News & Updates

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2011 // Comments (0)

If you’re like me, you’ve got big plans for this brand new year ahead! As I’ve written about in past beginning of the year posts, I prefer to “set intentions” rather than make New Year’s resolutions but for those of you who have made resolutions, here are a few tips to help you stick to them.

1) Focus on how great you’re going to feel once you’ve changed the behavior. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking or any other habit that negatively impacts you, you’re sure to feel better when you’ve adopted a healthier way of being so let the vision of how terrific you’re going to feel when you reach your goal pull you toward it.

2) Make sure to reward yourself for staying on track. It takes several weeks to create a new habit; giving yourself bonuses along the way will give you incentive to keep going.

3) If you do get off track, look at it as a minor slip-up and pick up right where you left off rather than throwing in the towel. Many a resolution has gone out the window completely because of an unhealthy meal or a missed workout. If you keep going even when you have slip-ups you will reach your goal!

Here’s to you and all the wonderful progress you’re making. May all your New Year’s dreams come true!

Until next time, keep refining!

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Pressing the “easy button”

December 9, 2010 // Comments (0)

The holidays are upon us and many people are feeling overwhelmed by all that they need to accomplish and spread too thin by a steady stream of festivities and commitments. Trying to make everything “just so”, (as in, the best, most picture perfect holiday ever) adds additional pressure. From what I’ve noticed, tradition and high expectations are tough taskmasters.

That’s why at this time of year, it’s especially important to find ways to make things easier on yourself. But doing so requires being open to new approaches, as well as letting go of attachment to how things “should be.” This can be challenging for many people, particularly when tradition is involved. But if you’re willing to be flexible about how things are done, there’s a good chance you’ll have less stress, more energy and extra time to actually enjoy the holidays.

So as you go about your holiday activities, look for opportunities to “press the easy button.” For example, if you usually spend hours elaborately wrapping presents, try using gift bags for a change. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for days, consider preparing a less lavish feast or ordering some of the more labor-intensive dishes from a restaurant. Rather than sending out a huge stack of holiday cards, perhaps send just a few or skip sending them out altogether. As the saying goes, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

These are just a few examples; there are infinite situations that are ripe for simplifying so keep your eye out for opportunities to “press the easy button” and enjoy a wonderful, stress-free holiday season!

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“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” ~Voltaire

July 17, 2010 // Comments (0)

Whenever I find myself getting sucked into the whirlpool of perfection, I’m reminded of the quote above and it usually helps pull me out of it. From my experience, many a “recovering” perfectionist has allowed striving for the flawless to interfere with productivity.

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it spurs the stickler on to higher levels of excellence, driven by meticulousness and a desire to be the best. While on the other hand, it creates an undercurrent of fear and anxiety, due to their excruciatingly high standards and the pressure of not being able to live up to them.

Some perfectionists experience other undesirable “side effects.” Because they have such a hard time letting go, they have difficulty meeting deadlines and finishing what they start, and it can make any undertaking a grueling ordeal. Consequently, they’re not nearly as productive (or peaceful) as they could be.

For most perfectionists, the impossibly high standards can’t be upheld forever and the pressure begins to take a toll. Some perfectionists experience burnout or health issues. Others end up not being as successful as they could be due to their minimal output. Many find the perfection that once elevated them to lofty heights, eventually begins to backfire on them and becomes a liability.

So if you find yourself agonizing over perfection, remember not to let “perfect be the enemy of the good” and just let it go. When you learn to accept “good enough” and move on, you’ll have greater productivity, less anxiety and a lot more freedom. Now doesn’t that sound perfect?

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Evicting “squatters” from your “prime real estate”

April 22, 2010 // Comments (0)

Time to do a little Spring cleaning here at The Life Refinery, starting with that stack of magazines that has piled up on my desk. I’ve noticed when I keep clutter in my environment, it not only takes up physical space but mental space as well. Every time I see it, it’s a reminder of unfinished business or messy places that need attention. And that takes mental energy away from more important matters.

When I allow things to pile up, it’s usually a result of not making a decision about it. But when I take a few moments to focus my attention on a firm, “yes, I want this” or “no, I don’t”, it’s incredible how fast I can clear away all the excess stuff.

If clearing out clutter is on your to-do list, rather than dreading it, visualize the breathing space you’ll be opening up by getting rid of the “squatters” that are taking up “prime real estate” in your life. Because your physical and mental space is valuable and limited and needs to be reserved for what truly deserves to occupy it.

Here’s an easy way to make a big dent in your clutter: Take 3 garbage bags. Label 1: “keep”; 1: “toss” and 1: “donate.” Then choose 1 small messy area, since tackling big mountains of clutter all at once can be overwhelming and immobilizing. Finally, quickly and decisively go through the items, without stopping to ruminate. Just trust your gut and make an instant decision about what you want to do with it. By doing so, you’ll be able to clear out a clutter zone in lightening speed.

Chances are, you’ll feel so good about letting go of what no longer serves you that you’ll want to keep it up. I recommend doing little “blasts” like this over time to make consistent progress, especially if you have a lot of clutter to address. Before you know it, you’ll have freed up tons of physical and mental space by evicting all those “squatters” from your “prime real estate.”

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Freedom of Choice

January 2, 2010 // Comments (0)
“Between stimulus and response, there’s a space, and in that space is our power to choose our response, and in our response lies our growth and freedom.” Viktor Frankl

And so it begins, another year filled with promise and possibilities and for many of us, very high expectations about what we will accomplish in the coming year. Often these expectations are centered around changes we want to make in deeply deep-rooted habits and behaviors. One of the reasons these behaviors are so ingrained is because we do them automatically.

I’ve found one of the most helpful ways to chip away at entrenched behaviors is to pay attention and notice the “space” between stimulus and response. By doing so, we have the opportunity to recognize that we are at choice and therefore, have the chance to make a better one.

So if you feel the pull of an old behavior, for example, going through the fast food drive-thru when you’ve promised yourself you’re going to eat healthier, rather than going from automatic thought in head to cheeseburger in hand, not quite sure how you got there: stop, notice and ask yourself, “Is this the choice I really want to make?” You may be surprised by how often you’ll decide to go for a different, healthier option.

And if you ask yourself the above question and the answer is “yes”, acknowledge yourself for making a conscious decision rather than one from “auto pilot.” That’s key, because conscious decisions are the building blocks of an authentic life and the path to freedom from the old habits that are weighing you down.

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a great one!

Labels: choices, life lessons, lifestyle

Seeing Your Way Clear

April 17, 2009 // Comments (0)
I went to one of my favorite spas yesterday for a “daycation”. It was heavenly! There’s nothing more nurturing than taking time to relax and rejuvenate.

One of the many things I appreciate about this lovely “oasis” is that the steam room is really steamy, unlike others I’ve experienced where the steam was faint and “wimpy” and the room even a little chilly. Here, the steam came out in hot jets to form a robust, billowy cloud. In fact, when I went inside, the steam was so dense that I couldn’t tell if anyone was in there with me or not. I tentatively inched my way to the wall, a little uneasy not being able to see, and made my way to a seat on the tile bench. As I sat there relaxing and breathing in the hot vapor, I watched the heavy cloud gradually dissipate until it was only a faint veil and it reminded me of the journey to self-awareness. At first, the mind is so dense and murky we just can’t “see” which makes us uneasy but as we relax and breathe, the cloudiness fades and gives way to peace and clarity. What’s becoming more clear to you?

Labels: clarity, self-awareness, spa, steam room

Going To The Dogs (or Not!)

April 13, 2009 // Comments (0)
So my husband, Rob and I went to the pet store at the mall. I usually don’t set foot in those places because for me, it’s so sad to see animals in little aquarium size containers, some passed out like they’re dead and others looking at you like hollow-eyed detainees. This store looked a little less dismal so I went in. There were actually a couple of dogs who looked playful, happy and alert. One little guy in particular caught our eye; he was a real cutie with sleek black hair and shiny eyes. He came right up to the glass and almost looked like he was smiling at us. His expression seemed to say, “Take me home with you!”

A few days later, Rob and I were doing errands and out of the blue he said, “Do you want to go see that chap at the mall?” Rob likes to pepper his conversation with colorful nicknames but I knew exactly who he was talking about. We decided to swing by and see “the chap.” And when we walked in, there he was, full of pep and personality. The pet store clerk asked if we wanted to spend some time with him in one of the visiting rooms. So we said, “Why not?” He was adorable, so friendly and loving, we were both tempted to say, “We’ll take him.” But then we thought about our lifestyle and what’s important to us. At the top of the list are traveling at the drop of a hat and being “unencumbered” and that won out. From what I’ve noticed, many people don’t factor in their lifestyle and what’s important to them when making decisions. Consequently, they make choices that leave them feeling frustrated, resentful or downright unhappy. What’s important to you? Are you bringing elements into your life that aren’t a “fit”? If so, what choices or changes can you make that will be in alignment with your desired lifestyle?

Labels: Dogs, choices, lifestyle

Cartoon Wake-Up Call

April 10, 2009 // Comments (0)
I got a kick out of an article I read last night that said Kanye West had been “humbled” by being spoofed on the animated television series South Park. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kanye, he’s a rapper who’s known for his gigantic ego. Proclaiming himself “the voice of this generation” and throwing tantrums at award shows when he didn’t win helped solidify his reputation as an egomaniac.

Being bashed by critics and music fans around the world for his outrageous behavior never fazed him, in fact, it spurred him on to greater heights of self-aggrandisement. And then lo and behold, watching a cartoon version of himself makes him wake up and smell the coffee. This just goes to show that someone can be told something a million times and not “get it” but then one day the message is delivered in a way that hits them right between the eyes. Doesn’t that seem to be how it works for all of us? We learn our lessons when we’re ready and often from the most unlikely teachers. That’s been the case for me anyway, how about you? What lessons have you learned from unexpected teachers? And here’s something else fun to think about, if South Park did a spoof on you, how would you be portrayed?

So we’ll see how Kanye does going forward because, as those of us who are working on refining our lives know, seeing the light is just the beginning; embodying it is where the rubber meets the road!

Until next time, keep refining!



Labels: Kanye West, South Park, life lessons, unlikely teachers

There Will Be Blood

April 8, 2009 // Comments (0)
Aren’t fears a drag? They can hold you hostage, make your life miserable and prevent you from doing what you want to do. I’m a big believer in confronting fears because I know when I don’t, I miss out on living life to the fullest and that’s an even bigger drag!

I’ve faced off with several fears in my life but one that I’m still working on is a fear of needles. Since I was a kid, the mere thought of a needle penetrating my skin made me shudder. My policy was to stay as far away from needles as possible, except when they’re absolutely unavoidable (cavity filling, vaccinations and other necessary medical procedures). And when I had to face these procedures it was usually with horror, dread and sometimes tears. That does not go over well with medical professionals, who in my experience, aren’t too sympathetic about needle phobia (even though approximately 10% of Americans are afraid of needles!)

I felt it was time to confront this fear head-on so I thought, “How can I apply the ‘refining process’ to my fear of needles?” I decided “gradual desensitization” (little by little, exposing yourself to your fear) is the equivalent of refining. So I started out by going to an acupuncturist once a week, which at first was scary and uncomfortable but with each visit, became a little easier. It helped that the acupuncturist was caring and gentle. At first I couldn’t even look at the needles but after a few sessions, once the needles were in, I would open my eyes, gaze at them and tell myself, “I love needles, they are healing me!” I also stopped thinking of myself as someone who is afraid of needles.

This preparation came in quite handy when I started seeing a new doctor last week and as part of my physical, he ordered a complete blood panel. Pangs of horror and dread began to surface but I decided to look at it as an opportunity to work on facing my fear and scheduled the test. I couldn’t do it on the spot due to the required fasting, which was actually a good thing because it gave me time to mentally prepare. I also made sure to request a “butterfly” needle. They are much smaller than regular needles and I highly recommend them!

When I showed up for the test a few days later, the technician asked, “Are your veins good?” I replied, “Hmmm, I’m not sure, they’re pretty hidden.” She looked at me and said rather ominously, “The reason I ask is that he’s asking for a LOT of blood.” Not exactly the words a recovering needlephobe wants to hear! At that point, I told her that I was going to look away and start counting backwards from 100 (a great tip I learned the night before) while she did what she needed to do. As I mentioned, the medical professionals I’ve encountered don’t seem to understand the whole fear of needles thing. So a couple of times, while I was doing my best to concentrate on counting, she asked me what number I was on and kind of snickered a bit but I have to say, focusing on the sequence of numbers was the most effective tip I’ve used so far. That, and deep breathing, which works in all situations! In the past, I’ve used reading a book (it just has to be light enough to hold with the arm they’re not working on), visualizing or holding a beautiful image, and wearing a blindfold. All these things helped but this time I wanted to get through it without any “props.”

By the time I had counted back to 50, the technician was done and was able to get all that she needed because I was “so relaxed” (she said the blood flows easier when we’re not tense). And isn’t that the case with everything? When we resist, it makes things more difficult and when we relax and breathe everything just flows! “What’s a fear that’s holding you back, making life more difficult or less pleasant? Once you determine it, design your own gradual desensitization regime and follow it. It feels SO good when you’re no longer held hostage by fear! Give it a whirl and you’ll see!

Until next time, keep refining!



Labels: fear of needles, inspiration, life, overcoming fears

A Breath of Fresh Air

It’s been a while since I posted. I “went dark,” so to speak, because I needed a break. I loved writing my Time To Refine newsletters and so appreciated the wonderful feedback I received from you! Then gradually, I started feeling like it was time to do something different, not only for myself but for you as well, my dear readers. I don’t know about you but for me, doing the same thing over and over again can get old really fast. And a new approach can be like a breath of fresh air (doesn’t just hearing that phrase make you want to take a deep breath?) Well, that’s what I want this to feel like.

Since just about everyone is blogging and twittering nowadays I feel like it’s time for me to “jump on the bandwagon,” too. People want “quick hits” so I’m going to play with a “bite size” approach and see what happens. I don’t have a plan, just a passion for connecting with you, offering my take on things and I hope, inspiring you.

I’m so excited! I feel like I’m going on a road trip without a map or a set destination, free to hit the highway in search of adventure. Won’t you join me?

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