Saturday, November 28, 2009

Journal your way to success!

By Julie Marie Rahm
Do you want to try journaling, but don’t know what to write or how to begin? Start by using the tools in your Mindset Tool Belt. Here are eight weeks of topics to guide you as you begin journaling your way from where you are to where you want to be!

Week 1: Your Level. Your metaphorical level is for keeping an eye on the way you feel. Start journaling by writing about your feelings throughout the day. What makes you happy? What causes you to become impatient, frustrated, or angry? Take note of when your level tilts toward positive emotions or toward negative emotions. What emotions are you feeling and what triggers them? Write in as much detail as you can. As you become aware of your triggers, you can start to take control of your responses instead of giving up your power and reacting to what happens to and around you.

Week 2: Your Whistle. Is it time to blow your metaphorical whistle and take a personal time out? Write about how you spend your days. What are you doing? What are you doing that you like? What are you doing that you would rather not do? What would you rather be doing that you are not doing? What is keeping you from doing what you want to do each day? Becoming aware of how you spend your time and why you do what you do will give you perspective on your priorities.



Week 3: Your Flashlight. Use your metaphorical flashlight to shine light onto the dark recesses of your mind. Go way back and write about all of your experiences that have made you who you are today. If you had a “do over” for any event or circumstance, what would you do differently? How do these experiences affect you today?


Week 4: Your Measuring Tape. Use your metaphorical measuring tape to measure how far you’ve already come. List the things you have in your life that you want in your life. This week, list everything you can think of that you have and want. Enjoy watching your list grow each day. This week is about appreciation. What you appreciate appreciates! Make quiet time for yourself to recharge and appreciate your life and the beautiful creation around you.

Week 5: Your Utility Knife. What baggage are you carrying? Guilt? Resentment? Regret? Unworthiness? Rejection? Whatever your answers, write them down. Where did you pick up this baggage? Go ahead and feel it. Then, use your metaphorical utility knife to cut out the bottom of each bag and let the contents fall out! You can choose your thoughts. The past is gone. Each moment is another chance for a fresh start. Write about who you would be with empty bags!

Week 6: Your Hammer. What do you want that you don’t have? Why don’t you have what you want? Write about what you want and why you don’t have it. Examine each reason. Is it true? Take your metaphorical hammer and one by one hammer out the reasons why by writing what your life would look like if you could not use those reasons. Did you create a compelling enough reason to make a change?

Week 7: Your Pliers. Take your metaphorical pliers and pluck out your grudges. Write about anything that comes to mind where you feel wronged by someone and you are holding onto it. Write about whatever is festering in you. Underline all of your words that are “charged” with emotion. Make two columns. List the charged words in the first column and write their opposites in the second column. Read each word and its opposite aloud. Write the “should” statement that applies, e.g., “He should not have left me!”. Ask yourself, is that true? Would everyone in the world say it’s true? Now write the statement again leaving out the word “not”. Say it out loud. Could that be true? What gift has come to you from the experience? Who would you be without the associated bad feelings? Forgiving people who have wronged you does not mean you go back to the way things were. It means you free yourself from the grasp the incident has on your happiness. Write about the forgiveness you accomplish this week and how you went about it.

Week 8: Your Inspection Mirror. Look in your metaphorical inspection mirror and write about who you are now that you have taken back your power and taken responsibility for the way you feel. Write about yourself and the transformation you have begun in your first seven weeks of journaling.

Congratulations! You have begun your journaling habit. Keep writing about whatever comes to mind each day. A sentence, a paragraph, a page – the volume is not important, only the habit. Vent about the way things are. Create things the way you want them to be. Capture your thoughts. Begin to see your thought patterns. They are your thoughts. You can change them!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three Thanksgiving Truths

By Julie Marie Rahm

It is Thanksgiving again, that wonderful holiday of food and fellowship. Are you awaiting the day with eager anticipation? Or, has your sanity gone packing? Here are three truths to remember to enjoy your Thanksgiving Day.

1. Perfection is unattainable.
Perhaps you are like my friend, Debbie, who is fabulous in the kitchen, never misses an episode of Iron Chef, and competes with herself annually to create a fabulous Thanksgiving banquet fit for the Guinness Book of World Records. Her kitchen becomes her arena which others enter at their own peril. This year, one of her strategies is to bake five different kinds of pie and serve them with real whipped cream. If this sounds like you, here is what to do. Set aside your Bon Appetite magazines, print-outs from FoodNetwork.com, recipe books, and shopping lists and breathe for a moment. Clear your mind of the football coach who coaches your son saying You have got to step up your game!. Now, imagine the challenges of preparing the turkey and pies simultaneously, or at least storing those pies with all of the other food in the house. I understand how hard it is to relinquish control over any part of this very important meal. However, maybe your husband could pick up a pie or two at the local bakery. Just consider it.

2. Gravy is tricky.
Or, maybe you are more like me and you have a kitchen because it came with your house and the closest you come to cooking is warming Double Stuff Oreos on a cookie sheet. On my first Thanksgiving as a newlywed in my own home I borrowed a Gourmet Thanksgiving cookbook from Debbie, thinking I am an intelligent woman. How hard can it be to follow a recipe? Drama ensued as my visiting female relatives, accustomed to running the show in their homes, entered the kitchen and donned aprons saying, Making good gravy is tricky, dear.

3. Resistance is futile.
At this point I could talk about respect and boundaries, or not competing with your relatives. Instead, I will share seven words you can use any time you encounter a critical person. You are right. What do you recommend? With these words you acknowledge a comment that rubs you the wrong way, and then empower the other person to change their orientation to useful thoughts.

In the end, what is most important is sharing Thanksgiving with friends and family you love. Be kind to yourself. Keep your mindset tool belt handy and make it a great day!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Performance Anxiety or Getting Those Butterflies to Fly in Formation

By Julie Marie Rahm

Yesterday evening the Pamlico Community Band performed its fall concert for a full house. Playing my flute in the band has been one of my greatest joys for the past three years. In September, our director encouraged me to play my piccolo instead.

I had not played the piccolo since high school. The exact amount of time that has elapsed is not important other than to say it could be counted in decades. In a moment of possibility thinking, I agreed.

As you might imagine, after all of that time all of the pads on my piccolo had deteriorated. So, I invested two hundred dollars to have the instrument overhauled and polished. Now there was no turning back. The moment I walked into the house with my revitalized piccolo, I went immediately to the piano bench and opened the case. I carefully lifted the mouthpiece and the body, inserted the mouthpiece into the body, and lifted the instrument to my lips. The noise that emerged as I blew across the mouthpiece was something like a cat in heat. In two months the band would play its fall concert and I would play the solo finishing the final movement of Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst. Panic gripped me. Okay, Mindset Mechanic, I thought to myself. You are so smart. What do you have for me?

Transitioning from second flute to solo piccolo player is a metaphor for life. As a second flute player I was one of many, blending in, not calling attention to myself, and believing that no one would really notice if I missed a practice. Playing the piccolo is like playing the oboe or solo trumpet. Everyone knows when you play and whether you are present. All of the performance values I learned growing up came rushing back to me. Young musicians learn early the true meaning of grades. In most classes students would be happy with an A grade of 95 percent. Musicians know that is not good enough. If five percent of band members play a wrong note, the music sounds atrocious! My fear of making a mistake and being noticed came rushing back as if I were a 14 year old high school freshman again.

What would I tell myself if I were coaching myself? I would say

1. Do not take yourself so doggone seriously! If you make a mistake, smile, mentally throw up your hands and think how remarkable!
2. Step back from the world of competition and judgment. Know that you have a contribution to make to people, musically and personally.
3. Acknowledge your love of performing music. You will find that love is much stronger than your worries. And, your friends and family do not love you because you never make a mistake!
4. Do your best and understand that your best may be better one day than the next.
5. God did not create you to be inconsequential and anonymous. Embrace the joy that comes from knowing your music lifts the spirits of those who hear it.
6. Visualize the theater on performance night. Hear the notes before you play them. Imagine the bliss on the faces of people in the audience. Allow your love of playing to fill your body. Imagine the gypsies dancing as you play your solo, feeling the music from your head to your toes.

For the next two months I practiced every day, taking my own advice. Slowly the notes and my tone returned. Last night as we played for a packed house, I felt only joy. The butterflies in my stomach flew with the precision of the Canadian Snowbirds flight team. Despite playing in numerous concerts since I was ten years old, for the first time I was singled out, recognized by the announcer stating and Julie Rahm on piccolo. I stood and grinned until a smile filled my face. Had I played perfectly? It did not matter. I have made the transition from the safety of anonymity to the joy of contribution.

What is the piccolo equivalent in your life? What metaphorical music are you holding back from the world? You were born to play your unique tune. The world will be a better place when you do!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What to Say to Military Kids Who are Worried about their Deployed Parents

By Julie Marie Rahm

Veterans Day was last Wednesday. In honor of the day I had the privilege of being a guest on Doug Stephan Good Day, a morning radio program. The program is broadcast across Radio America to nearly 400 stations and is available live over the Internet. Doug invited me on his show because of my upcoming book Military Kids Speak. The book is part of a national movement I am starting to help military kids and celebrate their strengths and successes.

Doug asked me what I would tell kids who feel worried about their mom or dad who is deployed. My response was brief to fit within the radio segment. Here are some additional ideas to help kids feel better.

1. Suggest that they talk about their feelings with their other parent, brother or sister
2. Suggest that they write a letter or send an e-mail to their deployed parent
3. Help them find a thought that feels just a little bit better than the worry they are feeling. Teach them to trade up their thoughts for better-feeling thoughts. Here are some ways to trade up.
a. Remind them of something coming up that they think is fun.
b. Offer them cookies and milk or another tasty treat.
c. Tell them they are not alone and that you miss their mom or dad, too.
d. Ask them to make a list of what items they think should go in the next care package you send to their mom or dad.
e. Help them notice what is great in their life at the moment.
f. Give them a hug and tell them you understand how they feel, then get ice cream.
g. Suggest that they make something to send to their mom or dad.
h. Give them a journal that they can keep privately. Teach them how to write about the way they feel, and to write about the way they want things to be.
i. Remind them that the deployment seems like a long time and that it will be over before they know it. Teach them the term this, too, shall pass.

Military kids have worries most kids never know. The emotional resilience military kids develop as young people is part of what makes them grow up to be leaders, movers and shakers!
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