Discernment – Knowing When to Trust

When I first meet people socially, I take them at face value. If they seem sincere and nice I believe them to be so – especially if they elude good energy. But some people are particularly adept at presenting themselves well when self-promotion is paramount; e.g., such as for sales or political situations. As a result, I like to watch and wait to see if the actions follow the words:

Do they, Do as they say?  Are they really as nice as they seem, or is there something else lurking behind the smiling exterior?

trustOnly by observing people move through a number of situations can one really tell the tale. In this way, I can allow trust to build over time rather than providing it completely all at once. I call this concept: discernment. Discernment is a decision making process by which one carefully considers or discerns whether to trust someone at all, and then how much of one’s trust to put in another person.

Think of others as falling into categories such as those you know well and those you don’t; then break the two big categories of positive energy and negative energy into further sub-divisions. The positive category would lend itself to close friends, some work-mates, loved ones – hopefully including family members although you might not trust all of your blood relatives so you might put some in a different basket, so to speak. The negative category would include strangers, criminals, and acquaintances yet to be known better and thus move to a higher level of trust based on your personal discernment scale.

Now we all know the smiling door to door salesman-type or even the phone telemarketer that’s out to get money for a cause or a product. We must be concerned for those that would take advantage for more sinister reasons – Ponzi investment schemes for example: if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is!

So how do you decide when to allow someone to move up on your discernment/trust scale? It’s important to do your homework. Unless there’s a fire, an impending event, or crash situation, take your time to scope out the situation before giving someone your total trust. In any business situation, get to know the individual personally to establish “relationship” as most people are reluctant to take advantage of their “friends”. But beware, since not everyone has a conscience. This can be a tough lesson for some to learn. Work can be a tough world through which to navigate if you think everyone is your friend; use your discernment and take it slow to avoid becoming a victim. This can be an issue for women who want to feel liked and so will often work extra or take less money thinking that the workplace is like a family. Don’t kid yourself! Some of your workmates may be nice people, but ultimately, there’s some service or product as the outcome and someone has to do the work. I’ve seen it happen too many times. Be nice, but ask for what you deserve when the time comes. But this is a whole subject in itself. For now, let’s just look at the trust part.

Even when I left a sculpture that I had made with a jewelry store who took it on consignment, I asked for paperwork. I’ve known the owner for many years and have done business with him during this time so I do trust him. Yet, it’s good business practice to have paperwork. Just because I trust him doesn’t mean I leave good business behind.

In the end, it’s between you and your inner light, “your guidance” to provide warning signs when something is amiss, then to guide you in the right direction. Capture your feelings about people and situations in your journal so that you can become more comfortable with your discernment decisions. Even try inspirational writing to see what the next steps should be.

Remember, Illegitimi non carborundum  don’t let the bastards wear you down!

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Communications – Why is it so Difficult?


First, we need to understand that communications is really about energy. We are sending out energy when we speak and when we interact with others (known as non-verbal communications). Everything about us sends out messages to others hence terms like, ”We’re not on the same wavelength” or, “I just don’t like his energy”. Have you ever felt drained when you stand next to a person? That’s because there are people that need the energy of others to survive – yes, there really are energy vampires! More on this topic in another article.

Whatever we say has power, thus we should be careful what words we use. First we think it and then it comes out of our mouths. Each word has an intent – positive, negative or neutral (I suppose there is a case for positive words used in a negative context and vice versa but let’s not get too complicated). So be careful what you think because from thoughts come our words, actions, deeds, etc. It all starts in our head.

The words we use become the content of the message we are sending out to others, but first, let’s look at the basic model of communications. In this model, there is a sender (me when I’m talking) and a receiver (you when you’re listening). Well, you see, I’ve made some assumptions already. What are they? That I’m sending in a manner that is clear, concise and in a format that you can understand.

Let’s imagine that you walk into a meeting and everyone is speaking at once. Can you understand what’s going on? The sender-receiver model works best when one person speaks at a time.

What happens if the receiver turns away or is otherwise disengaged? The message from the sender is not heard. Thus, it’s important for the receiver to be ready to “receive”.

Or, perhaps the sender is in a bad mood when they came into the office and what comes out of their mouth isn’t concise, making it difficult for the receiver to really “get” what the intention of the information is. Sometimes people talk and talk and one wonders – “what are they really talking about?”

In addition, the receiver must be able to “hear” the content of what I’m saying. Neither of us can be angry, upset, ill-prepared, not paying attention or just plain un-interested in the exchange or it won’t go well.

Thus, although the sender-receiver model of communications is basically simple, both parties must be prepared, ready, and available for the best exchange to take place. Wow, how often do we engage in communications when all the factors necessary for a positive exchange are not in place? No wonder much of the communicating we do is for naught.

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Planning Approaches – Tortoise vs. the Hare

Time is normally defined by the past (what’s already happened), the present (here and now), and the future (what’s yet to occur). There are those that prefer not to be concerned about the future and merely to live in the present. As a trained project manager, this is contrary to my belief system; since, I know from experience that a bit of planning can head off a great deal of headaches caused by ripples in the stream of time. With projects, we know that risks occur and some can be mitigated by having an optional or backup methodology in the works; whereas without planning, such mitigation is normally much like the tidal wave that hits the shores after seeing it. It’s really too late to do much about it, except get slammed, much like the movie, “The Impossible” shows.

tortoiseWe can approach life by planning or not planning; it’s our choice. Those that plan often gain advantages that those that don’t plan do not. From a project perspective, we can more often stay on course; that is, on budget, within scope, and on schedule. From a personal perspective, we are more likely to stay on course also; that is, to reach our goals.

To illustrate this point, let me refer back to a familiar children’s fable, the story of the tortoise and the hare. As the story goes, there is a great race between a very fast hare and a very slow, but steady tortoise. As the race progresses, the hare gets into trouble, hits upon challenges and thus is side tracked and is easily over-come by the slow, but very steadily progressing tortoise. The moral of the story is that if we move along bit by bit we will eventually reach our goals vs. moving quickly but making mistakes and more probably errors in judgment. Isn’t this the way of life? When we rush, we are more prone to make mistakes. I know that whenever I don’t leave enough time to go somewhere I can never find my keys. When in a rush, we don’t think very well so this isn’t a good mode to make decisions; yet, this is what we tend to do.

Let’s take our life goals. If we want to live comfortably in our old age, we need to do a bit of planning when we are young so that slowly and steadily we can reach our goals. A reasonable goal is to own our home or to not have many monthly payments so as to maximize the income that we may have in our senior years. In order to achieve these goals, we need to do several things; the first is to save money starting at an early age – say in our mid-20’s or as soon as possible. Small amounts add up over time. Even a couple thousand dollars a year over time really pays off. Owning one’s home free and clear may mean being a bit conservative and not buying the latest toy every minute – save some and spent some should be the motto.

Moderation is the name… balance is the game…

Before you know it, you will be a senior and wonder where all the years went. Do you want to be paying a large mortgage, stuck in debt or be able to live comfortably with few monthly payments? The choice is really yours. Take the tortoise approach and plan so that you can achieve these comforts – nothing extravagant. After all, if you think you are a hare and try to do it all at once, you will most likely lose the race.

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New Year’s Resolutions – Less is More

It’s really hard to believe that we’re really here in 2013. It seems so futuristic. I can remember when such a date was so far into the future and now its well, here. So now that I’ve accepted the date, I guess it’s appropriate to figure out what to do with this New Year. What resolutions are appropriate for such a special date as 2013? What comes to my mind is to consider that less is really more. OK  so this one is going to take some explanation. Well, what did you expect?

First, let’s take a look at what resolutions are meant to accomplish. We write down statements at the beginning of the year to help us resolve to do better, become a better person and thus create space to move forward in our lives. Thus, these positive statements become resolutions. I’ve even heard some people say that they don’t make resolutions so that they never have to worry about letting themselves down or failing. That’s one way to look at it. Of course, it’s the negative way. I prefer to be more positive. Remember that nothing positive starts from a negative so certainly we shouldn’t be negative about our New Year’s resolutions. With this concept in mind, let’s begin.


We must first evaluate our priorities. What is really important? If it isn’t important why would we want to worry about it in the first place? Why would we want to change it? So, what is important to you and what do you want to do about it?

Next, how do you make room for the things that you’ve listed as important? Remember the old rock in the jar trick? Put the big rocks in the jar first and then fill around the rocks with smaller pebbles and finally, fill in the empty space with sand. The big rocks are the big things in your life that you’re making room for first. The smaller pebbles are the next level items and then the sand is everything else that we might want to do with our lives. Seems pretty simple until we get going with an activity that’s just wasting time but we keep doing it any way. I’ve been guilty of researching some silly thing that I really don’t need for hours on the internet with a really hard time to break away. It can become addictive even when one knows that it’s happening. So, remember the big rocks and why they go into your jar of life first.

Back to the less is more. Fewer rocks will fit into the jar but they will be the important things in your life. Thus, in the end your will have more of what gives you pleasure in your life. Less will become more. Become aware of the time wasters like the internet surfing I described or perhaps you have your own distraction (sports on TV, or other TV programs, or perhaps more serious addictions) and do less of it.

Be sure to include your favorite people in your life. Make time to visit, socialize, talk and interact in real time rather than just texting, emailing, etc. We need to really be among and with people. Too often these days people are with technology and not interacting with their families, friends and communities. Get back to doing things with people and gain humanity. Less technology and more humanity is a really good resolution.

How can you create a New Year’s resolution for 2013 where less is more?


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Remember Your Attitude of Gratitude

It’s always important to hold an attitude of gratitude, but it’s particularly relevant around the holidays when we should stand back and count our blessings. As we approach the new year, I’d like to thank all my clients whom I’ve helped achieve their goals; and, I never forget that each and every one of them has taught me something along the way as well. And for that, I also say, “Thanks!”

What happens when Gratitude is missing?

Here’s a story of a team that I worked with wherein appreciation and gratitude were not the watch words, and what happened as a result.

While working on a particular assignment, I was asked to work beyond my normal duties as a project manager. When the PR person left the team, I was asked to take over the job of creating and getting the monthly newsletter out until the replacement was found. Although my official manager objected, I agreed to help my matrix manager in this temporary situation. It was a favor, he said, as he called me “a good writer” even though he knew quite well that this task was out of the range of my duties.

Unfortunately, the prior PR person left in a huff with no processes or procedures in place to guide me in this new activity so I reached out to those that had pieces of the puzzle and to the team to write the articles that would be part of the organizational newsletter.  It all had to be coordinated and required some late nights since I still had my standard consulting duties to perform as well. When “we” pulled it off and the newsletter went out on time, I was very happy. I said, “yeah!”  Just a little “Yeah”, not loud.  About an hour later we had a meeting and this manager, rather than acknowledge the good work or the extra effort that not only what I had done, but the team accomplished in getting the newsletter out, he said,

“There will be no end zone dances here!” I was shocked, to say the least and it was on my face.

Later, I sent a thank-you note to the team expressing my gratitude for their support to me, for without it the job would have been impossible.

Here is the result:

This manager got angry. He wrote me up for “boasting”. There was no “thanks” for the extra work and he didn’t want anyone else getting any thanks or credit either. In his view, apparently, if one chooses to do the extra work, well, that’s all it is and one shouldn’t be thanked for it.

What’s the probability that someone will do extra assignments for this manager again? Certainly not me!  I learned a lesson on that one. If someone is not appreciative they won’t get midnight oil burned from me.

Teams need to have gratitude and appreciation and they need to celebrate their successes in order to continue performing.

In all my many years as a program and project manager, I supported my teams in every way possible, and, as a result,  when the time came to push for deadlines, they always came through. Then, I gave them praise, gratitude, appreciation and whatever physical manifestations to prove it as I could from my grade level. This attitude of gratitude has served me well in my professional career. I never lost a project. The same concepts can be applied to any business environment.

So to all my clients, I do thank you for your belief in me and I look forward to serving you in the future. Happy Holidays to all!

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The Power of Intention

Nothing positive happens from a negative. This statement is one of my ten universal laws that many are not taught and few really understand. Yet, this statement and its underlying concepts are the basis for all that we actually create in our world. Any time we will something to happen we are using this natural law. Sure, it may not be one of the laws studied in a physics class, but it is very much a natural law just the same. When we say that we can’t do something, we set up a negative that’s pretty hard to overcome. Ever see someone ski down a hill who doesn’t believe that they can ski? Pretty funny, right? How about saying that you can do it?  How does that change the outcome? When you say you can’t… you are saying this to yourself. You can’t do this… It stops you in your tracks. Then say I can do it! The power of the mind is amazing. Thus, just like I said, nothing positive happens from a negative. You have to believe that you can before you can make it happen yourself. This is the power of intention. 

What are some examples of how we can use the essence of this law to create what we want in our personal lives? How can we use it to gain professional success? Let’s take a look…

Every time we think, our thoughts are the basis of our actions. Before we do something, we think of it first. So, in reverse, if you want to behave in a certain way, think that way first. When one uses affirmations to program the self for positive outcome, he/she is applying this concept. An affirmation is a statement affirming (or saying in a positive way) whatever we wish to occur.

  • To move forward on a healthy eating program to lose weight and tone up one possible affirmation is:  I am normalizing my weight. I eat healthy food and exercise my body daily. All is well in my world.
  • In order to gain control over one’s finances, an affirmation might be: I spend on those things that are both necessary and satisfying for me so that I may gain financial security. I spend some and save some to ensure a prosperous future.
  • Or, to change jobs to a new position, one might say: I welcome a new career opportunity where I can use my creative and customer relations skills for and with those that appreciate me in order to gain financial security.

Using affirmations is a very effective way to overcome bad habits and move forward with change in your life. Studies indicate that it takes about six weeks to change habits, so hang in there with repeating your affirmations even if you don’t see results right away.

Every project manager knows that a project must be visualized before it can be created. There must be a crystal clear picture in the mind, which is then translated into tasks, dates, resources, etc. in order for the whole plan to be sold to the associated stakeholders. Without this vision, not much will happen. So if you’re on a project with nothing happening, go back to the vision. Is there a clear strategic view that has been shared among the team? If not, do a reset of the intention of the project.

This concept can be applied to any business situation regardless of whether one is doing business development or some other area. Look at the intention, vision and use affirmations to first be clear on where the work activities need to go. Then stand back and manifest your ideals into reality. We create our reality one thought at a time. Have fun and feel free to share your results.

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Are You a Holistic Leader? Try a Reiki Class

First, let’s define what it means for a project manager, team lead or other type of leader to be “holistic”. In the traditional sense, holistic involves being natural. When I use the term, I mean someone who embodies the whole – mind, body and spirit of the discipline of project/program management. What are some of the qualities of a holistic leader?

Based on the definition I just provided, you should examine if you are addressing the following aspects:

  • MIND: do you develop your project/program management abilities; look for new and creative way to apply your discipline and in working with those in your charge?   Try creative strategic view, work breakdown structure or requirement sessions and watch stakeholders have fun and get the job done with ease.
  • BODY: do you drink lots of water, exercise, eat healthy foods and maintain a balance in your life to stay fully available for your team and stakeholders? Don’t underestimate the power of eating right and drinking lots of water.  Make a resolution to consume less coffee/tea/sodas and more green tea and filtered water.  Do attend to your physical needs in order to improve your personal performance at work. Work hard, play hard is the old adage. It works. Take time for yourself and your productivity will soar.
  • SPIRIT: do you think about the impact of what you say, do and act on those with whom you work; care and show empathy; towards your own inner guide to help you do the right things at the right time and for the right reasons on a daily basis?  Apply the concepts of being an Enlightened Leader to empower yourself and your teams to succeed.  With the right energy at play, anything is possible.

Before you can take charge of others or lead your project you must take care of yourself first.  Projects must be nurtured and cared for in order to be successful.  Remember that the energy you send out comes back to you multiplied.

Another option is to consider classes in Reiki to help you become more empowered to take on your mind/body/spirit abilities. Reiki is a hands-on energy technique, more known for its traditionally healing benefits, but not to be overlooked for its intuitive-awakening qualities. As a program/project manager with a successful track record, I can tell you that studying Reiki has definitely opened my right brain to being more intuitive and creative. It’s all in the way Reiki is taught and learned. Sure, you can use Reiki energy to physically treat self or others, but I particularly appreciate the way it allows me to see more clearly into the future, work with troubled customers or come up with creative problem solutions. Want to know more? Check out my website for my next Reiki I class http://www.empowerchangenow.com/Reiki.html or contact me at joanne@empowerchangenow.com.


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Intuitive Guideposts for Personal & Professional Success

A secretary in my prior office was interested in turning her rental apartment into a purchase arrangement to take advantage of home ownership. Another officemate at the time knew of this desire and began to counsel her on various points, but most importantly, knew where a condo was for sale at a reasonable price. The very next day after mentioning this location, the secretary received a flyer in the mail about the same property. This is called synchronicity: A pattern of events that points in a direction. Some people call this series of events, not a pattern, but merely “coincidence”, by chance and nothing special.

By paying attention to these events and noticing when they repeat, form patterns or fall in line one after the next like dominoes, one can begin to understand their own inner guidance. Yes, these patterns are not by chance; rather, they are part of the grander scheme of things—the bigger picture that we just don’t see at the moment. It’s like having a few pieces of the puzzle and not the entire picture. Once you have all the pieces, you understand how they all fit together. Until then, follow the way.


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Where to look for Answers?

When you’re not sure about decisions, where do you look for the answers?

As the expression goes, stuff happens! Yes, but why? Why do we have repeating events in our lives unless it’s to tell us something? Life, or the universe as I like to say, has a way of allowing us to try to find the answer ourselves and is kind enough to provide learning opportunities until we do figure it out.

If we look towards other people for the answers what will we find? Other people have their own experiences and thus their own lessons. Asking them for the answers to your issues may give you a perspective, but it’s not necessarily the right answer for you.

Your right answer can only come from one place! And, that place is inside you. Yes, it’s your own inner guidance that will always have the right answer for you. Let’s look at an example to understand this point.

Perhaps you just bought a computer and it’s giving you problems so you check out forums on the internet to try to help you. Within the writings of other’s experiences you might find an answer. This is one viable option. Another possibility is to consider the main cause of the issue and to figure it out for you. Well, you might say that you’re not a computer expert and so you need the help of others to solve these often irritating things that can go wrong on a computer. Again, let’s take my own example – my new computer wasn’t associating addresses in my mail program to my contact list; thus, when I typed the name of a person that I knew was in my contact list, their email address did not come up. I went on line and tried to find the answer only to be overwhelmed with different points of view (think in terms of many friends offering solutions to your personal situation without really knowing or totally understanding all the workings of what’s happening to you). I even consulted the software vendor who didn’t have a workable solution either. The vendor’s technician wanted to do all kinds of “hit them over the head” techniques to what I felt was probably a simple solution. My inner guidance was telling me that it must be some button that needed to be set that would link the address book and the contacts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t versed enough in the workings of the computer to find the right button.

I started to search myself and I did find a couple of buttons that did help with some other angles of the puzzle; you see, the system wasn’t indexing information either so if I did a search on “coaching” nothing would come up which is pretty silly since many of my emails and files relate to this topic. Again, my intuition was telling me the solution had to be pretty simple. During my search for the answer to the one problem, I found the answer for the other. Once I clicked the button, all kinds of indexing began on my computer. I also found a button that related the address book to my contacts but that alone didn’t work.

So then I did ask for outside help but under different circumstances. This time, before asking for outside assistance, I first empowered myself with Reiki and affirmations. Then, when I called the vendor I was connected with someone who knew exactly which button to push and voila, everything worked!

My struggle with the computer was really a challenge to trust that I could learn how to work with the computer and to not be afraid of it. Once I dug in, I was able to figure it out, ok with a little help. The biggest part of solving a problem is in believing that you can find the answer; empower yourself, quiet your mind, see the answer, hold the vision (believe you can do it) and then jump in. The answer will flow.


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Power Struggles – Pick Your Battles

We all get into power struggles now and then, but why does it happen and what can we do about it? It’s really important to pick your battles, since going to war over every little thing will really tire you out.

What is a power struggle?
When two people disagree about an idea, situation or about a problem, they can become polarized with backs against the wall. At this point, they are in a power struggle. Let’s break this scenario down. Let’s say there is a project with different ways to address a risk that has popped up. Person A wants to go one way and Person B thinks another route is better. If they merely discuss options there is the potential for compromise. If neither party wishes nor wants to compromise; but rather, insists upon, “my way or else”, then they are in a locked out battle for power.

Why do power struggles occur?
Going back to the example of the project environment, both parties could attempt to find common ground and chip away at their differences. If they refuse to do so, then there is usually more to the situation than just what is on the table. In my experience, if neither party wants to budge from their positions, knowing full well that their behavior will have implications for their team to continue work on the project, this usually means hidden agendas are at play. An example might be that Person A really doesn’t like Person B and just doesn’t want him/her to have any advantage at work.

How does this play out?
I know a woman who is also a life coach. I don’t have any issues with her; however, I can tell by her behavior when we interact at networking and other situations that she has some kind of issue with me.  I went into aerobics class the other day and took a spot that was open next to her and she immediately moved back one row. In the meanwhile, she displaced another woman who promptly moved forward into the same space where this other person had been. This reaction seemed rather odd to me. Thus, wanting to check on things I asked her at the end of class, “How are you doing?” to which she gave me a very cool, “Alright, I guess” looking away. It was clear to me that she had an issue. It’s not really worth my time to pursue it further since I can guess. I’m more proficient at the aerobics class moves, and I believe she feels inadequate. Rather than just accepting that she hasn’t been doing the moves as long as I have since she’s relatively new to the class, she’d rather take issue with me. Considering her background, I find her behavior rather immature. But then again, we all have life lessons and have to move forward in our own way and in our own time.

When is it okay to have a power struggle?
When you know that you have an agenda that you are willing to fight for. Recently, I started taking zumba classes at the health club and found the music to be at a ridiculously high level. How loud is too loud? When the speakers are reverberating and even wearing ear plugs still makes it painful to remain in the room, the music is too loud. Not only OSHA has sound level restrictions, but there are organizations that set limits for music levels in exercise classes. I can’t believe this club is following the regulations since I’ve repeatedly asked them to monitor the sound level in these classes to no avail. In this situation, I’m purposely getting into a struggle of sorts in order to be able to enjoy something that I really like – zumba – in a comfortable
environment. I’m willing to compromise – I bought earplugs so that I could tolerate the music louder than what’s normally comfortable for me – but the club isn’t monitoring the music to a reasonable level. Thus, I have a choice to battle further or just quit. After sending letters to management and talking to the staff repeatedly, I’ve decided to quit. It isn’t worth my time to try to take the matter up with the appropriate authorities. In this case, I’m choosing to “pick my battles”.

How much negotiation is enough?
In the end, one must decide how much negotiation is reasonable; how much they are willing to compromise in order to achieve the desired result; which battles are worth fighting; and, when to be assertive vs. aggressive. Of course, it’s never worth losing sleep or having a heart attack over these things.

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