for that fee. If you feel resentment -you’re not charging enough. You can adjust your pricing till you find the range that fits.

2. When delivering services it’s always better to charge a project fee rather than an hourly fee. You are bringing value to the client -you are solving a problem -you are not trading dollars for hours of your vital life energy. Yes, I showed you in #1 how to establish an hourly rate -that’s so you would have an idea of how to price your project. Estimate the number of hours it will take to complete the project or deliver the service and you’ll have a project fee. Yes, sometimes you will find you underestimated and you will also find that sometimes you finish more quickly than you anticipated.

3. Expect the “gulp” factor. Each time I’ve stretched myself to raise my prices, I find myself swallowing, a gulp, as I quote the fee or write it into a proposal. But what a great feeling when the client says yes and you recognize your value. It gets easier with practice.

Deliver excellent service. Be reliable. Be honest. And charge what you’re worth!

I’d love to hear your thoughts – so go ahead and post them here.

How to Focus

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What’s most important for you to focus on today? That’s a question I ask to start off each coaching conversation I have with clients. It’s a question I ask of myself each morning. I have many interests, and since you’re hanging out with me and reading my stuff, I’m guessing there’s a good chance that you do too. As a matter of fact, many of you lament the fact that you have “too many interests.” Hogwash.

It’s great to have interests but here’s a key to not feeling overwhelmed or ineffective. Choose at least 1 thing to do each day that will have a great impact and do at least 1 thing each day that just makes your heart sing.

What do I mean by “impact?” Well that will be personal to you, but it could be an action that will bring you recognition, or in the long run, continue to increase your income. It could change your career. Maybe it’s something that will make a difference in your community or make an important change to your personal life.

Here’s a way to figure out what to focus on. If you don’t already have an action list (to do list) quickly write out of all the things you think you should or want to do. Then look at each item and ask: How will this change my career, my work, my life? Will this have an impact a week, a month, a year from now? Does this task further a long term goal of mine…how important is this goal?

This might take a bit of time to do at first but once you practice, you can do this in just a few minutes. Don’t like this method? Try this one.

List the goals you’d like to accomplish in the next year. Then each day, choose at least one action that moves you closer to your goals.

And don’t forget to do at least one thing just because you love it. Because if you do, you’ll find yourself connecting with your “real” self…and that real self will guide you to do the things that are truly the most important things for you to do in order to live YOUR life, YOUR way.

Go ahead and share a goal with us here in the comment section. There’s great power in writing goals down and sharing them a supportive community. Want even more support and structure? Join our 30 Days to Get It Done group beginning October 6th…watch here for details on how to register or drop me an email at ann@authenticlifeinstitute.com with “30 days” in the subject line and I’ll send you the details.

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