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Challenge Your Lifestyle

We live in a world of high power marketing. Technical advances have been rapid and we struggle to keep up with the changes. We are told, covertly or otherwise, that we cannot live without the latest gadget – in fact if we aren’t using all these modern “conveniences”, we are living in the dark ages.

Many technology advances have made life easier by expanding our options with instant access to information and connections. But is it prudent to keep purchasing the latest most advanced gadget that does everything except bake a cake when we are struggling to make ends meet or trying to economize? 

When we are in financial uncertainty, we need to downsize our wants while addressing our needs. Become a smart consumer. Shop carefully for what you need. Let the fun stuff go until you can afford it.

If you are concerned about the future, potential job loss, or rising costs with little savings set aside, you need to not only become more innovative in terms of survival skills, but you need to take charge of your spending habits.

Consider the following

1.   Marketing ads make us believe we can’t live without their product. “You will be happy when you have this new car, this new phone, this huge house, etc.”

But science confirms what biblical wisdom and principles have taught us for centuries; “things” don’t make us happy. We quickly habituate to them and need something new to get the same emotional spike.

2.   Don’t shop without a purpose. If you can’t resist that latest technical toy or that dress on sale, stay away from the malls. How many times have you purchased things on the spur of the moment that end up cluttering your closets and garages? Sometimes we even rent storage units to store all the “stuff” we might need someday. 

Take advantage of sales, but purchase for the right reasons. Remember things in and of themselves do not make us happy.

3.   Cut up or lock up your credit cards. I know – they are the greatest invention on God’s green earth. But when spending becomes so easy we no longer stop to think about paying the bill, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.

Unless you can use ruthless self discipline to regulate your spending, get rid of the temptation.

4.   Learn to say “No” to your kids. They do not need all the latest “everything” to grow up. You will hear lots of moaning and tantrums about how their lives will be ruined forever, but you are teaching them how to live life.

We teach our children by our own personal example and choices and by setting rules and limits. Part of raising children is teaching them how to make good decisions and knowing the consequences of their decisions.

It may be painful to analyze your spending habits but you are building and developing your personal company – You.

While it is tough to admit there are many things I want but don’t really need, it is an important necessary step in building your “company”. If you are married work together to develop some common goals for your partnership.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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Develop a Personal Business Plan

When fear becomes a silent but deadly partner in our lives, it begins to erode our capabilities as well as our energy.

Whether employed or out of work, in a relationship or on your own, it is important to put together a business plan for your company – YOU!

This does not mean you do not care about others. On the contrary, when you begin to take charge of your life you will have more to give. Giving and sharing is an important part of personal development.

Become pro-active

We do not have control over all things and our choices at times might be limited, but we are choosing all the time. Not to make a choice is making a choice.

In my last blog I spoke to ways you can become the best employee you can by maximizing your skills. If your job is an interim one, remind yourself that you are preparing yourself for a better one.

When you are developing a business plan for “You”, anything that improves who you are is important. This benefits others as well. Be the best you you can be. You are doing it to develop you – not to impress anyone.

All companies need good management

 How do you manage your time? Become a ruthless taskmaster.  Develop a schedule that not only gets things done, but gives you free time as well. Keep a schedule that reduces chaos and unpredictability.

Talk to your family and work together. Everyone, even the youngest, has a part in doing family chores. You are teaching your children how to become CEO’s of their own lives. Reward them with praise, cheers, special time together, etc. Celebrate the lives of you and your family.

Challenge your thinking about potential disasters. If you are always focusing on disaster, you will end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Worry doesn’t accomplish anything unless it motivates us to do something.

What things can you do right now to prepare for a potential disaster? Create some possible plans of actions; then think of other back up plans. Then focus on the present.

We don’t know what is going to happen in the future, so worrying about it is not using your resources to its best possible advantage.

When you begin to doubt yourself, it is time to reflect on past successes. List your achievements even if you think they are unimportant. They are.

What planning and calculated risk taking was involved? How did you feel when you were working on these goals? What made them successful?

Often it is the journey that is the success. Sometimes past goals didn’t work out the way we wanted because of obstacles we couldn’t foresee, we didn’t have enough information or the goal wasn’t right for us.

Start making long term and short term goals. They do not need to be cast in stone.

We need the motivating challenge of goals. Work on some small goal each day that moves you forward. Our personal development goals need to reflect who we are, our wants and needs, not someone else’s.

Get to know you. What energizes you? What amount of time are you spending in that space? Harness that energy towards some new long term goals.

Next week, we’ll explore other ways we can prepare for potential downturns in our life.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Make Fear Work for You

In my August 20th blog, “Who’s in Control”, I said that when we are empowered we are able to become flexible, let go of things that aren’t working, reframe our situations and refocus on new choices. We don’t beat ourselves up and we can ask for and accept help from God and others.

One of the “What if” fears that is at the forefront of many people’s minds today is that of losing their job. It is a reasonable fear. But if we allow that fear to dominate our thinking, we won’t be able to act in ways that might prepare us for such an eventuality.

Remember fear can warn us of immediate or potential danger. Both are aimed at action. When we don’t act, then fear becomes a stumbling block not an asset. Becoming pro-active is using fear to our advantage.

Richard Machowicz, a former Navy Seal, writing about fear in his book, “Unleash the Warrior Within”, says, “Unless fear is acknowledged as the problem it is, it will always lead you back to the same place, and there you’ll be, not understanding why the targets you’ve set up remain so hard to knock down.”

So let’s ask ourselves some questions about this fear:

Is there enough evidence to show that I should be concerned about the possibility of my job being terminated or the company downsized? If you think your company may close its doors then begin immediately to evaluate, assess and define your strengths and skills. Be able to articulate these to both yourself and others.

If the company is still solvent, but may downsize in the future ask yourself, am I a viable commodity to them? A company is in business to make money, provide a service or produce a product. So they will do what is necessary to survive, just as you do.

This is not the time to think about how well they treat you or should treat you. There are many companies who have little regard for their employees. If yours is such a company, you may want to consider changing jobs at some point.

But for right now, if you need this job, you want to enhance your position by being the best asset you can. Remember whatever you do, it isn’t just for them – it is becoming the best “you”. You will be able to take any skills you develop with you when you leave.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you bring to this or any company that you can market? Are you a problem solver? Are you able to see a vision of possibility and creative ways to get there? Are you a team player? Are you able to articulate your ideas? Many companies today are looking for people who can bring skills of creativity, ingenuity and flexibility with them into their jobs.

Just as companies market their products, you are marketing “you” – you are a product worth having.

Make yourself invaluable. Anytime you improve your skills and maximize your abilities you are developing a product – YOU! Stop comparing or competing and start improving who you are – for you!

Challenge yourself. How can I make my situation better? What part of my job can I improve upon even if I don’t like it? What new frame of reference can I put around it so that I can develop more of my potential? Doing a good job is an important value that is marketable. 

My next blog will touch on more ways to be pro-active in this uncertain time.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


Don’t hang onto fear – replace with action.

Do you recognize your fear

You are home alone and are prepared to get a good night’s sleep. Just as you shut off the lights and are drifting off to sleep you hear a crash. In an instant, you bolt upright, wide awake. Your heart is pounding as you strain to hear any other sounds.

All is quiet. Questions flood your mind: Did I lock the doors? Did someone break in? Should I get up and check? Should I call 911? Did I imagine this? Was it the wind?

You decide to get up and check the house. As you grab your cell phone and cautiously make your way out of the bedroom, your hands are clammy and shaking. You feel chilled and your stomach is doing flip-flops. As you flick on the lights and move cautiously into the living room you yell out “Who’s there?” in hopes of scaring off any intruders. 

Entering the living room, you notice the lamp has been knocked over. But before you can punch in 911 on your cell phone, you hear a “Meow” and see two repentant cats looking at you. Your two pets had been playing a game of nighttime tag in the living room. 

As you put the cats outside, and check to see that nothing else has been disturbed and all the doors and windows are locked, you go back to bed and soon drift off to sleep.

Fear! In an instant you go from very relaxed to active survival mode. The body is flooded with hormones and chemicals that enable you to meet the danger. Every nerve in your body is on edge in a heightened sense of awareness.

Fear! It helps us survive by alerting us to danger. It prepares us to act. Fear can be a powerful motivator to put in place precautions and make preparations. Without fear we would not learn to be careful or prepare for the worst. We would not survive.

But when we remain in fear states for long periods of time, our bodies begin to wear down and become more susceptible to disease and health problems.

It is more and more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, we remain in a heightened state of alert, and are unable to relax and enjoy moments of pleasure and joy. We may notice that we are experiencing stomach upsets and intestinal problems and heart palpitations. And you find yourself reaching more and more for pain pills, antacids, and anti-depressants.

When we are living in fear our minds go over and over all the concerns related to our jobs, our marriages, our children, our finances, etc. Our energy is expended in worry and anxiety and we remain focused on our fears instead of looking for solutions.

So while fear can save our lives, if we continue to live in fear, it begins to do the opposite. When we allow ourselves to remain in a fearful mode, we no longer feel empowered or in control of our live.

But while there are many things we cannot change or have control over, we always have the ability to choose how we will respond to what is happening. With that we are empowered. With that we know we can reach out for assistance. With that we know we can put our hand in God’s and trust.

We can choose to remain in fear or we can choose to use fear to propel us toward different answers, different approaches, and creative solutions.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Fear – the greatest stressor of all

Perhaps the greatest stressor in a lot of lives right now is fear.

When we are fearful, we can usually find attached to those fears the following thoughts that begin with what if. . . . .



What if . . . . .

• I lose my job because the company downsizes again

• My unemployment runs out

• My rent goes up

• My utilities go up

• The gas prices keep rising and I can’t get to work

• I have to go into foreclosure

• I can’t send my kids to college

• My car breaks down and I don’t have the money to fix it

• They reject my job application – again

• I can’t get this part time job because I have too many college credits

• I lose everything and I end up on the streets

• I get sick and I don’t have health insurance

• I can’t get that raise

• My parents get sick and I will need to take care of them

I’m sure you could extend this list to fill a notebook. So go ahead, list all your fears. Spend some time listing all the fears that constantly keep you uptight. Read them out loud.

As you read your list, are you aware of the emotional and body response that these thoughts are creating? Have you avoided focusing on any of these fears because you think by ignoring, denying or keeping them out of your awareness, they will go away? 

We don’t want to identify our fears, because then we feel out of control. We also don’t want to let go of our fears because if we let go, what will we have to replace them?

If I admit that my fear borders on terror at times, wouldn’t I be telling myself  that there is nothing I can do nothing about my situation. Therefore I am done for. 

When we feel there is nothing we can do about our situations, we end up discouraged, hopeless and utterly depressed.  So we pretend we are not afraid so maybe we can somehow survive our fears.

Fear has a purpose.  When we discover and use that purpose we can resolve problems.  When we don’t confront our fears, they immbolize us. 

Between now and my next blog, identify as many fears as you can.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Developing Partnerships that Work

Starting a New Series!

Starting next week I will be starting a new series of blogs that represent  a new workshop a friend and I are developing for working women, entitled Developing Partnerships. 

As we look at the partnerships we have developed throughout our lifetime and how they impact who we are today, what we do and how we think and react to life, we hope the information will be helpful for anyone who is struggling with life’s challenges today. 

So be sure to catch Monday’s blog which will touch on a subject that is constantly becoming more prevalent in our lives as working women who are trying to keep and maintain their homes while caring for and raising children.  That subject is FEAR!

The fears in our life are real and at times can seem as though we will be flooded by them.  So follow as together we learn ways to combat the fears that only keep us stuck.  

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


Who’s In Control

It isn’t events that cause us distress – it is how we respond to them. It is the meaning we attach to life.  It’s what we think about and the core beliefs that define who we are in relation to our world. Its what we say to ourselves about our worth and our abilities. 

Stress levels are affected by our personality traits as well as life experiences that shape and mold our responses to life. We make assumptions and interpret the present based on our past. But we can learn new ways to respond.  

Who’s in Control?

When you believe you have power and influence over your life, you will be empowered to problem solve, look for options and make better choices. You will become pro-active. 

If you are trying to control every aspect of your life, you will have difficulty relaxing and letting go. Holding a superhuman image of yourself will only keep you on a treadmill of striving and repeating the same things over and over again even when they don’t work.

When we are empowered, we can be flexible, let go of things that aren’t working, reframe our situations and refocus on those things we can do. We don’t beat ourselves up for perceived failures. We can ask for and accept help from God and others.  

When we are pro-active, we don’t have to prove ourself to ourself or anyone else.  We accept ourselves just as we are – with all our faults, failures, insecurities, fears, anxieties and inabilities. 

We can identify and celebrate our strengths, successes and achievements.  We humbly acknowlege our accomplishments and work on improving ourselves and our world. We realize we are not the center of the universe, all-knowing or perfect.

We acknowledge the gifts God has given us and thank Him for them.  We acknowledge that we need God and Jesus Christ both for salvation and for the strength to develop character and live our values and principles.  

If you do not feel you have any control over your life, you will become re-active to everything that happens.  This usually leads to  resentment, blaming, passive aggressive behaviors, anger, worry, and a victim mentality. 

Perhaps you feel everything just happens to you and you are powerless to make a difference. Other people, your childhood, your boss, the economy, the stock market, the banks, the whatever all leave you with no options or choices. There is nothing you can do to change or influence what is happening to you.

If we continue in this realm of thinking, we not only will think we are victims, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and we become victims. But we have become victims to our own way of thinking.

There is a healthy balance between the two: internal locus of control and external locus of control. It is important to understand that you have the ability to choose how you respond to whatever happens to you.

You do not have control over all things.  Your choices may be limited. But too often we limit ourselves and we inadvertingly choose to become a victim. When we do, we choose not to choose!

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

Behaviors that Create Stress

Have you ever taken a different route to work?  Have you tried something new you have never done before?  Have you turned off the TV or computer and simply read a book?  Have you tried given up your favorite latte and muffin for a week? 

Habits are comfortable and resistant to change.  We keep them in place because we get a payoff of some kind.  We don’t have to think, we aren’t challenged by learning something new, we can zone out and we get an immediate emotional relief and instant pleasure or gratification. 

We seldom think about the cost in keeping some habits in place. The pleasure of the moment keeps us from thinking about long term consequences: the cigarette we smoke, that glass of wine that becomes two or three, the pounds we put on become increasingly difficult to take off, the hours spent on internet social media that shrinks time spent together. We get comfortable and stuck.

Cost-Benefit of Current Habits 

Habits are resistant to change.  Which ones are okay to keep and which ones need to be replaced?  What is the immediate payoff?  What are the long term consequences?

Take a sheet of paper and write down some of your lifestyle habits that you might want to change or replace. Mark beside each one the cost and benefit. What is the cost and benefit of eating on the run, having that routine latte and doughnut, staying up late to play video games or interact every moment on Facebook, etc.  

Evaluate each habit in terms of short term and long term benefits and consequences. How are my old habits keeping me from reaching my lifetime goals? What new habits can I put in place? 

For example, I want to be healthier, have more energy and less stress.  The habits currently in place do not provide dependable routines, structure, regular meals, new ways to rest and relax. 

Replacing Habits

Once you know the payoffs and consequences, make a note of the environmental cues that trigger certain behaviors. Remove tempations from your environment or remove yourself from the environment.  Don’t purchase those sugar laden muffins.  Go for a walk instead of going to the malls to shop. Try something new. Replace a usual behavior with something totally opposite. 

Will power alone doesn’t work.  Habits need to be replaced.  New habits require a new mindset, a new way to think about our lives and what we want, and replacing with more positive habits.  

To put a new habit in place define exactly what you want to do, repeat your goal daily, post visual reminders, find ways to reward yourself for your efforts.    

Any new habits or new self-regulating choices will be uncomfortable at first.  Putting in place a new healthy habit will require some concentrated effort.  But the payoff is usually huge.  

Slow Down, observe, evaluate

The world seems to be moving faster and faster and at times I feel  like the hampsters that get in their exercise wheels and run and run in place but never go anywhere.

To evaluate habits and behaviors that may keep us running in place without ever getting anywhere, we need to STOP, observe and evaluate.  

Go back over your list of lifestyle habits.  Which ones do you want to replace? What is involved in replacing this habit? Maybe it is challenging old beliefs and ways of thinking that keep you from believing in yourself and your capabilities. Maybe it is time management. Maybe it is removal of temptation from  environments that lead to impulsive behavior and rationalization (I will only do it this once time, or I deserve it). It may be the need to take charge, learn to say No, and learn more constructive outdated beliefs that keep you from saying No and taking charge of your life. 

Begin with one habit

Choose one habit you want to replace and make a goal plan. Your goal statement should say specifically what you want to accomplish. List the obstacles that might keep you from achieving your goal.  Then put together a plan of action that will work for you, that fits with your personality, your strengths and weaknesses.   

You are in charge of your life. You can change habits that have destructive long term consequences. You can replace them with ones that will reduce your stress levels while you achieve your long term goals.