Let's Talk

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.

Become the Director of Your Life Story

Click here to listen to this post.

Get caught up – click here to listen to the entire series on my podcast.

Important people from our childhood have a huge influence on who we become. We are part of a family and culture and we don’t want to lose that.

Sometimes, however, we are faced with tough decisions that go outside those early expectations. Sometimes we feel we cannot follow our own dream or develop the talents we were given without hurting someone.

It is never easy to become the director of your life story.

Become the Director of Your Life Story | FocusWithMarlene.comYet we need to be truthful and honest with who we are. To do that we need to know and accept ourselves, know what we want and why it is important so we can live honest and meaningful lives.

It isn’t just enough to know what we want and why, but what it will take to achieve that. Anything worthwhile takes time, careful consideration, planning, effort and persistence.

Make a list of the important people in your life as you grew up.

Add to that list all the people who are important to you right now.

  • What makes them important?
  • How do they encourage a belief in yourself?

List all the specific ways in which their influence has facilitated your growth and development. How can you thank them or let them know how much their interest and positive reinforcement has meant to you and helped you become the person you were designed to be?

Sometimes, in order to be the director of our life story, we are required to make some drastic changes in how we think and the associations we keep.

  • How do we build positive and nurturing relationships?
  • How do we maintain and respect the differences of those we love?

To make good choices we need to know what is important and valuable and how we can put that into action. It means examining our inner strengths and using it to help us clarify and attain important goals.

As you listen to today’s podcast episode, I share a story of someone who faced some difficult life circumstances, made some tough choices, and became the director of her life story. She was able to grow and become genuine and heal old wounds and rebuild important relationships.

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.

Gaining a Positive Return in the Relationships You Invest In

Listen to this post on Soundcloud

Get caught up with the Focus With Marlene Podcast

“A friend is a gift you give yourself.”

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues and spouses.

If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay out of any serious relationship all together?

And yet, we are social animals and require social interaction to survive. As we learn more about the human brain the research reveals that we are hardwired to connect with each other.

Creating secure bonds is important for our health.

  • Socially isolated people are two to three times more likely to die prematurely than those with strong social ties.
  • Divorced men before the age of 70 are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer and strokes as married men.
  • The rate of all types of cancer is about five times higher for divorced men and women.
  • Poor communication and the ability to resolve conflicts within our relationships contributes to coronary disease.

Investing

When you want your money to grow, you check out investment options. What amount needs to be invested to bring a good return over time?

As I was growing up, I was taught to save 10% of everything I earned. From the berry fields to my first job after high school, there was little left to put into savings after expenses. But it was a principle I took seriously, abided by and was always amazed at how those little deposits added up over time.

When my husband and I got married, we started out barely able to make ends meet and pay the bills. But over the years, we continued with that principle of putting away whatever we could and investing it for later years. It required discipline, self-regulation, sacrifice and commitment. But it was a diligence that more than paid off in dividends.

Investing wisely took a while to learn. Some stocks were too risky, others gave hardly any return; but over a short period of time we learned how to invest wisely and prudently, maximizing our return while minimizing the risks.

Relationships are like investments

“Many people will walk in and out of your life,

but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Just like we use a dollar amount to invest for financial growth, so investing in relationships require a commitment of time and energy. To gain a positive return on our relationships, we need to invest time, energy and dedication.

Gaining a Positive Return in the Relationships You Invest In | FocusWithMarlene.com

Early childhood relationships meant playing with anyone who was near. Over time, friendships became more complicated. The kids we hung around with gave us social identity and status and we shared a commonality in our doubts and fears. Our camaraderie made us loyal. When that loyalty was betrayed, we experienced the sting of rejection.

As we entered adulthood, we began to choose more wisely. Our circle of friends gradually extended from party times to who shared the same goals and values as we did. We began to make a different investment in our choice of friends. Over time, we realized that important and valued relationships required commitment, loyalty and sacrifice; being willing to endure those tough times as well as enjoying the good times.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, then walk alone in the light.”

-Helen Keller

The friendships where we have invested the most time, energy, love, commitment and loyalty will be those that give us the greatest return, which cannot be measured in monetary means. Some friendships last a lifetime – others go by the wayside – others we drop because those early moments of compatibility were really shallow and had no roots to grow.

What relationships have you invested in?

  1. How do you choose your friends? What are the most important criteria for you?
  2. What kind of friend are you? What qualities do you believe make for a dependable and long-term relationship?
  3. Are there friendships you continue to invest in for the wrong reasons such as status, popularity, inclusion, someone to party with, use as a bargaining chip, etc.?
  4. Are you able to be yourself in your relationships, feeling the safety to disclose and be genuine and real?

We need each other. Can you find ways to invest in the relationships that mirror your beliefs and values making them the best ever with the greatest return?

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.

That’s Not What I Meant! 12 Ways to Become a Better Communicator

Listen to this post on Soundcloud

Listen to all episodes of the Focus With Marlene Podcast

We communicate every day in some way: texting, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.

But that is not the same as talking to a person face-to-face, where we can see facial expression, have a discussion about difficult issues, and ask for clarification.

What are you saying and what is being heard?

“But you said. . . .”

“No, I didn’t. . . .”

“Yes, I heard you say. . . . .”

“Well, that’s not what I meant!”

Sound familiar?

Communication travels both ways. It is both what is said and what is received.

Because each of us has a different outlook on life, the words we use are often perceived differently by both speaker and listener. They are often colored, distorted and sometimes misleading based on our perspective. Add to the mix anything that is happening in the moment that impedes our ability to listen and discern and we are headed for trouble.

12 ways to become a better communicator

  1. Check your emotional state.

Are you feeling stressed, anxious, fearful, tired, depressed, etc.? Your feelings will affect or influence what you are saying. Your approach to solving problems will be reflected in your words, facial expression and body posture.

  1. Body Language.

All communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Does your body posture and facial expression match what you are saying?

We pay attention to body language first and words second.

  1. Think before you speak.

Know specifically what you want to convey before you start talking. What is your intention? Keep focused on what you want to get across and ask for feedback. Think, ask questions and verify.

  1. Check your perceptual filters.

We each see the world differently.

When emotions run high, we rarely stop to consider how what we are saying is affecting someone else.

Are you being honest and upfront? Do you have a hidden agenda? Be aware of the responses you are getting. What is said often triggers impulsive and offhand replies.

  1. Ask for wants and needs – don’t just hint at them.

Don’t assume others will know what you need or want. Don’t assume you will always get what you want either.

That’s Not What I Meant! | FocusWithMarlene.com

  1. Respect the rights of others.

Respect their space, their feelings, their integrity and their intelligence. Are you attentive and show an interest in the person you are speaking to? Can you reinforce that attention by eye contact, smiling, nodding and other appropriate gestures?

  1. Ask for feedback.

Don’t assume the other person heard everything and automatically understands what you are trying to say.

  1. Use reflective language – validate feelings.

People who are emotionally upset, angry or conflicted may feel they shouldn’t feel this way and become defensive. Validation says it is okay to have those feelings.

  1. Let people know you are listening.

Use “uh-huh,” “I see,” and other verbal and physical ways to let others know you are paying attention.

Really listen – don’t just pretend.

Turn off the response mechanisms for a short while and focus on what the other person is saying, both verbally and physically.

  1. Use “I” statements.

An “I” statement tells others how you feel, what you are thinking and what bothers you and what you want. It accepts responsibility for how you feel.

Example:  “I get upset when I hear words that tell me I shouldn’t be doing this or that.”

  1. Eliminate “You” statements.

“You” statements hold the other person responsible for what you are feeling. “You” statements blame, accuse, label, judge and evaluate. They are meant to intimidate and create defensiveness and are used to manipulate. For example:  “You are always telling me what to do.”

  1. Eliminate powerless talk.

If you have something to say – say it. But say it politely, specifically and firmly.

Powerless talk is tentative and hesitant. It hedges or qualifies what you say with statements such as, “I guess, or you know.”  Powerless talk adds disclaimers to their statements such as “don’t get me wrong, but…”

Take some time out this week to spend with your friends, face to face. Have a conversation. Listen and validate and share.

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.