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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

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

 

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

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

Knowing When it is Time to Change Jobs

In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. – Warren Buffett

When I deliver words of wisdom about careers, one piece of advice ETCHED IN STONE is “Never Put Up With an Abusive Boss.” Indeed, it is better to scrub toilets than endure a boss or colleague who beats up your self-worth day in and day out.

You deserve better. If you are truly miserable, stop second-guessing yourself and find another job – maybe even another profession. Enough already.

What is less clear is what to do when you feel miserable some days, and okay the next. Or when you like the job, but your colleagues are beyond annoying. Or when you LOVE your colleagues, but the workload is overwhelming and the pay underwhelming.

And what is even LESS clear is when you are STAGNANT in a job. You aren’t miserable, but you aren’t happy. You are simply comfortable and picking up a paycheck. You aren’t following your passions, but your job pays too much, or the benefits are too good, to walk away. So you toil year in and year out feeling “comfortable” – not challenging yourself, not following your dreams.

Only YOU can decide when it is time to leave a job. Sometimes it is as simple as weighing the good and the bad – if the good outweighs the bad, it may be a better idea to keep patching the boat. But if the bad outweighs the good, then your energies are better spent looking for a new ship to sail.

Whatever your decision, it is vital to keep three points in mind:

 1)    People naturally FEAR change. Many people stay stuck because they are afraid to change. It is MUCH easier to stay put, which is the origin for the idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” To make a job change, you must be ready, you must be fearless and you MUST be strategic.

2)    If you are ready to change, avoid the urge to abruptly “jump ship.” Create an “exit strategy” whereby you can still survive while seeking new paths. I often recommend that there is no shame in working as a bartender, server, receptionist etc. while you are seeking another job. Making a plan is not only strategic, it takes the edge off of your miserable work days as you prepare to set sail.

3)    If you want to change CAREERS, play to your strengths. Figure out 1) what you are good at, and 2) what you love to do. And then work as hard as you can to educate yourself, strengthen your skills and explore all of the possibilities. I’ve seen people transition from lawyers to chefs, from servers to personal trainers, from newspaper journalists to teachers. The common thread: they are following their passion and finding joy every day.

If you are miserable – or just passionless and comfortable -- don’t let the fear of change stop you from switching jobs … or even careers. Own your destiny and use your talent and creativity to seek out new paths. No more excuses. It’s time to get unstuck.

 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