New Year’s Health

This guest post is by Jesse Langley.

It’s the start of a new year, and many of us are thinking about how we’ll improve life for ourselves in 2012.

Resolutions to get healthier, to spend more time with family and friends, and to begin new professional pursuits are common; but for others struggling with financial hardship, illness, or work issues, the new year can seem like just more of the same obstacles with a new date attached.

You may have to carry problems with you into the new year, but you don’t have to carry your stress, your anxieties, or your fears along with them. Making a commitment to change your outlook on life can make a significant difference in the way you handle challenges—and it can spur you into action that can make your new year better than the year before.

Take stock

The start of the year is a time for reflection and examination; it’s also a time to plan for your future. By taking a little time to list your goals—along with your fears and your obstacles—you can start to put together a plan of action that can carry you through 2012 and beyond.

Of course, making resolutions is much easier than keeping them: while half of us will take the trouble to make a resolutions list, about 12 percent of us will actually keep them. Writing your list of resolutions and sharing them with friends can help you stay accountable for the promises you make, and help you stay committed to the promises you make to yourself.

Make contact

While sharing your goals with friends or family can offer you a group of people who’ll keep you accountable, building or rebuilding a support network can also help you see your life from a different perspective. We’re social creatures, and sometimes we need others to encourage us to take care of ourselves.

In some cases, it can even save your life: a marathon-running firefighter was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after his father encouraged him to see a doctor. He wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis, but with the support of medical professionals and his family, he was able to return to the job he loves. Building relationships can encourage us to take care of each other.

Keep going

Even when he was faced with a cancer diagnosis, the firefighter resolved not just to survive, but to return to his active life. Even living a normal life can be an exercise in patience, endurance and strength; adding new goals or resolutions to overcome your difficulties, particularly if you’re dealing with illness or financial issues, can seem nearly impossible.

The only way you’ll find a better job, or save for a new home, or recover from a chronic illness, is by working every day to change your current situation. Churchill’s advice can be applied to everyday life: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

A new year gives us all the chance to start with a clean slate, to pursue new directions and conquer our fears. Whether you succeed is up to you—but by committing to meet your goals and seeking the tools to craft a better life for yourself, your new year could be a new beginning for you.

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing, and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and is an advocate for online training.

5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

This post is by Lior Levin.

Whether you loved Steve Jobs or hated him, whether you are a Mac or a PC user, whether you are an iPhone or an Android owner, there is one thing that there’s little doubt about: Steve Jobs was an amazing leader who expected and got the most out of those who worked for him.

With his recent passing and the release of his biography, other leaders have gotten a chance to take a closer look at how Steve Jobs lived, thought, and ran his company. It’s an interesting opportunity to look at the inner workings of one of the tech world’s most private men.

So what lessons can leaders glean from Steve Jobs? There are too many to choose but here are five of the critical lessons one can learn from Steve Jobs’ life and success.

1. Have strong opinions, just not always your own

Jobs was not known as a man who held weak opinions. He was quick to make decisions and strong in them. He didn’t waffle or waiver, nor did he delegate his decision-making process to others.

Jobs realized that, with most decisions, making no decision was as bad as, if not worse than, making the wrong one. He also knew that having one person at the wheel helped maintain a unified vision and direction.

However, this doesn’t mean he never changed his mind—just that his reversals were equally decisive and strong. Jobs always encouraged others to challenge his viewpoints and, when he was wrong, would change position and hold to his new one just as strongly.

2. Openness hurts sometimes

Few would have described Steve Jobs as a “nice guy.” He was known for being brutally honest and saying what was on his mind. He even once quipped, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”

Never one for pleasantries or sparing feelings, Jobs was legendarily tough to work for. However, his approach not only pushed people to generate great results, it ensured that the message was never muffled or muddled.

Being clear, concise, and direct sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of room for spared feelings. While it doesn’t mean being needlessly cruel, it means recognizing that emotions tend to heal faster than broken projects.

3. Focus, focus, and focus

According to Walter Isaacson, the author of Jobs’ biography, focus was very important to this man, who limited his company to focusing on two or three things at a time.

Jobs recognized that it’s much better to do one thing well than to do dozens of things poorly. The more you spread your focus, the less attention you can pay to each item and the more often crucial details begin to slip by.

Jobs once famously said that “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” a philosophy evidenced by Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines, and the limited versions and differences between them.

4. Working in teams means talking

Jobs loved working in teams and loved meetings, but he hated PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. He felt that meetings should be about conversation and dialog, not passive listening.

Jobs felt that, in general, teams, especially large groups, made the best decisions and developed the best products—but only if they were leveraged correctly. This is why he favored demo units and other physical objects for visual aids rather than slides on a screen, as Jobs felt these tools got people more engaged.

According to Jobs, the purpose of a meeting was to “Get people talking about it (the idea), argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people … and just explore things.”

5. Planning succession

Jobs, especially in his later years, realized he would not be running the company forever and had to make plans for Apple to live on after he left.

However, he focused on succession not just by planning for the company after his departure, but focusing on ensuring that he hired the best executives possible. Those executives were then groomed and trained so they were able to take over after his departure.

“My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do,” Jobs said.

If you put your loyalty to your company above all else, you’ll hire people that are the best for it and they can take over after you leave. That, in turn, is the best succession plan of all.

In the end, Jobs was a man driven by his own mortality, long before he was ill. He reminded himself of his mortality so he could focus his energy doing the things that mattered, instead of worrying about failure or the expectations of others.

He was driven and dedicated almost to the point of insanity, and that, combined with his attention to detail and obsession with perfection, enabled him to drive Apple not only to become the powerhouse it is, but also to make some of the best-loved products on the market.

Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs is proof that one person can make a huge difference and impact the entire world in a very big way. Who do you feel has had a similarly large impact on the leaders around the world? Let us know in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a company that offers the  best psd to xhtml service, and who also works for a neon sign store that provides custom made neon and LED signs.

FeelGooder Asks: What’s On for Your Christmas Weekend?

Not all of our readers celebrate Christmas, but this weekend is a public holiday in many Western countries, and is celebrated widely in many others. So, whether you’re planning celebrations or not, I’m interested to know:

What’s on for your Christmas weekend?

Family fun

Image copyright Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

My family does celebrate Christmas. Although we don’t have a religion, we see it as a time to get together and have fun. This year, I’m going to the biggest Christmas lunch I’ve ever attended. Word has it that 26 people will be there, among them, my nearly-two-year-old nephew, my sister and her husband, and my mum.

The event’s part of my brother-in-law’s family celebrations. He’s got a very cheeky sense of humor, so I’m very much looking forward to meeting some of his extended family. The weather’s meant to be warm—30 degrees Celsius—which I’m also looking forward to.

That said, 26 people is a big party. I’m planning to spend the following day enjoying some solo recuperation time!

What about you? Will your weekend plans involve Santa and snow, family fun, or something else entirely? Share them with us in the comments. And if you celebrate it, happy Christmas!

Self-Promotion Tips for Nice People

This post is by Jarie Bolander of EnduranceLeader.com.

Ever wonder why nice guys finish last?

It’s not that they are any less talented, smart, hardworking, or ambitious. In fact, lots of nice people are just as talented as those brash, self-centered, type-A CEOs that grab all the national headlines.

Talking about yourself

Image copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

The reason why it appears that nice guys (and gals) finish last is because they don’t brag about their accomplishments. There are many nice people who have been successful (Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill Comes to mind), yet all we ever hear about are the self-promoting egomaniacs that can’t seem to shut up.

I know, it’s unfair. But you can do something about this by realizing that self-promotion is not just for all those self-centered braggarts—it can be for us nice people as well.

Self-promotion is not evil

Most nice people are cringing right now. How can self-promotion not be evil, vile, conceited, self-serving, and ego-centric? Self-promotion can be all those things, but it does not need to be.

The art of self-promotion for nice people is to leverage your nice qualities so that you get the credit you deserve, make your voice heard, attract others to work with you, and get—and give—credit where credit is due. It’s as simple as the right thing to do. You owe it to yourself and the other nice people around you.

The root of the problem

Let’s step back a bit and get to the root of the self-promotion issue for nice people. Most nice people have a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong. They strive to treat their fellow humans (and other creatures) with respect, reverence, and compassion. In the nice person’s mind, this should be all that is required to earn recognition for their accomplishments. In a perfect world, it would be.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

Instead, we are bombarded with lots of stimuli that make it hard to interact with the world around us. It’s actually hard to seek and understand the truth about who’s responsible for what. That’s why we take shortcuts.

Cognitive shortcuts

All of us take shortcuts to make sense of the world. We rely on patterns, and fill in the blanks when bombarded with data and stimuli. That’s one of the reasons we always remember the loud-mouth bragger. It’s not that we want to—it’s just they have jumped above the noise and caught our attention.

Through repetition, we get tuned into these blowhards and remember what they did—even though we don’t like them. It’s strange but it’s just like all those obnoxious ads we get inundated with daily. We think they are bad. We acknowledge they are in poor taste. But we remember them and, when it comes time to buy, we tend to buy those brands.

What a nice person can do

Okay. I hope by now all you nice people now realize that you need to speak up and be heard. Most people won’t give you the credit you deserve unless you ask for it. I know, it’s not in your personality, but yet you get frustrated when others take credit or you are not recognized for your accomplishments.

You can change but you don’t need to sell out or change who you are—you just need to politely self-promote.

Just because you’re nice does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t self-promote. In fact, nice people can do a great job of self-promotion, and be more effective at it. The fact is that, deep down, everyone hates those blowhard braggarts anyway. Actually, nice people have a big advantage over blowhards, since we’re actually are more inclined to help others promote themselves as well.

Nice people unite!

One of the strongest assets nice people have is that they care about others. Think about your own life. How often do you help out a friend, brag about a co-worker, or encourage others to succeed?

So, you have it in you—now you just have to apply it to yourself. The easiest way to do this is to find a couple of other nice people, and work together. Complements and praise are far more powerful when someone else gives them to you. This is why actively collaborating with other nice people can make it easier to self-promote.

Obviously, as a nice person, you know that whatever is said must be true, accurate, and correct.

Beyond collaboration

Having others promote you is powerful, but it’s not always practical or appropriate. Eventually, you are going to have to toot your own horn. To help you do that, take a look at the tips below:

1. Be subtle and tactful

Self-promotion does not need to be grandiose or in-your-face. It can be subtle and tactful.

There are natural places in a conversation to add a useful bit of self-promotion. For example, let’s say you’re talking with co-workers about the project you just finished. You can ask them to give you feedback on the part you did by simply saying “What did you think of the financials in the report we just did? I’m curious to know how they could be improved,” or something like that. This subtle hint that you did them, under the context of improvement, will get you credit as well as valuable feedback.

2. Practice on and with other nice people

I know this might sound strange, but you can practice self-promotion with others. Doing so will give you the confidence to perform on your own.

The best people to practice with are—you guessed it—other nice people. You can team up (as I suggested above) and practice on each other. I know this seems a little weird, but the more you practice in a safe environment, the better you will get.

3. Just the facts

All those braggers out there usually distort the facts to their advantage. While it’s not technically lying (although it feels like it), nice people have a hard time embellishing. That’s why it’s easier to just state the facts about what you did. It may not be as powerful but, over time, it does get through.

4. Promote others

Promoting others is a great way to learn how to promote yourself, and it’s also a great way to share credit when it’s due. It’s best to promote others that will promote you in return. Otherwise, you are just amplifying the impact of braggers and blowhards.

5. Give mutual credit

When you do take credit or self-promote, make sure to spread the credit around. Us nice people can find it a lot easier to share the credit with others then to take it all yourself. In fact, it can sometimes lead others to jump in and give you more credit.

6. Keep it simple

Simple self-promotion works the best. What I mean by this is don’t overly complicate the message or pile on everything you have done. Keep the self-promotion context specific and don’t dominate the conversation. Expanding too broadly will just bore people and turn you into the kind of person you already despise.

7. Be a little funny

Humor is a great way to break the ice and get over your self-promotion nerves. Take a shot at yourself before telling everyone what a great job you did. You can also poke a little fun at co-workers before telling them what a great job they did. Just make sure to keep it classy, respectful, and not trashy.

Really, it’s not that slimy

I’m sure some of you are still not convinced that self-promotion is a good idea. I’m also sure that you sometimes get frustrated when people glance over your work and give others credit. It’s hard to face, but there is so much noise out there that you do have to self-promote in order to get heard.

As long as you do it responsibility and are nice about it, you will probably find that it’s kinda fun—it does feel good to share your accomplishments with others!

Jarie Bolander is an engineering by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His new site, EnduranceLeader.com combines two of this passions – leadership and endurance athletics. Endurance Leader’s main premise is that by enduring through hardships and struggle, we can conquer anything. You can follow him on Twitter via @EnduranceLeader.

Feeling Good(er) About Separation and Divorce

This post is by Denise of Whereapy.

I didn’t want to do it; I really did not. Get a divorce, I mean. And yet, here I am.

What I had hoped would be the “sabbatical” that my then-husband and I had talked about for years as an option for me to deal with the stress of being a homemaker morphed into “I want a divorce” two months into the separation.

Alone

Image copyright Maxim Malevich - Fotolia.com

I can’t say it was a total shock.But I had hoped that a reprieve was all that would be needed in order for us to both see things more clearly—and to get back to making “it” work. However, as one of my favorite lines from a certain song goes, “You can’t always get what you want.” For the moment, I’m focusing on the follow-up to that, “but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

But how does one get what they need?

Review and reflection

There are platitudes a-plenty for “overcoming” the “devastation of divorce.” Just spend an hour searching the internet, and you will come up with more recommendations than you can handle for everything from wading through legal waters and how to handle your affairs—of all types—to just remembering to breathe; because in the midst of upheaval, many people forget to do the kind of breathing that helps one heal.

We all know that there will be anger, guilt, and shame. Even if there was no “big sin” committed during the marriage by either party, there is shame in having failed. And we all know that everyone at least professes to want “what is best for the kids” when there are kids to be considered. But what does that look like in real life? On a personal level?

Loss

For me, it looked like chaos and confusion. At times, it still does.

If a relationship isn’t working, but it’s broken enough to leave, how many times do you try to repair it? Will I ever know the answer to that question? Perhaps not. Therein lies the guilt. You may find it crushing to face the fact that the many years of service and sacrifice you made for your family and significant other are just a distant memory for them.

I lost a part of me in the decades I spent as wife-mother-business partner. Now I am searching again for who I am and hopefully will “find myself” in middle age. Perhaps I might never have done that without the impetus of a failed marriage.

Hope

For anyone finding themselves in the position of separating from a long-term committed relationship—especially those who are doing so not necessarily of their own volition—I offer the following few suggestions for locating the light at the end of the tunnel:

  1. If at all possible, “play nice” with your ex.
  2. Get to therapy, and quickly. Different types suit different folks; but everyone needs it.
  3. Gather your network of friends apart from those you established while you were part of a couple.
  4. Get out of the house! Go places, do things, see people. Even if you don’t want to—especially if you don’t want to.
  5. Be creative. Try new things that you couldn’t or wouldn’t allow yourself to do when you were with your ex.
  6. Journal—yes, men too!
  7. Work, but not too much. Drink, but not too much. Eat yummy food, but not too much. Be merry—no limits!
  8. Exercise. This is a tough one for me to recommend, but honestly, it does help. Endorphins!
  9. Create a routine, and stick to it most of the time, on most days—except when the urge to get spontaneous overtakes you.
  10. Meditate, pray, and contemplate in quiet stillness. Listen to whatever messages may find their way to you, take what you need, and leave the rest.

Denise owns Another Person’s Opinion At Your Service, an advocacy and administrative support service for personal, business, and professional enrichment. In her spare time she writes for the therapy blog Whereapy.

Why I Love … Golf

This post is by Stephanie Staszko of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment.

Golf is an incredibly popular sport enjoyed by people all over the world. Whether they get their kicks from playing, spectating, or having a flutter on the professionals, golf is a loveable sport for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Golf

Image copyright sculpies - Fotolia.com

Every golf lover has their own reasons why golf is their primary sport—these are mine.

Socializing

Playing a round of golf can be a great chance to socialize with people who share your passion for the sport. Getting away from home and working life to converse with different people can be just the refreshing break you need to unwind. Rather than socializing in a bar or pub, you can enjoy conversation in the great outdoors while playing a sport.

Some businessmen and women even use golf as a networking opportunity to rub shoulders with people of interest to them on a business level. Many deals and business decisions are made on the golf course, the relaxing atmosphere clearing the mind and allowing for wise business decisions to be made.

Stress relief

When you’re teeing off, taking that almighty swing can be a great stress-reliever, releasing tensions from your back and shoulders, which are prone to being tense. There’s something refreshing about inhaling the clean air as you walk round the course, too. The tranquil setting can be also be a relaxing respite.

Competition

Sometimes a little competitive spirit can really get your adrenaline pumping, helping to boost your energy levels. If you win, it’s an even better feeling as you’re filled with an overwhelming sense of achievement! Setting yourself personal goals as well can help to occupy your mind and give you something to work towards.

Exercise

With constant reminders in the media that obesity’s becoming a growing problem, making sure you exercise is incredibly important. Exercising isn’t always convenient, however, and the prospect of squeezing a half-hour slog on a tread mill into your daily routine can become tiresome very quickly.

Golf can be a great exercise which is more enjoyable than sweating profusely at the gym. You can breathe in the fresh air, take in the scenery and socialize while burning the calories.

Golf can be a great mood enhancer; an 18-hole course can be just what you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you’ve never played golf before, then buy yourself some golf accessories and equipment and join a club to Feel Gooder!

Does golf do it for you? Tell us in the comments.

Written by Stephanie Staszko on behalf of Blue Octopus Flat Fee Recruitment. Steph enjoys writing various posts on recruitment for candidates and employers alike. You can find her on Twitter @StephStaz where you’ll find more career/recruitment posts.

Cheers to Being Well this Holiday Season!

This post is by Jocelyn Anne.

While encouraging us to “feel good” during the holiday season might seem silly (it’s the holiday season, after all—how can we not feel good?), it’s actually very, very easy to feel poorly at this time of year.

Keeping well

Image copyright Monart Design - Fotolia.com

I think if you think very long about it, you’ll see what I’m alluding to.  While of course, it’s perhaps the happiest, cheeriest of times, it’s also a time when we become busier than ever, stretched in more directions than ever, and placed in sometimes stressful situations (holiday party small talk, anyone?). To top it all off, the routines we’ve had in place for eating right and exercising regularly typically get tossed to the side (sometimes willingly, sometimes not).

This often means that by January 1, we often find ourselves stressed, completely exhausted, lacking nutrition, and sometimes even feeling guilty or distraught over weight gained and muscle lost.

If that’s ever been your experience and you’re ready for something new this year, make a decision to start this holiday on the right foot. Commit to finding the motivation and dedication to do whatever it takes to stay happy, healthy and feeling good physically and mentally!  If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some of my favorite easy tips.

Prioritize

It’s often difficult to convince ourselves of the importance of this point.  We tell ourselves “it’s only one month,” and convince ourselves that every possible activity or invitation is crucial—we can’t miss even one!

But the truth is that going to a few less events will actually make the others so much more enjoyable, since you won’t be stretched so thin.  You’ll have had ample time to prepare and create anything you need to bring, and when you’re there, you’ll be awake, focused, and engaged. 

If you’ve already been to three parties that week, the fourth will be much less special.  Prioritize what you must go to (daughter’s Christmas carol night), what you truly want to go to (best friend’s party), and then attempt to cut out the “extras” that you can live without.

Save time to relax

One of the best things you can do for yourself during these busy, stressful days is to ensure that somewhere in the day, you have time to simply sit down and let your mind regroup. 

It might only be ten minutes, but that ten minutes of not thinking about the 20 things you have to do before the day ends will allow you to calm your mind and body, take some deep breaths, and reorganize your mind without doing something else at the same time.

Make healthy eating easy

My favorite way to sail through the holidays without ditching all my normal eating habits is to make some guidelines beforehand, and put some extra time into preparation. We’re going to be busier, that’s a given, so meal times are likely not to happen after two hours spent cooking a healthy, nutritious meal.  Rather, they’re likely to be served between ballet recital practice and Christmas caroling. 

My favorite way to deal with this is to spend an afternoon making large freezable dishes that I can have for nights when it’s too crazy.  The earlier in the month you get to this, the better, and it’s perfect when the kids are watching Christmas movies or crafting holiday cards, for example. And it will save you from throwing a frozen pizza in th oven because you simply don’t have the time or ingredients on hand for anything else.

If you struggle with overeating at holidays, or taking in more sugars and carbs than you like, consider setting limits.  Give yourself a list of acceptable foods (you can include some healthier “treats” here too, like a baked apple for dessert). If it’s not on the list, you don’t eat it.  Simple as that.  When you have the option to decide at the party if you’ll eat the gingerbread cookie, chances are, you will.  But, if it’s not even an option for you to think about, then you don’t have to worry about it!

Switch your list every week so you don’t get bored.  And of course, if you feel strong enough, then let yourself indulge occasionally.  However, remember: there are some foods that, once we have one, we find ourselves incapable of saying no to next time. Spare yourself the anguish later and just make those particular foods off limits altogether.  It’s not worth it!

Grab exercise where you can

Many of us will find it impossible to get in that 45 minutes at the gym during this time of year.  So, make it count elsewhere when you can.

Park as far away from the store as you can.  Power walk in the malls.  Watching movies with the kids?  Do power squats and lunges for part of it.  Instead of a second day of baking cookies, take the family out for a long hike.

You get the idea!  When you’ve got a second, get some physical activity in quick!  It’ll help boost your mood and keep you feeling energized.

Cherish the season!

In the end, you just have to do what you can, but do remember to take care of yourself in every way possible, and remember to savor every moment.  Putting your health and well-being at the top of your list of priorities will allow you to enter into January feeling invigorated and re-energized for a whole new year!

Jocelyn Anne is a full time writer who loves to offer tips and advice for living simpler, healthier lives.  She currently works for Air & Water and writes their content, most of it related to their electric infrared heaters.

FeelGooder Asks: What Are You Finishing?

The news today that the US has declared an end to the war in Iraq is undoubtedly a relief for millions around the world. It’s quite the festive gift.

Regardless of your position on this war, or war in general, this news raises questions about endings. Sometimes endings are sad, and sometimes they’re not. So I’m curious:

What are you finishing?

Have you noticed how people rush to finish things by the end of the year? I’ll bet you have plenty you’re finishing up at work, or school, or even in social or interest groups. How does that feel?

This year I’ve finished a major chapter in my life by changing the nature of some important relationships with people I love. This has been a great challenge, and a long one, and has required some significant changes.

The one thing it’s really brought home to me, though, is that the saying “when one door closes, another opens” is true. I really hate that saying, because I’m not great at letting go of things that matter to me. But this year I learned that to open new doors, you don’t necessarily need to let things go: you can transform them (not always easy, I know) and in so doing create an opportunity for a new door to open.

So I’m finishing a chapter of confusion and frustration. I’m already getting the impression that the door that’s opening involves more warmth, sponteneity, and fun. Is this a good ending? Why yes, yes it is.

What are you finishing? Let me know in the comments.

Three Ideas to Help Men Become More Thoughtful

This guest post is by Mike Bundrant of theiNLP Center.

A lot of good men could be more thoughtful of the women in their lives. These guys have all the right intentions, but thoughtfulness just doesn’t come naturally. Is this you? You diligently go about your business as a breadwinner and may love to putter around the house, but she wants something more.

What does she want, specifically?

She wants to know that you are 1. thinking about her and 2. willing to extend yourself to meet her needs. If she doesn’t get ample evidence of these two things, she may not be happy no matter what else she gets. Worse, at some point she will stop asking you to meet these needs, but the needs won’t go away. When this happens, the end is near! She will eventually leave you, or leave you emotionally. Either way, your relationship is over.

I know what you may be thinking.

“Whenever she asks me for something, I give it to her. What’s the problem?”

This is great. It means you are considerate when you are made aware of her needs. Keep it up – don’t stop being considerate. Just know that it doesn’t meet criterion number one above. It doesn’t prove you are thinking about her, even though you may still extend yourself by doing what she asks.

For example, which do you think will make her happier?

  1. She asks you to help with the dishes and you do so without complaining.
  2. You realize she needs help with the dishes without being asked and offer to help.

Another example:

  1. She reminds you that you haven’t brought her flowers lately, so you go get her some.
  2. You surprise her with flowers well before she feels she needs to mention it.

It isn’t rocket science. Still, I am amazed at how many guys, myself included, don’t put this into practice. Nothing can replace the powerful combination of being thoughtful (considering her wants and needs before being asked or reminded) and extending yourself (reaching out, going out of your way to do something for her).

But don’t do this…

I once gave a coaching client a list of 100 thoughtful things he could for his wife. I wanted to help him with ideas and get his mind moving in a certain direction toward being more thoughtful and romantic. Well, he took that list and gave it to his wife. “Honey, I’m going to be more thoughtful now,” he said. “So, review this list and circle the things you want me to do for you. I plan on doing one a week.”

When his wife told me about the event, I was dumbstruck! And I still am. I suppose this approach is better than doing nothing at all, or is it? At any rate, the point is—there is no adequate substitute for being purely thoughtful, especially in the minds of many women.

Three tips

Here are three ways to remind yourself to be thoughtful so she doesn’t have to. Remember, this is written to guys for whom thoughtfulness does not come naturally. Here you go, men:

  1. Get your mind moving in that direction. Brainstorm ideas and create a list of things you can do for your partner. If you never think it – if you don’t open your mind to ideas in the first place, thoughtfulness has no chance of becoming natural for you. Keep your list a secret!
  2. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar and mark it as a high priority. Just don’t tell her that you need to remind yourself to be thoughtful in this way and remember, this is your life and she is a very important part of it. She is more important than paying the bills or mowing the lawn or tinkering in the garage. She’s more important than any hobby you might have. She’s even more important than your career to your overall happiness, when it comes right down to it, is she not? All you need to do is be thoughtful and extend yourself—make it your highest priority! The good news is that a little effort in this department goes a long way.
  3. Deal with your narcissism. If you are resisting this concept, then you may have a narcissistic streak that you need to come to terms with if you want thoughtfulness to become more natural to you. There are lots of resources, therapists and coaches who are well prepared to help you.

The bottom line: If you think you may be less thoughtful than you could be and it impacts your relationship, there is no better investment of your time and energy than to get this one handled. Being thoughtful pays dividends in ongoing and often unexpected ways for years to come. Just do it!

Mike Bundrant is a mental health counselor (Retired, NM) and internationally recognized NLP trainer. Find Mike at theiNLP Center. iNLP also offers a free personal development mini-course.

Making the Most of Holidays Together

Hel-lo holidays! Whether you’re escaping the cold for warm shores or shacking up in the wilderness for a bit, holidays can really test a couple’s bond.

Sadly, most couples will end up fighting at some point, which can be really upsetting when you’re trying to have a good time together. But when you think about it, on holidays you’re around each other 24/7 with little to no time alone; you may be immersed in a completely different culture, unable to speak the local language; you may find yourselves having trouble negotiating public transport while out of your comfort zone…

Depending on how well you deal with that kind of stress, you can see how it can be a recipe for conflict.

In order to make the most out of your precious time off, follow a few easy rules to help you get through the holidays unscathed.

1. Work out what you want from the holiday

Make sure you have this discussion ahead of time. I’m a sit-by-the-pool-and-do-nothing sort, but my husband much prefers to explore. We usually have a day on/day off arrangement so we can both get what we need to out of a holiday. Talking about what you want before you actually go on holiday will influence everything from where you actually go, to what you do when you get there. Planning the holiday this way is part of the excitement, so put some effort into it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Holidays are not the place for nagging, moaning, or criticizing. Try to look on the bright side throughout the holiday to ensure you have a great time. Make the effort to be extra-nice, turn any upsets into adventures, and keep a smile on your face—even if your flight gets delayed (time for a wine at the airport!) or you aren’t sure where your taxi driver has dropped you off (a chance to explore new territory!).

3. Be a million miles away

If you’re on a holiday, you are there to get away from your everyday lives, so make sure you switch off. Set up email autoresponders back at home, switch the mobile off, and focus on your partner—and on relaxing yourself. You may also get the urge to have deep and meaningful conversations while you are away, but focusing on your financial problems or any of the other big issues from home will only leave you frustrated. Talk, but focus on the here-and-now to keep yourselves in the moment—escapism on a holiday is not only healthy, it’s the whole point.

4. Get some alone time

It’s important to strike a balance and spend a little time alone as well. Take yourself off to the day spa or golf course alone, spend some time reading or shopping by yourself, take walks solo… Being around each other all day, every day can be a bit too intense.

5. Spice it up in the bedroom

Two words: Holiday sex. (Need I say more?)

Happy holidaying, lovebirds! Tell us about your favorite holiday together…