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Picture This

You can observe a lot just by watching.

~Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra is known as much (or more) for his iconic quotes as he is for his stellar career with the New York Yankees.  With this bit of quirky wisdom, he was definitely on to something important.

A recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania found that a structured program in art observation improved first year medical students' observational skills, compared with students who did not receive the art training. Since observational skills are fundamental to the practice of medicine, developing them through art study could potentially improve clinical performance. Even more important, many students felt the art training helped them be more open to different ways of thinking when trying to figure out a specific problem or complex clinical situation.

It’s not just doctors or other professionals who can benefit from being a better, more mindful observer of daily life. Keeping a sketchbook is the best, easiest and most immediate way for anyone to hone their observational skills. You don’t need to take formal art lessons to get the benefits of regular art practice. You don’t need to have natural artistic talent either - just put pencil, pen or brush to paper and let your creativity flow.

Although sketching is something you can do anywhere in any season, summer is a great time to get out and about exploring the things you love.  Here are some places to sketch that are accessible and interesting:

1.   Art museums: Museums, sculpture gardens and public art spaces are all great places to sit and sketch.

2.   Historic homes and house tours: Seeing historic homes or fancy interiors is one of the best field trips for anyone who loves architecture and interior design.

3.   Home sweet home: Why go anywhere? Have a “stay-cation” and sketch what you see: your pet, favorite houseplant, or kitchen sink. All of these can be worth your creative attention.

4.   People places: Crowds both big and small are sometimes the best places to sketch. The people watching at a busy coffee shop or crowded beach can offer great inspiration, whether you zero in on something particular or capture the whole.

5.    Iconic places: Instantly recognizable places are fun sketch subjects you don’t have to think too hard about. These can be of the natural world (the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls) or man-made (Mount Rushmore or the trolleys of San Francisco).

6.    Elements: Earth, air, fire and water can create pictures of different places in your mind. For example, water might be the feature in a sketch of the Outer Banks in North Carolina or the canals of Venice. The sketches you do around the elements can be symbolic or literal, or a combination the two.

Hope this inspires you to get out your journal or sketchbook, grab your favorite art supplies, and head out for a fun day of observation!

You Don’t Have To Burn Your Ship

Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

~Albert Einstein (attributed)

Did you know that 55% of people are actively looking for a new job or career?  That's a pretty large segment of the workforce... and equals quite a lot of unhappy people.

Most of us feel some anxiety about making a change in our career or personal lives, and understandably so. We don't want to take unnecessary risks with everything we value - lifestyle, relationships, reputation, hard earned savings - to set out on a quest for more fulfillment and prosperity without a guarantee of success. However, continuing to do something that doesn't bring joy or satisfaction inevitably leads to what business mentor and author Adam Markel calls the epidemic of mediocrity

We've all probably heard the saying "burn the ships!" to describe a strategy of taking bold action by removing the possibility of a plan B. This advice is actually one of the biggest reasons why people fail to reinvent some area of their business or life.  Instead of creating a smooth, graceful transition, they’re urged to ditch any backup plan and go straight into their next venture, putting everything they've worked for in jeopardy.  It’s a lot like being told to jump ship into rough seas without a life preserver…which explains why most people don't ever make a change in the first place!

Change may be uncomfortable, but the truth is it’s the one thing we can always count on. An experienced career change coach can suggest ways to make a successful transition without “burning your ship”, help you recognize wonderful opportunities, and reduce your stress as you explore uncharted territory.

Life is too short to remain frustrated and dissatisfied in a job that isn’t a good fit for your gifts and interests. Whether you want to revitalize your existing business or venture into a completely new line of work, getting help to figure out what you’re good at and transform that into a new career makes sense for your personal as well as professional life.

Reclaiming The Magic

Small minded people blame others. Average people blame themselves. The wise see all blame as foolishness.

~Epictetus

Would you like to become more creative and imaginative, unlock your potential to dream, and recapture the excitement of your youth? If you want to reclaim the magic of living, a good way to start is by eliminating the temptation to judge.

When you judge others, it’s a good bet that you’re hiding a weakness of your own behind their obvious flaw. The big danger is that you will eventually move on to judging yourself.  Since you tend to be your biggest critic, the fear of making a mistake will prevent you from taking action. This stops creativity dead in its tracks.

Perfectionism can easily be the biggest obstacle to our dreams we face.  Today, notice any judgements you might make of yourself or others and let them go. See yourself in others and forgive them – and remember that when we forgive others, we ultimately forgive ourselves.

Don’t Just Work To Live

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Did you know that, according to recent studies, nearly half of all working Americans didn’t take one single day of vacation last year? Sadly, this isn’t fake news!

While it’s true that we all need to pay our bills and provide for our families, it’s also important to enjoy life.  After all, what good is all the money you get from working those long hours if you can’t spend some time doing what you enjoy and being with the people you love most?

If you find yourself struggling to achieve a healthy work-fun balance, here are 5 tips to help you start “working to live” rather than “living to work”:

1. Release the guilt.

Many people become so used to working hard that they feel guilty when (and if) they decide to take some time off. They make work their #1 priority, ignoring the need to rest and recharge their energy. But instead of being more productive, they quickly burn out.

Sound familiar? If so, try scheduling and planning your time off.  When you know you’ve given everyone - your boss, your team, your family - a chance to prepare, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation time without regrets. 

2. Work smarter instead of harder.

You almost certainly don’t have to do it all yourself.  Delegate the simple tasks and get a planner, scheduler or software that can help you get organized to get things done in less time. Try shortening your usual work schedule by 20%, commit to being super-productive, and stay within that new time limit.

3. Make technology your assistant, not your master.

Technology should make your life easier, not control it or overwhelm you. Keep it simple - get familiar with just a few apps and programs that make a clear difference in your work efficiency…and stay off the “smart” devices when you’re spending time with your family or for yourself.

4. Learn to say NO.

Many people take on more responsibilities than they can handle, simply because they haven’t mastered the skill of saying “no”. They frequently end up doing things they actually don’t want to do just to please a family member, a friend or someone they work with, and then later resent it.

Whenever you feel tempted to say “yes” when you really mean “no”, remember that turning down unnecessary commitments or requests can give you the time you need to regain energy and motivation - and take back your life!

5. Work with passion and purpose.

If you enjoy what you’re doing and feel that you are contributing value, work suddenly stops being something you “need” to do. Infuse purpose and passion into everything you do, and you will truly be “working to live”. 

The Power Of Positive Focus

When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order.

~ Meister Eckhart

You’ve heard about the power of positive thinking 100 times; just make it your default attitude and success will naturally and effortlessly follow. But it’s not enough to just think positive. You want to work toward positive focus, not positive thinking. So, what’s the difference?

Positive thinking tends to gloss over “negative” reality. It also doesn’t always account for personal responsibility. You can focus on finding more opportunities to make money, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have to eat today. And you can’t change a car accident by thinking, “If I drive away, maybe nobody will notice.”

Positive focus means living firmly in the present and getting the most out of it, while understanding that the choices you make now will affect the future. It also acknowledges that everything has both a positive and a negative side.

Most people spend their day thinking and talking about what they don’t want. Well, guess what? What you focus on expands! You may not be able to control the facts of life but you can control how much attention and significance you give them.

If you want more money, don’t focus on the money you don’t have. That only places more emphasis on the lack in your life. Focus on earning and accumulating more money, for whatever reason drives you toward that goal. If you want to change your job or career, don’t focus on how much you hate what you’re doing now. Focus instead on discovering a great opportunity. Focus on solutions, not problems

The mind is limited in its conscious attention. You can only entertain one focus at a time.  Positivity is one of the greatest secrets to both happiness and success, so make sure you choose positive focus. 

The “Four C’s” Of Transformation

All people are alike in their dreams, and all people are alike in the promises they make. The difference is what they do. 

~Moliere, 15th Century French Playwright

Making significant changes in your career or personal life can be an intimidating prospect. Most of us want to wait until the time is “right”. But how do you know when that time has come?

Procrastination is the number one killer of dreams. It often shows up as putting too much effort into getting ready to get ready – expecting everything to be just so, or even perfect. But no one can ever be that ready.

Waiting for confidence is another telltale sign of procrastination. You may be tempted to procrastinate in hope that your confidence level will increase the more you prepare. But top achievers know that confidence only comes after you make a decision, take action, developing skill as you go, and have some success no matter how small.

Making a commitment also takes courage. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the price every highly successful individual has paid for future success, so you certainly wouldn’t be the first to do this.

 If you’re asking, “Am I ready?”, 99% of the time you are. When you create a clear vision of where you want to go, muster up the required courage to make a decision and commit to moving forward, there is no challenge you can’t figure out and eventually overcome.  Sharing your commitment with someone who supports your decision can give you added incentive when the going gets tough.

 Here are the “four C’s” that can help you successfully navigate your next big change:

 Courage (leads to) Commitment (leads to) Capability  Confidence



Start Small And Change Your World

The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change  ~ Heraclitus

We all know that change is the most constant force in life.  The transformative power of big changes is obvious, but even small ones can bring amazing gifts into your life.

One “baby step” you can take starting tomorrow is to get up 10 minutes earlier.  (You might find this easier now that the long days of summer are here.)  Use this time to meditate or pray, listen to your favorite music, make your bed, or simply relish some quiet time.

Waking up even just a few minutes earlier allows you to indulge in moments you wouldn't normally enjoy, and can help you begin your day with more energy and a positive state of mind.  This is one small change you can apply now that will create lasting benefits for your health, wealth and happiness.

Do Vision Statements Really Work?

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want.

~ Mark Twain

When you're feeling stuck or in a rut, it often means your vision is fuzzy - not your eyesight, but your life’s vision.

A compelling vision statement can help to combat the “fuzziness”. However, writing one can seem too confusing and very time-consuming, which may be why so few of us either a) don’t have a vision statement, or b) have only a general idea of what we want, such as “a happy life” or “personal fulfillment”.

Now if you’re making a trip to the local mall, you know exactly where you're going when you get in your car. You know the route you’ll take.  If there's traffic, you find a way around it. No matter what, you're going to arrive at your destination because you have a specific plan. 

Why wouldn’t you be willing to do the same for your life?

Your written vision statement is the plan for your best self, living your best life in the areas of health, relationships, career, and financial abundance. Vague unfocused questions like, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" won’t energize your vision, and simply drain your brain power.  The clearer the “roadmap”, the more likely you are to reach your destination. Having a definite idea of where you’re going will inspire you to take action and bring your dream into reality more quickly and easily than you ever imagined possible.

If you haven’t already written your vision statement, give it a try today. It's a powerful way to align yourself with your desired outcome and attract it into your life.

The Cheese At The End Of The Tunnel

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. 

~ Steve Jobs

A famous behavioral psychology experiment involved presenting rats with three tunnels, only one of which contained a piece of cheese. The rats would explore all the tunnels until they found the cheese. After reinforcement they would go down only that avenue, and ignore all non-cheese tunnels. If the cheese were removed, however, the rats soon learned that it was gone and began to explore all tunnels again looking for the reward.

Human beings, despite being highly evolved creatures, often display less “judgment” than a rat when confronted with a choice between changing and staying put.  Driven by what seems right or reasonable, they can spend an entire lifetime moving up and down the same tunnel looking for whatever “cheese” the situation promises, never get any, and yet refuse to change track. In fact, they often get support from family members, friends and acquaintances, who agree that the cheese really belongs up that tunnel in the absence of any evidence.

Change is a risky proposition. It’s human nature to resist changing until some crisis, trauma, disease or other tragedy makes us so uncomfortable that we can no longer go on with business as usual.  But why wait for the worst-case scenario to turn away from an unrewarding or non-productive path? 

Everything in life is about making choices. No one can force you to move up and down the same “tunnel” in life without receiving any payoffs.  Change may seem difficult, uncomfortable and even frightening especially in the beginning.  If you choose to stay put, however, you can be sure of just one thing – your situation will never change for the better. 

There is no denying that the first step is the hardest one to take. Nevertheless, it’s only when we make up our minds to endure a bit of discomfort, some inconvenience, a break with a predictable routine, and a period of uncertainty that we can experience the liberation that comes from living life on our own terms.

What Do You Do When The Going Gets Rough?

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

~ Proverbs 24:10

Adversity is a mirror. When the pressure is on we find out who we really are. We may suddenly discover facets of ourselves, like anger or lingering resentment or any number of things, we’d never known were there.  Adversity is painful, often intimidating and always uncomfortable. But if we want to grow, we shouldn’t spend our lives running from it.

In a society that promotes quick fixes, we’re often tempted to give up to soon. Your conscious mind probably has a reasonable, if not realistic, time-frame for success. After you’ve failed a few times, giving up seems like the “normal” thing to do. But how much more might you have accomplished if you’d just kept on your current path a bit longer, and with each failure learned more about what works?

It’s very easy to get down on yourself and your results when things don’t go as planned. One way to overcome this is to simply to ask better questions in “negative” situations. Instead of asking “why this” or “why me”, ask questions that empower you, like “What can I learn from this?” or “What is the hidden opportunity in this situation?”

Other people’s thoughts and emotions are contagious. Especially when facing adversity, it’s important to limit your time with negative people.  Also, reduce your contact with media that create envy, shame or just generalized fear and negativity within you (for instance a lot of news shows).

Now, that’s not to say that you should never quit. Knowing what you really like to do and what you really want can certainly give you the inner motivation to persevere after things have gone wrong.

And that’s also not to say that you should do the same thing over and over in exactly the same manner – this would be Einstein’s definition of insanity.  Instead, have the experience, learn its lessons and then adjust how you do things as you try again.

We can all learn a lot about dealing with adversity from people who have faced it and prevailed. Winston Churchill, a famous authority on this subject, suggested a concise and direct approach -  “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

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