Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Simplify your life to reduce your stress
Stress for Success
February 21, 2006

There's nothing simple about the typical American life. We work too hard, treat time like an enemy, spend too much money on too much stuff, and sit around too much watching TV while eating too much. No wonder we’re a society of obesity and diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, sleep deprivation and exhaustion, road rage and depression.

Wow, that sounds really depressing! This description certainly isn't true about everybody. Perhaps, though, it's a little true about most of us. So what's a stressed-out American to do? Consider slowing down, if not getting off, the treadmill of your life by simplifying in a way that would make living easier for you.

To do so you'll need to challenge stereotypical American assumptions. For example, baby boomers need to challenge the belief that human worth is tied to how much we work. Some parents need to stop equating being a good parent with giving your children everything they want. In other words, simplifying your life will be different person to person. What would make your life easier?

The author of Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James, addresses eight different areas to consider. Among her ideas:

• Your household: de-clutter, speed-clean, get rid of your lawn
• Lifestyle: move to a smaller house, turn off the TV, simplify your wardrobe
• Finances: get out of debt, rethink your buying habits, teach your kids fiscal responsibility
• Your job: toss your Day Runner, work near where you live, do what you really want to do
• Health: simplify your eating habits, have a fruit- or juice-fast one day a week, meditate
• Your personal life: clean up your relationships, be yourself, trust your intuition
• Simplicity for women: kick off your high heels, downsize your purse
• Hard-core simplicity: rent rather than own, get rid of your car, stop making the bed (only a woman would understand why this would be hard-core)

To begin the process of simplification:

• Begin a conversation with your family about what’s most important to you. What would make your lives easier? Are you cooking different menus to satisfy everyone? Are you experiencing multiple physical symptoms of stress? Do you value health over making a lot of money? Once you've decided what would help make your lives easier, then …
• Create quiet time in nature or through meditation several times a week to …
• Ask and answer your questions about how to simplify. It’s nearly impossible to see what’s best when you're on your treadmill at high speed. Journaling and quiet contemplation allow you to see answers you couldn’t otherwise.
• Make even a small change that increases simplicity in your life. Then make another change that makes your life easier. Once you start the process it can build up a life of its own. Making simpler choices becomes easier.

Happiness and satisfaction are never won through what you own. They come from being what you want to be, from your relationships, from being satisfied with what you have versus dissatisfied with what you don't, and living your values. Tweak your simplicity as the months and years go by to ensure that you don’t slip back onto the American hyper-treadmill. Next week we’ll consider some ways to get the answers you need to simplify your life.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stress for Success
February 14, 2006

Simplify your life by buying less stuff and managing your finances

Simplifying your life definitely reduces stress. One important area for the stereotypical American who accumulates too much stuff is to simplify your buying habits and take charge of your finances.

When I returned from the Peace Corps (Colombia 1971 – 1973) I took a job in Boston. Not knowing a soul there, I looked through roommate ads and ended up renting an apartment with three teachers.

In this tiny, doll-house-like place, where space was a valuable commodity, I was assigned one shelf in the hall closet for my toiletries. My handful of items looked laughingly lonely on that bare shelf. Their shelves were crammed with mountains of endless supplies – for what, I couldn’t imagine. Because I only took up a tiny corner of my shelf I gave them the rest.

Thirty-three years later I can fill up shelves better than before but I’m still nowhere near as adroit at it as they were. Most Americans buy stuff they soon forget they even own. The clutter of it also adds to your stress (not to mention the drain on the environment).

My very wise husband is fond of saying, “You don’t own your possessions, they own you”. Ponder this simple truth. If you complain about working 60 hours a week to earn enough to pay your mortgage, consciously admit that you’ve chosen a certain caliber of home. Instead, you could choose to live more modestly and be less pressured financially. You might even gain time to do the things you say you miss.

To pursue buying and financial simplicity:

• Go through every drawer and closet in your home and office and toss out everything you haven’t used in one year. Put away into a box those things you simply cannot part with and date it a year from now. If you don’t look for anything in that box over the next year toss it.
• Make a purchasing rule a dear friend and Olympic shopper did. She allowed herself to only buy things for which she had the cash. She noticed that those things she passed up for lack of cash were things she didn’t even want later on. She became very aware of how much impulse buying she did of stuff that really didn’t matter.
• When shopping take along no credit cards or checks but only the cash you’ve decided you can afford to spend.
• Follow Debtors Anonymous advice.
• Create a real budget. Break down your expenses into your general categories of spending; mortgage/rent, food, entertainment, monthly bills, kids’ items, clothing, etc. Decide what you can spend on monthly based on your income and divide it among your categories. Document what you actually spend every month. If the income is less than the expenses then obviously you must cut the expenses. To help you do this,
• Divide your budget items into two columns: what you need and want. You need a pair of shoes; you may want fifteen pairs. You need a car but want a Jaguar. Start slashing from those you want to make sure there’s enough for what you need.
• Reduce your entire budget by 10 – 15%. Next year cut more.
• Decrease your spending on outside entertainment, one of the surest ways to blow your budget.
• Work with a financial counselor to pay off your debt, no matter how slowly.
• Downsize your home and invest the difference.

Simplifying how you manage your money is a profitable first step to reducing your financial stress.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at http://www.jackieferguson.com/ or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Stress for Success
February 7, 2006

Skills can build rapport with people you find difficult to handle

Over the past weeks I’ve written about how to deal with certain types of difficult people. Effective as th ideas may be, sometimes they just don't work. The reason may be that you and the other person aren’t in rapport.

When you’re in rapport you feel comfortable with and trusting of each other therefore more likely to cooperate and less likely to resist. The essence of being in rapport is to be similar; to look and act more like the person(s) with whom you want rapport.

A classic example is the first women who rose up through management ranks. What kind of clothing did they wear? They wore conservative, dark suits --- just like men. Whether these trailblazing women were consciously aware or not, at some level they knew they needed to fit in. For them to be perceived as promotable they needed to appear similar to the men who could promote them.

Everyone naturally builds rapport with those whom they trust. The trick is to become aware of how you do this and to use these natural skills with people with whom you don't have rapport. Here are three ways in which you instinctively build rapport:

• Cultural: "When in Rome do as the Romans.” For example, at an elegant dinner where multiple forks, spoons and knives are set, if uncertain about which utensil to use wouldn't you model those around you who seem to know?
• Verbal: match language patterns and conversational content. You can model another person's rate of speech, voice tone, etc. You can also shape your vocabulary to match the other person’s visual, auditory or kinesthetic language use. However this takes a lot of practice.
• Behavioral synchronization is the easiest rapport building skill where you "mirror" another’s body language.

Let's combine the advice from the past weeks on handling difficult people with the rapport building skills using the example of an aggressive boss. (I won’t use a customer example because interactions with customers are governed by different rules). If your reaction is one of intimidation your boss will see a green light to overpower you. The advice I wrote about for dealing with this kind of difficult person was to:.

• Let him vent, then paraphrase him
• Get his attention by standing up, sitting down or using his name
• Use direct eye contact
• Present yourself assertively and refuse to argue
Let's say you do all these things to no avail. So study how much you and he are or aren’t mirroring each other. To get better results you'll need to look and act more like he does; which may be the last thing you want to do. But there are little things you can mirror. If he speaks loudly and rapidly you'll need to speak more like that than you might normally. If he invades your space and you back down you’re being different. Don't necessarily invade his space but at least stand your ground. If your boss uses few gestures when he speaks then mirror this.

Just for the fun of it, study how you already build rapport with people whom you trust. Also notice those you're uncomfortable with and how you aren’t mirroring them. Then select somebody with whom you'd like to have more rapport. Study how others mirror that person. Make note of what you could do to be more similar to that person. When comfortable begin to mirror him. If you do it in a natural way you'll find that the distance begins to close and trust begins to build.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Professional Coach in Lee County. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Posted by Picasa Jackie Ferguson is an international trainer and professional/personal development coach who works with clients to achieve desired results with less stress. She has presented training programs throughout the U. S., the U. K., Australia and points in between on topics such as diversity (Building Diverse Teams, Bridging the Generation Gap), customer service, stress reduction, public speaking, and many more. Literally hundreds-of-thousands of people world wide have benefitted from her programs. Her programs are packed with "how to" skills that participants can use right now! As a professional/personal development coach Jackie works with clients all over the world to help them learn management skills, how to balance their lives, and to handle sensitive issues. Hiring Jackie will make you look great! You can read her weekly, published column, Stress for Success on this blog. InterAction Associates
Training & Coaching with a purpose

Training Programs
Bridging the Generation Gap
Building Diverse Teams
Workplace/Sexual Harassment
Stress Management
Team Building
Polished Public Speaking
Leadership & Team Building
Customer Service
Stress & Time Management
And more! Professional/Personal Development Coaching for
Polishing skills learned from her workshops
Public Speaking
Decision Making
Interpersonal Skills
Confronting Sensitive Issues
Team Building
Creative Problem Solving
Much more!
Jacquelyn Ferguson's stress reduction programs have reached literally hundreds-of-thousands of people worldwide. Check out her weekly, published column on this blog. For more information on her other training programs (generational and other workplace diversity to workplace harassment to customer service) and her Professional/Personal Development Coaching at www.jackieferguson.com