Let's Talk

What is Grieving, Anyway?

Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene Podcast

Click here to listen to this post.

When we have lost something of great importance, our lives are forever changed.

With most unwanted changes, we make an adjustment and move on; life resumes and basically remains the same. It is when something of great significance and deep emotional attachment has been taken away, that our life becomes radically changed.

Losses are personal.

Nobody but you can determine how important a loss is. A child who has just lost a beloved pet or toy experiences sadness at a deeper level than we might think. Their attachment to that pet and toy was extremely important to them.

It is essential that we respect a child’s grief and help them through it instead of dismissing it.

What does it mean to grieve?

We know we will experience intense emotions of sorrow and sadness. Our emotions can range from despair to moments of solace, from anger to guilt, from joy in our remembrances to a blanket of depression that settles over us like a fog.

I associate the complexity of emotions to being on a roller coaster – up one minute and down another or somewhere in-between. In mourning, we give expression to our grief in some way.

I associate the complexity of emotions to being on a roller coaster - up one minute and down another or somewhere in-between. In mourning, we give expression to our grief in some way.

The greater the loss, the deeper the grief.

Working with individuals who have suffered major losses, I am humbled by the depth of grief they are working through. The typical words used to define this grief process have a different meaning to each person.

We don’t get “over it,” and, as one person indicated to me, the term “closure” has no comfort attached, either.

We will always have that empty spot in our lives, that hole in our heart, that love we no longer can give to the person we lost, that possibility or potential that will never be realized. But we can create a new reality, a new way of life that holds meaning, love and purpose once more.

Everyone grieves in their personal way that will have different time frames and different outcomes. We choose different methods to process our grief that fits who we are.

  • One person I met completed a 200+ mile walk called El Camino de Santiago in Spain walked by people as part of their healing process.
  • Others have found walking and praying a maze helpful.
  • Art therapy is extremely beneficial in the healing process, taking the broken shards of our life and turning them into a visual memory of recognition, reconciliation and celebration.

Don’t bury your loss.

When we have lost a loved one, we are usually given little time off before returning to work and are faced with working through our grief in bits and pieces. It is important to find time to grieve so our grief doesn’t become buried.

Working through a current loss often triggers old losses that were not processed, going way back into childhood. We feel the emotions attached to that earlier loss even when we are unable to put all the actual pieces of the event together in a cohesive pattern.

Find that time to grieve.

Grieving or mourning isn’t some sad time we spend feeling sorry for ourselves. It is active work that enables us to put our loss to rest. Here are some things to consider:

Grieving is:

  • Coming to terms with what has happened – making sense of it all
  • Working through the tangles of roller coaster emotions and thoughts
  • Working through the questions until you can let go and accept with or without answers
  • Finding a way to express what you are experiencing. Journaling, sharing with others, creating an art project, quiet time reflecting, writing a letter of goodbye are all some ways to help the healing process.
  • Validating your journey – give yourself permission to grieve. Emotional wounds require healing time just as physical wounds. Working through that grief is important to heal and integrate and not just contain.
  • Working through the layers of loss. There are many components that are a part of any loss that need consideration.
  • Answering the question, “Who am I after this loss? I knew who I was, but who am I now?” It is where we begin to establish that new identity and plan for tomorrow.
  • Stepping out and finding ways to make life meaningful again.

Grieving is not:

  • Feeling sorry for yourself. When we feel sorry for ourselves, we want to nurse our hurt feelings. When we are grieving, we want to share our pain so we can let go of it and heal.
  • Trying to “get over” it. Life will not be the same. Grieving is healing, integrating and replacing.
  • Doing things one particular way. We are all different. Take from the examples and suggestions offered and apply the ones that will work for you.
  • Going through predictable stages or time frame. While we may experience similar things, grief is never predictable. Each loss has its own unique necessities. There is no time limit when we “should” be better.
  • Retreating into solitude. While we need those times alone to sort things out, we also need the support of others. Retreating can at some point leave you isolated, lonely and depressed.

The lists above reflect some of the things we deal with in grief associated with the death of a loved one. However, when we lose our jobs, our financial stability, our ability to earn a living, or lose an expectation such as a marriage, or a long sought-after dream, these losses also need to be grieved.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

This Can’t Be Happening

Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast

Click here to listen to this post.

“This can’t be happening. There was so little warning. He had been so healthy. There was no time to prepare. I’m numb. What do I do now?”

This begins Chapter 1 in my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World.

Our first reaction of any kind to an unexpected tragedy, crisis, or loss is usually shock and disbelief. We are unprepared for the enormity of how our world has been turned upside down and inside out.

The world we knew has just ended and we struggle to accept what is happening. Denial storms into our existence as we try to wrap our brain around this loss.

Even when we are prepared for a loss that is the result of a long-term illness, it brings with it sadness and sorrow. The illness itself might have been premature and unexpected. They were too young to get sick; he was so healthy, etc. Whether we are prepared or not, grief demands its own time frame to work through the tangles of disbelief and unreality.

Losses can be messy, confusing and are rarely straightforward.

A major loss is like taking a journey into the wilderness.

You have never been there before. You search desperately for information from your past to apply to this situation. You remember going to funerals and offering condolences to friends, but this feels different.

There have been anxiety-producing unknowns and realities in the past that have taken you through hills and valleys. But these, too, don’t seem to apply in the same way with what you are currently experiencing.

We each process grief differently.

Although we learn valuable information about grief from others, each person’s journey will be unique based on their life experiences, their personalities and individual interpretation.

How one person processes their grief may be different than how you do. It is important not to compare what we are experiencing with how another is experiencing their loss.

Be compassionate with yourself; eliminate self-criticism and judgment.

Our intellect may want to make sense of what is happening, but our heart often says it makes no sense at all.

The grief journey

Grieving is an emotional and spiritual journey where we struggle to find out who we are based on what is happening. At times we may feel as though we are dying. We take in details but are indifferent to what is actually occurring around us.

Particular times of the day can trigger more or less intense pain and sorrow. As we work through our grief, we might experience hope and then hopelessness; pleasure and moments of contentment and then despair.

Intensity and duration of emotions will vary from time to time and with each person and situation.

It might seem at times as though you are on a roller-coaster ride – up one day and down the next.

As you go through this journey you may find yourself going up hills and through valleys, climbing mountain peaks and struggling through parched deserts.

As you go through this journey you may find yourself going up hills and through valleys, climbing mountain peaks and struggling through parched deserts. There may be mornings when you wake and experience the awesome wonder of God’s world and sing His praises.

But there will also be nights and mornings when you cry out, “God, where are you? I’ve reached my limit. I cannot endure anymore.”

And you struggle with thoughts of whether God real or if it is all an illusion. But then, as you read the Psalms and scriptures, you find yourself filled with peace and a knowing that God is indeed real, and He does care and is with you when you cry out to Him.

Honor your loss.

Honor your grief. Honor your journey. The process will teach you.

You have never been here before. Listen to your heart – accept your pain – reach out to others.

This is not a voyage of the head but of the heart and soul and spirit.

Any trip that takes you into the wilderness will test your perseverance, strength and courage. You haven’t chosen to go on this trek, but here you are. You may want to run away, but there is no place to run to.

The only way out is by moving through the unknown and the pain. And when you do, you begin to heal and discover an inner strength.

In that pain you will be able to reconcile and integrate your loss. In the process, you learn more about yourself. As you move forward, you will find new meaning for life. While you do not remain in the desert or the wilderness, the experience becomes an invaluable part of your life, your memories and your identity.

You are tougher and more resilient than you thought.

It’s impossible to escape pain.

Because pain is as much a part of life as joy or happiness, we cannot escape it any more than we can escape life. Pain becomes a part of the human experience and teaches us how to live life to the fullest.

Medicating your pain or denying and pushing it away will only create more pain in the long run.

As you go through this journey, you will need the help and support of others.

You may want to be alone, and at times need to be alone. Honor and respect that. But we also are social beings and we need one another. We run the risk of isolation if we shut others out.

I have been on that journey.

I have experienced the hills and valleys, the ups and downs. I have felt the pain that seemed unbearable. But the pain diminishes when we address it and walk through it.

As I walk with you on your journey through grief and loss through my blog, podcast and book, I would love to hear from you and what you are experiencing. As we share, we help one another. As our stories intertwine, we are given new coping skills and healing strategies.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

The Many Pieces to Loss

Listen to this post

Click here to listen to this post on the Focus With Marlene Podcast

There are many layers connected to the loss of someone you loved. It isn’t just the person we grieve; it is everything associated with the life we shared: the fun times, meals together, the friends we associated with, and the sharing of everyday life. There were times of serious discussions or debates around differences.

It was knowing that someone was there who shared your life, even when there was no conversation or when one of you was away from home for long periods of time. It is that comfortable resting spot of knowing you are not alone even when apart – that familiarity that complements and completes both lives. You planned together, fought together, and considered options for your future together. You bounced ideas off each other for almost every aspect of living.

Loss is not just the removal of someone who was important to us – it is the loss of everything in life associated with that loss.

The Many Pieces to Loss | FocusWithMarlene.com

In an article by Amelia Nierenberg in The New York Times, she writes how hard mealtimes are for widows. Another grief counselor suggests that food and cooking might be considered the “sixth stage of grief” if we still considered stages of grief.

Why?

Because so much of daily life is centered around food, whether in preparation, socializing or time spent eating together. Food becomes an overwhelming trigger of what was lost.

Grieving is more than accepting and coming to terms with what has happened.

When a loved one dies, in many ways we die, too.

Every part of life is impacted: social circles, friendships, family relationships, spiritual, finances, where we live, and careers.

Grieving is not just mourning – it is picking up the shattered pieces of what was a significant part of who we were and creating a new existence that holds meaning, purpose and substance.

As we better comprehend what learning to live again really means, we recognize that what we are experiencing is normal and natural. Bereavement groups have begun for men as well who struggle to make sense of life after the death of their spouse. They are encouraged to talk about the things that trigger that grief which also include food.

As hard as it is for widows to fix meals for themselves, it is equally as hard for males. It is encouraging to know that we are not alone in sorting through the many pieces connected to loss.

While life is never the same, it is important to know that we can find ways to make life meaningful again.

As I mention in my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, grieving is more than just recovery, it is finding ways to rebuild your life. It is developing new relationships and finding something that has meaning.

There may be things from your past that you would like to do again or things you always wanted to do.

It may be stepping out and trying something new you hadn’t even considered before. While each person’s grief is unique to them, their backgrounds and personalities, there is a commonality to all of them that in some way connects us together.

We need more than just talking about our pain and feelings to heal.

Recovery is not a step-by-step process that leads you from one place to another in an orderly, sequential fashion. It is going in and out and back and forth, working through the twists and turns of conflicting emotions and unanswerable questions.

It is leaving behind, putting fond memories in place and in the process realizing you do have the strength, fortitude and ability you didn’t know you had to move forward – you will be okay. You can make it. We will struggle with letting go of what we had, but eventually are able to close one chapter and start another.

Losses can be an opportunity to truly discover that you do have the fortitude and ability to create a new meaningful life.

As you move through this journey there will be tears and sadness and questions and fears and anxiety because you are stepping into the unknown. But there will be times when we recognize with gratitude the blessings that associated with it. It also is a time when you become emotionally, spiritually and psychologically stronger.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Discovering Ourselves in Our Losses

Listen to This Post

Click here for the audio version of this post.

My book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, will be released in the next few weeks. This series of blog posts and podcast episodes will focus on what it means to lose someone who was significant in your life, and the important work required to heal and recover.

Grieving is Hard Work!

Grieving was some of the hardest work I have ever done. When my husband died after forty-two years of marriage, I looked for resources to help me through the process. The books available at that time were either too clinical or singular in purpose, such as memoirs.

We have come a long way from those days when the focus was simply on getting people through the early days and months after a loss. It is now recognized that grieving includes the need to focus on how to rebuild your life.

Losses are Part of Life

Grieving a loss is hard work. It takes time to work through the emotions, layers, knots and tangles. | FocusWithMarlene.com

Throughout our lifetime we will experience losses. Most are small or minor; we negotiate the change and move on, such as typical life changes. We might feel sad about what we are giving up but are looking forward to what the future holds.

Significant losses, however, are different. They are often unexpected and involve leaving something of great importance behind. The death of a husband or child, for example, is monumental, and you struggle with the enormity of how drastic your life has been altered. There is little anticipation for happiness in the future.

Although I have lost both a husband and a child, my posts will primarily focus on the loss of a spouse. However, the information is applicable to any major loss.

Creating New Beginnings

Processing a loss is more than just recovery; it is redefining who you are in order to create a new beginning.

As I worked with grief and loss groups, individuals wanted more than just talking about their loss – they wanted information on how to move forward. I started creating worksheets for them that reflected where they were in their journey and information and exercises to take them beyond. They found these extremely helpful and it became the genesis of my book.

My book is divided into four sections:

Part I – An Unwanted Journey, addresses those early days, weeks and months when we feel the acute pain from our loss.

Part II – Letting Go: Closing the Door, focuses on letting go so we can put our loss to rest and begin focusing on taking that next step.

Part III – From One Reality to Another: Redefining Yourself, addresses the question, “Who am I now?

Part IV – A New Beginning, suggests the many ways we can start a new chapter in our life.

The two Appendixes give in-depth information on dealing with difficult grief emotions and the critical need for support systems.

Each chapter begins with a vignette which addresses the thoughts and feelings we experience, and a Reflection and Personal Application worksheet that offers clinical information and exercises.

As we work through our grief we begin to heal and recover. We will struggle with hanging on to what we had before we can let go. Eventually, we can close one chapter of life so another can begin.

Healing does not mean we forget or no longer remember; it neither diminishes nor eliminates our losses.

But it does mean we make conscious choices to move forward, so our lives are no longer dominated by grief. We not only heal but find a new song and dance for our lives as well.

If you or someone you know are currently going through a loss, I encourage you to follow my blog and podcast. When my book is released, it will have a hard copy version, an e-book version and an audio book available. I will let you know when it has been released.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

A Goal-Setting Checklist

Listen to this post

Click here to listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.

In this series, we’ve been talking about goal setting. Get caught up here:

Part 1: Why You Should Create a Formal Goal Plan

Part 2: 9 Basic Components of a Goal 

Part 3: Goal-Setting Case Study 

Once you have used goal setting you will never live without it. It simply becomes a way of life. By writing down the steps in a formalized fashion in the beginning, it soon becomes second nature.

Here are some things to remember:

Does your goal adequately reflect what you want to accomplish?

For example, you might want to become financially secure and choose an occupation that has the best potential for making lots of money. However, if your goal doesn’t reflect who you are, your personality, your talents, passions, etc., your goal will soon create high stress and great dissatisfaction. If you like working with people but choose to be an accountant who works with books, the conflict will soon deplete you.

Sometimes we have to let go of an old reality to create a new one.

Ask yourself some blunt and pointed questions.

  • Are you really satisfied with things as they are?
  • What would you rather be doing?

Ask for constructive input.

Ask good and loyal friends who are not afraid to tell you some uncomfortable truths.

If you are making a major life change, brainstorm as many options as possible.

Evaluate them carefully as to their potential outcomes.

Find people who are willing to mentor you.

Successful people within their field are usually honored to be asked for advice. Mentors are people we can trust, who will be honest, give constructive input, help clarify thinking, and perhaps reveal hidden obstacles. While we are responsible for the final choices we make, mentors can give us a heads up in the process.

Consider carefully the risks and obstacles involved in reaching your goal.

  • What additional information will you need before getting started?
  • What hidden costs, risks, time constraints, etc. will this involve?
  • Is your goal important enough to match these costs and risks? Start small.

Your goals need to be realistic and obtainable.

If you have always wanted to become an astronaut, but are now 55, you will find that goal unrealistic and difficult to obtain. Work on goals you can accomplish. Combine some of your interests and passions into workable goals. We can’t have everything. Pick the ones that are the most important to you.

When you have done your homework, construct your goal statement to reflect exactly what you want to have happen.

It is easy to get discouraged even with a well written goal plan. Plans are always harder in real life. What we say to ourselves can be a great stumbling block. Belief in ourselves and our abilities is strengthened as we work through our obstacles.

Repeat positive affirmations every day that counteract discouragement.

A Goal-Setting Checklist | FocusWithMarlene.com

  • Affirmations include such statements as:
  • I can do this
  • I am accomplishing my goal
  • I can overcome any problem or obstacle because I believe in my ability to succeed in my goals.

Include God in your plans.

When I ask for guidance and include God in all my planning, I am able to find a way to overcome obstacles and appreciate the unexpected blessings along the way.

Goals motivate and energize us.

Not all goals are elaborate or huge. We are making mini goals every day; we just don’t realize it.

When we know what is involved, can plan for obstacles, and have a workable plan of action, our efforts are turned into positive action and a positive return.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Goal-Setting Case Study

Listen to this post

Click here to listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.


In my previous post, I introduced you to the 9 basic components of a goal.  In this post, I’ll give you a case study of a goal I made and the process I went through.

My goal statement

My goal statement reflected the need to sell my home and find a new residence. I reviewed obstacles and outlined a plan of action. As I put my plan into motion, my on-going evaluation revealed a need to modify my original goal statement, which was:

I will put my home up for sale and find a new residence within my current community to live in.

The obstacles involved finding another home I could afford, upgrading one that was for sale, etc. Listing any obvious obstacles required getting enough information to formulate a workable plan of action. Besides known ones, I had to plan for those that might occur. I would ask myself, “If this happens, I will. . .”

There were no homes for sale within my community that fit my requirements: within my new financial reality, comfortable, and did not require remodeling or upgrading.

I reviewed additional options: purchase and move to a modular home to a site in my community, build a new home or move out of my area. I wanted to remain in my community. The costs and risks involved in moving a modular home were not fiscally sound for me. After careful consideration, I chose to build myself a new home.

Goal-Setting Case Study | FocusWithMarlene.com

So, here is my revised goal.

Goal Statement

While my house is on the market, I will look for a building site, a house plan and a builder. From the sale of my current home, I will purchase a lot and commence construction.

Time

Begin immediately. My time frame now had to include not only the sale of my house but finding a lot I liked, a house plan to fit that lot, and a reliable building contractor.

Obstacles

  • Finding a suitable lot within my means to build a new home
  • Finding a builder I trusted and who I could work with
  • Finding a house plan that I liked and/or could modify to fit my lot
  • Sale of my current house with enough reserve to purchase a lot and build
  • Finding reliable mentors who would help me think through all the critical steps
  • Establishing a construction loan package that would convert to a permanent loan
  • Dealing with higher levels of pain from a deteriorating hip joint

Plan of Action

  • Ask my realtor to locate available, affordable and buildable lots
  • Consult a local builder who had built other homes in my community. Did the people like the homes he built? Was he easy to work with? Did he listen and give specific answers to their questions?
  • Match costs to build with the proceeds of the sale of my home
  • Talk with trusted individuals about my plan of action. I had some previous knowledge about building as my husband and I had built two previous homes together
  • Find a construction loan that would roll-over to a permanent loan with a low fixed interest rate
  • Have my house plan drawn up; review modification particulars and sign a building contract

All plans of action get more involved as you work within them. I found a lot within my budget that I liked, sold my home, put together a loan package, signed an agreement with a builder who modified the plan I brought him to meet my specifics, and entered the hospital to have a hip replacement the day they started building my new home. After my house was completed, I moved from my old house to my new house with the help of many good friends.

Reviewing the process

Once I started, I was committed to following through, but not without some modifications and changes. By reviewing all the potential obstacles, I was able to find ways to overcome them.

I refined and modified my original goal. I affirmed my goal by visualizing my new home. I was an active participant in the whole building process, measuring my furniture to the specifications of my house plan, etc. I also knew it was a home I could live in within my means.

Along the way I celebrated with people who loved and appreciated me. Before I broke ground, I gathered with a group of my friends to celebrate this new transition. Later, my friends were invited to help celebrate my new home.

I love my home. It is right for me and my needs. But for me to have the home I have today, I had to let go of a home I loved so I could create a new reality that was right for me today. The goal planning process enabled me to do that.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

9 Basic Components of a Goal

Listen to this post

Click here to listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.

Before we start putting together a formal goal plan, let’s review a few important things:

    • Don’t focus on limitations – fear of the unknown can color our belief in ourselves.
    • Give yourself permission to make mistakes – do your homework ahead of time.
    • Don’t get discouraged if, in the process of putting your goal plan together, you discover the goal isn’t exactly right. Make corrections as needed.
    • If the goal isn’t right for you it is okay to let go of it, re-define it or re-work it. We are not only learning about goal setting but a lot about ourselves in this process.
    • Don’t abandon your goals because you believe you won’t be able to complete them. It’s okay to put some goals on hold while we meet current commitments or circumstances.
  • Start with little goals that you can accomplish within a small period of time. This will help in understanding the process and how you fit within it

Goals aren’t a life sentence.

They simply provide the means by which we can accomplish those things that are important to us. Ongoing evaluation and monitoring will help correct time frames or the need to break your goal into smaller components. Sometimes, we need time to put new habits in place; or it might be the wrong time in your life to work on this particular goal.

The basic components of a goal

9 Basic Components of a Goal | FocusWtihMarlene.com

1. Goal Statement

Goals need to be personal, have value to you personally, and say what you want to accomplish. They need to be realistic and obtainable and have the ability to measure it.

2. Time

Set a specific time when you will start and when you hope to complete your goal.

3. Obstacles

List the obstacles you face right now and ways to overcome them.

4. Plan of Action

Put down step-by-step the ways you will accomplish this.

5. Benefits

What benefit will I get as a result of this goal? Again, the benefits must be personal and satisfying and the “risk” involved worth the “payoff.”

6. Ongoing Evaluation

Evaluation allows for corrections and refining your plan of action.

7. Commitment

I commit myself to this target goal for this time period. Sign and date it.

8. Imagine It

Close your eyes and visualize yourself having reached your goal. Do it every day.

9. Affirmations

Turn your goal statements into affirmations that you repeat every day.

How to stay on course

Goals are often discarded because they are not important enough to overcome the obstacles to get there. When that happens, we may feel like a failure. Yet, we learn about ourselves when we start making goals.

Writing them down and developing a plan of action help us stay on course and help define what we want to do.

But goals are not intended to be so rigid and inflexible that we become broken by them. If our goals are right for us, we will be energized even when we are exhausted.

If, after starting your goal, you discover it isn’t what you wanted, refine or rework it until it is right for you. Again, this is an invaluable learning experience for us.

In my next post, I will take you through a case study of how I constructed a specific goal.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Why You Should Create a Formal Goal Plan

Listen to this post

Click here to listen to this episode of my podcast.

Why should I bother putting together a formal goal plan? I know in my mind what I want and how to get there. Isn’t writing it down a waste of time?

Remember when you hadn’t established daily and weekly routines and life just sort of happened?

You struggled to get up in the morning because you stayed up too late the night before; you put off doing the things you didn’t like to do and succumbed to however you felt at the moment. And most of the time, life was chaotic, unpredictable and unsatisfying.

Without a formal goal plan, our goals remain vague.

Without specific, defined goals, our lives often resemble a piece of wood floating down a river; at the mercy of the current, wind, rocks and sandy beaches. We live life so fast we lose control, or become beached, stuck, with no way to move. We set ourselves up for disaster.

A formal goal plan keeps us on track.

Why You Should Create a Formal Goal Plan | FocusWithMarlene.com

Everyone has big dreams and good intentions, but the formal plan of action is the vehicle that will help us achieve them. It keeps us motivated when we are tired or when unexpected obstacles arise.

Setting goals puts action behind dreams and desires and involve careful thought on what is important to you.

Goals focus on what you can do – instead of what you can’t.

It is saying to yourself there is more to life than simply getting up every morning, going to work, grabbing some fun time whenever you can and living the same static life day in and day out. When we set goals, we are saying to ourselves, we are worth more than that. It is saying, I have talents and abilities that I can and want to develop.

The goals we set are for us, not anyone else.

You may be motivated by a desire to take care of your family, be a better person, or live a more meaningful life. But these are still your goals.

Many people set goals that reflect the wishes of parents who wanted us to be successful by making a lot of money or to be in a particular profession. Many times, we unconsciously live in ways to meet the demands from our childhood or from others. But goals that are defined in that way seldom make us or anyone else happy.  Instead we will feel unsatisfied and discontented.

Setting personal goals energizes our life.

There are costs and benefits to everything we do. The benefit to doing whatever you feel like in the moment is you don’t have to plan. The cost is you rarely feel good for very long and you are at the mercy of people and events.

Although the cost to setting goals is time and effort, the results are satisfaction, pride in accomplishment, lower stress levels and knowing that you are in charge of your life.

Goals take time, determination, hard work, and dealing with setbacks.

Goals will require you to be flexible. Sometimes we will be required to change our goals. But when we take charge of our lives, setting goals becomes a habit that allows you to maximize the most of your time and your talents in any situation.

There is no greater energizer than saying, yes, I can, and figuring out a way to do it. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have set out to do something and have accomplished it.

In setting goals, it is important to consider all the areas of your life. Don’t just set goals for work.

Take a piece of paper and draw a large circle, like a large pie.

Then divide this circle into slices that represent the different areas of your life. We can break it down something like this:  a slice for physical needs, another for spiritual, financial, one for educational or mental, another for social, family, and relationships.

As you look at the circle of your life, and the divisions you have made, what percentage of time would you estimate you spend in each of those areas?

How does the amount of time spent in one area affect the other areas?

If you spend all your time working on one area in your life while ignoring other areas, your life will suffer.

In my post, “What Goals Are Right for Me?” you will find a goal development inventory. It will help you complete this process more effectively.

Stay tuned for my next few posts, where we’ll create a goal plan step-by-step, and I’ll show you a case study of one of my own goals.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Use It or Lose It: 10 Tools to Help You Communicate Effectively

Listen to this post

Get caught up with all the episodes in this series. Click here to listen.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

-Nelson Mandela

We live in an age when information is available 24/7. Just install the right app and push the right button and you have anything and everything you want.

But do we?

We sign up for interesting and exciting courses online thinking when we have completed them, we will be able to bake a cake, take apart a car engine or know the best ways to travel. While all of this is wonderful and exciting, there is one step missing. Application.

Throughout this year, my blog posts have offered information, tools and strategies to meet the everyday challenges of life. But that information is just that – information – until it is used. Until we personally apply the information that can help us, it will simply remain good ideas.

Use it or lose it

Application isn’t easy. Making new habits isn’t easy. I know; I struggle too. It requires more than knowledge about what will and will not work, it requires a commitment and little steps forward.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.

It’s the life in your years.”

-Abraham Lincoln

What’s in your toolbox?

Use It or Lose It: 10 Tools to Help You Communicate Effectively | FocusWithMarlene.com

When I think of tools, I think of screwdrivers, drills, saws, nuts and bolts; things that can help me build, repair or fix a problem. Each has a specific purpose. In our life toolbox, we need tools to help us communicate effectively, navigate conflicts, be less reactive and more proactive, and apply problem solving skills.

Here are 10 tools I find useful to have in my toolbox:

1. Positive self-talk.

Our internal dialogue on 24/7. When we constantly tell ourselves that we are not capable and never will be, we will have difficulty making plans and following through.

Challenge repetitive negative self-talk every day. Make it a top priority. Replace with positive statements that affirm your abilities.

2. Proactive mindset and attitude.

There are situations that will demand a quick response. Having a proactive mindset and attitude in place will help us stop and evaluate and think before acting in most other situations.

3. An expanded frame of reference.

A telescopic lens focuses on only one detail while a wide-angle lens reveals an entire picture unfolding before us. When we remain stuck on only one aspect of a problem, we block anything that might be helpful.

Expanding our frame of reference is like putting a wide-angle lens on our camera – it allows us to look at extenuating circumstances, see another’s point of view, and find ways to work together.

4. Valued relationships.

Do the people you hang out with share similar objectives, beliefs and values?

Are you a good friend who is supportive and available when needed?

Do you take time to reach out to others in need and develop friendships based on sacrifice and a willingness to invest?

5. An authentic self.

Authenticity means we accept all sides of us; both the good and bad – the perfect and not so perfect.

Can I accept myself just as I am, with my shortcomings and limitations as well as my strengths?

When we are honest with ourselves and others, we become genuine and real, and work to improve.

6. A sense of gratitude.

Research shows that just the attempt of looking for things to be grateful for changes the brain in a positive way. It may be difficult at first if you have experienced many setbacks. But blessings are there, even in the worst of times.

Share that gratitude with others. Let others know you appreciate and are grateful for them too.

7. Emotional stability.

Take your emotional temperature. High sustained levels of fear, anxiety, worry, hate and resentment will have a serious impact on your health.

Emotions give us important information and are driven by our thoughts, beliefs and interpretations of life. Use that information wisely.

Hate destroys.

Fear can become a monster.

As we extend grace and empathy to others, we accept them as fellow travelers on the road of life. We can vigorously disagree with someone but respect them and their point of view.

8. Good communication skills.

Messages are more than just words spoken to one another. Within those messages are meanings difficult to put into words.

  • Ask for and give feedback for clarification.
  • Convey your objectives clearly when speaking.

Developing good communication skills is as important as learning effective problem-solving skills and begins with listening.

Use “I” statements and take responsibility for what you bring to any discussion and how you respond in kind.

9. Conflict negotiator.

We will be confronted with conflicts all the time. Some will be minor while others are complex and far reaching.

Our first response is usually to blame, attack and defend.

  • Ask yourself, what is the outcome I desire?
  • What is my part in the conflict and how can I resolve that?

Separate behaviors from the person. Develop a positive stance to work together.

10. Defined values.

As a Christian my core values come from God’s word and Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So much of the psychology and behavioral science that I have studied embody those same values. ]

Take some time to reflect on what you believe and why. Articulate those values clearly so they become a part of your everyday living.

Enormous stress is created when we act and live in opposition to our values. Explore and develop a relationship with God. I have received love, peace, strength and wisdom over the years from God through prayer and the reading of His word.

Let me know if these are helpful. Do you have others you would like to share? Send me an e-mail.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Character Matters

Listen to this post

Get caught up with all the podcast episodes in the series. Click to listen.

Life is a question and how we live it is our answer.

-Gary Keller

What is character and why does it matter?

As we go through life, we are putting in place those qualities that identify and define who we are. It is a combination of things such as generosity, loyalty, devotion, etc., but even more important, our moral and ethical standards and principles.

  • Am I honest? Can you trust my word?
  • Do I live my beliefs and values?
  • Do others know I have integrity and will stand up for what is right, even at a personal cost?

My principles, values, morals and ethics not only define who I am but help me make sound decisions that maximize my talents in positive and constructive ways.

Character matters.

Character Matters | FocusWithMarlene.com

With character comes wisdom.

Wisdom is the insight and knowledge gained over time that helps us make good judgments and discern right and wrong.

It helps us make sensible decisions and judgments based on the accumulated knowledge of what life has taught us over time.

Developing character is taking the ancient teachings and wisdom passed down throughout the ages and applying it to the here and now.

Mistakes can be costly and have lifelong consequences.

Character and wisdom are based on the values and beliefs we hold. A belief is what we accept as truth about something, someone, and ourselves. Each of us will develop our own perception and interpretation of the world. Reality is always filtered through this perceptual belief system.

A belief is also the acceptance of some thought, supposition or idea.

It may be a religious belief or a belief about how you should act, etc. Beliefs form the foundation of our value system.

Values, then, are the personal worth we place on an object, thought, belief or idea.

They tell us what is fundamentally and essentially important to us. Values are learned and become a blueprint or guideline for all our choices and decisions. They are more than just a set of rules and regulations. Values affect our choice of occupations, marriage partners, family and social interactions, political and religious activities and future goals.

Moral values are based on right/wrong, good/evil.

They form the basis for moral responsibility and guide ethical behaviors such as telling the truth, keeping agreements and not injuring others. It is our values that caution us to make thoughtful choices and keep us from making catastrophic mistakes.

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

-William Shakespeare

Each new challenge in life will test our resolve, ability to think and analyze and choose the solutions that fit our values and beliefs in order to live a life that is rewarding and happy.

How we live makes a difference to ourselves, our families and communities.

The University of Life will hand us some tough assignments, many filled with painful lessons attached. To gain from these lessons requires a willingness to learn. When I make dumb choices and blame others for the results, I am doomed to repeating similar mistakes. If we cover up, deny, or avoid addressing these errors in judgment, we also lose. Avoidance by shifting blame, doing drugs or indulging in alcohol will only compound problems.

While we try to run away from pain, pain serves a purpose.

Our values have an enormous impact on our satisfaction and happiness. Until we adopt values that we are willing to apply on a day to day basis, we will continue to search for meaning that will fill that empty spot within us.

Here are 5 ways to maximize character development:

1. Identify your personal beliefs.

Many beliefs left over from childhood reflect those of our parents and other adults. Reflect, evaluate and decide if they are yours as well. Know why they are important and why it is important to live by them.

2. Consider carefully the outcomes before you act.

Growing up, we learn the basics of right and wrong. As adults, we need to understand the truths behind them. Just doing whatever you feel like doing or following the culture crowd of today can result in serious consequences. There is a cost and benefit to all our decisions and behaviors. It is up to us to think about them beforehand.

3. Live your principles and values.

Decide what is important and why it is important. Make your values the centerpiece in governing your life. This will aid you in choosing your friends, finding good mentors and ability to live by the standards you put in place. Take charge of your life and become responsible for what you do.

4. Use character and wisdom to help you set and achieve goals.

Character and wisdom help turn dreams into reality. They enable you to risk time and energy in their pursuit. If you set goals or do things that are contrary to your values and beliefs, you will become dissatisfied. Enormous stress is generated when our beliefs and values are not in alignment with our actions and behaviors.

5. Character development answers the question, “who am I?”

Who am I to others and to myself? It gives you the opportunity at any point in time to evaluate what you are doing and adjust your thinking and refine your beliefs and goals. Develop personal boundaries and maintain them. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.