08/15/09

Happy Birthday Julia Child!


Bon Appetit and Happy 97th Birthday Julia Child! And thank you Julie Powell, Nora Ephron, and Meryl Streep for keeping Julia’s spirit alive in the film Julie & Julia. It brought back a memory of one my life highlights…

Several years ago I had the good fortune to meet Julia Child, who was 90 at the time. She was still doing PBS cooking specials, had written 12 cookbooks and taught millions of people that cooking can be easy and fun. She came down from her home in Santa Barbara to promote her latest cookbook at a book signing at The Book Works, Flowerhill (a wonderful independent bookstore adjoining one of my favorite book-writing cafes, The Pannikin).

I stood in line with more than 300 people for two hours. When I finally reached the front of the line, I couldn’t believe how nervous and excited I was. My goodness, she was even larger than life in person. And very direct and clipped in her responses, which made me more nervous because after reading extensively about the challenges she’d faced in her life including breast cancer and the death of her husband, I’d been planning my question for days and began to wonder if she’d answer it.

As I got to the table where she was sitting, she looked up at me and sounding slightly impatient, said in her iconic voice, “What are you smiling about?!”

Feeling uncharacteristically embarrassed, I said, “Getting to meet you, Ms. Child. Would you sign this book for a friend and may I ask you a question?”

She nodded yes and began to write, so I crouched down on my knees to meet her eye to eye and continued, “How do you stay so inspired and enthusiastic, especially in difficult times?”

Arms flying into the air and sounding slight exasperated, she responded in her characteristic, slightly off-key trill, “Wellllll, I eat well, I’m passionate about life, and I love what I do! Now what else can I do for you?”

I offered my hand to shake hers and she gave me as hearty a handshake as someone 50 years younger. (Must have been from all that dough she kneeded over the years!) What a wonderful expression of enthusiasm and a confirmation that doing anything with enthusiasm, especially something you love, not only makes life more enjoyable, but helps you get through challenging times.

Here’s a short video clip recap of my experience with Julia from a speech I did at the Sharp Women’s Health Conference in San Diego. Bon Appetit!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjwv-lX9TtY]

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!

06/4/09

The Smile Diet Blog: Smile and Move!

One of the blogs I write is “The Smile Diet,” which keeps the message of my book Living with Enthusiasm: How the 21-Day Smile Diet Can Change Your Live” current with what’s going on in the moment around the world.

Read today’s Smile Diet Blog entry about a great site and resource “Smile and Move.” Watch the video and take your day to the top!

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.

03/26/09

Four Critical Health Questions to Ask Your Mother

With Mother’s Day coming up on May 14, I just finished a podcast for a healthcare client on “Honoring Our Mothers.” The focus of the conversation is based on my book, My Mother, My Friend: The 10 Most Important Things to Talk About With Your Mother, and why it’s so important to honor your mother by talking to her about her health and yours.

A woman in one of my stress management seminars summed it up best:

“I never thought about my health until it was taken away. It wasn’t until I had a heart attack that I realized I had so much control over my own health. I started fighting like hell to live and found a new woman inside me – strong, brave, and determined to get well. When you lose your health, you lose everything. When you have your health you can do anything.”

In interviews with over 400 mothers and daughters and talking to thousands of women in my stress management and positive communication seminars, as well as dealing with the crisis of my mother’s diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer and my dance with cervical cancer (I’m a grateful, healthy 12 year survivor – get your HPV Test), I discovered there are four reasons why it’s so important for you to have the health conversation with your Mom, especially if she’s over 65 or currently has health problems:

  1. Unnecessary suffering and untimely death of Mom because no one knew there was a problem. Often in my interviews, I heard from a mother, “I don’t want to be a burden to my children.” Better a burden than laying in a coma or dead for 2 days because adult children were out of touch or appeared too busy Mom didn’t want to bother them.
  2. Prevention vs. Crisis Triage. Having a health conversation can often prevent the crisis and the additional negative stress that impacts not just Mom but you, your health, your family, work, and finances.
  3. Caregiving. Most adult children are not prepared to be caregivers to their Mom (or Dad) in the case of sudden illness or accident, yet it happens more than you think. Discussing health concerns and options before you need to isn’t always easy, but it is always wise.
  4. Access. For your sake. Women whose mothers died before they talked about health no longer had access to their medical history, which influences screenings and lifestyle choices.

To get you started, here are four critical health questions to ask your Mom:

  • What medications are you on and what are the dosages? Ask her to explain what the medications are for so that you both understand. If she can’t tell you, it’s time to help her be a better partner with her doctor and you. Someone besides her and her doctor need to know in the event of an emergency.
  • Who is your doctor and what is their phone number?
  • When was your last doctor’s appointment and when is your next one? (Annual checkup at a minimum. You too!)
  • May I go with you to your next appointment? Make the time. It could save both of your lives.

If you’d like access to twenty more critical health questions, as well as over 200 other questions on other important topics, and how to make these conversations easy, painless, and informative, you can get a copy of My Mother, My Friend at:

My Mother My Friend ebook

My Mother, My Friend soft cover copy

As my Mom Grace said, “Life is short, life is precious. Don’t wait. Do it now.”

Mary

PS. If you’d like a book label personally signed by me to you or to include as a gift, email me at mary (at) marymarcdante.com with your name and address and who to sign the book to and I’ll snail mail it to 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.

12/24/08

Your Power to Inspire. Happy Holidays! (photos & audio)

May your holidays be filled with laughter and love and remind you of
your power to inspire your world and how much you inspire mine.
Thank you. Love,
Mary

 

Click on the start button to hear a short 3 min. story about the power of love
during the holidays excerpted from a recent live presentation.

Laugh as much as you breathe, love as long as you live.
~ Anon ~