07/21/09

Inspire Yourself ~ 7 Steps to Creative Napping

Have you ever fallen asleep at your desk or had an easier time falling asleep on the couch than in bed? Does your creativity need a boost? Could you use more enthusiasm? Nap your way to success.

The National Sleep Foundation reports some astonishing facts that validate the power of a nap:

* 48.5% of Americans report trouble sleeping

* 46% say their lack of sleep is due to job
stress and other worries

* 25% of the 1000 men and women surveyed believe that you cannot be successful in a career and get enough sleep.

Yikes! Well, the good news is new research reported in the Journal of Sleep Research shows that a 20-minute nap in the middle of the afternoon can be more effective in reducing fatigue and increasing energy into the evening than a cup of caffeine or more sleep at night. Your body is revitalized down to a cellular level with a nap, but not so with caffeine.

There are two types of naps – a stress-relief nap that focuses on energizing the body and a creative nap that fuels creativity, intuition and enthusiasm as well as revitalizing the body.

For a stress-release nap, set a timer with a soft ringer for 20 minutes. Slow down your breathing. Follow your breath in and out for the allotted time, maintaining a soft smile on your face to keep the endorphins flowing in your body.

For a creative nap, follow these steps:

1. Find a quiet place to rest. If you are at work and if there is no lounge or quiet room, as a last resort, you know where to go. Choose the end stall if it’s available.

2. Set a timer with a soft ringer and keep a pad of paper and pen next to you. (Just bring a pen if you use the restroom; you’ll already have paper.)

3. Before your nap, focus your mind on one item you want to accomplish, pose a question to your mind and then let it go. (Writing out your question helps clarify what you want.)

4. Limit the length of your nap to 20 minutes.

5. Tell yourself that you will rest for the specified time and awaken relaxed and refreshed.

6. Do a deep relaxation from head to toe, breathing slowly and deeply, following your breath just like you did in the stress release nap.

7. Upon waking, record any insights or answers that popped out during your nap.

If you already have a copy of my book, Living with Enthusiasm, reread pgs. 88-89. If you’d like more ways to tap into your Creative Spirit, turn your stress into success and feel more enthusiasm during your work day, learn more about how to do that with the Living with Enthusiasm Online Self-Coaching program. Try it for a month for free!

07/21/09

Creative Napping ~ San Diego Living TV Appearance

Think a nap is just for kids, cats, or your annual vacation? Watch my interview with Renee Kohn from San Diego Living and learn more about the power of a “creative” nap for problem-solving and stress management.

Naps are a great stress reliever and can tap into your brain’s alpha waves that put you at your creative best and increase your enthusiasm for living.

The idea for my book Living with Enthusiasm: How the 21-Day Smile Diet Can Change Your Life came to me following a creative nap on a plane ride home after a speaking engagement.

Since that inspiring moment and learning more about how naps regenerate our bodies at a cellular level, I’ve stopped feeling guilty that I’m not being productive. By slowing down the brain and body, we’re actually revitalizing our energy to move faster, healthier and more creatively. When I start to nod during the day now, I take it as a sign that my Creative Spirit wants to talk to me and give myself permission to nap.

Watch the interview now and look for my next post on the 7 steps to a successful creative nap.

06/3/09

San Diego Living Part 2 – In the Presence of Excellence

The team at San Diego 6 Living is great to work with. Producer Tiffany Frowiss should be cloned. She has amazing relationship strengths to keep all the talent organized and on time in a professional and upbeat manner under a lot of pressure and last minute changes.

The day I was on so was comedian Paula Poundstone who is performing in San Diego this weekend. She arrived with two of her children and ended up adopting two kittens from the shelter that were highlighted on the show. Watching her spontaneously respond with humor throughout her conversation with Greg Phillips reminded me that when you’re in the flow, it’s because your strengths are being engaged in something you’re enthusiastic about.

I also had a chance to meet John Block, the organizer of Adams Avenue Art and Music Festival, as well as the hip hop dance troupe Kruciaal Elements (very fun and talented!) who are performing at the Festival this weekend.

These kids know how to shake it and their enthusiasm for movement is contagious, as well as their commitment to excellence. The hour that I was in the Green Room with them, they practiced over and over until they left for the studio and did a great job on live TV.

Another great example that when you’re passionate about something and it engages your core strengths, practicing and rehearsing may sometimes feel like work, but you do it anyway because you know that it also creates purposeful joy.

Blessed are those who discover their strengths and passions and share them with the world. Call me if you’d like a complimentary 30 minute coaching session to help you do this. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do.

06/2/09

San Diego Living TV Appearance – The Smile Diet

On Monday I had the pleasure of being interviewed on TV on the San Diego Living Show with Brooke Landau, who has one of the biggest and brightest smiles I’ve seen. We talked about my book “Living with Enthusiasm: How the 21-Day Smile Diet Can Change Your Life” and the importance of starting your day with the 16-Second Smile and different ways to use a smile to manage your stress.

Brooke has healed from several health challenges including Lyme disease that temporary paralyzed her. She said that without knowing it, while she was recuperating she chose to consciously smile, not knowing about the smile research and said that it really did help with her attitude.

CONSCIOUS SMILING WORKS to help you feel better, heal faster, strengthen your relationships, get more done and enjoy your life more every day. Why not try a 16-second smile right now with a big deep breath or two or three and feel your body relax.

04/14/09

Sacred Walks, Whale Songs, and Wedding Magic

Beached whale carcass on Torrey Pines Beach April 14, 2009

I thought it would be gone by now. A few days ago, the San Diego Tribune had reported a dead 30 foot juvenile male gray whale had washed up on Torrey Pines Beach. They said that it probably been been hit by a boat propeller and most likely wasn’t the young whale “Diego” who has been exploring San Diego Bay the past month. And, they said, because it was so stinky, life guards had towed it 8 miles out to sea for disposal.

Seems nature had other plans and sent this creature from the deep dark sea back to shore. Perhaps to expand my consciousness?

I wasn’t prepared for what I felt when I saw this whale literally, in the flesh, on my walk this morning. Awe, definitely, for the sheer size of the animal. But the ensuing sadness I felt and welling up of tears as I stood looking at it took me by surprise. I felt like I was on sacred ground, like I was at a wake honoring and remembering a family friend and their impact on my life, and in a way, I was. And being present to the sadness led me back to joy. What a concept!

Feel your feelings of loss and fear in the moment, rather than push them away,
and they’ll lead you to joyful moments you can celebrate.

It helps that I was walking with my Wise Guide and friend Ken, who has lived this first-hand after the death of his daughter thirteen years ago.

I flashed on the humpback whales I’d seen and heard just last month in Maui. On the first day of my trip, while snorkeling, I was able to hear whales singing underwater. If you’ve never experienced this in real time, it’s definitely a “Bucket List To Do” – it is MESMERIZING!

And then, a few days later, while attending a spectacular whale-watching wedding cruise off the coast of La Haina, I watched mother whales with their calves, male escorts, breeding females and eager lovers breaching, spy-hopping, and pec-slapping for two of my dearest friends as they said, “I do” as the sun set over the horizon. LOVE RULES!

I thought of the lovely gift the newlyweds gave me while there: adoption papers from the Pacific Whale Foundation (what a great gift!) for “Leilani”, a humpback whale first sighted off the coast of Maui in 1985 with her calf. Since humpbacks can live up to 50 years, if she was a first time mother at that sighting (they can give birth starting at 4-7 years old), she could still be alive and around 30 years old. Amazing how connected you can become to an animal, or for that matter, a person, place, or thing, when you allow it to become personally meaningful.

I remembered my dad’s rumbling voice as he told us the story of Moby Dick, and then up popped the bible story and song we used to sing in rounds in Girl Scouts:

“Jonah, Jonah, Jonah, Jonah,
Jonah in the belly, belly, belly, belly,
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah, Jonah,
Jonah in the belly of the whale.”

The harmony of our voices calmed the imaginary fear of being eaten by a whale. Singing together is good.

Shamu at Sea World San Diego

I reflected on movies I’d loved about whales — “Free Willy” and “Whale Rider” and the story I’d read about that dying female whale that nuzzled divers who saved her after they cut her free from a crab net off the coast of San Francisco a few years ago. And who could ever forget being splashed by Shamu at Sea World?!

In an instant memories spilled out and willed me to name the whale and bless it, so I did: Torrey. Torrey the Whale, may your spirit be free and your siren song heard at Torrey Pines Beach forever more. Thank you for blessing my life and helping me reconnect to my joy.

Whales never registered on my personal radar until I heard them sing underwater on this most recent visit to Maui. And to think I almost missed the magic because I was afraid of being cold and wet and meeting up with “Jaws.” It took my enlightened friend CJ, a cancer survivor who jumped in first and said, “It’s chilly but this might be now or never,” to shake me out of my fear stupor and allow the magic of whale songs to explode my old paradigms.

And now, well, as with anything I’ve taken the time to experience up close and personal, to be curious about and appreciate, my world view has expanded, grace has appeared, and I can live more fully in the moment.

I’m so grateful for whales. For life. For you.

What about you?

02/17/09

Discover Your Happiness Strengths

After a four year hiatus, today I repeated the VIA (Values in Action) Strengths survey on the newly updated happier.com. Once again, I was reminded of the power of self-discovery and self-awareness, and the immense value of identifying your personal strengths.

The site highlights research and assessments by the gifted Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology movement at the University of Pennsylvania and helps you apply that research to your life in very user-friendly ways.

According to the VIA Institute on Character, this survey is the most scientifically validated tool for measuring character strengths. Over 1.3 million people have taken it. There are 24 qualities that have been validated as strengths that lead to happiness when applied to your daily life. Alphabetically listed, here they are:

Appreciation of beauty and excellence
Bravery and valor
Capacity to love and be loved
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Curiosity and interest in the world
Forgiveness and mercy
Gratitude
Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness
Humor and playfulness
Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Kindness and generosity
Leadership
Love of learning
Modesty and humility
Perseverance, industry and diligence
Perspective (wisdom)
Prudence, caution, and discretion
Religiousness, spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
Self-regulation and self-control
Social intelligence
Teamwork, citizenship and loyalty
Zest, enthusiasm, and energy

When you take this free profile online, which I highly recommend, you’ll be asked 240 multiple choice questions. Set aside a half hour to answer – it’s worth the time because what you’ll learn can positively shape everything you do. You’ll be fascinated, I promise.

At the end of the profile, you’re presented with a personalized list and description of your 24 strengths in order of importance to you. While the list wasn’t new information to me since I’d taken it before, it did show that four of my strengths remained in the top five in a new order and reflected more of how I experience my happiness now, which is a real gift because it reconfirms what has helped me survive some very challenging personal changes in the past four years and is what I can count on and follow when the world around me is in flux (like now!).

Another powerful reminder of this assessment, similar to Marcus Buckingham’s work and the Gallup StrengthsFinder, is that for a person to feel happy on a regular basis, your day (work and personal time) needs to include activities where you can apply and experience your top five strengths.

Here’s my Happier.com list of top 5 strengths:

1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
2. Gratitude
3. Curiosity and interest in the world
4. Kindness and generosity
5. Love of learning

Fortunately for me, my work as a speaker and writer committed to helping people stay inspired through challenge and change allows me to use these strengths every day. But…that doesn’t mean I’m always aware that I am doing so, or actually using those strengths, and therein lies a major key to feeling happier – a written daily strengths checklist and journal you can review and act from, especially when you’re going through a difficult time.

A few other interesting insights:

The profile lists your strengths in order of preference and while it’s not stated, you can presume that your 24th strength is also your greatest challenge.

Not surprisingly, I share #24 with most other people who take the profile. (When I went through Seligman’s six-month “Authentic Happiness Coaching Program,” they mentioned this research fact.)

Drum roll, please: my #24 is Self-Regulation and Self-Control. While there many areas of my life where this is not true, where it does fit is with time management. I have a hard time sticking to my own self-defined schedules for getting projects done (which is another reason why I love accountability partners and client timelines).

But here’s the good news in identifying and applying your strengths: On the occasions that I do get stuck, if I apply even one of my strengths to getting something done that I’m avoiding that is important and not urgent (Covey’s Key Success Quadrant), magic can and often will occur.

For example: First thing in the morning, I love to walk at Torrey Pines Reserve and Beach, take photos of moments that inspire me (here’s one from today), and then journal, all of which I do almost every early morning before I start my work day. These activities energize and nurture me and as I was reminded again today, tap into my strengths.

Once I get to my desk, if it becomes challenging for me to stick to my daily work plan (what plan!?), and I find myself clicking on the Mahjong Titans computer game or stepping away from my desk for a sugar-fat snack attack, it’s a sign I’m off track. While fun, those actions don’t move me forward in my day or life. The key to my success in that moment (and long term) is to catch myself in that .5 second that researchers say a decision occurs, and do the following: smile, take a deep breath, review my strengths list, and ask myself, “How can I apply at least one of these strengths to this task?” In the case of a marketing call, I simply have to remember how grateful I am to get to do the work I do, how much I appreciate my audiences, and how curious I am to learn more about a new client, and voella!, the calls get made and I’m using my strengths in service to my higher purpose and vision.

And, sometimes, honestly, playing Mahjong Titans and hiking to the store for a king-size Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar still do the trick.

You can take the VIA Happiness Strengths for free at Happier.com. Go take it now. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like this type of information presented at your business or organization, or would like a complimentary coaching session on how to apply this in your life, email me at mary (at) marymarcdante.com.

02/12/09

Do You Agree? Is Knowledge the Key to Survival?

“I will say the most important thing the human race has for our survival is our brain. If knowledge is not passed down to the next generation, we will become extinct.”~ George Lucas

George Lucas, filmmaker and creator of the movie Star Wars challenged President Obama to make education a top priority as he accepted the Lincoln Medal for his movies and effort to improve schools at the reopening of Ford’s Theatre in DC last night. (source)

Do you agree that knowledge is the key to survival?

When I read George Lucas’ comment, in the moment I found myself nodding my head, “Yes! The brain and knowledge are our key to survival.” My life’s work as a professional speaker and writer has been built on education and learning and are two of the greatest gifts life has given me.

And then I thought about it more deeply. I do agree education should be a top priority not just nationally, but also globally, and…

There’s another “thing” to paraphrase Lucas, that I also consider a gift from life, that is equally as important as knowledge, and without it, all the knowledge in the world won’t save our planet.

That thing? That gift? That survival glue? The heart. If love and wisdom -  gifts of the heart – are not passed down to the next generation along with knowledge, we will not survive.

Education and knowledge lead to awareness; education and knowledge, combined with the heart’s wisdom and love lead to contribution and transformation.

Let your heart lead your learning. You are transforming the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day!