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“The least strained and most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced.” – Michel de Montaigne

Happiness is such a great topic to discuss don’t you think? The Happiness Project has truly been a fun book to read. Not only have I learned a lot about the science behind happiness, but it was inspiring to follow someone along their 12-month journey to become happier; someone who has a lot of the same challenges many of us do—being authentic, having meaningful relationships, getting the most out of and growing in your career, and being a fantastic, loving mother, among many other goals. You don’t feel so alone on your journey when others are right there with you. It’s comforting.

There are so many reflection points for me in this book that I can blog about it forever, but in the spirit of reading and sharing with you many wonderful books, I will choose to end my happiness observations by chatting about passion. Gretchen Rubin’s theme for the month of September is “Pursue a Passion.” According to Rubin, “Happiness research predicts that making time for passion and treating it as a real priority instead of an ‘extra’ to be fitted in at a free moment (which many people practically never have) will bring a tremendous happiness boost.”

Would you say the same is true for you? It is for me. I can share many examples, but a fresh one is reading. Reading is a passion of mine, and through my blog and my Relaxed Book Club (for personal development), reading has become one of my top priorities for 2010.

Rubin challenged herself to write a fifty-thousand-word novel in thirty days, which amounts to 1,667 words a day. Yikes! Well, for her it was so thrilling. Rubin shared: “Writing a novel provided the ‘atmosphere of growth’ that, I was becoming more and more convinced, was essential to happiness; I’d included this element in my First Splendid Truth, but it was even more significant than I’d initially understood. The satisfaction gained from the achievement of a large undertaking is one of the most substantial that life affords.”

What passion is just an “extra” in your life right now that you can make a priority to give you a happiness boost?

So was Rubin’s Happiness Project successful? She believes it was. I will let you enjoy the read as I did and check out her happy ending, but I will share that because she was able to work on the kinds of things she truly enjoys versus those things which are more forced, she really loved working on her goals for September. She also gives much of the credit for her success to her Resolution Chart, which was her daily “Bible” and kept her on track.  If you’d like to see a copy of Rubin’s Resolution Chart you can send her an email to: grubin@gretchenrubin.com. Just type “Resolution Chart” in the subject line.

So, care to continue with me on my journey? March’s selection for my Relaxed Book Club is Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin. In his new book, Godin examines how a person becomes indispensable. It is a person within an organization who acts as an artist, puts his/her soul and passion into the work; it is  “emotional work.”  Sounds amazing….I can’t wait to begin (today!) and I hope you will join me.

My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.

Happy Trails, my friends!
Monique

Vision Quest

August 31, 2009

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     I was channel surfing yesterday and came across an old 80’s flick you may remember—Vision Quest.  If you’re my age—let’s just say “in the late 30’s”— and you are a female, chances are you will definitely remember this movie, since Madonna had a cameo in it as a bar performer, singing her hit love song, “Crazy for You.” I think I was around 13 or 14 when that song and movie came out, and who didn’t have a crazy crush at that age, right? So, when I first watched Vision Quest, the thing I remembered most about the movie was the love story…the crush…the first love.

When I saw it this time, however, my perspective was completely different. What caught my attention was this 18 year old’s insatiable quest for success—his relentless pursuit for excellence. His belief in himself and in his capabilities was un-matched; his excitement was so high it was untouchable.  Simply put, his vision was focused, powerful and tangible.

We all have goals. Perhaps not all of them are at the forefront of our mind and of our lives, but what if at least one of them was, just as it was for the young man in the movie? How would achieving just one major goal change your life?

Author Jack Canfield—“America’s Success Coach” believes that it is essential to have a Breakthrough Goal. This is not just any goal, this is a goal that, if accomplished, will “represent a quantum leap for you,” not just an incremental improvement. Within our team at the office we are focusing on goal-setting and achievement as well as the identification of at least one breakthrough goal. Why? It’s so easy to set goals that are reachable, especially those that are expected of us in some capacity, either at work or at home. I bet one of these goals will come to mind for you right now as one did for me. However, it’s usually those things that we truly want to achieve, dreams we want to breathe life into, which we shy away from. These goals make us work so much harder than we are used to and show the world (especially ourselves!) what we’re made of. These are the goals that allow us to shift our paradigms, re-define ourselves, and shout out, “Wow, I really can do this!”

The best part about the movie was how by having a vision and sticking to it, the character inspired so many around him as well—his classmate who was abused by his father, the local chef who never had the chance to do what he dreamed of, the older girl—his first love—who was lost and hated the world, and his grandfather, who felt hope again after experiencing his grandson’s determination and achievement.  He actually inspired his entire town. He was a beacon of light and hope.

You see, when we witness the achievement of breakthrough goals by others, we are inspired, even if only for a moment, to do something extraordinary with our lives; to take a risk, push harder than ever, and stay the course. How can we extend that moment long enough to help us create our own breakthrough moment? I’d love for you to ponder this question with me this month.

How crazy are you for a breakthrough? I’m ready for my vision quest! Are you?

You can do it, Princess!
When is it truly the right time to do something or be someone? Do you find that often we push ourselves so hard to accomplish a goal or make a change that the result is just not what we expected? This became clear to me earlier this year when my daughter (finally!) became a potty queen! But, boy, did it take a while!
 
I always remember reading in toddler magazines and hearing from my relatives and friends that girls learn to potty much quicker than boys. Our first child was a boy, and it was no easy task, but he got it done just in time for Pre-K 3.  So, I was ready and expecting tremendous success from my simply fabulous little Princess, but when the results of our efforts failed, we felt like failures too. Were our expectations of her too high? Did she sense that from us and set herself up for failure? Neither, I believe.
 
What I did realize soon after she made it happen was that it had absolutely nothing to do with me, my husband, or anyone else’s expectations of her. It did, though, have everything to do with her expectations of herself and her state of readiness. It was truly a powerful lesson for us all.
 
We tried everything to get her to potty—all the tricks in the book.  Nope…they did not work! My daughter simply was not ready. She would tell me “No, Mom, I’m not ready,” but I just didn’t listen. I stuck with “the plan” hoping for a turn-a-round. After realizing none of the plans or tricks were working, we all just simply gave in and gave up. I thought to myself, “Maybe she really isn’t ready.” I let it be, and I also forgave myself for not being successful “like all the other mommies were.”
 
It was at 4 ½ that she finally drummed up the courage to go potty. In fact, she was so courageous about it that she didn’t tell anyone. She simply walked confidently into the bathroom one afternoon, sat on the toilet, did her business, and even cleaned up after herself. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. But, more than ecstatic, I was proud. Proud that I didn’t continue to push her to be “like all the others”; proud that I finally listened to her telling us she wasn’t ready; and most of all, proud of her for knowing when it was the right time FOR HER to be successful at this task.
 
This experience taught me a lot about parenting, but it also shed some light on how we push ourselves consistently to do this and that and achieve this and that because we feel it is necessary, mandatory or expected of us. I believe this is a lesson of truly listening to ourselves and learning to know the feeling we feel when “now is the right time.”
 
Reflecting upon this, I can see, too, how I forced certain things to happen in my life, perhaps to prove to myself that I could do it, yet it truly wasn’t the right move for me or the right time to make the move. I can also tell you that I knew these things deep down but chose not to acknowledge them.
 
Is it okay not to listen to our inner voice—to be rebellious with ourselves and push forward? Sure! Every action provides learning, and life is all about learning. However, is it better to sit with ourselves for a while and weigh our options prior to moving forward? I would argue, yes, the effort you put in may reap greater rewards.
 
We can also look at ourselves as managers of others in these situations. Is what we are asking of others unrealistic? Are the right people on the bus in the right seats? Especially during tough fiscal times many individuals are being asked to take on more work, and work that they normally would not be assigned because it may not be in their field of training or related to one of their skill sets or strengths. How far can we push others to get the results we feel or are being told are necessary? Perhaps, during these times, our best role as managers is to really listen and help teach others how to better listen to and know what their inner voice is saying to them. If they do, I believe we may find greater levels of creativity, excitement, communication, and productivity in the work place despite the economy woes.
 
They say that the only constant is change. I agree with this. And because change is constant it makes perfect sense that a goal we want to achieve today may not be possible until six months or six years from now. And, because everything is constantly changing, so are we as human beings. So what does this mean? It means that even if a goal we have is not doable until six months from now, when six months rolls around we may not even want to, or need to achieve that goal any longer. If we are not keenly in touch with our inner voice, we may put that goal into action (just because we said we would) without the desire, proper backing, enthusiasm or support to achieve success.
 
Recently, I took a quiz in Facebook that was created by our Marketing Team in FIU’s  College of  Business to assess one’s ability to come up with creative business ideas and solutions. It’s called Uncommon Thinkers, and if you use Facebook, you can find it here: http://apps.facebook.com/uncommonthinkers/?ref=nf.  If anything, take it for fun. That, it is!
 
I took this quiz over a year ago when the college launched its Uncommon Thinkers campaign. At that time, it showed me as being a “creative thinker”. This time, it showed me as being a “risk taker”.  Funny enough, scanning my life over the last year or so, it couldn’t have been more right. I would have never tagged myself as a risk taker, but in my life today, I have become quite the risk taker, and it feels good because I know the timing is right to take some bold moves. Just as my daughter clearly conveyed to us that she was not ready, I have clearly conveyed to myself that I am ready for change and risk. What about you? Do you have similar experiences you can share?
 
Embrace change…know thyself well…and push forward on your goals when your inner voice says “go now”.
 
Much success today and always,
Monique Renee Catoggio, MBA

Appropriately enough, up until this point we’ve discussed ways to find balance in our lives and give ourselves the space we need to renew our energy. Now, a handful of hours away from a brand new year, our imaginations take over and help us envision a new day and a new world for us. Or, perhaps we are deciding to focus on the goals we didn’t accomplish and would like to attempt to achieve this time. : I want to lose weight because all of my friends are looking really great right now. They have found a diet that helps them lose weight quick. And, as a result, they are getting more attention and they seem happier. I would love to get some more attention at work and at home, and I’d love to feel happier. : I want to lose weight because I have been battling with my weight for years. I finally realized how I use food as a way to avoid uncomfortable feelings and situations. I want to finally take responsibility for my life! Also, because of my reckless eating habits, my health is beginning to suffer. I want to be healthy for myself and to ensure that I live a long life to enjoy with those I love. intention to achieve a goal. The difference between a resolution and intention is subtle, but there is a definite difference. An intention comes from a more gentle place—a place that stems from vision.

We call these key goals “resolutions” to signify our resolve to get them done. And while it is wonderful to be resolute in achieving our goals, perhaps we should step back for a while to ponder upon where, internally, the desire to achieve these specific key goals comes from.

Here’s an example…many individuals, including myself, choose the new year as the starting point to lose a certain amount of weight, or select healthier food options. Sound familiar? While there is nothing wrong with using the energy of the new year to spring us into health and wellness, let’s examine which of these reasons may be grounded in a more purposeful foundation.

Reason #1

Reason #2

Which reason do you feel will provide this person with more core energy to achieve his/her New Year’s “Resolution”? Can you see and feel the difference? Can you imagine what power you would have if your resolution came from an authentic place? And, if you were armed with tools to help you reach your goal, would that give you more of a reason to push forward?

Let me clarify that having a resolution to lose weight (doesn’t matter how much) is not a bad thing, but if we utilize the New Year each year to try to lose weight without making sure that our resolution is grounded, then we may once again fail. Failure, no matter how it’s dressed up, has a way of bringing down our self-esteem. Why not set yourself up for success and spike your self-esteem?

One way to do this—pretty simply—is to not be so resolute in setting and accomplishing this goal (sounds like forcing yourself to achieve and setting up yourself for failure), but, instead, setting an

So, let’s start with your vision for 2009. What is your vision for your new year? What is one thing that you would really enjoy accomplishing? Why would you enjoy it? Where does that desire come from? Does is come from a place of authenticity or does it come from ego (like Reason #1 above)? Would accomplishing this goal align with your personal values? Are these types of questions helping you define a purposeful intention for your new year? Breaking the Rules, discusses the concept of being committed, and with that commitment, being “on a roll”, therefore accomplishing what we intend to achieve. He tells us that there can be no true commitment unless we are aligned with our purpose. Sometimes, too, when we are not acting from a purposeful place we tend to be in the “What’s Wrong” mode (judgmental) instead of the “What’s Right” mode. Kurt elaborates… “Judging is the act which separates us from the universal source of creative energy. Whenever we presume to judge anything to be good or bad (including ourselves!), right or wrong, we at that precise moment begin to create an illusion of being separate from Source. This can only lead to a feeling of depletion and limitation. In response, we create the concepts of fear, ego, anger, etc.”

Kurt Wright, in

Finally, consider what tools you may want to put in place to help you move forward successfully with your intention. Not all tools work for all individuals, you also may want to take some time to think about how you want to measure your success. Here are some ideas that work for others:

  • Break up your intention into smaller chunks–Where would you like to be in three, six, and nine months?
  • Create a weekly schedule to keep you on track
  • Journal daily or weekly about your successes and what you are doing right. What needs to be evaluated? Does the intention need to shift a bit to be more realistic and attainable?
  • Blog about it!
  • Work with a partner to help keep each other accountable

Again, make sure your tools work for you. My intention for each of you is that you have an amazing and fulfilling year, and that you get on a roll to creating your best year yet. I’d love for you to share your intentions with me and others following my blog. If you have any ideas on how to track your success or other tools you use to accomplish your goals, we’d love to hear them!

Monique