Are You Intentional About Your Life Direction?

Are You Intentional About Your Life Direction?

Do you take time to reflect on your life and see if you are where you want to be? You could call this “checking in with yourself”. Some people take time daily to quiet themselves and pray or meditate or just reflect. This can help us prioritize what is important in our upcoming day. It can also be helpful to do this at transitional points in your life. I needed to do this as my life changed from student, to wife, to mother, to caregiver, teacher and coach. My purpose changed as did my focus. Was this where I wanted to go or was I just flowing with the way the tide took me? Was I being intentional? I see people get so caught up in what others tell them they should do or be that they forget what they want. This is easy in today’s world, we are so connected to social media and comparing ourselves to others that we may loose touch with what we want. It’s helpful to take time to tune your mind to yourself and not the outside world and its influences. Then once we get clear on what we want then what do we do about it?

Are you the type of person that just goes with the flow or are you a planner, setting goals and thinking about the future. Each type of person and philosophy has its benefits but studies have shown that those who set goals for themselves are more satisfied with their lives.

I see two steps and neither of them comes without effort but each step can lead to a more satisfying life.

1. Examine your heart and identify what you want.

2. Set small achievable goals that lead you to that life.

The goals motivate and challenge us and without them we lack focus. They also provide a way to measure your own success. When I decided to become a coach I needed training, experience, certification, marketing and each step took me closer to my goal. The caution comes when we become too rigid in achieving our goals. Those easy going people do have wisdom. If we set our goals too high then there will be unnecessary stress. Or if we can’t flex with the ups and downs of life then we again will feel discouraged. There may be times when a life challenge happens and we have to put that goal on the back burner. Take care of the immediate but don’t forget the goal.

Once we can get clear on what our hopes and dreams are for our lives. Henry David Thoreau said “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined”

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By Lisa Strong

Protecting Mind and Body

As I watch young moms in my community I see many of them being hyper vigilant in the protecting of their children from harmful foods, chemicals, environmental toxins and anything that can harm their physical body. They are making their own baby food from organic vegetables, blending produce purchased at the farmers market.  Some parents are dressing their babies in clothing made from natural fibers, staying away from any synthetics. They are careful that the toys the child plays with are free from asbestos, lead and other toxic materials. The toys should be safe and eco friendly. I am not criticizing any of these loving, protective behaviors. Of course we want to do all we can to make sure our children are physically healthy and safe. 

My concern is that I see such vigilance in this protection of their physical bodies but what about their minds? We don’t let our children feed on junk food but their mind is feeding on harmful ideas in the media and we accept it as normal.

An average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18. The problem is not only about violence but about all social behavior, how relationships are handled, sexual behavior, family dynamics and friendships. Children watch and assume that what they see on TV is how things are done and an estimated 54 percent of American children can watch this programming from the privacy of their own bedrooms. Why do we allow these ideas into our children minds so freely? 

I think that the longer you can delay putting your child in front of the TV the better off they will be. Children can learn to entertain themselves in an active way instead of being passively entertained. But if you have decided to have a TV in your home then you can still monitor the content. The problem is you can’t monitor the content if you can’t see the TV so do not put a TV in your child’s room. Have the TV or computer in an area that you can see. If you can view programming with your child and discuss the content then you can have input and control. 

This all seems like common sense, children mimic our behavior, I am often telling parents to model what you want your child to do, so then having them mimic what they see on TV is no surprise. I am not saying that all children that see a violent act on TV will act in the same way but why don’t we expose them to the behaviors we want them to learn? Let them watch behaviors that show kindness, respect, generosity, perseverance and compassion. The challenge of monitoring what your child views gets harder as they get older. When your children are teens I know this can be a battleground in the home. You will hear “all the other kids are watching this”. It won’t be easy and each child is different so just keep in mind as parents we are not only their to protect their physical body but their minds as well. 

By Lisa Strong

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Don’t Mess With Tradition

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Holidays like Easter which was just last week can bring memories of family gatherings, traditions and celebration. Each family has their own unique family rituals and traditions which you may or may not look forward to. For a child growing up they come to expect certain things on these special days. Easter for my family was hidden baskets and eggs, a special lunch including Jello eggs and extended family and friends stopping by. The children woke up excited and knowing what to expect.

When events are predictable and happen the same way each day or year then a child feels in control, secure, safe and less stress. They can prepare themselves for what is to come and this can be especially helpful for children who are highly sensitive, the structure offers them stability.

They look forward to what they know from past experience is coming. Even adults do not want to change from their traditions. When I tried to change the menu on Thanksgiving and make a mashed potato casserole instead of last minute making mashed potatoes, (I was trying to simplify my work load) this idea was met with resistance. “What no mashed potatoes?” I learned  not to mess with the tradition.

A child’s daily routine brings them stability. Children learn many things from these routines, such as how to take care of themselves. Having a morning and bedtime routine for example can teach a child how to dress themselves and good hygiene. However, the most important thing we all learn from regular routines is that life runs more smoothly if things are organized and predictable. Does your child have a bedtime routine? If you forget one of the steps, bedtime story, tucking in, or a glass of water you will hear about it from your child. Again, don’t mess with routine.

Your whole family can benefit from a structured routine. There will be less stress and drama if a child knows when he/she is expected to do homework or what time dinner is. In the routine each child can play a role. One child can set the table, another clears the table and rinses the dishes. Maybe Friday night is family movie night. Take turns picking the movie, have pizza, make popcorn and everyone is together and knows what to expect.

Knowing what to expect in our hectic lives  can provide structure and stability to a child. The structure improves efficiency and the family runs more smoothly. The benefit to the family and the child is a calmer child, clear expectations, less strife and family bonding.

Written by Lisa Strong


Go Deeper Not Wider

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We’re in a friendship crisis. Three quarters of Americans are not truly satisfied with their friendships. Paradoxically, in an age of Facebook and always-on connections, a growing body of research is proving what many of us already feel deep in our gut: we’re actually lonelier and more isolated than ever before.  How can this be?

Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says that the number one predictor of happiness is the strength of your bonds with your friends and family. It’s not about the number of people you associate with. It’s about the quality of those relationships.  But can you do both? Can you enjoy quality relationships with lots of people? The hard truth is no.  That’s why we need to go deeper, not wider.  It’s great to “know” a lot of people and to maintain a vibrant network.  Remember, however, that it’s not about how many people you know but more about the ones you are deeply bonded with.  And there doesn’t need to be that many!  Keep this in mind…

You might be a superhero (I like to think I am but others may disagree), however, in order to have deep friendships you have to let your Kryptonite flag fly to those who matter most.  Psychologist and relationship expert Beverley Fehr says that the primary hallmark of friendship is intimate self-disclosure—or showing vulnerability.  Showing vulnerability is how we get closer with people and requires gradually revealing more intimate information about ourselves. This gradual reveal helps increase trust, support and loyalty— therefore, going deeper, not wider.   

Written by Lisa Smith

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Family is a Give and Take

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A family functions best when everyone contributes. We all can play a part. It is clear that mom and dad have bigger parts when the child is young but even a toddler can learn to contribute to the function of the family. As a child gets older they can be responsible to contribute more and more. This is how we avoid raising teenagers who feel entitled. 

There are many families where entitlement is a major problem in the home. Parents call for help frustrated with the demands of their teenager. When a teenager expects their parents to do everything for them and they don’t contribute to the well being of the family then this is a behavior that frustrates those around them and a belief that will not serve them well out in the “real world”. 

When a child is young, this is the time to start training them, giving them small jobs to do. Young children don’t complain about helping, they like to contribute and feel important. At dinner time you can ask them to put the napkins on the table or when you are cleaning, give them a small broom and ask them to sweep up. I know they may not do a good job, and honestly it would probably just be easier to do it yourself but you are teaching them to contribute and the payoff will come later and you will be glad you didn’t just do it all yourself.

They need to learn that there is a balance between their own needs and wishes and those of others in the home and ultimately in society. If your teenager asks you to drive them to the movies and expects you to hand them $20 that may be fine if they have learned to be helpful at home but why are we handing our children money and driving them all over when they complain about washing their dishes or feeding the dog? Make sure they understand that there needs to be a give and take in a family. It is not all take. If they expect you to be understanding of what they want then teach them to be understanding of the needs of the family, too. 

If your teen is not used to this concept then you will need to be strong as you teach them. They will understand this new idea and may even agree as you are taking them to the movies and giving them the $20. But when you later ask them to do the dishes after dinner that is when the challenge begins. Stand strong. If they choose not to do the dishes it doesn’t have to be a fight just remind them of this the next time they need something. You need to stop giving if they are not giving. They will soon see what they need to do. Your job is to be consistent and clear. This is how a family works and truthfully this is how the world works. There is always a give and take. 

Written by Lisa Strong


Our 7 Day Challenge

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We’ve all done it and it’s been done to all of us.  It goes something like this: you’re talking with a friend or family member and you tell them about something that is stressful, disappointing or upsetting.  They respond by telling you how equally, or more so, they are stressed, disappointed or upset about something in their life.  You might say “I am feeling overwhelmed and have a lot of anxiety right now.  Life just feels really hard.”  They might respond “Oh, I know what you mean.  My life has never been as stressful as it is now…..”  It’s like they never even heard you but continue on with their own narrative which says their situation is at least as difficult as yours so don’t feel so bad.  It has become a pet peeve of mine.  And truth be told, I am as guilty of doing it as anyone else.  But I sure do hate when it’s done to me!
As I’ve reflected on this over the past week I decided to challenge all of us to make a change, including myself.  For the next 7 days when someone, anyone, tells you about what’s bothering them, about their stressful day, their broken heart, their anxiety or some bad news they received… pause.  During that pause separate yourself and your own circumstances from theirs.  Then only… and I do mean only… acknowledge what they shared and validate it.  Don’t try to relate their situation to one of your own.  Don’t enter into a who is more stressed and overwhelmed contest.  Don’t talk about yourself at all!  Simply acknowledge their feelings and encourage them with some positive (but not dismissive) words.  You might say something like “Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I’m here to listen any time.”  Or “That sounds really hard, I can see why you are overwhelmed.  We can’t lose hope because you will make it through this and I am here to support you.”  You get the idea.  
You will be amazed at how this kind of response will impact those around you.  And you will be equally amazed at how good it feels when those around you respond to you like this when you share something that’s weighing on you.  
It’s 7 day challenge.  We will do it together.  Start now and tell me how it goes!

By Lisa Smith

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Mama-bear Parenting

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Are You a Mama-Bear?

Have you heard the expression “Momma-bear”? Well according to the Urban dictionary It means “ a wonderful mother who is protective, but in a good way. She acts like a mother bear in all senses of the word; caring, protective, helpful, loving, powerful, strong, a refuge of sorts.’

 This sounds like a great Momma and many of those qualities are wonderful but while being protective may work well for a bear, being overprotective is not always helpful for us humans.

 It is our desire to be protective but I see parents rescuing their child from things the child should learn to work through. Why do we always want to rescue our children from hard work? We see them making a bad choice and we want to step in and show them an easier way or help them take a short cut, or simply solve the problem for them. Are we really helping them?

 It is hard for many of us as parents to step aside and watch our children struggle. It starts when they are very young. We watch our one year old crawl under the coffee table and then try to stand up and he bumps his head. We immediately want to get under there and help him out. We could watch and allow him to struggle and figure it out. He is learning where his body is in relation to space and the table. When we whisk him out of there he has no idea how that happened. He may later find himself in the same situation, bump his head, cry and wait for you to magically get him out. You didn’t allow him to figure it out himself. 

 This rescuing behavior goes on as they get older, we don’t allow our children to feel the natural consequences of their own behavior. The problems are different but the learning still needs to happen. These hard times teach a child to develop perseverance, resilience and courage. 

 Parents may think that when a child fails, looses or is turned down that this will hurt their self esteem. But children will soon learn that life is not always fair and they are going to be faced with challenges and the child who is successful at pushing through these adverse situations will develop a true positive self esteem.

How can we help our children when they are faced with a challenge? We can acknowledge that it is hard, empathy goes a long way, but we can follow this by being an encourager and maintaining a positive outlook. This will help them keep moving forward even though it may be difficult. It is very easy to get caught up in the self pity, unfairness of life, or ‘why me?’. As parents we can guide our children out of that unhealthy mind set, teaching them to let go of self-defeating and unproductive thoughts and get down to the business of dealing with what’s before them. Parents who use strategies like these can change a child’s outlook and help their child develop determination, persistence and problem-solving skills.

 I feel this quote is appropriate, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” -William Feather

We can teach our children to hang on, to not give up and to learn from their mistakes. This will also develop in them strong character. So don’t rescue your children from adversity but support them as they walk through it.

 Written by Lisa Strong


Grandma Was On to Something

Grandma Was On To Something

Building character, you don’t hear many people talk about this these days, it sounds like something my grandmother would have said. As a parent, building character in your child is one of your primary challenges and responsibilities. What exactly does that mean? What is character?

 Oxford dictionary defines character as; The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual 

 We may think of character qualities like; honesty, integrity, kindness, humility, compassion, respect, teamwork and perseverance. This is just a few and the ones that are important to you may be different and they will reflect your values and your own character. So how do we teach these character traits to our children. 

 Your parents may have told you a story of how they took something from the convenience store and grandma found out and made them return it to the store owner and apologize. This is one way to show your child the importance of honesty.

 I would say that the most important teaching tool is through example. Children are watching you and learning from how you act. Are you complaining or having a positive attitude? Do you cut corners or do a thorough job? Do they see you keeping your word or making excuses? Do you push through hard times or give up? When they see you behave in a way that is consistent with how you are telling them to behave then they are more likely to listen. 

 Another way of encouraging character building is by praising them when you see them act in ways consistent with what you are teaching. We often praise for a particular outcome but the outcome is not always the important thing. How did the child get to that outcome? When your children act in ways that exemplify one of these character traits then praise them for it and be specific.  If you see them telling the truth even though they may get punished, praise them. If they worked really hard  their team didn’t win, still praise them. If you see them being kind or fair or positive in a challenging moment, show them that you see that and that you are proud. This will put the focus on the behavior and not the outcome.

 Children will also start looking for character qualities in others. Use “teachable moments”. As you watch TV or movies you can use the opportunity to discuss these qualities or lack of them in the characters on the screen. Children’s questions and comments about what they are seeing offer parents important insights into their child’s thoughts, beliefs and concerns. Also when you are out and you are interacting with others there are many situations that can be used to teach these valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, kindness and compassion.

 Don’t ignore this very important aspect of parenting. It takes work but the person your child becomes will more likely be happier in themselves and someone the rest of us can admire and enjoy.

Written by Lisa Strong


Teens and Technology

Lisa Smith is the expert guest on Answers for the Family.  She discusses the soaring rates of anxiety and feelings of isolation among teens in the face of social media and overuse of technology.