The Confidence Game

Warning! Self-contemplation ahead!

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When you hear the words “con man” or “con artist”, you feel a certain negative “connotation”. A con man earns his reputation, and his living, by taking people into his confidence. He tricks them into believing something that is not true. He swindles others when he plays a confidence game.

Pretty nasty business, huh? But, do we ever need to play a confidence game to get by in life? For as negative as the terms sound here, I’m going out on a limb to say that we need a good old fashioned con game on a regular basis. And, that it can sometimes be the most positive thing we can do in the moment.

What is “acting as if”? Or, how about “fake it until you make it”? These are bits of wisdom and advice that will come from many motivational sources. They are not proposing that we be brutally honest with ourselves. Are we conning ourselves, or is this coping mechanism a necessary part of finding our best self?

We all agree that positive self-talk is critical to our happiness. Negativity gets in the way of every beautiful thing. Positivity is being proactive in our inner game. The inner game is what lies below the surface, as opposed to our outer game. The outer game is what we show other people. They are not always the same.

So, self-confidence is so important to your success in business, and in life. Without self-confidence, you lack the will to move forward on the things you must do to reach your goals. People that are lacking in self-confidence can be paralyzed into inaction.

The con game that is necessary for us to play with ourselves can save us from drowning in a sea of hopelessness. Who doesn’t have self-doubt from time to time? What do we call on to banish self-doubt? That’s right… self-confidence. Believing in ourselves, even when we are unsure. Being kind and forgiving to ourselves, even if we may not feel that we deserve it in the moment. Being brave and pushing on, even when we feel terrified. Allowing ourselves to be flawed, even as we strive for excellence.

How do you build confidence in yourself? If you struggle with it, I think you’re in good company.

– Cat

My Muse

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So, if you look up the definition of the word “muse” as a noun, it will tell you that a muse refers to “a person- especially a woman- who is a source of artistic inspiration”. If you look at the word “muse” as a verb, it means to “consider something thoughtfully”.

 
Thank goodness, we’ve thrown gender roles out the window, since my muse is a man. At the risk of sounding sappy, he is my verb and my noun.

 
Anybody that knows him would tell you that he’s not always the easiest person to get along with. Heck, he’ll tell you that himself. But, he’s usually right, and he is definitely the yin to my yang.

 
He is supportive of my choice to be a writer. In fact, he rarely reads anything I write. It’s not because he’s not interested. He doesn’t want his opinions to taint my writing style. He has confidence in my ability to get my point across, and will not proofread my work. My muse challenges me to get better every day, and that encourages me to work towards doing so.

 
He will help me with the organization of my business and my production schedules, which is so helpful to me. He is supportive as I navigate through the learning curves that are inevitable with any business. Although he has been dreaming of retirement, he has delayed that dream while I establish my career.

 
So, while other writers, artists, painters, and musicians may be inspired by whimsy and beauty, I am inspired by a strong and steady muse. And, I am ever so grateful.

-Cat

 

 

Paradigm Shifts

Some of those “aha” moments are pretty strange.  They say that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I must be insane.  It seems my thinking gets lodged in a crevice.  It gets encouraged by my emotions and there it sits.

Until… BOOM!  Hello paradigm shift!

This phrase was coined by Thomas Kuhn.  He was an American physicist and philosopher… that’s interesting as a stand alone.  Anyway, it’s a deep and fundamental change in the way you view or understand something.

Maybe it’s God saying “enough already”.  Maybe it’s a self-preservation measure initiated by our subconscious.  When I think of some of the major paradigm shifts I’ve experienced in my life, I can’t really pinpoint the catalyst.  I guess that’s not the point, but it sure would be nice to conjure one up when you feel in need of one.

I’ve had several paradigm shifts that have forced me to take my life, or my thinking about my life, down a new path.  It’s always turned out right, although it usually involves some “going through” stuff.  It also feels like working without a net, which can be scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

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                                                                                                              Mary Engelbreit

I love this illustration by Mary Engelbreit.  Pay no attention to the date, and that I’ve kept this in my memory for about thirty years.  The image is very instructive, and cuts right to the heart of things. 

Sometimes we make a choice to walk through a door.  You may feel uncertain or scared of the door you’ve chosen.  When you try to go back through it, you find that it’s locked. One Choice… Keep it Moving!

– Cat

Being Brave

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It’s hard work, being brave.  I love this quote, because it’s so true.  We do think of Braveheart, or war heroes, and even Merida in the movie BRAVE.  We do think of people without fear, being strong and living their lives, no matter what gets hurled at them.

The truth is, we’re all scared.  Of all kinds of things.  Some people seem scared.  Some people seem brave.  But none of us get out of this life without some hurt, frustration, and self-doubt.

I saw an ad on Facebook… I know, shocker, huh?  It’s advertising jewelry to promote awareness of mental health issues, particularly depression and suicide.  I’m thinking about getting this piece of jewelry.  Because it’s a great cause, and we could use some dialogue.

But really… I want it because on it are the words Be Brave.  I want it to remind me everyday that you’ve got to be brave.  You’ve got to process and deal with whatever crosses your path.  We all need reminding from time to time.

When I think of some of the cancer survivors that I know, I am overwhelmed at how brave they are.  When you lose someone close to you, it takes bravery to get through the following days.  For some people, getting out of bed in the morning is an act of bravery.  I would say that on the bravery challenge sliding scale, I’m someone there in the middle.

Another quote on bravery that really got to me:

“Be Brave.  Even if you’re not, pretend to be.  No one can tell the difference.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

That’s true, though.  By the time you convince others that you are brave, you have almost convinced yourself!

I love the complexity of humans.  Two things strike me in particular:

  • How resilient we are
  • How fragile we are

What makes the difference between bending and breaking?

It’s bravery!

The ability to say “Is that all you’ve got to throw at me, life?”  The  fine art of planning your next bold move while the walls are falling down.  Being a phoenix.

I feel as though I’ve been more cautious than brave as I moved through life.  I’ve paid the price for that too.  Some people do see me as brave.  I hope I’ve got them fooled, since that means I’m on my way to actually being brave!

– Cat

Where Does All That Stuff Go?

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This may seem like a weird title when the topic is metaphysical.  But it’s the question my husband had when his Dad passed.   What happens to “us” when we die?  We know that there are only a couple of options for our body once it has lost it’s usefulness.  But, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

We are preparing for the changing of the guard here in America.  There is a lot of talk about President Obama’s “legacy”.  What will he be remembered for?  What will we be remembered for when we leave this earth?  What about our legacy?

If you think about it, we are really only remembered for a few generations.  Unless you come from a lineage that has a famous, or infamous person, the memory of you only goes so far.  What can you tell me about your great-grandmother, or your great-great-grandfather?  Maybe you have some scraps of information.  But, I’ll be willing to bet that you couldn’t write a biography.

So, all the jokes we tell, the meals we share with family and friends, the knowledge we gain, the lessons we learn, our longing, our passion, our joy.  Where does that stuff go?

If you’re from a religious background, you’ll probably explain that it goes to heaven.  You might say that it gets recycled, and we’re reborn into another body.  You may think that we become ghosts, or spirits that roam the earth.  I’m not into zombies, but maybe you are.  Do we just cease to be, once people don’t remember us? Are we dispersed throughout the universe, Carl Sagan style?

That thought just makes life seem silly, the way most of us live.  Reaching for more of everything.  More love, more money, more happiness, more fame.  Whatever your “more” is, you’re probably pretty serious about it.

We worry about being late for the dentist.  We worry about paying our bills.  We worry about our health.  We worry about our job.  A hundred years from now, what will be the result of all that worrying?  It’s a pretty safe bet that it will not feature in the future landscape of life.

One minute we’re doing our makeup, cleaning our car, getting groceries… the next, dead.  There are quite a few sites, blogs, articles, etc. on living a “mindful life”.  I envy people who feel especially “mindful”, or that cultivate “mindfulness” in their lives.  I think that most of us don’t have things dialed in to that extent.  I know I don’t.

As you age, life becomes less and less like Summer vacations were when you were in elementary school.  Remember the long expanse of Summer?  You become more and more aware of the passing of time, and the value of it.  Probably because there is less of it in front of you, and more of it behind you.

I know that as a Grandmother, I tend to think “I haven’t seen Oscar in a month… a lot will have changed.”  Seeing my grandkids grow makes me more and more aware of how things tend to happen fast in life.  Ten years ago, I didn’t have any grandchildren.  Five years ago, I had two.  Today, I have six, and my seventh on the way!  Things move at the “speed of life”!

I guess that the object of the exercise is to reach the finish line with as few regrets as possible.  It’s so tricky, though, when you don’t know where the finish line is.

“We are like butterflies that flutter for a day and think it is forever.” – Carl Sagan

-Cat

Reaching For Joy

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It’s easy to be overcome by events in our lives.  Sometimes, we go through things that are so profound, and so tragic, they can stop us in our tracks.  We may have trouble moving forward again.  People lose loved ones… parents, friends, and children.  Ending a marriage, or losing custody of children  can be devastating.  Stress, depression, and anxiety can bear down like a cloud that will not break.

When you are grieving, other people sometimes decide when it’s time to “get over it”.  When I hear of instances like this, I pause to wonder.  Are we ever supposed to “get over” these life altering events?  Waking up one day during a period of mourning and saying, “there, I’m better now”, seems stranger than a prolonged period of sadness.  It becomes part of who you are.

I think that that’s the key.  Accepting that it is part of your story.  The trick is not letting it define you.  It’s something that you carry with you for the rest of your life, but it’s not the essence of who you are.

We must be kind to ourselves, and allow ourselves to heal.  This recovery usually has some real twists and turns.  I think it becomes difficult to let people in to help.  Often, we feel as though we have to fight these battles alone. It can be hard to reach out to people who can nurture us.

Accepting that you deserve to be happy is tough to do, sometimes.  You may fall short of the mark as you reach for joy, but keep reaching.  Staying positive is crucial.  Twelve step programs advocate taking a “One day at a time” approach.  I’ve written before about my strategy that I call “Keep putting on foot in front of the other”.  Forward motion, however small, is necessary.

The struggle is worth it!

– Cat

Making A Difference – Going Viral

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I was going to use the starfish story to make my point here, but I think that’s been overdone. Instead, I’ll go with the marketing of Faberge Organics shampoo.  These commercials ran in the eighties, so the story might be new to some of you.

The premise is that you’ll use this shampoo.  Then you’ll tell two friends.  And then they’ll tell two friends.  Who will tell two friends.  And so on, and so on…

This is a perfect example of viral marketing, although it didn’t have a flashy name in the eighties.  Let’s apply it to making a difference and impacting your circle of influence.  Oh, you didn’t know you had a circle of influence?  You do.  It’s made up of the guy that gets your coffee in the morning, the guy pumping gas next to you at the gas station, and the lady at the bank.  It includes your boss, coworkers, and customers.  It even encompasses your family, your friends, and your neighbors.  You get the idea. When you tally all this up exponentially, you’re a pretty big deal!

So, starting every day with a clean slate, you make a choice with each of these interactions.  You decide whether to make a human connection.  You can smile and say “good morning”, or you can avoid eye contact. You can approach with a pleasant attitude, and recognize that everyone needs encouragement.  Perhaps you’d rather go around with a chip on your shoulder.  It could be that you feel stressed and rushed, and you can’t be bothered.  Maybe you are shy, or maybe even snobby.  Or, you might think it’s better to stick to yourself and mind your own business.

It’s definitely safer to stay in your shell and avoid the world.  There’s not much risk in that.  Neither is there any reward.  Make yourself unapproachable, and there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be approached. But, you’re not cashing in… remember, you’re a big deal.

Here’s my strategy:  Let people know who you are, and that it matters to you whether they have a good day.  Say hello, and offer your warmth.  Exert your superpower and unleash your sunshine on everyone that you meet.  Some people will roll their eyes.  Some people will look away.  But, most people will respond in kind.

Back to the shampoo commercial.  These people will use their influence, which has been lifted by you, with the people that they meet in the course of their day.  And so on… You get the picture.  Instead of going viral with videos of silly stuff, let’s be serious about being joyful and spreading that joy.  Take it to the next level!

Who wins in this scenario?  Everyone that responds to you, and everyone that they pass it on to.  Do you know who benefits the most from this?  It’s you!

See what you can do tomorrow!

-Cat

This Year, Give Yourself More Meaning

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I’ve seen some posts from people lately reminding us that not everyone is filled with cheer at the holidays.  Some folks are grieving for loved ones who are not here to celebrate with us.  Sometimes, it’s a long distance separation that puts a damper on the holidays.  Lack of resources may leave some people frustrated and fed up.

We call this the season of miracles.  The Christmas message is one of hope… Glad tidings, if you will.  We tend to romanticize Christmases past.  When you contrast those memories with todays realities, you can feel profound disappointment.  Remind yourself that it’s like comparing Summers as a kid to Summers now.  Like comparing Saturday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons with grown up Saturday mornings.   I’d like to share some things that I’ve found add deeper enjoyment to this time of year.

Whether you are Christian, or not, you can gain an understanding of Christmas, and its symbolism, by reading the first four chapters of the New Testament in the Bible.  These constitute the “gospel” of Jesus Christ, and tell of his birth and the first part of his life.  This may be Holy to some, and merely interesting to others, but will help you reflect on the point of it all.

Shop within your budget.  Don’t kill yourself with credit card bills the first of the new year.  I’m not telling you this because I’ve never done it.  I used to do it quite a bit, but since I stopped, Christmas is a lot more enjoyable for me.  By all means, buy gifts for those you love, just don’t take out a loan on your 401k to do it.

Do at least one or two “Christmasy” things.  There are a ton of feel-good holiday movies on television this time of year.  If you are lucky enough to have a light display nearby, go have a look.  We try to take at least one trip to our favorite garden center, to see the model Christmas train display.  I know that some of you get annoyed by carols of the season.  I like to sing along.  I do get funny looks at the grocery store, so sometimes I turn it down to a hum.

Don’t let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to feel responsible for everyone having the perfect Christmas.  Like so many other things, just do your best… and don’t stress!  My friend, Amy, would recommend that you pause and take a few yoga breaths when that happens.  It may seem corny, but she never steers me wrong with that.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a great time for prayer and meditation.  Those efforts can also have a calming effect when you’re needing to press pause.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gathering with a big family, or doing Christmas on your own this year.  Remember to be kind… to yourself and others.  Be thankful for Christmas memories.   Be emotionally present for this year’s celebrations.  And look forward to what’s coming up in the New Year. It’s going to be great!

– Cat

 

One Foot in Front of the Other

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We all encounter dark days as we take this journey through life.  Sometimes we feel as though we just can’t take any more.  It is during this time that you have to keep pushing, even if you don’t see the point.

The point is that this is the ebb and flow of life.  Nobody escapes the roller coaster effect.  Sometimes you are traveling down a path and something happens to force a fork in the road.  Decision time.  Sometimes you reach a corner, and there seems to be a signpost.  One side says “Your Life Now”, and the other says “No Longer an Option”.

Sometimes you walk through a door, then turn back only to find the door is locked.  Okay… enough gloomy examples.  What I want to you remember is that, no matter what, keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There is a light, and you will find it.  But you must keep moving forward.

If you feel as though this doesn’t apply to you, and that you’ve got everything figured out, more power to you!  Most people who I’ve met will struggle from time to time.  Tell us the secret in the comments section of this post.  I have these dark days too.  I’m not saying I have everything dialed in.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will help you.

I think the critical issue is faith.  I don’t necessary mean faith in God, or in a higher being, although that will work well.  Let’s call it the faith that things will work out exactly like they’re supposed to.   We can all agree that it’s hard to know whether something is a blessing or a curse until you’re on the other side of it.  Sometimes you never find out.

If you are a person that prays, how many times have you caught yourself praying, “Here’s my problem, God, and here’s how you need to fix it!”  We run into trouble when we assume that we know the big picture.  That’s impossible for anyone to know, as our lives are revealed to us bit by bit, not on a big map or relevant timeline.

Yes, make goals for yourself.  Yes, have dreams and work towards fulfilling them.  Give yourself that sense of direction.  But, for every disappointment, or setback you perceive, have faith and keep it going, step by step.  If you see that someone else has stumbled, pick them up and remind them to keep going.  Offer encouragement where you can.  There are plenty of opportunities to go around.

Accept encouragement from others.  You deserve it.

Keep it going!

– Cat

Some College

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I started college early.  I was just sixteen at the time.  I graduated high school early, skipping my senior year.  In my junior year of high school, I was enrolled in high school and college concurrently.

Then, I had a fight with my father.  I dropped out of college, and moved out of the house at seventeen.  I was determined to make a go of it, and worked full time.  I was fiercely independent, but I knew I had made the wrong decision about college.  So, I took college courses in the evening.  That was difficult to do, and after a while it took a toll on me.

Once I married at eighteen and had a child, I tried to go back and get my degree.  I went to school three full days a week, with a great granny watching my son, Thom.  I had an 8:00 am political science class, which I approached with great enthusiasm.  Then… two things started happening during the 8:00 am class:  I would fall asleep or throw up.  You guessed it, blessed with a second baby.

I took that as a sign from God that I should finish up my degree “later”.  Two more kids later, college was no longer featuring in my dreams, let alone my life.  I wasn’t sad about it.  I was busy, with my hands full, and my heart full as well.  I would take a class now and then.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting at work.  I had a chance for an advancement program, and was nominated in front of a bunch of coworkers.  It was a great opportunity.   But I had to say, in front of everybody, that I didn’t have the required college degree.  I made the decision then to give college another try.  Enrolling in an online university, I was an exuberant scholar.  I got perfect marks in everything I did.

Then the day came.  I got some points taken off on a paper that I had written.  I was extremely mad about it.  My husband explained that it was actually okay that it happened, and it was good for me.  I let that sink in, and realized that he was right.  I took a break from school at the end of the semester, though.  We were moving to a new area after twenty years in our house.  This demanded more time and energy than I could devote while studying.

So, it’s still left undone. I’m a grandmother now, and I work full time, and I can’t say with certainty that I’ll ever finish.  Maybe when I retire.  When my daughter, Catie, was in college, she told me she was going to take a semester off.  I told her that she wasn’t.  We both felt like I was being too pushy at the time, but we’re both glad now that she has her master’s degree.  My father is in his eighties and still takes college courses, if they interest him.

Some college.  Well, that could mean anything.  It could mean two classes.  It could mean almost there.  Almost every job you apply for now states that a college degree is required, or at least preferred.  Since employers have you apply online, gone is the chance to dazzle with a first impression. You can’t show them your sense of style.  You don’t get to brag about all the things you can do.  You can’t wow them with your work ethic.  You never get to give them a firm handshake  and a confident smile.

Most days I don’t think about it.  Other days, I have to help the person that has a degree, and got the opportunity, to prepare their final presentation in the program.  I don’t believe that you must have a college degree to be successful or happy in life.  But I do believe that you limit your choices without one.  So, if you’re in school, stay in school until you’re done.  If you’ve got your degree, you have that accomplishment to be proud of, and I admire you for it!

I lead a happy life.  I have a big family, with four children, two stepchildren, six grandkids, with one more on the way!  They bring me so much joy!  I have found meaningful work to do, and love making a difference everyday.  My husband and I get along great and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a lovely home, and great neighbors.  I’ve still got both my parents.  Most days “some college” is just not that bad.

 – Cat