Say what?


You gotta be kidding me!?

Those are all ways of saying ‘no’. They may not be eloquent choices, but they get the job done. If you have trouble being that direct (and most of us do), there are gentler versions of ‘no’ that can be equally effective without the collatoral damage to your relationships. At any rate, one can consider the word ‘no’ as a powerful way to say ‘yes’ to yourself.

Building boundaries that empower you while encouraging others to respect you is a none too easy task, especially for the people-pleasers among us. It has been proven, however, that always saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to conditions as severe as burnout and depression.

Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald recently penned a book called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love that shows readers how to set personal boundaries that will actually strengthen personal relationships. According to the authors, saying ‘no’ helps us to figure out who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. By setting boundaries, we keep our personal identities alive — and our personal relationships honest, balanced, and intact.

To directly quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it? In a word, everything.

Self-love is not narcissism. It’s a life-sustaining force. The authors offer several ways to build beautiful boundaries to let love in ~both from others and from ourselves.

How you are going to say ‘yes’ to yourself today?

What Do Your Boundaries Say About You?
By Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald
Adapted from Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love

In our lives — and in relationships — we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say “no” with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions: we may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out, or volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.

Boundaries may sound negative, but in reality, they are very important and help to define our personal identities. For example, being the nurturer or a people-pleaser comes with boundaries that fit those roles. Being the boss or the guru comes with a different set of boundaries that keep those identities intact. In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to “locate” ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that’s familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.

Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:

Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.

Soothe yourself. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don’t have a choice in what’s happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of “choiceless­ness,” check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you’re afraid won’t get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating the awareness of choice is profoundly soothing to your soul.

Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: “Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?” By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions, you’ll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change, or alter your boundaries.

Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It’s important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: “What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?” Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self.

Cyndi Dale is an internationally respected author, cross-cultural healer, and spiritual scholar with over 35,000 client sessions and trainings across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Andrew Wald, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist with advanced certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Together, they have co-authored the new book, Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (June 2012).

A recent Workplace Survey conducted in eleven countries by the global executive staffing firm, Robert Half International, found that your  boss can be a source of great stress. Duh? Not surprising, but the reason can often be attributed to a lack of management skills, not just to the fact that he or she may be a jerk.

Other stressors in the modern workplace include:

  • increased workload
  • too few people to handle the job
  • unpleasant work environment (colleagues and office gossip)
  • inappropriate pressure from the boss
It sounds to me as if the modern workplace could use a huge dose of slow.
First, it is no wonder that more and more people are stressed out, given the bare bones staff with which many industries are forced to operate. Then, consider placing someone ill-equipped in a position of power. Add too few resources such as time, money and personnel, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Management skills are something everyone can learn. Just take a look at this beautiful performance leadership matrix, developed by Dan McCarthy,  Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

Courtesy of

According to Dan’s nifty model, if you’re forcing people to take action, but it has no impact on performance, that’s just plain nagging (note to self: remember the next time you insist that your kids brush their teeth RIGHT NOW, that maybe it could wait a minute). If you’re asking for action and it does impact performance, that’s managing (if, say, it’s been a while since they brushed). No action, no impact ~ you’re on vacation. No action, BIG IMPACT ~ you’re an osterich leader.
Some may have more inherent leadership talent than others, but giving people the tools to do their job will place everyone in a better position. I’m a big fan of guided training; that is, offer up pre-assessment, the training itself, then follow up with a post-training assessment. Life’s in the details. That goes for work too. For all you HR folks listening out there: follow up is everything to ensure your return on investment (ROI) hit the mark. Would you throw money at something just to say you did it? Of course not! The same goes for training. It’s worth seeing what stuck and what didn’t.
Imagine being led by someone who knows less than you? Perhaps you are a technical wizard, while your supervisor made a move across industries to land the job above you.
Now imagine how you might become an invaluable resource to that person because you know your stuff. Your boss will come to you in a pinch. Being a go-to person places you in your own position of power. You are indispensible. Chances are he or she won’t toss you under the bus (or the boss?), as long as you’re performing.
And that’s the clincher. Performance depends a great deal on your office environment. If you can’t stand the people you work with, you are more likely to experience low levels of motivation. That’s when it’s time for an assessment of your own. What are you willing to live with? What not?

Burnout syndrome*, once considered a ‘manager’s disease’, affects people across all industries. A slow-creeping form of exhaustion accumulated over years of perfectionismstress and overwhelm, burnout is not just reserved for the highest-ranking professionals. It can happen to anyone.

Health care workers are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as particularly prone to job burnout. Using an Iranian psychiatric hospital as an example, the WHO found that 96% of all mental health care workers experienced some level of burnout while a full half of the study respondents experienced a high-level of job burnout. 

What is job burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger, a German-American clinical psychologist, is said to have coined the phrase “job burnout,” defined as “a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” (African Journal of Agricultural Research  Vol. 5(17), pp. 2321-2325, 4 September, 2010) What was once high job motivation sinks to the depths of despair and apathy.

What causes burnout?

The causes can be varied, depending on a person’s situation. Not only work-related stress, but also lifestyle issues can lead to a high rate of burnout. Working consistent long hours, having little familial or social support, sleeping and exercising less can hinder the rejuvenation process all human beings require to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Are some personalities more prone to burnout than others?

It is said that perfectionists and pessimists are more susceptible to burnout as it is in their very nature to push harder and harder to reach their goals. Workers that lack the necessary skills to complete their tasks, coupled with a lack of confidence, the inability to relax and so-called Type A personalities, are also at risk.

What are some of the signs?

The Mayo Clinic Web site suggests answering the following questions, quoted below:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you have answered yes to several of these questions, you may be on your way to burnout. The important thing is to seek medical advice from your doctor to determine whether the cause of your symptoms are burnout-related or have some other origin such as a malfunctioning thyroid or clinical depression.

How can you prevent burnout?

If you answered ‘no’ to most of the above questions, but are still concerned that it could happen to you, consider the following strategies:

1.    Just say ‘no’. Setting boundaries early with others should not be considered walls, but paths to your sanity.

2.    Slow down on purpose. Set your own speed limit. Walk slower than normal. Breathe.

3.    Recognize your inner perfectionist. If you give 115% every day, you will use up more of yourself than you have. Allow for 80% every once in a while. Use the other 20% you saved for self-renewal.

4.    Exercise. According to the German Society of Neurology, even fifteen minutes of movement every day can extend your lifespan by three years.

5.    Note your stress points. If you start to feel that cortisol (the stress hormone) tingle move up your spine, identify the situation and write it down for later analysis. The more self-aware you become in stress situations, the more control you can get over them.

6.    Make a date with yourself every day. Close the door to your office and just be. Pacing yourself will ensure sustained energy throughout the entire day.

What other strategies have you found useful to embrace the power of slow?


*This post should not be considered medical advice so if you are considered about your mental health, please seek medical consultation immediately.

Why am I so SAD?

September 20, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues”, is known to be caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. Its symptoms include irritability, weight gain, lethargy, and mood swings.

Experts do not agree as to the prevalence of the syndrome. While some purport that over 10 million are affected in the United States alone, others say that there is a lifetime prevalence of 10%, meaning that 10% of all individuals are affected by the disorder in some way. Regardless of the actual numbers, there is a general consensus that it is a world wide condition that affects millions of people each year.

According to Dr. Arnold Licht, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, 75% of all SAD sufferers are women. In his view, it is not only light deprivation, but also an “innate vulnerability that lead to the syndrome.” Women are more susceptible to depression over all.

What types of things can women in particular do to combat the winter blues? Dr. Carol Kaufmann, instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggests that women in particular should increase their self-care during the winter months. “We are biological-social-emotional- beings Anything we do to increase our internal resources helps the balance of our lives.” Dr. Licht suggests regular exposure to sunlight and exercise. “Natural light is the best even on overcast days, and an outdoor walk in the sun of about an hour is great.” He recognizes, however, that not everyone has that much time outdoors, especially in the winter time when days are short, and the nights are long.

In such cases, Dr. Licht has an answer, too. “Exposure to bright light of 30 minutes daily is best provided through the use of commercial ‘light boxes’. This must be done regularly or it will not work. Affected individuals who work in windowless buildings are greatly in need of this type of light exposure.” For more information about “light boxes,” you can visit this Web site.

For more severe cases, Dr. Licht reports that an appropriate dosage of medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy can assist SAD sufferers to lead normal lives.

“Some patients,” comments Dr. Licht, “with established patterns do very well by starting their antidepressant meds in late August or early September tapering off with the increase in light with the coming of early spring.”

Moving Beyond Depression author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz might not agree. His whole-person approach to healing involves a rigorous examination of each individual’s condition that involves nutrition as well. He not only treats people with SAD, but also with other types of clinical conditions such as eating disorders and sexual addiction. He argues that each person’s path into depression is unique and therefore each person’s path out of it would be, too. His healing center, simply called, The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc, treats the entire individual, inside and out.

Another simple way to get over the dumps while you’re waiting for your light box to arrive? Listen to uplifting music. BeliefNet is featuring a few great videos to help you get your mojo back!

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Intuition, the sweet voice of our internal navigation system.Without it we bumble. With it, we grow humble. Intuition is the guide of consciousness. It’s truly a lovely thing.

Jackie Gilbert, Professor of Management in the Middle Tennessee State University College of Business, offers her wisdom about intuition in her guest blog below. Please visit her site, which is chock full of wisdom and thoroughly researched. Besides, she’s a great writer!

Take it away, Jackie!


A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans which it receives through listening to Wisdom that is not its own (A Course in Miracles).

How often have you felt frustrated as a result of either a failure to plan, or an attempt to plan too much at one time? Our sense of timing, intuition, and content of our very plans are all impacted by our state of mind. I love the following quote from A Course in Miracles:“The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions…The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What is has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way” (p. 210).      

Intuition and the resulting sense of what to do can be channeled through our deliberate focus. In his study of lucky people, Wiseman (2003) found that they were more relaxed (less anxious) than their non-lucky counterparts. His findings suggest that creating our own future is more a state of mind than of circumstance. At every juncture we have the opportunity to choose our thought, rather than to be controlled by our cognitive wanderings. Buddhists refer to this quality as “mindfulness,” or full attention on a task, absent the background fast forwarding to something else.

The Dalai Lama describes mindfulness as the recognition that a negative thought has taken root, an “early warning system of sorts,” and the subsequent desire to change course. The byproduct of relaxation is then the ability to harness our thoughts in a way that is beneficial for our purpose, which is (in large part) to nullify negative voices, and to find our inner guidance system, or intuition.

Intuition can also be nurtured through freehand writing in response to pressing questions: e.g.: What should I do next? (Canfield, 2005). The immediate dictation, followed by subsequent directed activity, will facilitate an increasing number of instinctive responses. Journaling permits repressed feelings to surface so that we can take appropriate action, and it promotes catharsis through written self-expression. Hohlbaum (2009) explains journaling as an “unloading” technique, particularly for chronic worriers. When we list every single thing we are worried about, we realize that many of our concerns are inconsequential.

Relaxation broadens our perceptual lens. Achieving inner peace is the precursor to a self-induced state of “flow” in which we can work at peak capacity with minimum effort. Flow has been defined as “…the state of consciousness in which you find joy in the simple execution of a task, often losing yourself completely in it” (Hohlbaum, 2009, p. 21). Similarly, Maltz (1960, p. 264) describes this space as “being in the zone,” and “as entering a time and place and emotional state where [individuals] are totally relaxed, totally confident of the outcome.” Presence, “being in the moment,” and the “holy instant” are when:

  • All senses are firing on five cylinders
  • The world is in high resolution
  • The little things don’t bother you
  • You experience full engagement
  • You feel enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you are doing
  • You react without worry[1]
  • You are single-minded in your determination to concentrate on the task at hand
  • You are in the moment absent the baggage of things past

Remove mental obstacles so you know what’s truly important, and can refocus on your priorities.

When the mind emanates peace employees’ work proceeds effortlessly of its own accord, and they experience the negotissimum otium, or complete leisure that is intense activity (Russell, 1991).

Carr-Ruffino (2001), in her book Creative intelligence model: Building innovative skills provides a table of emotions. The more positive emotions are associated with serendipitous occurrences, with insight, and with a “can do” attitude. Conversely, negative emotions lead to learned helplessness, to despair, and to a lack of creativity.

 Map of Emotions

Expansive emotions engender a non-combative way of expressing feedback which creates feed forward, or dialogue between two parties where communication is a tool of empowerment. Similarly, Robbins (1980) mentions that “enabling states,” or conditions in which we experience peak resourcefulness, consist of confidence, inner strength, joy, and ecstasy. Positive states are created by the mental images that we conjure forth in our minds.

Our mental schema can in fact be so programmed for success that our subsequent behaviors have no choice but to follow suit. In Towards a New World View, DiCarlo (1996, p. 149) explains the effect of love on the human spirit: “When a person allows love into their field, the field becomes very soft, very flowing, resilient. The whole field blows up like a sort of balloon. It becomes very energized and energy flows out of the field in a very healthy way.” Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt (2000) describe the most resourceful state as “conscious and awake,” or a state of self-reliance, consisting of high self-esteem and inner validation. We can conjure forth positive emotional states by our deliberate actions. To be more positive, today engage in the following:

  1. Focus on what’s working in your life. What things are going well at this particular instant, and what actions can you take to create more of the same? Success begets more success, and a desire to work harder to produce results of the same caliber. Keep feeding your productivity engine with positive thoughts.
  2. Give gratitude. Being thankful for the many gifts that you have removes the focus from what you may think is lacking. According to Sarah Ban Breathnach (author of Simple Abundance) “all you have is all you need.” In this regard, service to someone less fortunate produces a contrast effect that forces you to focus on your blessings. See also The Minimalist’s Guide to Inner Peace
  3. Realize that our thoughts are of our own choosing, and consciously work to eliminate the unwanted. When you sense your mind wandering in a negative direction, choose to refocus. Remember that happiness is in fact a choice.

[1] The first six bullet points are from Morgenstern (2009).


Canfield, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. New York: Collins.

Canfield, J., Hansen, M. V., & Hewitt, L. (2000). The power of focus: What the world’s greatest achievers know about the secret of financial freedom and success. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.

Carr-Ruffino, N. (2010). Leading Innovation (p. 127). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

DiCarlo, R. (1996). Towards a new worldview: Conversations at the leading edge (p. 149). Erie, PA: Epic Publishing.

Hohlbaum, C. L. (2009). The power of slow: 101 ways to save time in our 24/7 world. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Maltz, M. (1960). Psychocybernetics: A new way to get more living out of life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Morgenstern, J. (2009). Shed your stuff, change your life: A four step guide to getting unstuck. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robbins, A. (1986). Unlimited power. New York; Fawcett Columbine.

Russell, J. B. (1991). A history of heaven: The singing silence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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The earliest surviving depiction of the Korean...

Image via Wikipedia

Of all the OECD countries, Korea has by far the longest working hours of any other nation. Logging an average of 2256 hours in 2008, Korea also has the third highest suicide rate behind Hungary and Japan.

In a recent Financial Times article (German edition), the head of the state-run tourist agency, whose name is none other than Lee Charm, is actually lobbying for workers to take their mandated two weeks off per year. Some companies are even blocking their computer access so they can’t work even if they wanted to.

Looks like Korea could use some slow. What they may not know yet is that slow really is faster. The good news? It looks like The Power of Slow is being translated into Korean next.

When you compare productivity to the number of hours worked, you will see that less is more. Holland reached nearly the same productivity rate (as measured by GDP per hours worked) as the United States, but logged 390 fewer hours than their American pals. That’s nearly ten weeks fewer than US workers.

Cultural pressure plays a large role in Korean’s work ethic. They value face time and even if they are literally bidding their time until the boss goes home, they are fearful of taking time off because it might deem them as a disposable worker. It sounds familiar. American workaholism is based on the same premise. Time is money, but we all know that is no longer true.

Time is time. It equals your existence. Time-off can save it, too.

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Institute of Mental Health 5, Nov 06

Image via Wikipedia

Life getting to you? Take a walk. It could literally save your life.

I’ve said this before, but now I have even more scientific proof that a few minutes outside can change your perspective.

According to a study reported on, just five minutes outside can dramatically improve your mental health. Jules Pretty and Jo Barten, co-authors of the study, found that whether gardening, walking or cycling can lift your mood in no time.

Another thing: how you start your day makes all the difference in the world (I recently told Health magazine this). So if you tend to leap out of bed in a panic, you may wish to consider a different alarm clock. I usually awaken with the sun (which can be problematic in the wintertime here in Germany ~ it typically gets light out around 8:30 in the morning and the kids, well, they have to catch the bus at 6:45). But there are sun simulating alarm clocks that slowly guide you to consciousness. If your alarm clock jangles your nerves before you’re even vertical, it might be worth a try.

Yoga is another great way to find mental balance. A few stretches and poses can help you find your inner warrior when the going gets tough.

And let’s not forget tree-hugging, my personal favorite. If you’ve got one near by, give it some love. You may find yourself a lot more grounded afterwards ~ in just five minutes.



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