Baker Schena Communications

Unleashing Your Potential through the Power of Words

Building Relationships Creates Community

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. – Isaac Newton

One of the many gifts of growing older is all of the relationships we make as the years pass by – both personally and professionally.  I believe humans are natural “bonders” – we bond with friends, lovers, family, significant others, our co-workers … and of course our pets. Some of these relationships nourish us, others hurt us – but the bottom line is that relationships make us human.

More often than not, our moods and our energy are directly linked to these relationships. When relationships are running smoothly, when we are being nurtured and are nurturing others, life is joyful. And when relationships go south, which happens on a regular basis, the world suddenly turns very dark.

The importance of building bridges and connecting with others during our lifetimes cannot be emphasized enough – relationships are what move us forward, give us support, lights our way … and if we are lucky enough, relationships bring us great joy.

As we move through this journey, we should take the opportunity to reach out to others and continually build new bridges while nourishing our long-time relationships. Building a community of support allows us to amplify our joyful times and strengthen our tough ones.

Building Bridges In Our Personal Lives

Three key rules:

1.     Don’t take each other for granted.

2.     Be PRESENT when you are with each other.

3.     Let respect and trust be the foundation of your relationship.

Building Bridges In Our Professional Lives

Three key rules:

1.     Be kind and generous with your time, compliments and experience.

2.     Always take the high road – no matter what the challenges.

3.     Base your relationship on mutual respect and mutual trust.

Relationships are tricky and challenging. They can bring us the highest highs, and sink us down to the depths of misery. Yet I believe that the potential for joy outweighs the risk of disappointment in any relationship -- which is why we must continue to build bridges to other people, even when our natural inclination may be to build a wall. 

 


Procrastination Leads to Lost Opportunities

We all make excuses for procrastinating – and I’ve heard them all. We make excuses for not doing the dishes, getting an oil change, calling our parents, scheduling a check-up, exercising, paying bills, starting a homework assignment, visiting the dentist, filing our taxes, updating our resume – you name it, we procrastinate.

Why do I tend NOT to procrastinate? It’s all about control. When you procrastinate and wait until the last minute, you give up control of the situation – and opportunities are lost. Two great examples: if I wait until the second an article is due to deliver it to my client, I give up the opportunity to edit the piece and make it better. If I procrastinate on making a cancer-check appointment, I give up the opportunity to detect a new tumor in its early stages. Procrastination robs me of control … and the chance to be the best (and healthiest) mother, friend, teacher, inspirational speaker and writer I can be.

When you stop procrastinating, you gain five key things:

1.     Time – Instead of letting procrastination rob you of precious time through delaying tactics (i.e. Facebook and solitaire), you can gain time for more pleasurable activities by taking care of the task TODAY.

2.     Less Stress – It is stressful to let a task hang over your head. The more you procrastinate, the higher the stress level. Who needs that?

3.     A Better Product – If you wait to the last minute to update your resume, or turn in a school or work assignment, or make a gourmet meal, you don’t give yourself the luxury of improving it before the deadline or dinnertime passes. Time is a luxury, and you can up your game by giving yourself enough time to review your work …or spice up your sauce.

4.     Improved Health – Stop procrastinating if you need to make an appointment for a check-up, or follow an exercise plan, or brush and floss your teeth regularly. As simple as it sounds, procrastination can negatively impact your health.

5.     MORE MONEY – A lot of money can be saved by shopping early for the best deals, giving yourself time to compare prices instead of waiting to the last minute, and avoiding late fees because you didn’t pay a bill on time.

Indeed, procrastination is self-sabotage – especially when you are transforming your dreams into reality. As the prolific author Stephen King says “just get up and go to work.”

Stop with the excuses. Get it done. NOW.

Taking Stock of Another Year on Earth

Self-reflection is the catalyst of change. – Unknown

One year ago, as we said goodbye to 2014 and welcomed 2015, I introduced The Passion Challenge 2015, writing:

If you want to seriously change up your personal and/or professional situation, and start living a passion-filled life, I propose a different set of New Year’s resolutions – three to be exact: be fierce, be fearless, be your own best friend.

I challenged you to move toward a life of passion in the New Year. And now, here we are, 365 days later – and it is time to reflect on 2015.

For me, 2015 proved to be a bridge to my decades-long dream of being a motivational speaker. I sowed the seeds day after day, week after week, month after month, to create a foundation for a seismic change in my life. On Jan. 4, 2016, this dream will become a reality.

Reflecting back on the past year, I did not meet some of my goals – including writing the elusive book that has been bubbling inside me for almost two decades. It’s still on my “to do” list. And I didn’t master social media as much as I wanted to in 2015.

But I never ceased being fierce. I continued to move courageously through my fear. And I always treated myself like my best friend.

It’s been a great year – filled with lots of love, laughter, family, friends, hard work, indulgences … and fortunately good health and no personal losses. For that I am grateful.

My theme for 2016 is two-fold: Don’t Settle and Leave It All On The Table.

Now I invite YOU to take some time this week to ask yourself:  Did I attack my goals fiercely? Did I move forward fearlessly? Did I make it a point to be my own best friend?

This is your life. This is your moment in the sun. Don’t squander it in mediocrity. Don’t waste it away by wallowing in fear and a lack of self-confidence. You possess all the gifts you need to maximize this beautiful life.

Make 2016 COUNT. Make every day COUNT.

Use this moment of self-reflection as a true catalyst for change.

Happy New Year and Happy 2016.  

And we’ll see you at www.doctorbs.net January 4, 2016.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Give Kindness for Christmas

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Plato

Life is tough. And it’s always something.

Some people are struggling to put food on the table. Others are facing a life-threatening illness.

Some people have lost loved ones. Others are estranged from their family.

Some people are lonely. Others are in relationships but still feel alone and isolated.

Some people just can’t stand their job. Others can’t seem to find one.

Which is why this Christmas … and every day of the year … we should give the gift of kindness.

While it sounds cheesy, it is the one gesture that can turn someone’s crappy morning or afternoon into a better day – and it doesn’t have to cost anything. All of us are struggling, which is why empathy cannot only heal the soul but give others hope. Showing that you care, that you are willing to go out of your way to open a door, or let an older person step in front of you in the grocery store checkout line, or allow someone INTO your lane on the freeway, can make a huge difference.

Even avoiding posting spoilers for the latest Stars War movie is an act of kindness.

I make it a point to try to be kind to everyone. And I admit I am not always successful. When I find it challenging, when someone is incredibly mean or inconsiderate, I try very hard to put myself into his or her shoes. At the end of the day, I figure you can get more accomplished with kindness than meanness.

Being kind also has the power to catch people off guard. Mean people rarely expect kindness in return.

For me, the greatest gift someone can give me is an act of kindness. Fortunately, I have been showered with these gifts all of my life. In many instances they have been life affirming – and life saving. The nurses at City of Hope come immediately to mind.

So as you hassle the mall for last-minute shopping, or struggle to find a parking space at the grocery store, or deal with traffic jams or crowded airports or cranky baristas, try to give the gift of kindness.

It will go a long way helping you get into the Christmas spirit -- and stay there throughout the year.

 

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Counting Our Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

In a season that celebrates miracles, we don’t have to look far to start counting OUR miracles. Just the fact you are ALIVE, BREATHING and READING this blog is such a miracle. And the computer or mobile device that allows you to access this blog is a miracle. And the fact that humans developed language that allows us to communicate with each other is a miracle. And the fact that I am physically writing this blog on a crisp, clear, California morning – and not six feet under -- is a miracle.

Indeed, there is no shortage of miracles.

Instead there seems to be a shortage of time – and resolve -- to count our miracles.

In a holiday season that stresses materialism over miracles and sales over spirit, we tend to lose the wonder of the countless things that make our lives so precious, and so worth living. Even in our darkest days, there is always something to celebrate – always miracles to count.

Some miracles are obvious. Researchers developed rituximab, the immunotherapy that demolished my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in 1999 – just in time for my 2013 diagnosis. The birth of my children and grandchildren. The food on my table. The exquisite beauty of nature. The fact that I passed my statistics class in my MBA program with a B.

And some miracles are subtler (or not). Our favorite movies, television shows, musicians and authors. Paint. Central air and heat. The Internet. Adele (Hello?). White boards and markers. Transportation – planes, trains and automobiles. Wine. Coffee. Chocolate.

It is tempting to liken counting our miracles to keeping a gratitude journal (a practice I wholeheartedly endorse). Yet counting our miracles brings us to a higher level of wonder and appreciation. And it keeps our spirit light on the days when circumstances in AND out of our control want to drag us down.

Counting our miracles:

·      Allows us to be present as we live our lives.

·      Helps prevent us from taking anyone or anything for granted.

·      Moves us from a “victim” mentality to a place of empowerment.

And where do you begin? Simply look in the mirror. YOU are a miracle.

Start counting.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Tis the Season for Joy ... and Grief

Grief is the price we pay for love. – Queen Elizabeth II

For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, whether within the last week or within the last year or even within their lifetime, the holiday season can feel particularly painful. Amidst all the light and joy and good tidings that December brings, the loss of a father, mother, child, significant other, family member or friend feels greatly magnified.

Indeed, grief does not take a vacation, and the holidays are no exception. For most of us who are grieving, the “joy” of the holidays has the opposite effect – it makes us even sadder that our loved ones are no longer with us.

I know so many people who have lost loved ones these past few years. I have watched their struggles as they try to comprehend the incomprehensible – to wrap their heads around loss that leaves huge holes in their souls. To try to handle the inconceivable emptiness that comes from knowing they will never hear their loved ones’ voice again, never feel their arms around them, never again share a meal … a phone call … a laugh, never again be able to look in their eyes, to touch their hair, to see their smile.

I have had too many losses over the years … and they just keep coming. The day after Thanksgiving, one of my dear friends from college died unexpectedly of a heart attack. We worked on the university paper in the late 1970s, and now he is gone.

As a self-professed expert on grief and loss, I have three observations as we move through the holiday season and into 2016.

1. Grieving is essential

In order to cope with the pain of a loved one’s death, you need to give yourself permission to grieve. It is such a huge loss, and simply burying the feelings that accompany a death will not make you feel any better in the long run. It took me several weeks to be able to function after my sister died. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than five minutes at a time. Instead of trying to “get back to normal,” I let myself grieve the loss, which eventually helped me start working and smiling and laughing again. And I strongly suggest a grief counselor – it is a good short-term investment for a healthier long-term outcome.

2. Grieving is a process, with no artificial deadlines

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear that someone who has lost a loved one “should be over it already.” Some people need only a few weeks to grieve … and others need a lifetime.  My mother died 45 years ago and I STILL find myself grieving at the oddest moments. The pain may be muted but the loss is still a reality. So don’t give yourself a grieving deadline. Just know it is a process that is different for everyone.

3. It is vital to learn how to navigate a new normal

Coping with loss is so difficult. I believe the key is learning how to navigate a new normal. The holidays will never be the same for me, but I have learned to navigate a new normal and continue to find joy in the season. I miss my mother, father, sister and brother so much, but I’ve learn to navigate a life that honors their memory and soothes my heart while finding the beauty in each day. Learning to navigate a new normal takes time and courage, but it is worthwhile: it not only honors your loved one’s memory but makes YOUR life worth living.

Grief does not take a holiday. But we certainly can respect the process. And realize that grief is the price we pay for love, and love is what makes life so wonderfully sweet.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Time to Wrap Up Your 2015 Unfinished Business

Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started. – David Allen

With the four-day Thanksgiving holiday behind us, we are now gearing up for the home stretch as we close out 2015.

While it is tempting to get sucked into the chaos – and joy – of the season, December should also be the time to wrap up your 2015 Passion Challenge efforts and start looking ahead to 2016.

Indeed, December is a time for reflection, assessment and action. It’s time to finish what you started way back in January … or June … or even last month.

If you made a commitment to a new, more passion-filled 2015, at this point you fall into one of two categories: Mission Accomplished or Yikes, It’s Almost December!

Mission Accomplished

First of all, congratulations. If you set a personal or professional goal for 2015 and accomplished it, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back. It takes courage, vision, perseverance and stamina to make dramatic life changes. And small changes should also be celebrated an acknowledged.

So what next?

·      Enjoy your new path. Let go of the guilt, self-doubt and worry that often accompany success, and simply enjoy this new phase in your life. You deserve it.

·      Continue to nurture it. Whether it is a new job, new relationship, new healthy lifestyle or new commitment to making the world a better place, you must continually pay attention to it so that it will flourish. Don’t take anything – or anyone -- for granted.

·      See if it is time to make even more changes, however small, in your life to keep you passion-filled and happy.

Yikes, It’s Almost December

Here we are, with 2016 JUST around the corner, and your new job, relationship, body, home situation or improved personal habits are still out of reach.

What next?

·      Don’t give up. Every day is a new chance to move closer to your goal.

·      Remove the weeds in your life – guilt, fear, self-doubt – so the seeds you have planted have room to grow.

·      Embark on a brutally honest assessment of your efforts this year. What went wrong? What could you do better?

·      Recommit to a Passion Challenge 2016. Start planning now for getting unstuck next year.

Most importantly, figure out the steps you need to take NOW, in December, to finish the business at hand. If it is reaching out to old friends, do it this month. If it is updating your resume, do it this month. If it is setting new health goals, start this month. No matter what, finish up December on a high note.

Just making the effort is a victory in itself.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Every Day Should Be Thanksgiving

Be thankful for what you have: you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

My extraordinary father, Irving Baker, taught me gratitude because he practiced it – every minute of every day for most of his 92 years on earth.

I’m not sure when he learned the power of gratitude. Born in 1919, he came of age in the Great Depression. Graduating college at 21, he immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. His three years in the service proved life-changing and gave him a profound love of his country – and humanity.

Returning to civilian life, he held many odd jobs in his 30s, from Sears furniture salesman to owning a catering truck. He finally discovered HIS passion – selling Prudential life insurance – in his 40s.

Family life was challenging: both of my older siblings were born with special needs. His beloved wife -- my mother, Florence – died at age 49 of ovarian cancer. And the same year he permanently lost the sight in his left eye from a detached retina. Yet despite the overwhelming challenges that hit hard in 1970, he greeted each day with joy, optimism and gratitude. And for this shaken 12-year-old, it set a course that gave me courage, strength and hope – even in the very darkest times.

My father passed on Jan. 1, 2012, but his sense of gratitude lives on in me.

Every morning, the FIRST thing I do when I wake up is to express gratitude for all that I have. And throughout the day, I continue to marvel at how blessed I am – to be alive, to be loved by a supportive family and amazing friends, to be able to make a living doing something I’m passionate about, to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, to be in remission, to enjoy music and art and trashy TV shows … the list goes on and on.

By living in gratitude, EVERY DAY becomes Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all that I have – my cup truly runneth over.  Practicing gratitude – focusing on what we do have at this very moment, instead of what we don’t have – makes life surprisingly sweet. And it protects us when the roughest waves hit.

This week, I want to suggest a challenge: Let Thanksgiving Day be the first day of living a gratitude-centric life. When you give thanks around your table this Thursday, don’t stop there. Go to sleep every night recounting all the positive aspects of your life and wake up every morning reviewing all of the blessings in your life. It takes less than a minute twice a day, and the results can be EXTREMELY profound.

Focus on giving thanks for all you have, and let go of what you don’t have at the moment. Celebrate the present, this moment, this time on earth. Through gratitude, you will find joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Don't Let Stress Dilute or Derail Your Holidays

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Keonig

Society sells the “holiday season” as one filled with never-ending family, food and fun. But for most of us, the “holiday season” is synonymous with stress. We are assaulted with messages that we must buy the perfect gift or hold the perfect party or cook the perfect dinner. And this bombardment seems to come earlier every year.

No WONDER we feel overwhelmed. Before you can finish saying “Happy Labor Day,” fall descends with a thud – with Halloween and Thanksgiving basically bypassed to make way for the Christmas/Hanukkah/Holiday season.

It’s the perfect storm of stress. Expectations are high that we should have a HAPPY Hanukkah or a MERRY Christmas, and thus we start adding projects and responsibilities such as baking cookies, decorating the house/office, shopping for gifts (and maybe going into debt), sending holiday cards or planning parties to an already busy work/home life. No wonder it feels like our head is about to explode.

And the price we pay for this stress is the risk of diluting the joy that comes from celebrating the true meaning of the season, and derailing our happiness and contentment because our expectations are too high. The commercialism that accompanies this time of year threatens to suck us into an emotional black hole – where no amount of Black Friday “sales” or store “specials” can save us.

The stress of the season is literally robbing us of the joy that it promises to bring. The solution?  Instead of letting the stress control our lives for the next six weeks, we need to control the stress. And here are five helpful tips:

1.     Get organized – Holiday responsibilities (decorating, cooking, gift giving) are an ADDITION to the responsibilities in our lives, not a replacement. We must work our jobs and raise our families while preparing for the season. So get organized. Sit down this week and create a calendar where you set aside time to get everything done – from gift-buying to card addressing to cooking to wrapping to decorating. Put it ALL down on a calendar.

2.     Don’t put too much on your plate – Be realistic about how much you want to accomplish and don’t try to do too much. You won’t be any fun or any help to anyone if you are too tired and even sick to enjoy the season.

3.     Let go of the guilt – If you can’t make a homemade pie, or don’t have the money to buy everyone gifts, or run out of time to send holiday cards – DON’T FEEL GUILTY. The goal here is to enjoy the season, not run some kind of race. If you buy a store-made pie, or send out an email greeting this year, it certainly isn’t the end of the world.

4.     Continue your healthy habits – Don’t let the stress of the season interfere with your exercise routine or seduce you into eating or drinking more than you really need. Take care of YOURSELF this holiday season.

5.     Be present in the moment – Above all, remember what the season is all about – peace on earth, goodwill to men (and women) and miracles. This is the time to make memories with the people we love, to bask in the knowledge that we are alive, to be grateful for everything we have, to acknowledge and reach out to those who are less fortunate, and to remember the “reason for the season.”

And to CELEBRATE that we made it through another year.

Don’t let stress dilute your joy or derail your peace.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Are You Building Walls or Bridges?

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Isaac Newton

One of the many gifts of growing older is all of the relationships we make as the years pass by – both personally and professionally.  I believe humans are natural “bonders” – we bond with friends, lovers, family members, significant others, our co-workers … and of course our pets. Some of these relationships nourish us, others hurt us – but the bottom line is that relationships make us human.

More often than not, our moods and our energy are directly linked to these relationships. When relationships are running smoothly, when we are being nurtured and are nurturing others, life is joyful. And when relationships go south, which happens on a regular basis, the world suddenly turns very dark.

The importance of building bridges and connecting with others during our lifetimes cannot be emphasized enough – relationships are what move us forward, give us support, light our way … and if we are lucky enough, relationships bring us great joy.

As we move through this journey, we should take the opportunity to reach out to others and continually build new bridges while nourishing our long-time relationships. Building a community of support allows us to amplify our joyful times and strengthen us when the going gets tough.

Building Bridges In Our Personal Lives

Three key rules:

1.     Don’t take each other for granted.

2.     Be PRESENT when you are with each other.

3.     Let respect and trust be the foundation of your relationship.

Building Bridges In Our Professional Lives

Three key rules:

1.     Be kind and generous with your time, compliments and experience.

2.     Always take the high road – no matter what the challenges.

3.     Base your relationship on mutual respect and mutual trust.

Relationships are tricky and challenging. They can bring us the highest highs, and sink us down to the depths of misery. Yet I believe that the potential for joy outweighs the risk of disappointment in any relationship – which is why we must continue to build bridges to others, even when our natural inclination may be to build a wall.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Time to Adopt One Small New Positive Habit

“Create healthy habits, not restrictions.” – Author Unknown

After reading this quote, you may be thinking, “This isn’t January 1, it’s November! Isn’t it a little late in the year to think about picking up good habits – especially right before the holidays?” to which I must respond “It’s NEVER too late to adopt a habit that makes you feel good.”

Indeed, small intentional changes in your life can lead to huge benefits – including more happiness, joy, peace … and even a greater sense of control. And small changes can be made by creating positive habits.

I suggest that TODAY, you identify a small good habit and adopt it as your own. And I mean small. Don’t become over-ambitious on this because you set yourself up for failure. Instead, take a baby step.

Personally, I make my bed every morning and hang up my clothes from the night before prior to starting my work day. I know that sounds routine, but returning home from the end of hectic day with a clean living space and an inviting bed provides a real sense of home – and peace.

I’ve also made it a habit to express gratitude for my life, health, family and friends the minute I awaken every morning. I start the day off with positivity and thankfulness – regardless of the challenges that may await me later. And it takes me two minutes.

Here are some other suggested habits designed to help simplify your life, and regain a sense of control when your days seem stressful and hectic:

·      Tell at least one person every day how much you appreciate him or her.

·      Make a habit to balance your checkbook so you know just how much money you have to spend.

·      Do the dishes in the sink right after a meal – don’t wait until the next day.

·      Floss your teeth every night.

·      Don’t go to bed with makeup on.

·      Save $5 a day. That adds up to $1,825 a year and in five years you will have $9,125. It’s a painless way to save.

·      Call your parents/kids once a week and let them know you love them.

·      Send a handwritten thank you note to someone who has taken you to dinner or bought you a gift or has given you joy.

·      Eat at least one piece of fruit every day.

·      Smoke one less cigarette a day, drink one less alcoholic beverage a week, eat one meatless meal a week.

A great article on the Elite Daily website by Joelle Nanula gives more great examples of habits that can make you feel better: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/cultivate-happiness/1222588/.

Picking up a new, positive SMALL habit will work wonder for your moods – it is a gift to yourself. And soon, you will be thinking of more ways to be good to yourself. Through this positive approach, you will gain the strength, joy and vision needed to pursue your personal and professional passions.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Finding the Courage to be Your Authentic Self

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” – André Gide

An opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times, “Lady Gaga and the Life of Passion,” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/opinion/lady-gaga-and-the-life-of-passion.html?_r=0 recently caught my imagination. The article is about living with passion, and what that REALLY means.

Brooks wrote, “People with passion have the courage to be themselves with abandon. We all care what others think about us. People with passion are just less willing to be ruled by the tyranny of public opinion.”

These people “somehow get on the other side of fear,” he noted.

I completely understand and have written extensively about the importance of letting go of fear – it does nothing to move you forward in your life goals. Yet the other side of the fear coin, and one that must be acknowledged, is possessing the courage to truly be yourself.

Some of us are so afraid of what others think that we have NO CONCEPT of our authentic selves. This fear not only stops us from our passion, but prevents us from living an authentic life. We exist to please others, to make others like us, to gain acceptance – oftentimes at the expense of our own happiness.

The result is that we wander aimlessly trying to “find ourselves.” I am amazed and astounded about how difficult it is for some people to identify what makes them happy. We are so concerned with external approval that there is no room left for internal insight.

Courage comes in many forms. It takes courage to defend our country, to raise a family, to fight cancer and other chronic illnesses, to save a life, to move away from one’s home in search of a better life.

And it also takes an everyday type of courage to venture outside our comfort zone, to explore what really makes us happy – to discover our authentic selves. And then it takes even MORE courage to actually live our authentic lives, to make mistakes and learn from them, to pick ourselves up again and again until we FINALLY start living our passion.

I believe that the core of my happiness comes from living my authentic life – from finding the courage to discover who I truly am and then transforming that knowledge into action. It did not happen over night, and I am still a work in progress. But simply being on the journey to an authentic life gives me endless joy.  

At the end of his opinion piece, author Brooks asks the question: “Who would you be and what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Answering this question is a crucial step in discovering YOUR authentic self.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

When You Hit the Wall, Dig Deep

“The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing.” -- Unknown

Marathon runners know it. The wall. The moment during your 26.2-mile run when you feel you just can’t take one more step. It happened to ME on mile 13 during the 1993 Los Angeles marathon – one of the hottest races on record. I sat down on a curb, took off my shoes and socks, stared at my bloody blisters and missing toenails, and decided right there and then to give up.

But that moment passed, and I didn’t give up. Instead, I dug deep, really deep, and realized that I possessed the strength and determination to finish what I had started. I knew the race would be painful and challenging, but I also knew that I had trained for months, gaining the skills and stamina to finish.

With every ounce of will, I put my socks back on, tied up my shoes, stood up from the curb and started putting one foot in front of the other. Step after step, mile after mile. A few hours later (since I walked the last half) I crossed the finish line.

I had hit the wall, dug deep, and pushed forward.

I bring up this memory because it is relevant to all of us who are courageously pursuing our passions. In most situations, our pursuit of a better career, better relationship, better life will not be a sprint – but rather a marathon. And marathons are long. And you WILL hit “the wall.”

Sometimes it is super obvious. You wake up one morning and just want to quit. Pursing your dreams is tougher than you could’ve ever imagined, and you feel like you are taking leaps of faith without a safety net. It’s too difficult, and the easier alternative would be just to quit.

Yet other times, it isn’t obvious at all. You are pushing forward but find yourself feeling tired, cranky, unmotivated – and you are procrastinating and whining and indulging in unhealthy behaviors. That, too, is a sign that you’ve hit the wall.

And now you have two choices:

Either quit, which, in my book is NEVER an option. Give me an excuse for quitting and I will shoot it down. As long as you are breathing on this earth, there’s no excuse to quit.

Or you can dig deep and find a way to tunnel under that wall. Examine your life. Identify your fears. Ascertain your anxieties. AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE. Recapture your self-confidence, address your fears non-emotionally and objectively, figure out the little steps needed to move forward, and do not succumb to feeling overwhelmed. You CAN make it happen. You just need the WILL to make it happen.

A little bit of struggle, or even a lot, is WORTH the end result – which is a happier, more productive, more joyful life.

I suggest you dig deep and fearlessly tunnel under that wall. It is ultimately an investment worth making. Because it is an investment in YOUR life. In YOUR happiness. In YOUR joy.

 

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Smartphones Are Holding Relationships Hostage

Wherever you are, be all there. – Jim Elliot

It’s fascinating to me how technology changes behavior.

A recent syndicated article by Chandra Johnson of the Deseret News focused on the new social norms surrounding smartphones, and the changing rules of electronic etiquette. The reporter mentioned that when telephones were first introduced, society worried that a family would never again be able to eat dinner without being interrupted by a ringing phone.

And I remember meeting that challenge in the 1980s and 1990s with the “no ANSWERING the phone during dinner” rule.

Yet that social shift pales in comparison to today’s smartphone intrusions, which seriously threaten to suck the soul out of both professional and personal relationships. I don’t want to come off as an old, cranky Baby Boomer, and I am the first to admit that my smartphone is stuck to me like glue. And that I am, in fact, addicted to checking email, texts, Facebook, Twitter and Words With Friends on a frighteningly regular basis.

Yet it is increasingly obvious that instead of people controlling their cell phones, their cell phones are controlling them. And relationships are suffering.   

Busy or not, looking at your cell phone while you are involved in a conversation with a friend, co-worker, child, parent or loved one is a sign of disrespect. It feels like the activity on the other end of the device is way more important than what the person across the table is saying.

In fact, nothing is more off-putting than to hold a conversation with someone who keeps looking at his or her phone. When I am with people, I want them to be PRESENT, to hold their full attention, to be respected, to be important. I want to MATTER to them.

I often wonder how today’s cellphone technology will impact the toddlers, children, adolescents and young adults coming of age. Will they know HOW to hold a conversation? Will their smartphones serve as their pacifiers? Will they ever look up from their screen to notice the beauty of the world?

I truly believe that you can’t be present with another person when you are continually checking your phone. And being present is so crucial when you are connecting with others. As I watch families in a restaurant stare at their phones, see young people walk across campus with their eyes stuck to their screens, wonder how many lovers make the phone the third partner in bed – I can’t help but question where we go from here.

For me, I plan to work HARD at being present with others and keeping the phone tucked away when I am in meetings or dining out with friends. I will invoke the “no LOOKING at the phone during dinner” rule, except to take a selfie, of course. If I do need to check my phone, I will ASK PERMISSION from the other person – a sign of respect.

The time has come to disengage from electronics and re-engage with each other. It’s a matter of respect, civility – and humanity.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Pursuing Your Passion: An Endurance Race

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale

What just happened?

I looked up from my computer and suddenly it is October. And I realized, we are in the home stretch – the final quarter – of the Passion Challenge 2015. My knee-jerk reaction is to panic: I set a list of goals for myself way back in January, and now we are only three months away from my self-imposed deadline.

And there’s still so much left to do.

Yet this sense of panic is soon replaced by a sense of peace. Real life change -- pursuing new careers, new relationships, new hobbies, new health goals – does not occur overnight. In most instances, it is more like a marathon than a sprint. I should know. It took me close to five years to earn an MBA while working full time, five years to earn a doctorate while working full time, several years to grow my business and decades to evolve into an effective professor and motivational speaker. It is rare, indeed, for success to occur overnight.

So at this stage of the Passion Challenge 2015, three quarters into the year, take a moment to look at all YOU have accomplished at this point in the “marathon.”

Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back if you:

·      Set ANY type of goal this year to move you to a happier, more fulfilled place in your life.

·      Took the very first steps to make that goal a reality, such as enrolling in a class or program, researching new career opportunities or reaching out to others who could help you fulfill your dreams.

·      Finally stopped making excuses for not moving forward in your life, and took the tentative first steps to achieve something more.

·      Overcame the fear, lack of self-confidence, negative voices of others or tendency to procrastinate and finally made a commitment TO YOURSELF to follow your heart.

Once you take the time to celebrate these successes, the next step is to evaluate how far you’ve come, and what still needs to be done. How much can you accomplish by December 31? If your progress falls short of your overall goals, don’t beat yourself up. Always remember that you can roll it into the next phase: the Passion Challenge 2016.

This week, take a moment to review your successes and revise your plans as we move to the end of the year. And while you may feel exhausted and sometimes frustrated, scared and sometimes lost, remember that this is a journey – your journey.

Time passes, whether you are pursuing your passion or not. Why not make every day count? It is a gift we owe to ourselves.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Being Happy With What We Have

Learn to appreciate what you have before time forces you to appreciate what you had. – Unknown

Apple never ceases to amaze me. The company regularly holds news conferences to introduce its next generation of shiny “must have” devices. Even if we are perfectly content with our current phones or iPads or watches, now we can purchase something even BETTER. In marketing terms, this is “creating need” for a product. In emotional terms, it reflects the distractions and advertising saturation in our lives tempting us with the “next new thing.”

Indeed, our economy runs on sales, and as a marketing/public relations professional, I COMPLETELY get it. More/newer products translate into increased sales. Why settle for only one choice of pasta when you can purchase 15 different types of noodles? Why possess only one mobile device when you can own seven? I bet you never thought about monitoring how many steps you take everyday or the quality of your sleep before the availability of wearable technology. And car manufacturers are notorious for introducing new models every year, making your current ride obsolete.

As a consequence, we never seem content with the products we already own. Instead, we are constantly yearning for something bigger, better, newer, shinier … it is a vicious cycle.

And this constant bombardment, especially on social media where keeping up with the Jones’ is taken to an entirely new level, makes many of us unhappy. We are continually reminded of what we don’t have – whether it is the “perfect” body, the “perfect” car or the “perfect” lifestyle.

Few if any messages remind us of what we DO have.

Temptation for things we don’t have is everywhere. Without a doubt, it’s difficult to control the messages pouring out of the traditional media, or your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds. But you CAN control how you react to them.

Start by being sincerely happy for what you DO have, right now, today. Once you start taking a “gratitude inventory” of your life, you will quickly realize just how much you do possess.  With gratitude as your foundation, the next step involves making the conscious choice to be happy. And in my mind, there is no excuse not to be happy.  No matter what you do or do not own, you wake up every day on our beautiful earth breathing and conscious – which, let me tell you, beats the alternative. If you are truly dissatisfied with your possessions, let it be the motivation for positive change. But be conscious of the reasons WHY you are unhappy. If it is simply because you own last year’s model, you may want to rethink your happiness quotient.

It’s okay to want the latest phone, or save up for a new car or a vacation to Europe. But in the meantime, be happy with what you currently possess. I am happy that my 5S phone does its job, I am grateful my old-school mattress still supports my back (without the need for memory foam) and I am thrilled that apps still function on my three-year-old iPad.

I am happy. Very happy. Although a new pasta maker would be nice … LOL!

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed. – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

The recent passing of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, self-help pioneer and motivational speaker, prompted me to share one of my favorite quotes from him (above). It really hits home for all of us because it speaks a key truth: we MUST live in the present and BE present. Our past experiences are only memories and our tomorrows are never certain.

We only have today.

We humans are generally in deep denial of our own inevitable deaths. It will happen eventually, yet we push it out of our minds completely. The result? We think that every day is a “rehearsal” for our real lives. We are waiting for the curtain to lift, for the show to start, for the story to unfold.

Procrastination is a nasty byproduct of this denial. There is always tomorrow – always something better. Tomorrow we will find a better job. Tomorrow we will finish that project. Tomorrow we will get together with an old friend. Tomorrow we will find love. Tomorrow we will take that trip. Tomorrow we will donate our time to those less fortunate. Tomorrow we will take care of our environment. Tomorrow we will learn to play the guitar.

Yet while we are waiting for tomorrow, the world keeps turning and time keeps ticking. And then one day we wake up and realize that this is it. We aren’t in a dress rehearsal. This is our life.

My wake-up call came in my late 20s when I found myself dreading work and absolutely miserable. I held several jobs the previous seven years and while I learned a great deal, I just didn’t feel happy or fulfilled. And I realized that I wanted joy in all aspects of my life – from personal to professional. So I let go of the fear and started my own business.

I also made myself a personal commitment to treasure every day – no matter how challenging. I learned to live in gratitude, and be thankful for all I had – not envious or sad or jealous of what I did not possess. I became internally motivated – and blocked negativity and toxicity from my life. And I made a huge decision to try to make a difference in the lives of others.

Many of us let fear define our lives. We let baggage from old relationships and experiences hold us hostage – preventing us from pursuing dreams or embracing love. I suggest that we revisit Wayne Dyer’s words of wisdom, and start living our precious lives as fully as we can. Let’s stop procrastinating, stop making excuses and figure out how to avoid squandering our lives.

And when the end comes, whether it is tomorrow or 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 years from now, our loved ones will know that we lived our lives on a vibrant stage, in front of a packed house, to applause and acclaim because we did it right – we lived a passion-filled life.

RIP Wayne Dyer.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Transforming Worry Into Action

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength. – Corrie Ten Boom

Worry is as natural to me as breathing. I worry about everything, from whether I’m eating enough vegetables to whether it will rain on November 18 to whether my DVR recorded the latest episode of “Chopped” on Tuesday night.

Interestingly, I don’t worry about the bigger issues in my life – whether my cancer will return (statistically it will), whether my business will continue to thrive (historically it will) or whether my family and friends will be safe from harm’s way (prayer helps here!).

Since it is difficult to kick the worry habit, I ’ve learned how to cope with this incredibly strong instinct in two powerful ways: by picking and choosing my worry “battles,” and by learning to transform my worry into action.

It is legitimate to worry about certain things because it motivates you to excel. However, it’s ridiculous to worry about other things because it just paralyzes you and often can prevent you from pursuing your life’s passions.

The differentiating factor has to do with CONTROL. How much can you CONTROL a scenario? If it is within your power to control a situation, it’s worth transforming your worry into action. And if you can’t control a situation, it’s worth letting go of your worries and getting on with your life.

For example, if you are worried about doing well on a test, this situation is in your control: you can study harder or even find a tutor. You can translate that worry into action. So stop worrying and start studying. And if you are worried about arriving to a dinner date on time, stop worrying and give yourself enough time for traffic. And if you are worried about finding a job, stop worrying and start sending out more resumes, hone your skills, network more … cover all your bases.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are taking a plane flight, it is SENSELESS to worry about the plane crashing – let go of the worry and leave the flying to the pilot. And it is pretty useless to worry about the price of gas (no real control), a power outage, Los Angeles traffic, or the next Southern California earthquake.

The bottom line is that when you are worried about something, take a minute to determine if it is in your control or not. If it is in your control, transform your worry into action and do something about it. If it is not in your control, let it go.

My cancer may come back at some point in the future, but I am NOT going to let that fact steal my happiness TODAY. And it may rain on November 18, but then I will just pack an umbrella.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Living Kindness

In life, you can never do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every single time I unload groceries from my shopping cart into my car, I think about a video from my doctorate program. The topic had something to do with character traits, and the video demonstrated different ways to show kindness and consideration – the foundation of a good leader.

The video narrative involved one man leaving his shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot, while the other man took the time to roll back the basket to the designated cart return space. Just this extra effort, which the narrator termed “an act of kindness,” makes an impact in two ways. First, it prevents the cart from slamming into other cars (which has happened to me), and second, it makes the job easier for the employee responsible for collecting the carts.

That short video changed my grocery store habit: I ALWAYS return the shopping cart. More importantly, it helps to remind me that kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others.

I fear it is a gift that, more often than not, is in short supply. It appears that in our hectic, 24/7, digital life, we have no time for kindness. It is run, run, run and get things done. Many of us do not possess the patience to be kind. Others don’t seem to have the temperament. And being kind takes time.

Back to the grocery store. I remember a particularly busy day with long check-out lines, when I found myself directly behind an elderly woman painstakingly writing out a check. I could feel the people in back of me slowly losing their minds. Some even started making snide comments. I, too, had no time to spare, but my empathy for this woman eclipsed my need to get back to my life. Why? Because some day that will be me, if I am lucky enough to live that long.

So I simply smiled at her, smiled at the checker, and turned my impatience into patience and my snarky thoughts to kindness. And I felt so much better than letting this small moment raise my blood pressure.

Extending kindness makes ME feel so good that I constantly look for ways to create a connection with the people I encounter, no matter how fleeting. If I notice someone can’t reach an item on a top shelf, I offer to help. When I see one member of a couple or family taking photos of the rest of the group, I offer to take the entire group’s picture.

I smile at people. I strike up random conversations while waiting at concession stands. I answer email in a timely manner. I provide constructive criticism in a kind way. I listen. I am present. I write thank-you notes. I make sure the people in my life know they are loved.

I encourage you to take the time – and energy -- to be kind. In this increasingly impersonal world, where we spend more time talking to gadgets than each other, it will help YOU connect to the human race ... and pets too!

And don’t forget to return your shopping cart.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

The Shame of Shaming

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We are ALL guilty of being judgmental. We look at someone or something, and immediately form an opinion. Negative opinions, combined with a blatant disregard for the feelings of others (i.e. lack of empathy), morph into shaming and bullying – an occurrence fueled by the media and exacerbated by the Internet.

I believe our minds are hard-wired to be judgmental. Indeed, without the ability to judge between good and bad – or safe and unsafe -- our ancestors would’ve ended up being dinner instead of successfully procuring dinner.

Yet the same ability to judge what is a friend and what is a foe also turns us into critics and even bullies. For some reason, bullying and shaming give us satisfaction and make us feel good about ourselves – even superior -- which is why certain people continue to do it well into adulthood. And it becomes highly disturbing when shaming seeps into the public domain.

The Internet is filled with examples of public shaming, from the way someone looks (too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, too many wrinkles, too differently abled) to the way someone dresses, sings, thinks, loves, acts, speaks, drives, writes, believes, lives … there are no lack of examples.

I find the state of Internet shaming exhausting and anxiety-provoking. It’s too easy to shame anonymously, and destroy someone else’s spirit with negativity. Just reading comments posted to even the most benign articles or photos is nauseating.

So what do we do? Two thoughts come to mind.

First, while I believe we are all born with judgmental tendencies, I also believe parents have the responsibility to teach their children to control their urge to bully and shame. I equate it to toilet training. As babies, we all love to pee anywhere at anytime, but as we grow up, we understand there’s a time AND PLACE to pee. If we can train our kids to pee and poop in a toilet, we can train them to take the high road when it comes to curbing their inclination to shame. We can teach young people how to be nice by modeling the way.

Second, if we are shamed, it is our choice to embrace the negativity OR let it go and consider the source. It is difficult NOT to be hurt by mean words. Believe me, as a casualty of bullying in elementary school and junior high, I still carry those hurtful memories. But I certainly have never let them define me. I can’t control what negative energy spews from others, but I certainly can control how to react to it. And I will never let it consume me.

I encourage you to be less judgmental as you navigate your own journey. Turning shaming thoughts into empathy creates more positive energy in your life. And if you find yourself the target of negative comments, don’t internalize them. Continue to be your own best friend.

Most importantly, don’t let the negativity of others become the soundtrack of your life. That would be a shame.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com