Baker Schena Communications

Unleashing Your Potential through the Power of Words

What We Lose By Overcommitting

Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget they are also growing old. – Unknown

My initial idea for this week’s blog post focused on the dangers of living an overscheduled, overcommitted, can’t-say-no life. And I speak from experience: I am the Queen of Busy.

So I sat down at my computer, fully prepared to provide a list of tips. Then I realized the Internet is filled with strategies to cope with the temptation to overcommit. These include learning to prioritize, letting go of meaningless guilt when you do say no to a request and improving your time management strategies. You don’t need me for that.

Instead, the above quote about our parents struck a chord with me, as it highlighted the bigger issue of what we LOSE by living an overcommitted life. A “crazy-busy” schedule, in addition to greatly contributing to worry, stress and anxiety, prevents us from appreciating the truly precious miracle of being alive.

One of the dangers of being so busy is that we forget how to live in the present. And by focusing on “doing” rather than “being” 24/7, we miss precious opportunities that make life meaningful.

For example, how many times to you wake up in the morning panicked by your jam-packed schedule that day: the deadlines, the meetings, the money issues, the relationship problems. The first thing on your mind is: How can I just get through this day in one piece?

And what are you missing? The chance to open your eyes and simply be GRATEFUL and THANKFUL that you woke up – to be present in the simple miracle that you are breathing and alive. According to 2012 statistics, 6,775 Americans EACH DAY will not be so lucky.

And being overcommitted takes you away from the things that truly matter, like spending real quality time AND BEING PRESENT with the people you love – your parents, your kids, your friends, your family members. Being present means eliminating all of the distractions in your life – from your electronics to your stress – and enjoying the moment.

Indeed, while you are busy "living" your life, your parents – if you are lucky enough to have them – aren’t getting any younger. Some day you won’t be able to call them on the phone, hang out at the dinner table, tell them about your day, share a photo or enjoy a joke together. And then you will realize what you missed by being overcommitted.

And some day YOU won’t be around. That is a fact. So what steps are you taking RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW to truly relish your short time on earth?

Even if you do find yourself overcommitted, make it a point to stop and appreciate the sun on your face, the taste of ice cream on a super hot day, the joy of your pet who missed you all day, the people in your life who make living so much sweeter.

Wake up in the morning grateful to be alive, and THEN worry about your day. Take a few minutes to call your parents, and THEN complete your deadline. Go play catch with your puppy or your toddler, and THEN answer your emails.

As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Don’t lose out by taking life for granted.

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

What are YOUR Midyear Resolutions?

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. – Carl Bard

I would like to suggest a new tradition: Midyear Resolutions. Everyone is all fired up in January to start the year with a clean slate. Yet somehow between January and June, these New Year resolutions fizzle out and are often forgotten.

Yet resolutions, or personal commitments, are vital when pursuing our Passion Challenge 2015. They keep us on track, fired up and ready to continue the journey. Indeed, living a joyful, fulfilling life is a marathon, not a sprint. And you want to be in it for the long haul. I know I do.

So how do you capture that New Year vitality? Make some Midyear Resolutions and stick to them.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by being over-ambitious. Keep your resolutions realistic, simple and doable. Use this midyear moment to re-energize your life and your journey.

Here are a few suggestions:

·      Be present in the moment. When you are with a friend or loved one, be WITH him or her. Don’t be thinking about other things you need to do, or problems you need to solve.

·      Identify one thing you have been procrastinating about and GET IT DONE. Whether it is scheduling a doctor’s appointment, organizing your closet, arranging lunch with a friend, flossing or painting your kitchen, take the steps TODAY to make it happen.

·      Do one healthy thing for yourself. If you find yourself drinking too much wine at the end of the day, cut out a glass. If you need to start exercising again, join a gym, get to a gym or simply take a walk. But MOVE.

·      Start a project that will bring joy to your life. If you have always wanted to take up ice-skating, baking or stamp collecting, figure out how to begin – and then, just do it.

·      Reach out to a friend with whom you haven’t spoken in more than a year. Even a text or email is appreciated.

·      Update your resume – even if you are happy in your job. You never know when you may need a new adventure.

·      Stop worrying about your problems for a day, and volunteer for an organization that needs your help – whether it is working with small children, running a race to raise money for a medical condition, or visiting an assisted-living facility. Giving from your heart puts all of your issues into perspective.

·      Take time to daydream. What would make your life sweeter? How do you get there?

·      Stop being so cynical and start choosing joy.

·      Really commit to your gratitude journal, writing down five things you are grateful for EVERY NIGHT.

·      Take a break from electronics. Devote a meal, or a chunk of time, where you do not interact with something that needs a battery. The world can wait. Your peace of mind is more important.

·      Tell the people in your life that you love them. We don’t say those three precious words enough.

·      Remember that every day is a gift. Wake up every day with a smile, grateful that you are ALIVE on this beautiful earth.

·      Worry less. Laugh more.

It is mid-July, midyear 2015. Time to re-energize and continue living a joyful life.

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 Reflect: Passion Challenge 2015 Halfway Point

We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see. – Taoist Proverb

Welcome to the midpoint of our Passion Challenge 2015. With six months under our belt and six months left of the year, it is time to STOP and REFLECT on our journey.

Reflection is a vital component to any successful endeavor. Running, running, running without the benefit of reflecting, reflecting, reflecting will leave you STUCK STUCK STUCK in one place. The secret of moving forward is planning, doing and reflecting.

Where are YOU on your journey? Whether you are seeking a new job/career, enhancing your current job/career, working on relationships or redirecting your life on an entirely new track, here is some food for thought and reflection:

·      I am MOVING FORWARD on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – This is ultimately where you want to be at the midpoint of the year through December. You’ve made a commitment to yourself, a goal, and are consciously taking the steps necessary to fulfill this commitment to living a conscious, passion-filled life. The simple act of moving forward, whether with baby steps or in leaps and bounds, means you are on the right path. At this point, you want to reflect on how you can improve the process, but don’t forget to celebrate the small victories.

·      I am STUCK on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – At this midpoint, you have a goal you are working towards, but are not making any progress. This may be due to unforeseen obstacles that you are encountering, the feeling that the path you’ve chosen isn’t really what you want, a lack of support from others, various distractions, procrastination or simple exhaustion and fatigue. The most important thing here is to NOT GIVE UP. Take the year’s midpoint to re-energize and figure out what is working for you, and what needs to be tweaked. If you need to change direction, so be it. If you need to explore alternative plans, so be it. The most important goal is to figure out how to start moving forward again, and make a commitment to do that.

·      I am COMPLETELY LOST on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – Perhaps you haven’t started, or maybe you’ve stopped and started several times, and you feel like you are heading absolutely nowhere. It is NEVER too late to start exploring your options and thinking creatively about how to find more joy in your life. It is YOUR choice to live a happy, fulfilling, passionate life. If you choose joy, you will find a way to start and maintain the journey. The one thing I know for sure: playing the victim, no matter what your challenges, will never bring you lasting happiness. I encourage you to take this midpoint opportunity to restart your life and take the first step on your path to a passion-filled life.

Continue to document your progress by keeping notes, a journal, a lessons log or even an outline of where you’ve been and where you are heading. If you haven’t documented your progress, it’s never too late to start. With these “maps” of your journey, you can periodically reflect on your life.

This week, slow it down, reflect and then continue moving forward. And Happy Mid 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

Asking For What You Want

Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. – Miguel Angel Ruiz

I know this may be hard to believe, but people can’t read minds … yet (thank goodness). However, the assumption that your colleagues AND loved ones CAN read your mind leads to communication missteps …  keeping you stuck in a job that is not paying you what you deserve or a relationship that is not meeting your expectations.

Years in the classroom and the professional environment have shown me that women are often hesitant to ask for what they need in both the professional setting and in their personal relationships. This hunch is backed up with research, which shows that men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary raise (http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-women-hesitate).

I’m sure the reasons for this are many, including the fear of rejection or losing one’s job, a lack of negotiation skills, cultural norms that frown on “aggressive women” or simply the assumption that the boss will eventually notice your hard work and give you a raise.

The truth of the matter is that you must ask for what you want, whether you are negotiating a salary for a new job or seeking a promotion or raise for your current job.

While this may be quite intimidating, NOT being rewarded for your effort can eat you up alive, making you feel unappreciated and negatively impacting your productivity.

The key to success in asking for a promotion and raise is to be strategic. It takes careful planning, documentation and timing – and the results are well worth the effort.

Here are some suggestions to help in your quest:

1.     From the moment you start a new job, document all of your successes. A boss doesn’t want to hear about how many hours you worked, or the “sacrifices” you’ve made. Instead, he or she will want documented proof of your accomplishments.

2.     When you are ready to ask for a promotion or a raise, make an actual appointment with your boss. You want to sit down and have his or her undivided attention.

3.     When you do meet, clearly state the reason for the meeting with words such as “I would like to take this time to discuss a promotion and raise. I have been working here for __ of time and here is a list of my accomplishments.” You may also want to have a figure in mind of how much money you want and the new title you seek prior to the meeting.

4.     Don’t hem or haw: be direct and composed and confident but not cocky. Don’t whine or discuss negatives. Stay positive, focused and supply the proof that you deserve a raise.

5.     Whatever happens after this depends on a whole host of factors. You may choose to stay even if you don’t receive the raise, wait for more time to pass before asking again, or start looking for another job. However, the most important thing is that you ASKED FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

And a quick word about relationships. Your partner is not a psychic. Often, you must ask for what you need, even if it doesn’t sound or feel romantic. If you want flowers once in a while, ask. If you want more nights out with your friends, ask. If you need more alone time, ask. If you want more romance, ask and DESCRIBE what that looks like.

When we ask for what we want, we can become unstuck and transform our lives. Forget hoping others can read your mind – communication is key.

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

Empower Yourself: Take the High Road

Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours. – Dave Willis

We’ve all been there: Your boss is intolerable. Instead of nurturing, he/she criticizes. Instead of being appreciative, he/she pushes your workload boundaries. Instead of creating a joyful, creative environment, he/she fills the office with doom.

After you come to the realization that things are not changing anytime soon, you decide to take another job. Your first inclination is to give your boss a piece of your mind before heading out the door.

STOP IT. It’s time to take the high road -- even though the temptation to seek revenge or speak your mind is incredibly tempting.

Indeed, one of the most difficult things in life to do is take the high road during contentious circumstances. The natural reaction when someone is pushing your buttons, or being unreasonable or even bullying you is to respond with equal vehemence. If nothing else, it makes you feel better.

Yet what I’ve learned through the years is that you can never go wrong taking the high road in the workplace. Not only is it an effective negotiation and coping strategy, but you will always feel secure in the knowledge that you did not stoop to someone else’s level.

Believe me when I say you have NOTHING to gain being spiteful for all the “wrongs” your boss committed. Odds are, your boss is blind to his/her behavior and has no desire for “self-enlightenment” or to improve as a leader. Getting down in the muck just to prove your point will only end up with you feeling angrier and even more powerless.

Instead, acknowledge to yourself that this person is who he/she is, and move on. Let go of the anger, leave your job with your head held high – TAKE THE HIGH ROAD, and get on with your life. You may temporarily feel better trying to strike back at the other person, but in the long run it will do you more harm than good.

And I am not suggesting being a doormat. There are many ways to cope with an intractable boss (ask me about Nonviolent Communication). But at the end of the day, when you realize you can’t change him/ her, avoid stooping down to his/her level. This not only will prove EMPOWERING, but you never know what the future will bring, and burning bridges is never a good idea.

This also holds true for colleagues, friends, former friends, lovers, ex-lovers, retail workers, “customer service” representatives – EVERYONE in your life.  You will travel a lot farther on the high road than you will getting stuck in the ditch of pettiness.

Never sacrifice your class to get even with someone who has none. Let them have the gutter. Take the high road. -- Unknown

 

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

Forgiving Your Mistakes

There is no sense in punishing your future for the mistakes of your past. Forgive yourself, grow from it, and then let it go. – Melanie Koulouris

If you are human, you WILL make mistakes – probably daily. It comes with the territory. As I’ve said before, if we didn’t make mistakes, we would be incredibly boring – and insufferable to live with for any length of time.

I know when I wake up in the morning that mistakes will be made: in the kitchen, at the computer, on the phone. Yikes … sometimes my life feels like a series of landmines. The other day I dropped a light bulb onto my bedroom hardwood floor, shattering it into countless shards. I left the oven on when I went to run errands. I “butt dialed” an acquaintance and fortunately did not say anything too embarrassing. I emailed a doctor and called him the wrong name.

Mistakes HAPPEN. And believe me, I have made some BIG mistakes in my lifetime. I’ve trusted the wrong person, accepted the wrong job, bought the wrong car, took some dreadful vacations, ate some wicked food and wasted untold hours on boring books, insipid movies and vacuous individuals.

What I DON’T do, however, is beat myself up over my mistakes -- large or small. Instead, I FORGIVE myself and move on with my life.

Self-reflection is the key to growth and dealing with any collateral damage caused by your mistakes. It is vital to set aside some time every day just to THINK – something easier said than done. Electronics are this generation’s crack, and spending just a few minutes a day alone without any outside stimulation feels like withdrawal. Yet without this time for quiet self-reflection, we become automatons.

So during these times of self-reflection, when reviewing your mistakes big or small, take away the lessons learned – and AVOID passing judgment on yourself. OBJECTIVELY observe what you did wrong, and figure out how to take a better approach next time. Do this without filling your head with negativity and low self-worth. Use your mistakes to lift yourself up, not tear yourself down.

When you make a mistake, write it down. Think about it. Learn from it. AND MOVE ON. Replace the negativity with positivity and gratefulness. These small steps are transformative and will make life much, much sweeter.

Mistakes happen. Don’t be a victim. Instead, forgive yourself and be your own best friend.

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 Power of Positivity

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius

A few weeks ago, I headed for the weight room at the gym. I had been keeping up with my aerobics on the treadmill all winter, but had neglected my strength training. And inevitably, I felt incredibly out of shape.

I had a very tough time that first day back. It felt disheartening to realize I had difficulty lifting the weights I had so easily managed only a few months earlier. I knew my body would be sore for the rest of the week. As I struggled through a bicep curl, I thought about all that lost time away from the weights area. I started to feel defeated only 10 minutes into my set.

And then, in the middle of a shoulder pull-down, I made the conscious decision to NOT beat myself up for the time away from the gym. Instead of slipping into negativity and giving up, I turned the weight session into a positive experience. I congratulated myself for getting back on my schedule, expressed gratitude that I had the ability to even lift weights and the financial stability to belong to a gym, and told myself that every rep mattered. Even with baby steps, I eventually would be able to return to my former level of fitness.

Which brings me to today’s thought: When faced with a setback, we have two choices -- slip into negativity or remain positive.

It is so easy to feel discouraged when faced with a setback. It’s so easy to slip into a negative space and become depressed because a relationship has gone south, or a job is not working out, or a plan has derailed. Negativity is the easy route.

Yet negativity is a slippery slope to giving up. To not returning to the gym. To never dating again. To stop looking for a job. To give up on a friend. And what is BEYOND giving up? A big void of nothing. It is an easy tumble down that tunnel because it takes such little effort to give up, yet the sacrifice to your happiness is enormous.

In contrast, your other choice, remaining positive, requires intense energy and effort. It means getting up after falling down and TRYING AGAIN. It takes grit. It takes determination. It takes courage. Yet at the end of the day, the positivity payoff is HUGE! It gives you ANOTHER chance for happiness, ANOTHER chance to get things right.

We only have this life, and must play with the cards we are dealt. I truly believe giving up is never an option, and negativity is never beneficial nor does it EVER enhance your life.

Positivity is a choice. Sometimes it is a learned choice, but it is there for the taking. It starts with gratitude, and seeing the positive of ANY situation, no matter how difficult.

I encourage you to tap into the power of positivity and avoid the seduction of misery. It will turn your life around.

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

 

What's Holding YOU Back? Time to Take the Plunge

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. – Nido Qubein

It’s a steaming hot summer day and that backyard pool looks so inviting.

You KNOW you want to take the plunge. The question is how.

Should you slowly slip in the water, inch by inch? Or are you cannonballing off the diving board? Whichever way you choose, one thing is for certain: You WILL get wet.

Mission accomplished.

I equate risk-taking with entering a swimming pool. Some people are cautious, and others are ready to dive right into the deep end. And still others need a push.

And some individuals, for various reasons, never get wet – choosing instead to sit on the sidelines and simply watch the fun, rather than be in the mix.

Which type of risk-taker are you? If you are sitting on the sidelines, what’s holding you back from taking the plunge?

I believe it all comes down to two things:

1.     Fear

AND/OR

2.     Lack of a clear vision

We naturally fear the unknown. How cold will the water be? Will I be able to swim? Will I get chlorine in my eyes? Did someone pee in the pool? The best way to conquer the fear of the unknown is to drill down and identify ALL of your fears. Write them down and then take the time to figure out if they are legitimate. Don’t let fears steal your future. Address them head on, and keep moving forward.

If you can’t swim (a metaphor for not possessing the skills necessary to pursue your dreams), then make a commitment to get some training. LEARN TO SWIM.

Is the pool too cold? Stick your toe in first and find out. This equates to doing your homework. If you are afraid to get chlorine in your eyes, wear protective gear. In real life, protective gear is a Plan B. And did someone pee in the pool? You can’t control other people’s actions – just your own. So take a good long HOT shower with plenty of soap when you leave the pool, and let go of what you can’t control. 

If you lack a clear vision, you still can enter the pool – just do it slowly, taking baby steps until your vision becomes clearer. The most important step is making a STRONG commitment to getting unstuck, and to DISCOVERING YOUR PASSION. Then follow through.

Stop holding yourself back from your dreams. Enough already.

Time to get into the pool. The water feels GREAT.

 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

Body Language Speaks Volumes

When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last week, I encouraged you to LISTEN.

However, that is only part of the story. The other part involves body language.

Studies show that more than 70% of communication is nonverbal. Understanding the power of body language is as crucial as LISTENING skills when communicating with friends, family and colleagues.

So, what does YOUR body language say about YOU? Here are some interesting tips to keep in mind when YOU are speaking:

1.     Let’s start with the handshake. Confidently stretch out your hand, look the person in the eye while you smile and give a confident yet friendly handshake that lasts only one or two seconds. Try to match the pressure of the handshake of the other person as well. You don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

2.     Look “open” rather than “closed.” This means unfold your arms, uncross your legs, do not hunch your shoulders, position your shoulders square with the other person, and widen your stance when you are standing to look more solid and sure of yourself.

3.     Keep a consistent amount of eye contact, which shows you have nothing to hide.

4.     Nod when the other person is speaking to you – this shows you are listening.

5.     Body language can help influence your emotions. If you stand up straight, shoulders back, chin up, chest out, wide stance, warm smile on your face – you will look AND feel energized. If you slouch, with your chin down and chest in, you will look and feel grim and deflated.

And here are some things to keep in mind when observing others’ body language:

1.     Check out the other person’s brow. A furrowed brow may mean confusion, fear or tension.

2.     If the other person does not keep eye contact or tends to look away, he or she may be uncomfortable with something.

3.     If the other person is tapping his or her fingers, he or she may be bored and/or anxious.

4.     Folded arms or crossed legs may indicate the other person is not fully on board with what you have to say.

5.     If the person’s feet are pointing away from you, he or she may not be interested in what you are saying.

It is so important to be PRESENT when you are listening to another speak – both in terms of listening and when observing body language. In our “smart device” society, face-to-face meetings are falling by the wayside, giving us fewer opportunities to practice being present. So when you do meet with others in person, make the most of the experience.

And stay energized!

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 Art of Active Listening

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. – Stephen R. Covey

Did you HEAR me? Are you LISTENING?

Hearing is a passive activity while listening is an active activity. And the ability to actively LISTEN is imperative to be successful in both our work and personal lives.

What does active listening look like?

I found a great definition in the businessdictionary.com website:

The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.

The key word here is “mindfully.” One of the barriers to being an effective listener is not being “present” when you are listening to another person. We are hearing the words, but our mind is elsewhere. We are preoccupied with other thoughts.

Some of the other barriers to active listening include:

·      We are not patient, and tend to jump in to finish the other person’s sentence

·      We are so anxious to respond, that we don’t listen to the other person

·      We have already jumped to a predetermined conclusion, so we don’t even bother listening

·      We are distracted by the increasing interruptions in our lives, especially electronic

·      We have very short attention spans

When we don’t actively listen, we cheat ourselves – and the people in our lives. Actively listening signals to the person speaking that you value what he or she is saying. It also enriches your life because it offers you the opportunity to learn something new.

And when a friend is in pain, it gives you the opportunity to truly empathize and not just make a superficial connection.

It is essential to practice actively listening every day. In each interaction, be aware of HOW you are listening. Give the other person your undivided attention. Learn to pause for a couple of seconds before offering a reply. Ask meaningful questions. Be present.

Make active listening a priority. You will be surprised how much this skill will enhance your life.

Are you LISTENING?

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 Are Teachable, There Are No Limits

Experience teaches only the teachable. – Vernon Law

Everything we know, we learned from someone else. – John Wooden

As human beings, we are learning from day one.  Before we can run, we must learn to walk. Before we can talk coherently, we must learn to pronounce words. Before we can write, we must learn the alphabet. We spend the good part of our first two decades on a steep learning curve.

To be an effective LIFELONG learner, we must be teachable.

As we grow into adulthood, the ABILITY to learn transforms into a WILLINGNESS to learn. And attitude separates those who resist acquiring new skills from those who are truly teachable.

Some of us shut down in terms of learning for several reasons:

·      We think we know it all.

·      We are afraid to show others that we DON’T know it all.

·      The effort to learn new things becomes overwhelming.

·      We have a difficult time taking constructive criticism.

·      We are resistant to change and thus stuck in our ways.

In pursuing a life truly well lived, both personally and professionally, one of the key characteristics that is crucial to possess is a passion for learning that continues until the day you take your last breath. And this passion goes hand-in-hand with the ability to be “teachable.” To open your heart and your mind to learning something new keeps the world fresh, enhances your ability to land new jobs and opportunities, and gives you the strength to overcome the fear of the unknown.

I have witnessed thousands of students expand their skills exponentially because of their willingness to learn new concepts and their ability to take constructive criticism (and my red pen). And these students continued to succeed in their career because of their willingness to be “teachable.”

When we stop being “teachable,” we become stuck. When we don’t take good, valuable advice from our friends or colleagues, we become stuck. When we stop asking questions, and stop learning, we become stuck.

My passion for learning has resulted in three degrees, three separate careers and the courage to start a new chapter in my life at age 56.

Where will your teachable attitude take YOU? When you are teachable, there are no limits. And it all starts with the willingness to learn.

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

What Will It Matter 100 Years From Now?

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. – Salvador Dali

Last week I turned in a highly technical clinical article that had a typo: instead of writing “a smoking cessation program,” I wrote “a smoking sensation program.” The typo went undetected by my client, who then submitted the article to her boss, a CEO, who found it.

At one point in my career, I would have been BEYOND HORRIFIED, and beat myself up for this mistake for weeks. However, with age, experience and perspective, I responded instead with an “OOPs” to myself and a sincere apology to my client.

What I DIDN’T do is promise it would never happen again. … because I know that I am NOT perfect. As a medical communicator, I literally write thousands upon thousands of words each WEEK, and inevitably, even after several close edits, a typo will slip through the cracks. And while I am not happy I made the mistake, I know that it is not the end of the world nor does it reflect on my expertise or the high standards I set for myself.

Let's face it. You can’t be perfect 100% of the time. Just ask any baseball player who strikes out. Or any soccer player who misses a goal. Or any quarterback who is intercepted. 

Back in 1983, my mentor from my very first public relations jobs put it into perspective when I made one of my many mistakes learning the ropes. He said to me, “What will it matter 100 years from now?” That little piece of wisdom helped steer me away from obsessing over my inevitable errors.

Now, I must admit that I am LUCKY in terms of the profession I chose. Mistakes in my field usually don’t hurt anyone. You can’t say the same for a neurosurgeon, flight controller or jet fighter pilot – where there is little room for error. But most of my mistakes aren’t life threatening.

We don’t live in a perfect world, thank goodness. Would you want to hang out with a friend who is perfect and never made a mistake? That would be BORING. Would you want to work for someone who is perfect? That would be INTIMIDATING. Would you want to be married to someone who is perfect? I think I would tear out my hair.

Being perfect is a DETRIMENT because it prevents us from making mistakes, and if we don’t make mistakes, we can’t grow. My success today is directly related to my previous mistakes because I LEARNED from them.

After decades of living on this beautiful earth, I understand the futility of trying to be a perfectionist. No one is perfect, thank goodness. Instead, we must focus on doing absolutely the best work we can and living a kind, compassionate, mindful life.

The rest will take care of 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

The Passion Challenge 2015 -- 1st Quarter Tune-Up

I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose. – Kobe Bryant

It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of March – and the end of the first quarter of The Passion Challenge 2015. One of the most important things we can do when we embark on a new journey is take time for reflection on where we have been, and where we are heading.

Let’s talk about your successes …

Success #1: Making a commitment to lead a more fulfilling life.

Perhaps the biggest success is having the courage to start on the road to a more fulfilling life.

Success #2: Feeling a bit more comfortable moving outside your comfort zone.

Change requires the courage to exchange the safe path for an unknown journey, with all of its highs and lows.

Success #3: Taking concrete steps to transform your passion into reality.

You can track your accomplishments, both big and small, through your written journal. Take a moment to review your progress, and congratulate yourself for making it this far.

Success #4: Pushing past fear and procrastination.

Procrastination and fear are two challenges that must be conquered to navigate uncharted waters. Three solutions include being more organized (helps with the procrastination), creating a back-up plan and being less emotional/more objective (both help with the fear).

Success #5: Increasing your gratitude and decreasing your negative attitude.

We have so much to be grateful for, and focusing on the positive will help give you strength when the going gets rough. A negative attitude, along with a victim mentality, will take you nowhere.

… and your roadblocks

Roadblock #1: You don’t believe in yourself, so you make excuses not to try.

You cannot give me one excuse NOT to follow your dream. Any excuse you make is simply masking and/or reflecting your fear. The Passion Challenge starts with you being your own best friend and believing in yourself.

Roadblock #2: Losing momentum and wanting to give up.

It’s easy to lose momentum when you are making long-term changes. The Passion Challenge is a MARATHON, so you need to pace yourself and keep your eye on the prize.

Roadblock #3:  You’ve simply lost your way.

Sometimes we can’t see the direction we are heading. The most important thing is to keep moving forward and avoid the temptation to quit. Doing something everyday for the Passion Challenge 2015 – every little step – is a win.

Congratulations on completing the first quarter of your yearlong, and possibly lifelong, quest. If you haven’t started your Passion Challenge journey, it certainly isn’t too late. As parents everywhere know, a lot can be accomplished in nine months.

Remember: Be Fierce, Be Fearless, Be Your Own Best Friend

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

It's Okay to Say No. Really

Anyone who truly wants to be in your life will respect your boundaries. Period. – thegoodvibe.co

Do you find it difficult to say “no” when a friend, coworker or family member wants you to do something out of your comfort zone? Do you say “yes” to every request that comes your way, no matter what? Do you have problems SETTING BOUNDARIES?

Join the club.

Wherever I travel, I meet people who cannot say no to requests to volunteer more, donate more, work more hours, serve on more committees, listen for hours to friends’ drama – all to the detriment of their personal needs.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we take on other people’s work, drama, issues, _________ (fill in the blank) when OUR plate is full? Why do we keep saying “yes” when in our heart we really want to say “no”?

It all boils down to two things: fear and guilt.

Often, we find it difficult to set boundaries because we are afraid of the consequences – either real or perceived. We fear that:

·      we won’t be loved

·      we will be abandoned

·      we will make someone angry at us

·      we will be lonely

·      we won’t be accepted

·      we won’t get the raise

·      we will lose our job

And with this fear comes guilt. And this guilt comes from the place where we want to please everyone. We feel we are letting someone down if we don’t work those extra hours even though we have a family commitment, if we don’t make homemade cupcakes even though we are slammed on the home front, if we don’t lend a friend/family member money even though we are living paycheck to paycheck.

These feelings of fear and guilt lead you to attempt to please others at the expense of what is best for you. And inevitably, anger and resentment builds, leaving you miserable and feeling helpless.

The time is now to start setting healthy boundaries. The Internet is filled with fantastic advice on how to accomplish this in any situation – work, relationships, friendships -- so there is no excuse not to give it a shot. You just need to reach the point where enough is enough.

So jump on the Internet. Learn how to set boundaries. Start setting those boundaries.

And stop being afraid to say no.

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

It's Not All About You

There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. – Don Miguel Ruiz

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

You are doing a great job at your company during a particularly challenging time and your boss calls you up uncharacteristically yelling and screaming because the budget is not being met or your department has a huge backlog. Your boss is all over you – criticizing, micromanaging, and ignoring your efforts and accomplishments.

Or you are working in retail, or in any service position, and a customer comes up to you and is just plain rude – bitching about everything. And no matter how accommodating you are, the customer cannot be pleased.

Or your dear friend, loved one or family member suddenly turns a cold shoulder to you, and does not have one nice word to say. And nothing you do is right.

What is going on?

Our first instinct is to take it personally. What did I do to cause this behavior?

And indeed, if YOU are rude, or mean, or simply don’t care if work gets done correctly, then you are directly responsible for this reaction.

Yet many times, this behavior has NOTHING to do with you, which brings me to one of my favorite quotes by Don Miguel Ruiz:

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Constructive criticism should ALWAYS be welcomed. Yet when someone who is usually pleasant and positive is downright mean to you, avoid taking it personally. Instead, realize that something negative is occurring in this person’s life. Perhaps your boss is being pressured from his or her boss and is frightened and stressed. Or the customer is experiencing some personal trauma in his or her life. Or your loved one is experiencing a really bad day.

Before you jump to conclusions, and take offense and become defensive, stop for a moment and realize that it is “not all about you.” Instead, it is all about the person who is attacking. And instead of taking the attacks personally, separate out the facts from the hysteria/meanness and respond only to the facts – keep your emotions out of it.

It never feels good to be yelled at by someone else. But next time, exchange your anger for compassion and empathy. You will be surprised at the results … and you won’t believe how it takes the edge off.

And of course, if the bullying and meanness continues, it is time to find another boss, job or friend.

 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

Making Excuses Robs You of Opportunities, Happiness

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. – Benjamin Franklin

Every day I hear from people who want a positive change in their lives. When I offer them a life strategy, I hear one of two reactions:

1.     “These are great ideas. I know they require a lot of hard work, time, effort, sacrifice, strategic risks and courage, AND I am ready for the challenge.”

 OR

2.     “These are great ideas. BUT they require a lot of hard work, time, effort, sacrifice, strategic risks and courage, and I simply cannot do it because ________________ (insert excuse here).

I hear excuses all the time about why someone can’t find a new career, or a new partner, or a new living situation, or joy.

“I can’t afford it.”

“I don’t have the education.”

“I’m too afraid to try.”

“I’m afraid of rejection.”

“I don’t have the time to invest in changing (fill in the blank).”

 ENOUGH ALREADY!!

In my classroom, I NEVER allowed whining or excuses for crappy work or late papers. I encouraged students to take responsibility for their efforts. And when I set the bar high, my students stopped making excuses and started stepping up to the plate.

I challenge you do to the same thing with your LIFE. Keep these five pointers in mind:

·      Realize You Are Making Excuses – Some people have made excuses for so long, they don’t even realize they are making them. LISTEN TO YOURSELF. Are you making excuses for staying stuck?

·      Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – You may be facing some personal challenges, but there is NO REASON not to find happiness. You are healthy, live in a country where you are free to pursue your life’s passion, you have a roof over your head, food in your stomach, and A BRAIN. What else do you need?

·      Be Willing To Do The Work – Are you making excuses because you are too lazy to do the work?

·      Let Go Of The Fear – Fear paralyzes. Fear inspires excuses. Let go of the fear and stop the cycle.

·      Believe In Yourself – You possess all the talent, all the tools, all that is necessary to get unstuck. But if you don’t believe in yourself, none of this matters. Getting unstuck starts from within.

The bottom line is that when you make excuses, you rob yourself of opportunities … and happiness. You defeat yourself even BEFORE you step up to the plate.

Starting today, make a conscientious effort to transform your defeatist attitude into positive action. You will be amazed at the opportunities that will open up for you.

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

Focusing on your Strengths: A Path to Getting Unstuck

Build upon your strengths and the weaknesses will eventually take care of themselves. – Author Unknown

What is holding you back? What is making you unhappy? What is keeping you from getting unstuck?

A book I just read, “Strengths Finder 2.0,” may provide some answers. Author Tom Rath observes:

“Far too many people spend a lifetime headed in the wrong direction. They go not only from the cradle to the cubicle, but then to the casket, without uncovering their greatest talents and potential.”

And why is that?

Because we are conditioned -- from a very early age -- to devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths. And it stems from the maxim “You can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough.”

Popular culture LOVES rooting for the underdog, with “books, movies and folklore filled with stories of the underdog who beats one-in-a-million odds. And this leads us to celebrate those who triumph over their lack of natural ability even more than we recognize those who CAPITALIZE ON THEIR INNATE TALENTS.”

The author cites an example from his childhood where he practiced shooting hoops three to four hours a day for years trying to become a great basketball player. Although he had NBA dreams, no matter how hard he worked, it didn’t happen for him. “After giving 100% of my effort for more than five years, I couldn’t even make the junior varsity team.” Why? His innate ability wasn’t basketball.

His suggestion? Focus on your strengths instead. “People who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.”

Rath presents an interesting concept. Personally, I believe that if you can find a personal strength that you are passionate about, you’ve found the golden ticket.

I found the golden ticket early in my public relations career. I don’t possess the natural ability or the stomach to pitch stories to the media. HOWEVER, I knew I could write well. So after a few years in my own public relations business, I moved away from pitching and focused on my strength: writing. As a result, my business brought me nothing but joy. The same holds true for my teaching career: my strengths are in communication and the ability to impart knowledge in a stimulating, interesting way, so I devoted my time to becoming an excellent professor. And as a result, my years in the classroom brought me nothing but joy.

So I encourage you to take the time to do some self-examination. Rath says, “In many cases, simply being aware of your areas of lesser talent can help you avoid major roadblocks.” If you are unhappy in your passion pursuit, maybe it is because you are not focusing on your strengths.

And how do you figure out your strengths? The e-version of this book comes with a great assessment tool – and helps you create a strength-based action plan based on the strengths you discover. It may uncover things you don’t yet know about yourself.

Whether or not you pursue this thought-provoking approach to finding your passion, think about ways to discover and focus on YOUR strengths.

It just may be YOUR golden ticket!

 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

Procrastination is Self-Sabotage

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King

All of us procrastinate at one time or another. I personally make a conscious decision to avoid procrastination as much as I can … but ask me if I’ve even started putting together my tax information for my accountant. With our appointment only a week away, I keep PROCRASTINATING because I can’t stand the process.

I know in my head that I must meet a looming deadline, but my heart just isn’t into it. Eventually, my head will prevail; I will bite the bullet and start organizing my receipts. But I sure would feel BETTER and LIGHTER today if I had completed this chore a month ago instead of letting it continue to hang over my head.

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, motivational speaker and writer I can be.

When you stop procrastinating, you gain five key advantages:

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.

 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 Pursuing Your Passion, Don't Forget Your Heart

Wherever you go, go with all of your heart. – Confucius

February is all about heart, from the romantic (Valentine’s Day) to the health-conscious (American Heart Month). And heart is what it takes when you are turning your passion into reality.

Indeed, you can’t get by on your brain alone when “following your heart.” You need a balance of both. Without “heart,” passion remains elusive.

College is a great example. For many, obtaining a college degree is strictly an intellectual pursuit. It is filled with hours, weeks, days and years of reading, test-taking, essay-writing and stress. What makes this journey tolerable? Passion. If you can find passion in the subject matter, you can “go, go with all of your heart,” transforming the experience from tedious to joyful.

The same holds true for your job. If you only bring your brain to work with you, your days are destined to become mind numbing. Yet if you also bring your heart – all of your heart – your job can become your passion. You find yourself enjoying the ride, and much better equipped to handle the tough times.

Like relationships, oftentimes we stumble onto our passion. At 24, I had NO IDEA that I would one day find my passion in public relations OR being a college professor. I just knew that I felt unfulfilled in my job as a journalist. I took the strategic risk of trying something new – and that courage led me to two careers that I absolutely loved. Whether writing web content or delivering a college lecture on crisis communication, I brought not only my intellect and experience, but also my heart. The result? Pure joy. Motivational speaking fills me with the same passion, the same elation.

As you journey through life, both personally and professionally, listen to your heart. It speaks volumes about the choices you are making and the lengths you will go to reach your goals. Your heart will fuel the long hours of hard work it takes to succeed in a new environment, or the effort and creativity it takes to transform a current one. And it will take the edge off the anxiety and stress.

Starting today, make a commitment to never leave your heart behind. Instead, focus on discovering the magical balance between your brain and your heart. It will help bring you closer to the words I live by: Love what you do.

 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 a Valentine's Gift to Yourself

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. – Lucille Ball

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this day. On the one hand, it is the Holy Day of Marketing and Public Relations: according to the website StatisticBrain, Americans spend $13.19 billion on what is basically a made-up holiday. You can’t beat that. Pass me the chocolates.

On the other hand, it is often a day of devastating un-met expectations, with partners basically never doing/spending/saying enough to mark the occasion – not to mention the ubiquitous slap in the face of all the single people out there, who for 364 days are probably happy they are single … except for Valentine’s Day.

So THIS Valentine’s Day, I suggest we shift the focus from a fabricated ideal to something real: loving ourselves. Let’s spend the week – and indeed 2015 -- working on one of my suggested New Year’s Resolutions: Be Your Own Best Friend.

The journey to getting unstuck and experiencing a passion-filled life starts with loving yourself unconditionally. This is not something that just happens. Like any friendship, it takes dedication, attention and a conscious decision to be there for YOU – thick or thin.

Follow these five steps and you will notice how being your own best friend will give you the courage to fearlessly pursue your life’s passions.

 1.     Make time for you. One of the toughest things to accomplish is finding a healthy life balance. We all juggle so much and there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to take care of ourselves. But as your own best friend, make a commitment to carve out time every day – even if it is only for 15 minutes – to do something you truly enjoy doing by yourself. Whether it is reading a book, watching Hulu or taking a walk around the block, take time every day JUST FOR YOU. I recommend actually marking down an appointment with yourself – literally put it on your calendar. And make yourself a priority.

2.     Avoid negative self-talk. Stop beating yourself up for mistakes you made, or poor decisions, or questionable choices. Life is a journey and no one is perfect. I am SURE people give you enough grief throughout your day without YOU giving yourself grief. Instead, FORGIVE YOURSELF and keep a “lessons log” to learn from your mistakes and turn them into positive experiences.

3.     Nurture, don’t sabotage. Instead of looking at the negative side of opportunities and new ventures, consider the positives. Don’t let the negative voices in your head prevent you from finding joy before even taking a first step. Guilt. Regret. Fear. They can all sabotage what could be a wonderful life decision.

4.     Don’t sacrifice your health. If you are a caregiver, a parent and/or a workaholic juggling multiple responsibilities, the first thing we tend to ignore is our health. We worry more about the well being of others -- often to the detriment of our own needs. Yet if you aren’t healthy, you can’t function to your fullest potential. So make your health and well being a priority. Be your best friend and make the time to eat right, exercise, relax and take good care of yourself. Only YOU can make that choice.

5.     Respect yourself.  Treat yourself with dignity, don’t abuse your mind, soul, body or spirit, and don’t let others treat you poorly. You deserve respect, so you should demand respect – not only from others, but also from yourself.

Make it a point to give yourself a gift this Valentine’s Day. It is the most important gift you could give … or receive.

 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