Single Mom Salute – and a Personalized Happiness Action Plan

OK, so this is my fourth day working and taking care of my bonus daughters alone while my hubby is on a trip. You might already know that a few months ago, I married the most supportive, thoughtful, generous man who is an amazing dad – and let me tell you, Jeff’s entire family is the icing on the cake of our marriage.  I don’t call them my “in-laws,” but my “in-loves.” I have always felt like a mom at heart, so I am especially blessed by the bonus of his two energetic little girls – who are in first and third grades.

With Jeff out of town this week, I am gaining a new (albeit brief) perspective on parenting alone.  Let me just say, I always respected single parents, but I’ve gained a whole new level of empathy and respect. It is going great, but whew, it is nonstop! Squeezing in all my work between 8:30 – 2:15, homework, dinner, extracurricular activities, bath time, all those darn papers they send home to read and sign, bedtime stories, getting them successfully off to school – well fed, lunches packed, backpacks in tow, appropriately clothed with shoes (how did you lose your shoes again? :) … I love it, but I’m in awe of anyone who successfully does it with a full-time, non-flexible job. So, if you are a single parent:  I salute you. I’m praying for you. You are amazing!

In my latest book Happy Women Live Better, I cite a study that explains married women without children report the highest levels of happiness, followed by single women with no kids, married women with children and last, but certainly not least, single mothers.  Having all the household responsibilities and those young lives on your shoulders surely contributes to the stress and overload that many single moms feel.  I’d like to just share from the Personalized Action Plans in the resource section of Happy Women Live Better.  Some of these tips are helpful for everyone, but they are especially relevant to single moms to help boost your joy.  One of my favorite quotes from the book of Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” and indeed research supports that.  Positive emotion actually expands your ability to deal with adversity and stress. So in the midst of taking care of everyone else, don’t forget to take care of you by embracing joy along your very busy journey.  Here you go, from page 213 of the book:

  • If at all possible, live near family or close friends. Place a high value on your support system. This means think twice before moving somewhere you don’t have a network.
  • Accept and tell the truth to your children.  Don’t belittle your ex, but also don’t make excuses for him if he is not involved. Speak the truth in love and support your children as they learn to handle the truth.
  • Do your best, and accept that you can only be a mom, not mom and dad. Seek trusted male role models to provide a fatherly influence if the father is not involved.
  • Take regular breaks. If you can afford a sitter, get one and give yourself a weekly rest. Or trade with another mom or family member.
  • When others offer to help, accept their offer! And if they don’t ask and you need help, ask.
  • Have a “play date” with your kids once a week. Let them pick the activity. Lighten up, laugh and have a ball!
  • When you tuck your children in to bed, start a gratitude conversation with them: What were the three best things about today?

If you’re not a single parent, pass this on to the single parents and guardians in your life.

Discover your personal happiness triggers for FREE at www.happywomantest.com. Join the happiness movement and talk more about this topic with other women using my FREE girlfriends’ gab guide at www.valorieburton.com/girlfriends.

 

 

 

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It’s Just an Experiment…Go Ahead, Try It!

A few years ago, I had a challenging idea: Try a vegetarian diet for one weekend. I have always admired people who are able to be disciplined in their eating habits and intrigued by the idea of trying something even more healthy than my regular diet. I tried a similar experiment when I was 13 – by going an entire weekend without any soft drinks or lemonade, my beverages of choice at the time. The experiment turned into a permanent change that has lasted until this day. It was a change that seemed dramatic, but after just a couple of days, I realized that I actually preferred the refreshing taste of pure water and juice.

My experiment with a vegetarian diet felt like a much bigger deal, though. I am the kind of woman who doesn’t just order pepperoni pizza – I order meat lovers. My southern family roots dictate that a meal is not meal if there is no meat in it. So to make the experiment more palatable, I opted for a pesco-vegetarian diet – one that would include fish. To my delight, my weekend meals were fabulous, and I didn’t feel at all deprived. In fact, after the weekend, I continued my experiment effortlessly for five weeks. I learned that I could do it.  I felt lighter and more energized. Yet, I did not feel compelled to make it a permanent lifestyle change. Instead, it challenged me to expand my thinking, and inspired me to eat leaner meats and do so in moderation. It felt good to try something new simply for the sake of exploring what I really want.

 

This week, I invite you to create an experiment that will expose you to a different way of doing things, but with no commitment to making a permanent change. So often, we feel that decisions about changes we need to make in our lives are set in stone. Not so. Experimenting allows you to experience something, evaluate how well it works for you, and then make adjustments and decisions based on what you learn.

What do you need to experiment with? Here are a few experiments to consider:

- ADJUST YOUR WORK HOURS.
If you are someone who regularly works later than you have to, proving your value to the company with the quantity of hours you are in the office.  Make a decision to leave the office at 5:00. You may find yourself more productive and focused than ever.

- CREATE “ME” TIME.
Get up 30 minutes earlier. Use the time for thought gathering, praying and spiritual reading.

- ELIMINATE ONE UNHEALTHY ITEM FROM YOUR EATING HABITS.
Rather than telling yourself you must make 10 major changes in your diet all at once, experiment with one change that will make an impact.

- BITE YOUR TONGUE.
When you feel the urge to say something negative or argue this week, experiment with being quiet and kind. See what happens and notice how you feel. You may be pleasantly surprised. Meekness (strength under control) is a virtue.

- GO ON A MEDIA FAST.
Television, radio and the internet can sometimes serve as distractions that keep you from quality time with people you care about, connecting with yourself and God. Fasting from media will often help you gain more clarity and focus. What you feed your mind ultimately impacts how you think, feel and relate to the world around to you.

- MAKE A VISIT TO A PLACE YOU’D LIKE TO CALL HOME.
Have you been daydreaming about moving to a new place – whether on the other side of town or the other side of the country? Experiment with what that place will feel like by visiting the area and experiencing various aspects of life there. A weekend trip to a new city you are considering or a few hours visiting model homes in a neighborhood you like are a form of “experimenting.” It’s not a commitment, just a visit to explore your options.

- TODAY, CREATE AN EXPERIMENT OF YOUR OWN.
What “experiment” could you create that will help you make an intentional decision about something you are currently pondering?

 

My challenge to you this week: Before you move on from this page, identify an experiment you’d like to try in the next week. Do it purely to learn and explore, with no commitment to a permanent change. At the end of your experiment, ask yourself, “What did I learn here?” and “Is there an adjustment or change I’d like to make on an ongoing basis based upon what I’ve learned?”

Journaling questions:  In what area of my life am I resisting change? What experiments could I create to explore the best options and move forward with the right change or adjustment for me? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, Miracles Now, launches today!

I’m thrilled to share exciting news with you: My co-panelist on the TODAY Show and bestselling author, Gabrielle Bernstein, just launched her newest book, Miracles Now!

Gabrielle knows that most of us don’t have tons of free time every day to devote to meditation or yoga. Sometimes it’s even a challenge to squeeze a 20-minute walk into a super busy workday. That’s why Miracles Now  is a collection of her favorite 108 life-changing tools to help you melt stress, achieve flow, and find your purpose — in just a few powerful minutes. These tools and lessons are centered around personal growth, spirituality, and Kundalini yoga. You can read the book cover to cover, open a random lesson any time, and turn to it time and time again.

If you’re not yet familiar with Gabrielle, she’s the New York Times best-selling author of May Cause Miracles, an inspirational speaker, a teacher of A Course in Miracles, and a certified Kundalini yoga instructor.

When you order her new book, Gabby is offering a FREE access to her Manifesting Miracles course. Order your copy today!

 

Miracles Now Ad

 

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Destress Your Life by Setting Boundaries

From a boss who yells, to friends who take advantage of your generosity, it seems some people have no problem stepping over the line–stressing you out in the process. But you don’t have to put up with it. De-stressing your life by setting boundaries is a decision you can make today.

Are you one of the many people who have constant problems with a friend, family member, or co-worker who invades your personal space and makes requests that make you uncomfortable? Why is that some people have no problem setting boundaries while others feel obligated to go along in order to keep the peace? If you feel like a magnet for individuals who “use and abuse” your good-hearted nature, it is first important to understand why they may be so out of control. For many, it is because they have never learned to effectively set personal boundaries. They grew up in households where there were few, if any, boundaries. As a result, they are often unaware that their behavior is not acceptable by your standards. Of course, just because they have not learned to set and respect boundaries doesn’t mean you have to accept their behavior. The more you practice setting and protecting your boundaries, the easier it will become.

So how do you deal with people whose behavior has no boundaries?

Clearly establish your boundaries. For example, constructive criticism may be acceptable to you, but having the same information yelled at you or communicated in a belittling way probably isn’t acceptable. If loaning money to friends or family members makes you uncomfortable, set a boundary to stop playing the role of banker. Perhaps it’s late night phone calls that bug you – you’ve told people you like to go to bed early, but they call you anyway because it is convenient for them. Just because the phone rings after you’ve gone to bed, doesn’t mean you have to answer–not answering sends the message that you will return calls when the time is convenient for you!

Let people know when they have stepped over a boundary. For example, you might say “Do you realize that you are yelling at me?” or “I don’t lend money to my friends. It tends to lead to problems.” The key to being successful with this strategy is to maintain a calm and non-critical tone. You can say just about anything if you say it in the right way! Practice maintaining a calm, pleasant, and straightforward tone when you speak to people about your boundaries.

If the behavior continues, ask the person to stop. If needed, insist they stop. As a last resort, be willing to distance yourself or end a friendship if it is necessary. People who respect you will honor your boundaries. Is it worth it to you to maintain a friendship that drains your energy, stresses you out and dishonors you? You must weigh the situation and make the best decision for you.

The process of protecting your boundaries becomes even more sticky when the person stepping over your boundaries is your boss. “It’s easy,” you might say, “to set boundaries when my job isn’t at stake.” Of course, discrimination and harassment at work are criminal offenses–if your boss doesn’t understand and respect your boundaries, seek assistance from a higher authority. Often, however, the requests are not criminal, but may indeed step over your boundaries. Continual or last-minute expectations of working late or on weekends, at the expense of your personal plans or vacation time, may constitute a boundary you don’t like crossed. A boss who prods into your personal business may be a boundary that you don’t want crossed. Calling you often at home or on your personal time to ask work-related questions may cross your boundary. Whatever boundaries you set, decide which ones are worth protecting and which ones you are willing to bend. Then, devise a strategy for an open conversation.

For example, if your boss calls you on your personal time regularly, you might sit down with her and ask how you can develop a working relationship that would help her get everything she needs before you leave each day. Perhaps a five-minute, end-of-day wrap up conversation would get her all of the information she needs. Explain that you understand that she may sometimes have questions after hours, but your personal time is really important to your quality of life. You want to do a great job without working 24-7. Remember, you can say just about anything to anyone if you master the art of saying it nicely.

We teach others about how we wanted to be treated when we set and protect our boundaries. Those who learn and respect those boundaries will be the people you trust and the people who enhance and enrich your life.

Leave your comments or questions below, I’d love to hear from you!

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Are You Listening to Your Life?

I’d like to share seven principles with you that are essential to living the life you were created to live. Extraordinary success is about experiencing fulfillment in all areas of your life, not just your career, but your relationships, health, finances, and spiritual life.

It’s possible to be on a path in your life that looks successful to the outside world, and yet still not be on a fulfilling path – the one that is trying to get your attention, hoping you will listen. Your unique path is based on your purpose in life, your natural gifts and talents, and your “divine assignments” at any given moment in time. It is about allowing God to use you – including your unique personality, gifts, passions, and experiences – to make an impact on the lives of others. There are times when your path will make a turn, and you must be able to listen to what your life is teaching, telling, and showing you so that you know when to step into a new phase of life, when to let go or when to make an important move.

Consider these seven principles I’d like to share with you today from my book, Listen to Your Life. Each point ends with a quote from the book. Use them as you journey towards a life of great passion and fulfillment:

1. Connection: In today’s fast-paced, overloaded world, many of us have become disconnected from ourselves, God, and the people in our lives. Take the time to deliberately re-connect on a daily basis. This means take a few quiet moments to yourself, time for prayer, meditation or even a walk outdoors.

- “Connection empowers you to find your path, stay on it, and return to it when you stray… and honesty is essential for connection.”

 

2. Self-Curiosity: Be willing to question your behavior and ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way? What am I afraid of? What would it take for me to step up to the next level of my life?” By being curious about yourself, your desires and even your self-sabotaging habits, you can find the answers to become the whole and healthy person you are meant to be.

- “Self-curiosity challenges your beliefs and bad habits, helps you identify the annoyances that drain your energy, and gives you the insight to recognize and avoid the distractions that can lure you onto a less-than-fulfilling path.”

 

3. Vision: It is possible that you had a vision, and you’ve now fulfilled it, and haven’t given thought to what’s next for your life. Remember to create a new vision at difference stages of your life. Make it vivid and specific, and set a deadline. This will compel you to move forward. Be aware of the issues that can impair your vision — your perceptions, perspective and ability to focus  impact your vision.

- “A dream only serves us if we turn it into a vision and act on it to bring it to life. Otherwise, it only frustrates us and leaves us feeling hopeless and helpless.”

 

4. Creativity: Success doesn’t always come in a traditional package. Be willing to tap into your creativity so that you can blaze trails that need to be blazed and create new opportunities for yourself and others. When you feel stuck, ask yourself, “What options haven’t I considered?”

- “Creativity is the ability to bring to life something of purpose, value, and appeal that did not previously exist.

 

5. Expectancy: What are you really expecting in your life? Do your actions indicate that you are expecting to live an extraordinarily successful life? You must maintain an attitude of positive expectancy because your attitude impacts your thoughts, and your thoughts determine your actions. Your actions on a daily basis create your reality.

- “Expectancy allows you to continue walking when the exhaustion of the journey leaves you ready to give up”

 

6. Flow: There are times in life when you must simply “go with the flow.” Turbulence and disappointments will come in everyone’s life. The key is to keep life in perspective, learn from your experiences and allow what you learn to expand your capacity for growth.

- “Imagine that your path is a river with twists and turns… if you flow with the river, you enjoy the smoothest journey. You might get bruised at points along the way, but not as badly as if you fought the currents and tired yourself out.”

 

7. Abundance: Everything you need is available to you. You can choose to focus on what you don’t have, or take care of what you do have and even cause it to multiply.

- “What you focus on will expand…The most abundant path is the one that uses your natural talents and gifts. The doors of abundance open widest in the direction of your talents. The work you do is an extension of who you are.”

 

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to what your life is telling you today and step onto the path of the life you were created to live. Your path is waiting and ready for you. Leave your comments or questions below, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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Do You Have the ‘Soft Skills’ to Get Ahead at Work?

One of my mentors once told me as I asked for advice about how to advance my career, “You don’t know what you don’t know and you think you know.”  Ouch.  My pride was a little bruised, but I knew he knew what he was talking about so it was in my best interest to listen up.

In my work as a keynote speaker at some of the largest companies and organizations around the country, I’ve noticed a common theme.  Many companies say employees know how to do their jobs, but don’t understand the importance of the soft skills that are needed to really climb the ladder of success.  Do you have the soft skills that will take you to the top?  Use this short list to where you might have an opportunity to enhance your soft skills and boost your career:

1.  Let people get to know you.
Building a strong network is about making authentic connections.  People want to know you. And the only way they know you is if you let them take a peek into your world.  Notice I said a “peek.” This doesn’t mean you need to share all of your personal business at work, but opening up about what you enjoy, hobbies, and interests can help others find common ground with you beyond the job.

2.  Be interested in others.
Likewise, take an interest in the lives of those you want to build professional relationships with. Remember their interests, tidbits about their family, and what makes them human beyond the work they do.  Reach out rather than always waiting for others to initiate conversation and opportunities.  By being willing to approach others, you become more approachable.

3.  Hone your communication skills.
Look at just about any person who has ascended the ranks in business and you will a common theme – communications skills. In many instances, communication can be even more important that technical skills when it comes to advancement.  If your ability to communicate and influence others is lacking, make it a goal to actively improve. Practice. Buy books. Join Toastmasters. Get some coaching.

4.  Ask questions and listen.
The most successful people are always asking questions. They are open to learning. They assume they don’t know it all, so they seek out people who know more and they observe and listen.  Who could you learn from? Who’s “been there, done that” and has wisdom that would benefit you?  Shorten your learning curve by asking questions.

Challenge:This week, ask someone very familiar with your work habits and career to give you feedback. What do they think is your greatest career strength? What is one piece of advice they have for you that would help you reach your biggest career goal?

Journaling assignment:Which soft skill could you enhance that would give your career the biggest boost? What would be a great next step in that direction and when will you take it? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Spring Clean Your Life!

 

Help Me

On Thursday, March 20th  during the 9am EST hour, I’ll be on the TODAY Show talking about ways to spring clean your life.

I want to hear from you- in what ways have you been stuck in a rut this winter?  It may be a standstill relationship, a frustrating career, a lack of exercise, or trouble with your finances.

Tweet your questions and comments to @todayshow and @valorieburton. We may answer your question during the show.

 

I’ll ‘see’ you soon!

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How Bright is Your Light?

This week, I would like to remind you of one of your most important “divine assignments” – being a light that draws people closer to God. No matter what your purpose in life, this is an underlying mission: Living your life in such a way that people say to themselves, “There’s something different about that person and I want to know how to experience some of that peace, joy and love in my own life.” Matthew 5: 14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Here are five ways you can exemplify this principle:

1. LOOK FOR WAYS TO BE A BLESSING. Letting your light shine means letting all that is good within you come forth. There is so much negativity swirling around us on a daily basis that when good enters our environment, it brings light to the darkness. It is a refreshing burst of clean air. Be sensitive to the needs of others. Find ways to be a blessing – even simple ways such as being a courteous driver, thoughtful friend, and kind co-worker.

2. REFUSE TO BE JUDGMENTAL. One of the fastest ways to turn people away from God is to judge them. You can acknowledge that a person has done wrong without condemning them for it. Remember that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Perhaps you would never do what someone else did that was terrible, but you know what? We’ve all done things for which we needed to be forgiven, and by grace, we received forgiveness. Be merciful to others. Choose to pray for those you feel tempted to judge. Embrace and support them when they are trying to do better. When you do this, they will be more likely to be curious about the faith you profess.

3. SPEAK UP FOR WHAT IS JUST. Notice, I did not say, Speak up for what is “right.” Too often, we confuse “being right” with “doing right.” Focus more on the latter. In every instance and especially every conflict, it is essential that you treat people justly – to ensure that those who cross your path are better off for having done so. If you are in a work or personal situation in which others are being cheated, disrespected or done a disservice, let your light shine and speak up. You can do so in a way that is direct, yet calm, straightforward and non-judgmental.

4. LET GO OF THE DESIRE TO “FIT IN.” If you are going to let your light shine, unfortunately, it will be hard to do so and fit in everywhere you go. In some environments, simply smiling and speaking to people in a kind way will cause you to seem odd. Choose to be more concerned with being a vessel of truth and love on a daily basis than fitting in with the world’s standards.

5. DON’T HIDE YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. One of the most common ways you can dim your own light is to pretend publicly that God is not central to your way of life. If God is an important part of who you are, there is no need to have a private relationship you keep to yourself, and a public persona that never acknowledges your own spirituality. You don’t need a Bible on your desk or a preacher’s robe to share your faith with others. When opportunities present themselves to share where your strength comes from in difficult times, or to acknowledge how God has protected or blessed you, be honest. Your faith is a part of who you are. When you free yourself to be who you are, you also free others to be who they truly are.

 

My challenge to you this week: Identify at least one way you will “brighten your light” this week. Then intentionally set out to be a vessel of love and light in the world.

 

Journaling Questions: In what ways have I dimmed my light? How can I go about becoming a brighter light that attracts others to God by the way I live my life and treat others? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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What are You Tolerating?

What exists in your life right now that isn’t quite the way you’d like it to be? You know, those things you put up with that you’ve been meaning to fix, but haven’t? Perhaps it’s the clutter piled up in your office or bedroom or your car. Maybe it’s the oil that needs to be changed. Every time you crank up the car, the red light comes on, reminding you of the chore you keeping putting off. Or maybe it is something bigger – like a home that doesn’t meet your needs or a car payment that is too high for your budget. Those things in your life that are out of alignment are more than just annoyances. They actually drain your energy and distract you from what matters most to you.

In life coaching, we call the things you put up with, “tolerations.” When you have a lot of tolerations in your life, they hinder you from being your best self and accomplishing your goals with ease. Tolerations are like invisible restraints that hold you back. Imagine for a moment that each toleration in your life is a thin cord bolted to the ground at one end, and tied around your waist at the other. One or two cords would not hold you back from moving forward. But if there were 15 or 20, even 100 cords, you’d eventually become stuck and unable to move forward. Have you felt this effect before? I know I have.

Sometimes, it is essential to stop for a moment and take care of the things that are distracting you or draining your energy. As we head into the spring season, I invite you to ask yourself this question: “What am I putting up with right now?” Make a list of at least five tolerations in your home, work, relationships and health. Here are a few examples:

- Messy closets

- Friendships that are not reciprocal

- Poor communication with your spouse

- Appliances that need to be fixed

- Walls that need to be painted

- Car needs a tune up

- Car needs to be cleaned

- Don’t have a church home

- Need to improve your level of education

- Don’t like your job

- Not exercising

- Inadequate salary

 

Make your list as long you need it to be. Then one by one, begin taking steps towards eliminating your tolerations. As you eliminate them, notice how good you feel and how your energy is restored. When you seek a more fulfilling, less stressful life, it is critical that you stop having problems and start solving them. Once you do, you free yourself to create a life that serves you well and supports you daily as you move towards the life you truly want.

My challenge to you this week: 

Take action! Make a list of the things you are putting up with, then immediately take action on resolving the ones that distract or drain you most. Ask for help or pay someone to help if you need to.

Journaling Questions:

What is the biggest thing that I am tolerating in my life right now? Why am I tolerating it? What will I do about it and when? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

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The May Coach Training Intensive is SOLD OUT, but We’ve Added Another Training!

The Coach Training Intensive is coming to Atlanta June 21-23, 2014!

 

June CTI

 

I’m excited that so many of you registered that we’re now sold out!

So many of you registered for our upcoming Coach Training Intensive in Washington, D.C. that we are now sold out! This is a good problem to have, and we solved it by adding a new date. I’m thrilled to announce a new Coach Training Intensive (CTI) in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia near Centennial Park, the CNN Center and the world’s largest aquarium. If you have considered at all becoming a coach or strengthening your coaching skills, don’t delay and don’t miss out. This will be our last CTI at the current tuition rate. Check out details and get registered here:http://www.valorieburton.com/coaching/coach-training/.

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