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Shari Goldsmith

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Our life coach columnist explains how even just a few minutes of daily negativity - even in the media we consume - can affect our mood, performance and well-being.

The only time I watch the news on T.V. is when I am at the gym. However, the last time I was there, I noticed something interesting.  Although, exercising usually is a stress reducer and energizes me, I was feeling stressed, anxious and down by the time that I was finished and ready to leave the gym. What was going on? I thought back to the last hour and remembered the discussions around me coupled with the constant stream of incredibly bad news on the T.V. And then I checked into what I was thinking about and I understood the problem. I was swirling with all the negativity that I had just witnessed on the T.V.

There’s a lot of negative news out there to consume lately. If you’re keeping up on just the daily political news, you can become quite overwhelmed, stressed and frankly, a bit depressed. There’s just so much and the rate at which it is changing, is dizzying.  So the question is, is this negative news affecting you in your personal and professional life? Well, the truth may surprise you.

In 2012, a preliminary study with Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania found that just a few minutes of negative news daily has a significant effect on your mood. An additional study examined the longer-term impact of negative news on your well-being and performance. The results stunned the research team when they found that individuals that watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning were profoundly impacted. This group had a 27% greater chance of reporting 6-8 hours later that they had been unhappy during their day. Did you hear that? Over 25% of the group was severely affected by the negative news.

So what does it matter if employees are unhappy at work? Does that really affect the bottom line? Theresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of the Progress Principle, collected 12,000 entries, from 238 employees, where their daily emotions were tracked. Surprisingly, 1/3 of the entries revealed employees that were unhappy, unmotivated or both.  Research shows that how you are feeling has a huge impact on your creativity, productivity, commitment and social interaction in the workplace.

I had already figured this out. Days when I’m not feeling my energized confident self, I have difficulty focusing, being productive and creative.

I know it’s impossible to be happy all the time. Things happen that derail you from your usual productive self, no matter how hard you try and how much resilience you possess. Couple this with our 24 access to news information daily, and you can better understand the problem. However, having awareness of how negative news can impact your emotions and moods and in turn, your work performance, can help you make better decisions about your “negative news consumption”.

In today’s fast paced, over stimulated world, it’s definitely something to think about.


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Our life coach columnist talks stress and the biggest thing you can do to manage it (and your long to-do list).

Yesterday, I was busy giving a full day presentation on resilience to a group of IT workers. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I was exhausted by the time that I got home. I sat behind my desk and tried my best to focus and accomplish some work. However, no matter how hard I tried, my work output was nonexistent. Have you ever been so drained that you can’t even push yourself? Finally, I made a decision to just stop for today, get a good night’s sleep and start fresh in the morning.

After working out, I sat down at my desk to make out my to-do list. I had thought about some of the things that I wanted to accomplish for the last couple hours, and the list just kept getting longer and longer. As I filled out my list, I began to feel that anxious feeling when there are just too many things to do at once.

I was feeling stressed and I didn’t know where to start.

Now, here’s the thing about making out a to-do list. I did exactly what I tell everyone NOT to do. I made a list of everything that has to be accomplished in my personal AND professional life. I made a list of everything, and I mean everything, that is weighing on my mind and that I have been neglecting.

It was overwhelming because it was a crazy long list, and it was virtually impossible to accomplish everything in one day.

In other words, I was setting myself up for failure. There was no way that I could make a dent in that list. And even if I accomplished some of the many items on the list, way too many would still be left unchecked.

The problem was what was going on inside my head. I was evaluating my success based on my ability to accomplish my COMPLETE list. My expectations were unrealistic, to say the least. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was making one long list instead breaking down the list into separate days with each task prioritized. That would have eliminated the “overwhelmed feelings” that I was experiencing.

The truth about stress is that it’s all about perspective. It’s not about avoiding or reducing the things that cause you stress in your life. Often, that’s just impossible! It’s more about changing your perspective and expectations as you go through your day. If I could have practiced what I preach and changed the chatter that was going on inside my head, I could have eliminated some stress I was feeling in the last couple days.

Having the tools to be resilient is the first step. Actually utilizing those tools is the second and most important step. We all fall back into familiar negative patterns now and then. It’s what you do about it that really matters.

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Life’s biggest dilemmas often have small and simple solutions. Our life coach columnist explains how to find them.


Our disagreement is always about the temperature in the house. I’m always cold and he’s always warm. Now, the rule in the house is that once it’s become warm out and there is an urgent need to turn on the air, the heat is officially turned off for the season. That means if the air-conditioning is turned on on April 15 because it’s 80 degrees out, you are not to turn the heat on the next week when it plummets to 45.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t make this rule.

I try to weather (no pun intended) this as best as I can, but sometimes it’s just ridiculous.  Last night was one of those nights. I came home and noticed that the house was quite cool. I complained and complained about it and of course, nothing happened.  This morning, I woke up and immediately felt that the room was freezing. All the animals were smashed up against me trying to stay alive in the frigid temps. I went downstairs to eat breakfast, feeling the same frustration welling up inside of me, muttering to myself how tired I am of this whole situation.

I considered waking him up to have the same familiar fight and then it dawned on me.  Why was I so miserable when there was an obvious solution? Why did I continue to complain when there was another, better, alternative?  I walked over to the thermostat and turned the heat back on in the house.  

It was that easy.

Have you ever noticed that some of the stuff that drives us crazy doesn’t really have to drive us crazy? There are obvious solutions to our problems, but we are so intent on our negative swirling that we forget we don’t have to be quite so unhappy. We play out the same pattern over and over and we lose sight of reality: the situation is really not that hard to resolve. We really have more control to change our lives than we think.

I know you are thinking that I was pretty silly to not see the obvious— that all I had to do was walk over to the thermostat and change the setting to heat. However, It never occurred to me. I will bet that something like this is playing out right now in your own personal or professional life.  Maybe it involves a co-worker that is driving you crazy, a boss that makes you lose your patience or a friend who has overstayed their welcome. Whatever the situation, it’s possible that you have become so emotionally involved in “the fight” that you can no longer see the “forest through the trees.”  There’s a chance that the pattern is set, and you might find some strange comfort with the negative interaction. You continue to stay where you are because you no longer can see the choices you have to make your life better.

So take a step back and try to get a birds-eye view of the situation. There’s a good chance that you can break out of the pattern and find a positive solution.

And in case you were wondering about my dilemma, he has yet to say anything to me.

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We’re hard-wired to quickly pass judgement to assess situations, but our life coach columnist explains how it can also hinder your happiness and success.

Recently, I was talking with a friend that had just lost her mother. She was telling me a little about her when I asked her if she had any other siblings in the area.

She told me that she had two siblings that lived in town and two that lived out of town. I did the computation in my head and realized that by today’s standards, she came from a large family.

Are you Catholic, I asked? You have a large family and there are so many of that faith that live in that subdivision.

She laughed and said no. She mentioned that she hears that a lot.

Can we all agree that I just made a JUDGMENT?

I realized it as soon as it came out of my mouth. Without being aware of what I was doing, I put all the available data together and made my assessment. My assessment was incorrect and was based on inconclusive evidence. However, my need to categorize and make sense of the situation was so strong that it drove my behavior.

Why do we do this? Our ancestors were instinctively hard wired for survival. Their ability to assess their environment and search for dangers and risks helped them stay alive. They had to make quick judgments about their environment for adaptation and survival purposes.

However, in today’s world, this skill can cause all kinds of trouble for you. Your need to categorize situations and people encourages judgment calls that can be way off base. When your brain doesn’t have all the necessary information, it automatically fills in the gaps. You have an innate need to quickly make sense of your surroundings.

That’s when your assessment turns out to be incorrect.

The reason I bring this point up is because I believe that making judgments can stand in your way of being happy, productive and successful in your life. You are asked to make judgments in your job, in your everyday life and at home. When you make decisions about people and situations based on your first thought and response, you can be missing out on some great people and outstanding experiences.

You can’t stop your brain from performing this task every time you encounter a situation. What you CAN do is recognize that first thought and assessment and decide whether you want to agree with it or not. Do you need more information? Is there more to this situation than it may seem at first glance?

You can push yourself to be mindful and think it through better before you open your mouth and take action. Now think about how this action can change your life. Maybe you will give that person you are interviewing a second look and not eliminate them based on their dress. Maybe they will turn out to be your absolute best employee ever. What about that guy you see at work that always talks to you? Why not give him a second chance? He doesn’t look or dress like you, but he’s really friendly. The list goes on and on.

So what I’m asking you to do is have the conversation in your head. You will ALWAYS have that first thought, but try to replace it with some good questions and try to call yourself out on your quick judgments.

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As politics stir up a mixed bag of emotions, our life coach columnist explains the three things you should do every day to improve relationships and communication, despite differences.

Empathy- the ability to emotionally understand what another person is feeling.

The last week has been tough. Wherever you look, people’s emotions are on edge due to the recent election. People have taken sides and each group is having difficulty understanding the motives and reactions of the other group. Some people are elated, while others are feeling a multitude of things: disappointment, fear, anger and grief.

Being trained in Mental Health, I spend every waking hour observing others. It’s just something that I do instinctively. I don’t necessarily engage in feelings— I just observe from afar and try to understand why and how people are responding.

Friday, I met with a connection that told me she had spent time guiding a company on how to handle a physical fight between two workers on opposite sides of the political argument. Yes, people are on edge everywhere you look and that emotion inevitably seeps into our workplace.

There is a lack of empathy in much of our communication. I observe individuals demonstrating their own personal values, beliefs and attitudes about life. The problem is that they also expect others to adhere to those same values, beliefs and world views. Following last week, there appears to be a lack of understanding— We have trouble making room for human differences and the inability to see that individuals don’t necessarily fit into neatly defined categories.

What I do see is a strong compelling need to demonstrate WHY I am right and I have the right way of thinking.

Nowhere is this more evident than on Social Media. Here, you see a total lack of empathy and a complete lack of the ability to imagine how others feel. You see individuals pushing their belief system on others while refusing to listen. You witness people expecting others to see things their way, and if they don’t, they are attacked. You observe people feeling the need to rationalize their beliefs and expecting others to support them— or else. Polarized thinking is rampant and stirs up anger, hate and decisiveness.

You see a whole lot of JUDGEMENT but very little empathy.

As humans, we are a complicated species. Each one of us has a worldview made up of values, attitudes and beliefs based on our many life experiences. You won’t understand me unless you actively listen, without judgment, to where I am coming from and what I feel. I won’t understand you unless I actively listen, without judgment, to where you are coming from and what you feel.

Until this happens, we won’t have successful communication and understanding.

So how do you ensure that EMPATHY is part of your leadership toolkit? You become more Empathetic by practicing these skills daily:

1. Use your energy to actively listen to others and understand how they are feeling.
2. Refrain from minimizing others’ feelings and rationalizing about your own feelings.
3. Hold yourself back from making judgments about others that think differently than you. Just meet them where they are.

Remember during this time that empathy is the ability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Truly live up to this standard.

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While this election season has been downright ugly, our life coach columnist has an uplifting message you’ll enjoy no matter what your ballot says next week.

On my way home from grocery shopping, I received a desperate text that we were in dire need of kitty litter. I pulled into the pet store and finally located the overpriced brand that my cats seem to prefer. When I grabbed the huge 30 lb. bag, I noticed that the price was at least $7 more than I usually pay. I took it up to the counter and kindly asked if they could match the price. The sales clerk smiled and said they would call another store and check the current price.
This whole fiasco took at least 15 minutes. She helped other customers and continued to wait on hold with the other store. I figured that she was losing her patience. However, she showed no sign of anger about the situation and eventually sold it to me for $7 less, with a smile on her face.
I thought to myself— she didn’t have to do that.
I lugged the huge 30 lb. bag out to my car. I was struggling to hold on and open the door when a man came out of nowhere. He grabbed the bag from me and asked me where I wanted it. Somehow he showed up exactly when I needed a helping hand.
I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.
When I got home, I went outside to rake some of the leaves blanketing my front yard. Believe me, it was so overwhelming. My neighbor was out there, too. I worked for a while, raking together a huge pile that was going to take me forever to bag up. I went in to eat lunch and heard the doorbell ring. Standing there was the little boy next door with a smile on his face. He wanted to help me rake the leaves. We had fun working together and he made the time go so much faster.
I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.
All of us can agree that this election season has been downright ugly. Everywhere you go, that ugliness hangs in the air. I see it on Social Media, in stores, work and home. People are angry, desperate and some are feeling out of control. That anger and heaviness follows us throughout the day. It’s a burden that we carry into every conversation and every relationship— even at work. We might not bring up the topic but the ugliness and heaviness is still there.
It becomes “Us vs. Them.” How could she feel that way? How could he be so WRONG? How could people be so cruel and out of touch? And then we start generalizing and placing people into neat little categories. The thinking is black and white and you are either good or bad.
But here’s the truth about people. Those good Samaritans that helped me today don’t necessarily agree with me on politics. Yet, they were kind, helpful and went out of their way to support me. They went above and beyond and expected nothing in return.
People are complicated. Other’s views and perspectives can be difficult to understand especially from OUR PERSPECTIVE. 
So don’t lose faith during this time. Take a deep breath and try to give other people space for their own beliefs. We have much more in common than we realize.
Most people are good.

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Listen up! Our life coach columnist pinpoints where many leaders fail in their quest to be successful, and offers a simple tip to avoid the pitfall.

I was discussing an upcoming training with a client the other day when she informed me that one of the key employees wouldn’t be able to make it. If we didn’t present the training on our previously planned date, it would have to be postponed for some time. I immediately responded that we should postpone the training for a couple months until everyone can be present.

My client responded by disagreeing with me and insisting that we go ahead with the training. My first thought was that she just didn’t understand the whole situation. Surely, she could see how her thinking was wrong. However, as I continued to truly listen to her reasoning, I began to change my perspective. I actually began to see why her thinking made sense. She did understand what we were trying to accomplish and had already given the dilemma much thought.

I was speaking from my experience, my knowledge of the situation and from my vantage point. I was making my best judgment. However, she shared new information, and made the case as to why this was the right decision. After receiving additional information, I agreed to moving forward with her plan.

So remember when I said that I listened and realized that in light of some new compelling information, I might be incorrect? That’s where a lot of leaders fail in their quest to be successful. They are strong in the concept of making decisions and leading the team, but might not be making the BEST decision because they just won’t listen.

Here are a couple principles to think about next time you are in this situation:

Someone else might have a better idea and that’s O.K.
So here’s the truth: Sometimes it’s not easy for leaders and influencers to like other ideas better then their own. Leaders are confident in their actions. However, leaders can LEARN to step back and truly listen and respect other’s opinions and judgments. This skill can be developed with constant practice.

Focus on the best outcome, not on who had the best idea
Focus less on being right or wrong and more on what the best outcome is for the team. Drop the ego and ask yourself: Will this decision accomplish our goals? Will this decision get us to where we want to go? How will we see the results that we desire?

Truly listen to others when they share their opinion
If I had not actively listened to my client, I would have still been stuck on my original assessment. We would have postponed the training and it would have been the wrong decision for everyone. However, once I heard her additional information and put it in context for this situation, I realized that I didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Actively listening means that I am able to get outside what going on in my own head and what my needs are in the situation. I am able to take a birds-eye view of the situation and see the objective facts.

Think about this the next time you have a discussion and there is a decision to be made. Consciously step back and truly listen to the reasoning. Don’t let emotion and ego get in the way of you reaching the best outcome.

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Our life coach columnist shares how a once healthy, flowering plant in front of her house died this year. See how this relates to many things in life and how to prevent it.

I planted three rosebushes in our front yard a couple years ago. They are right in front of the windows and have a direct view from the street. When they were first planted, I watered them daily and made sure to fertilize them so the bugs wouldn’t eat them. Last year, I got pretty lax and began to let things go. Cut to this year, where I didn’t pay much attention to the three rosebushes. However, I did notice that two were looking quite beautiful and were producing vibrant flowers.

You see, I assumed that the other one would just catch up to the beautiful one. I really didn’t spend much time thinking or worrying about it. I also didn’t spend any time watering, fertilizing or feeding them. It just seemed like too much work.

I just ignored it.

Three days ago, I was coming into the house from walking the dog. For the first time, I took a really good look at my rosebushes. The one in the middle was completely dead. There were no flowers and no leaves. It was completely, unequivocally, absolutely dead.

I went in the house shocked and thought about how that could have happened. Why didn’t I notice that there was an urgent problem with the bush? Couldn’t I see along the way that there was a problem? Why didn’t I water, feed and fertilize it while it still had a chance?

Sound familiar? You’ve probably seen this unfold in your own life at some point or another. Maybe you have a problem dealing with an employee at work or someone in your personal life and you see little signs of an issue here and there. You let things slide day after day because you don’t really want to deal with it. To be honest, you have better things to occupy your time and you believe that it’s not a priority. So you put it off and go on to the next task.

You do this because dealing with relationships can be uncomfortable. Having these types of conversations can be difficult. So you just ignore it and hope it will get better.

But guess what happens instead? Left unattended, the situation grows, expands and festers until the little issue becomes a full-blown serious problem. When you finally take a really close look, you see the reality. You wonder how you let it get to that point in the same way that I wondered how my rosebush went from growing and healthy to totally dead. It just felt like it happened overnight.

This is a hard lesson for you to learn. It takes energy and discipline to solve the little problems that crop up daily. Solving the problem might involve having an uncomfortable discussion with someone and that’s not a pleasurable experience. But hoping that it will go away just doesn’t work.

So you need to make a CHANGE in the way that you view the world. You need to recognize the tension or the uncomfortable feeling,when you have a situation that is just a bit off kilter. Deal with it NOW and don’t let yourself look the other way. Force yourself to confront the situation, no matter how small it is. You need to do this because before you know it, that small problem can grow and infect your whole family or organization.

Make the commitment to water, feed and fertilize your relationships daily.

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Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? Read on as our life coach columnist explains the difference and how it’s subconsciously navigating your course to new opportunities.

The noise from the exercise room at the gym caught my attention. Curious, I peered in to see what was going on. Someone in the group yelled to me and suggested that I join them for the new class that was about to start. I had never taken part in this new exercise and felt a little hesitant.

To be perfectly honest, my first thought was that I didn’t know what to expect. It just wasn’t what I had planned to do that morning. But then I thought about the opportunity of trying something new, and I got excited. I told myself that I’m sure that I could survive this experience, even if I didn’t know what I was doing and I just might learn something new.

Looking back, it was crazy to have any reservations. But let’s be real here, you probably do this as well. Dependent upon your beliefs, you might be willing to try and learn new things or you might feel comfortable staying within your zone where you can be sure to excel.

According to a theory created by Carol Dweck, a world renowned Psychologist at Stanford University, individuals possess fixed or growth mindsets. She has studied achievement and success for decades and has uncovered two different belief systems that exist within the population.

People with a fixed-mindset believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence and talent, is fixed and won’t change over their lifetime. They believe talent alone is what leads to success. According to the book “Mindset”, by Carole Dweck, people with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed throughout their life with perseverance and hard work. Their talent and skills are just the starting point, not the end point.

What happens when you possess a fixed mindset and you fail? You are definitely not encouraged to try again because apparently, you are not working within your talents. On the other hand, what happens if you possess a growth mindset and you fail? You figure that you might need to do things a little differently, make some changes and try again. A growth mindset leads to individuals that are more resilient, willing to learn new things and more comfortable getting outside their comfort zone.

In the last two weeks, I had two client situations that best represent the need for possessing a growth-mindset in the workplace. In one situation, a team member commented to a leader that they don’t learn by training and coaching. In another situation, a team member shared with the leader that they abhor all training.

I suspect that both of these situations had more to do with individuals adhering to a fixed-mindset belief and feeling uncomfortable learning outside their rigid rules of success. If the learning involves an area where they currently don’t excel, they don’t want to take part.

They could fail.

I encourage companies to promote the growth-mindset and create a culture where learning and development is at the company’s core. That means sometimes, you will be asked to dabble outside your area of expertise and become comfortable with the process and the outcome. This is regardless of whether it’s a raving success or a complete flop.

That’s the true definition of success.

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Our life coach columnist learned an important lesson from her four-legged friends. Read on for the purrrrfect opportunity to see if your own behavior might be blocking your path to success.

I walked into my office and noticed something strange. Joey the Cat was taking a nice long nap in Miles the Pug’s bed. That was the first time that Joey ever had made any attempt to get close to the bed.

You see, Miles calls the shots in our house. Joey will always slink carefully into the room to make sure that Miles is nowhere around. Between you and me, I believe that Miles is all bark but no bite, but his actions have convinced Joey that he must stay on guard and be careful. He is clearly the alpha dog and rules the house.

For some reason, Joey had decided to make some changes in his life and took the big step to sleep in Miles’s bed. It was a gutsy move after all these years.

A couple days later, I found Joey sleeping on the chair in my bedroom. What’s unusual about this is that it’s a well-known fact that the chair with the throw belongs to Miles. I found this behavior odd and had never seen Joey attempt such a move. I chuckled about this and went about my work for the day.

The next day, I found Joey asleep in Miles’ bed again. Then it got interesting. Miles walked into the room and got ready to get in his bed. I held my breath as I waited to see what would happen next. Joey looked up and made no attempt to move a muscle. He put his head back down and went to sleep. Miles just stood still and stared, confused by this new turn of events. Eventually, he decided to go under my desk and fall asleep.

How and why did this happen? The cat and dog had spent years knowing their well-defined roles and playing them out on a regular basis. But here they were, changing things up in a big way.

Suddenly, Joey had changed his behavior, which led to a totally different and surprising outcome.

I work with many organizations where teams are having difficulty collaborating and working together. Often, certain individuals within the team will be struggling to get along. The complaints usually focus on the other person’s personality traits, negative behavior or shortcomings that they feel impede their ability to work with them successfully.

Very rarely do they see how their own behavior might be blocking their path to success. By focusing on the other’s faults, they have difficulty seeing how changing their own behavior and communication could quite possibly change the outcome. Each member is playing their defined role and will continue to play their role until something or someone changes. But it’s often so hard to see that clearly.

If this hits home with you, give some thought as to how you might be playing into this negative situation. What responsibility do you need to take to change the situation from one that is negative to positive?

Be like Joey and take a leap of faith— take the initiative to change the situation.