What’s the State of Critical Thinking? Thoughts…

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Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ― Margaret Mead

I saw this quote the other day and I was reminded of a recent class I taught where one of my learners (This is how faculty refers to students at Ashford University) had difficulty comprehending one of the writing assignments. Even though I provided links, examples and further explanation, in the end the learner just asked me “what specifically should I write about? It doesn’t say exactly.”

 

Finally, I explained that “there is no exact topic or thesis. You will develop one and write your paper based on the assignment directions, grade rubric and what we have learned in class — and here is where you utilize your critical thinking skills, which is the best part, you get to choose your topic.”

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Often I see as children grow they are taught NOT to question their teachers, parents, or such and do what they are told, be obedient, color inside the lines, etc. I perceive that this tampers with their critical thinking skills. As they grow older and start to work in the real world (usually at larger companies/corporations), I have observed that this pattern continues; where people are again told (in a professional way of course) to be obedient, do  their work, develop an aversion to challenge managers, higher-ups, and the like.

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Question for Professors/Teachers:

I wanted to get a consensus from my scholarly peers on your thoughts regarding “critical thinking” in their classes (online and virtual).

Do you have to push or work to reprogram your learners/students to utilize their critical thinking skills?

Question for Business Owners/Managers:

I wanted to get a consensus from business owners and managers on your thoughts regarding “critical thinking” in their classes (online and virtual).

Do you have to push or work to reprogram your employees to utilize their critical thinking skills?

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One of the things I love about teaching Business Communication courses at Ashford University, is that the curriculum helps me to push for reprograming of obedient minds.  I get to teach them communication “best practices” so they can re-connect and communicate utilizing critical thought and ultimately succeed as employees and as people. I love that I can use my experience working for Chalene Johnson at her old company Powder Blue Productions too. There she reminded us on a regular basis to challenger her processes or ideas and develop stronger solutions: Use critical thinking!

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However, for some of the learners in their first year I notice they need a nudge to guide them or push them to feel comfortable using critical thought.

 

In regards to my discussed above about one of my students, once she knew I wasn’t going to hand her the answer on a plate, it pushed her to start thinking about it. Ultimately she nailed the assignment and ended up with an A on her paper. However, it was her growth in the class and her feedback to me (sent via email after she received her final grade) that brought me the most joy.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the state of critical thinking today! Please share below.

 

Also if you are looking for ways to exercise your critical thinking skills or want to help someone else you can use the 6 Critical Questions below inspired by the official “5 W’s and 1 H) questions of the ancient art of journalism (yes I am going back to my San Francisco State University/BA Journalism roots):

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Customer Communication Via Social Media

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I am going to presume that the last time you looked at your smart phone it wasn’t to check for a missed call or text.

Most likely you were checking one or more of your social media outlets: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.

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Companies these days are astute to their consumers daily habits and thanks to companies like Facebook, they perhaps know even more about their likes, dislikes an such.

Studies in the past year have show 72% of all internet users are now active on social media and it’s not just the young people:

•     Age 18-29 year olds have an 89% usage

•     Age 30-49 bracket sits at 72%

•     60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media

•     In the 65 plus bracket, 43% are using social media

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I’ll never forget in 2011 the time my former, social media savvy boss sent me a text regarding a customer complaint. Since I was the customer communication specialist for the company, I was surprised the customer didn’t contact me or our office.   I thought, what complaint? I checked the email, voicemail messages, etc.  She explained that an alert/word search she had set up on her Twitter account brought the tweet to her attention. When she glanced at the customer post she noticed the issue. images

Sometimes customers don’t want to hassle with calling or emailing out of fear they will be ignored, run into conflict or have their time wasted.  It becomes much easier for them to complain or vent on social media platforms.

After getting her information from twitter post I contacted her.  Or I freaked her out. She seemed surprised when I called regarding the issue. Nevertheless, the issue was quickly resolved and to add we fostered a new and improved customer relationship!

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Social Media Contact Produces Results
        • Of the 68% who were contacted following a negative social media posting,
        • 34% deleted their original negative review
        • Another 33% turned around and posted a positive review
        • And 18% became a loyal customer and bought more customers.

These figures mean that 85% of customers who posted a negative review of a shopping experience and were then contacted by the retailer wound up taking an action that was positive for the retailer.

Two-thirds (67%) of them took an action through social media directly negating their original negative posting.  All equating to customer retention!

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Social Media Statistics

Here are some quick facts showing the tremendous role of social media in today’s business world, as per 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:

        1. A significant 86% of marketers said that social media was important to their businesses.
        2. By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 64%+ of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.
        3. 75% of marketers reporting positive results in terms of traffic increase as one of the major benefits of social media.
        4. A significant 89% of all businesses that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy reported an increase in their market exposure.
        5. More than half of marketers who have used social media marketing for over 3 years reported an increase in sales over that period.

Social media is no longer just a part of casual social communication; if you have a business it’s time to get innovative with social media. Perhaps thin about creating a “social media care department.”

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Storytelling: How to Tell a Good Story

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(*Don’t forget to read last week’s blog post Storytelling: A New or Old Trend?)

 

Reflecting back on times when I have been inspired, motivated, moved to action and/or learned something that stayed with me, often this originated from a story.

 

To date my most valued storyteller is my father. In fact, my earliest recollection of his gift of storytelling is what convinced me to go to bed and entertained me during long road trips. I still remember lying in bed and my dad asking me which book I wanted him to read to me? I would reply, “No daddy, I want to hear one of your stories.”   He would recount adventures he experienced traveling with his father for work (a highly regarded Doctor in Iran who, who not only spoke seven languages, but traveled all over the Middle East to work with other hospitals as an executive physician with UNICEF International, and conveniently delivered all four of his children in their home).

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The best way I can describe my dad’s storytelling is to compare it floating on calm, ocean waters. His words pull you along as the ocean starts to swell, you drawn up the face of the wave and glide down over its peak.

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Some of my favorite stories:

One he got lost and fell down a mountain through cactuses and it took more than a day to find him (one reason I never wondered off after hearing this story – always tell your parents where you are going kids).

 

Another, he wanted to be an engineer and like to play with electronics and dreamed of building rockets for NASA. Well it’s kind of long story, but my dad got into some big trouble after setting the roof of his house on fire with his homemade rocket attempt.

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Also, there is the one where he was age 11 or 12 on a business trip with my Baba-joon (equivalent of grandpa in the U.S.). It was during a terrible storm. The kind where there is so much water you appear to be driving on a river.   They were not able to go home because the road/pass home had been flooded by the river. They were about to turn around, until Baba-joon shouted to the driver “Wait! There are people there.” (Okay so he said this in Farsi, but that’s my dad’s translation to me). The water had risen so fast there was a car trapped in the middle of the road pass over the river and a family clinging to the top of a car. To make my long re-cap of the story a little shorter, with the efforts of the driver, my Baba-joon and my dad they rescued the family! My dad told me at the end of the story that this was very lucky and that God put them there right at the right time. But sadly, shortly thereafter they saw another car with people on top rushing by and going under, for the storm had worsened and the water had risen too high.

 

Finally, my favorite story that is my inspiration to persevere and work towards my goals is his story of coming to this country at the age of 17 to become an engineer (he didn’t want to be a doctor which is what he would have had to do if he stayed in Iran). It’s a remarkable story and one that it far too long to account here, but gist of it is there was no internet, Skype, easy or affordable way to communicate with family overseas. He went to school full-time, worked three part-jobs (the kind you see on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe) and today works for Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)/NASA. He isn’t building rockets but he LOVES his job (he still works 60+ hours a week at age 70). He would say that he had the opportunity to live the “American Dream” and believes in this country and its freedoms —  But you have to do the work, freedom doesn’t fall on your lap.

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My father is still my favorite storyteller today and the funny thing is I don’t even care if I heard the story a hundred times, each time he tells it it’s like the first.

 

 

But I don’t have a Story?!

According to research found by Kristi Hedges, a Forbes Contributing writer, most people don’t believe they are good storytellers for the following reasons:

  • I never think of it
  • I tend to ramble and lose the point
  • I have a hard time gauging interest
  • I am never sure how much detail to use
  • I don’t have good stories to share

Yes you do!

Now I don’t have my father’s gift for storytelling, nor is my story as inspiring as his. But that won’t stop me from working on it because we all have a story (or stories) inside us to tell or share.

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Where do we start? What is our story or stories? How can we learn to share them?

 
How to start and develop your story (or stories):

 

1. WRITE IT DOWN

Remember the power of putting pen to paper. It’s much easier to find and develop a story if you have a list to go to. Get in the habit of noting content that would make for a good story – highs and lows, challenges, times of persistence, etc. Sit down and spend a half-hour thinking about experiences you’ve had where you’ve overcome hardship and made yourself (or others) proud.

Make this a bi-weekly or monthly habit.

2. Connect Key Points with a Story

Here is a good place to reference your notebook (or smartphone) where you are housing your stories.

3. Practice your Stories

Practice – Practice – Practice. Remember storytelling is a skill and you want to practice it just like you would for any craft. 4. Don’t seek Perfection

Don’t let the push for perfectionism paralyze you. (* For more on see my blog post: How to Be Perfect)

5. Use a Story Structure.

A good story is simple. Structure helps the framework and flow of your story. For example:

        • Clear moral or purpose
        • Personal connection – involves you, or someone you are connected to
        • Common reference points – the audience understands the context and situation
        • Details: Characters and imagery – allow the audience to “See” and connect.
        • Conflict, vulnerability, or achievement we can relate to
        • Pacing – there’s a clear beginning, ending, and conclusion referencing the main topic

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Need More Help?

In April, I attended a 3-day seminar organized by Team Johnson & CEO Chalene Johnson (Motivational speaker, New York Times Best Selling author, and fitness celebrity): SMART Success Live! There are so many things I learned, but one huge takeaway for me personally was that we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to truly connect with others. This happened because each speaker shared their amazing story superbly and connected with me and the audience.

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Hire Experts

When you have tried everything and you just can’t wrap your arms around the creation of your story/stories or even finding them, you can turn to hiring experts or take a class!

For example, Bo Eason is an expert in storytelling and so much more (Bo Eason’s Bio http://boeason.com/bos-story-2/ )

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When you have time watch this: (40 min)

Bo Eason on the Power of Personal Story http://youtu.be/ZKbHSk8UbU4

 

Some stories are hidden deep within us and it takes someone gifted like Dr. Mcayla Sarno http://drmcayla.com/ who at times I perceive as an archeologist of emotions and memories that can help you navigate through your mind to find what you have suppressed or forgotten (ie. Often times this is your story). She is a remarkable EMDR specialist who has even developed products where you can get her guidance in the comfort of your own home.

 

Remember, just because something feels uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It will feel awkward at first, but with practice each story will become easier, stronger more impactful and allow you and your message to connect with others and improve your communication skills.

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For More Watch:

NPR’s Scott Simon: How to Tell a Story NPR video

http://youtu.be/tiX_WNdJu6w

 

 

 

 

 

Storytelling: Old or New Trend?

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Life is a Story

The other day I came across one of my graduate application essays written in 2007. The thing that caught my eye was a quote I wrote that expresses a term that I have been hearing and seeing this year: Storytelling.

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Here is an excerpt from the essay:

GRADUATE ADMISSIONS ESSAY

Ellie A. Parvin

Life is a story. In fact, storytelling is historically one of the most powerful of human capabilities. How we recount a story, whether it is our story or someone else’s, can make a positive or negative impact or no impact at all.  - Ellie Parvin

 

When was the last time you picked up your local paper and felt what you were holding in your hand was an honest to goodness piece of Journalism? Sure, the articles we read today are entertaining, interesting and informative. However, are writers today telling these stories with balance, objectivity, honesty, compassion and most important ethics?

 

These qualities are not only taught to communications students but are key traits that have shaped my life.

 

My goal is to share, educate and reinforce these guidelines with future communication students in the early stage of their curriculum. My dream is to further develop an “ethics in mass communications” course for future students to measure and balance each situation more clearly than today we see today.

 

Getting a Master Degree from ***University Name Here*** is a key in accomplishing my goals and dreams. I believe mingling education with life experience continues to provide me with tools for success.

 

As not to bore you lets cut to the end shall we…

 

The tools I have gathered in different industries in my career are valuable and can be applied to almost any company. However, implementing balance, objectivity, honesty, compassion and most important ethics are valuable attributes that endure. They are not something that you get credit for in collage or get promoted for in competitive environments,

 

In humanity’s infancy, all families, tribes and societies need resolute storytellers to constantly encourage, inspire and guide their people in a positive moral manner! I hope to continue this tradition in our modern day society not only for myself, but for the future of communications in the mass media.

 

Storytelling:  What’s New?

It’s so interesting that new ideas and new trends are often just re-vamped ways people did things historically.

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DIGITAL STORYTELLING

The reality of what makes the trend of storytelling shiny and new is that found in the utilization of a fantastic new medium: Technology!

 

In order to move forward with ethics in storytelling and take advantage of “new trends”, sometimes it’s important that we understand the origin of rhetoric.

Origins of Storytelling

Since I study communications (and obviously obsessed with it), I can’t help but think about the history of communications and storytelling. I recognize similar patterns of how society receives and accepts information (or news) from sources that we as a society are accustomed to (leaders, parents, news, mentors, authority figures, etc). It helps to think of story telling as a form of sharing and passing on information. Sometimes it has value (or not), sometimes it’s just for entertainment and sometimes it’s presented as both.

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For example, many centuries ago (B.C. in fact) before the written word, the general public relied on orators to inform them and educate them on news via rhetoric. These orators/storytellers were highly respected and regarded. You better believe they never uttered the words, “I am not good at remembering names.” The orators during this time surely could influence and be influenced by others; a pattern that started way back then that has continued through the centuries and appears to be in effect in the present.untitled 23.1

 

Finally, many psychologists and historians consider storytelling is one of the things that define and bind our humanity. Humans are possibly the only animals that create and tell stories.

 

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Now all you need to do is learn how to tell your story  (featured in next week’s blog post)!

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For more information Read:

The Science of Storytelling:   Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains by Leo Widrich

http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains

Watch:

The Whiteboard History of Story Telling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6E8jpFasR0

Boost Your Mood with Body Language

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Stand Tall

 

If you are reading this, do me a favor:  Stand (or sit) tall.

        • Take your shoulders back
        • Lengthen your spine
        • Look up to the sky or ceiling and smile
        • Ahh don’t you feel stronger, uplifted and better than you did a few seconds ago?
 Personal Persuasion of Posture

The other day I was working at my desk – okay this is not so unusual. Nevertheless, I was hunched over my laptop typing away and after a couple of hours I began to feel heavy, weighed down. I said out lout, “Sit up straight, shoulders back, and pick-up your chin.” Immediately I smiled and felt lighter for no reason other than changing my posture. Seriously, try it right now, I’ll wait. You are smiling aren’t you?images

 

Most people know that body language is a powerful communication tool. However, it does more than non-verbally express your mood and/or thoughts to others. In fact, scientific studies show your own body language can also affect your own personal mood.

 

Chemically Induced Positive Mood-maker (no drugs or alcohol required) 

A study by researchers from Columbia and Harvard Universities showed that body language symbolizing supremacy can even affect our decision-making, subconsciously.85b8e651bd63a389d93c8762c9742b33

The researchers measured the appetite for risk of participants in either expansive, powerful poses, or constricted poses (occupying minimal space, keeping limbs close to the body). Those who were in the powerful positions not only felt more powerful and in control, but were 45% more likely to take a risk.

 

Further, the study used saliva samples to prove that expansive positions actually altered the participants’ hormone levels—decreasing cortisol (C) and increasing testosterone (T).

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This neuroendocrine profile of High T and Low C hormone levels have been consistently linked to people who show resistance to disease and demonstrate leadership roles.

 

Therefore, if we alter our posture and body language, we can subconsciously influences our decision-making and thinking.

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Power Posing

On Ted Talks, Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how “power posing” (a standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident) can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are#t-1054

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I can’t think of a better reason to practice the habit of sitting tall and walking tall. In the end we control our own success with self-communication (verbal and non-verbal)!

For more information on the Power of Posture Read This:

10 Simple Postures That Boost Performance by Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick”   http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/03/10-simple-postures-that-boost-performance.php

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10 Benefits of Meditation

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Ahh the power of meditation. Meditation is not only a physical, but a mental challenge for me personally. I have always had so much energy, it’s hard to tie me and my busy brain down!

d824e156b0add7a61fd1f4a3184261bdTo be honest, I could never imagine or simple sitting there in one position to meditate or taking a Yin Yoga (http://www.yinyoga.com/) class and focusing on one simple thought, my breath or what have you.

Before I starting teaching mind-body, I was introduced to yoga in my late twenties. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t wait to get out of there! My thoughts were running around like crazy (I was use to cardio until you die; you can’t think – must focusing breathing and not dying was mantra with cardio). I felt I had too much time to think and I didn’t feel the benefits at all.

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In hindsight, I probably didn’t know what I was doing.

 

However, many years later I challenged myself to develop meditation practice/skills. Skills that essentially helped me get through my graduate program, while working full time, teaching fitness classes part-time, getting married and moving.

What is Mediation?
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Meditation has a few meaning when you “Google” it.imagesCADFLZKX

imagesCAONB6M2To me meditation is tied in with communication. The way we communicate to others and ourselves. Why? Because communication is about what is going on inside us and how that effects the way we verbally or non-verbally communicate with others and effects the messages we communicate to ourselves. In my world if we want to be successful, communication is key!

 

imagesCA9861MQAccording to the growing number of scientific and psychological studies, there are a variety of benefits to mastering meditation. Some of those benefits are as follows:

Meditation Benefits

1. Reduce stress/tension/anxiety (Thank you)

2. Boost immune System

3. Increase fertility

4. Improve self-acceptance

5. Increase self confidence

6. Foster creativity by releasing blocks in the mind

7. Cultivate clarity and assist with decision making

8. Improve concentration

9. Benefit relationships (of course

10. Promote healthy COMMUNICATION!

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Repetition Reaps Results

Of course, there are more benefits to mastering meditation than those listed above. Also, one must keep in mind that with any practice, consistency breeds benefits (ex. Exercise: working out one day a week, doesn’t make one fit. The practice should be on a regular, scheduled basis).

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Meditation 101

By no means do I proclaim myself a master of meditation. Therefore, I’d like to point you in the direction of where to get started if you are interested or know someone who is interested in cultivating some inner peace.

Read This:

http://www.freemeditation.com/meditation-basics/meditation-tips-for-beginners/

http://zenhabits.net/meditation-for-beginners-20-practical-tips-for-quieting-the-mind/

Watch This:

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation Learn To Meditate in 5 Easy Steps http://youtu.be/1UyJG2b8FMc

Guided Meditation for Beginners – Entering the Formless http://youtu.be/pA5RR54B9bA

Yin Yoga: http://www.yinyoga.com/

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Challenge Yourself to Make a Change

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“All the true things must change and only that which changes remains true.” Carl Jung, — Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology

Have you ever thought about changing the direction of your career? Did you think to yourself that it’s too late or you are too old to change now!?

Well you are not alone. Also, I have news for you: It’s never too late to make a shift in the direction you want to go in life!

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In the past year I have had many inquiries about how I became a professor. Most people had no idea what my background really was and simply assumed I just deciding to teach, applied and got the job. The truth is I made the decision to teach college classes many years ago in 2006. I thought I would share just a snippet of the story in hopes it may inspire others to challenge themselves to make a change.

 

I Wish I was Bored

Up until 2006 I was a very busy person, too busy and not in a good way. I use to be jealous of people who would say they were bored. I don’t even really understand that word. Does it mean they have down time with nothing to do? I would think wow they are lucky. If I were “bored” I’d catch up on my fun reading, hike a new place, sign up for a cooking class, get back into surfing again… Okay, I guess we can see why I was so “busy.” Perhaps this is how I am wired?

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Don’t get me wrong, life was wonderful I was dating an amazing guy, had the best friends, worked at an amazing company (Let’s say it was the “Google” of small organizations. I am pretty sure people would want to bump me off to take my job) and I had the best hobby ever: Teaching Turbo Kick (cardio kickboxing) and PiYo (Strength) fitness class 7-12 times per week. I loved everything I was doing. To be really honest I was just living day to day and enjoying each moment. I was happy, so I didn’t think I needed a plan for the future. Then I broke my foot.imagesCA2DVBNU

Breaking my foot was my own fault, it was actually fractured before it broke, but I ignored the signs. You know, the actual physical pain in my foot that seemed to disappear when I worked out. I honestly didn’t even think about it. I was on a speeding train and it wasn’t in my plan to slow down, get off at the next stop or even see where this train was heading – I was just too darn busy. My recovery chronicle is different story for another day, but it took 8+ months for the healing process.

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Pushed off the Train

Three months post broken foot, I realized God pushed me off the train for a reason and was actually doing me a favor. I believe everything happens for a reason. Those close to me know I am not a religious, go to church every Sunday type person, but I do believe in God, higher power, etc., as he has answered many of my prayers. I am not saying that the divine makes things happen, but I believe there are signs and situations where we have an opportunity to empower ourselves with making choices, learning and growing – some people call these: Defining moments. This event was the first time I really took the chance to slow down and realize, hey, I am 34 and need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

The Secret: Paper & Pen

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Paper and pen are very powerful! Anytime I feel scattered, indecisive or blocked I can always count on old fashioned paper and pen. I had taken a break from them for many years. Lucky for me they don’t hold grudges. I couldn’t sweat out my thoughts I wrote them out; I started journaling again and creating task lists.

 

The Ah-ha Moment

The same year I broke my foot was our first huge company event: Camp Turbo Kick (later known as Camp Do More). My boss dreamed of bringing like-minded people together using her popular fitness format and her awesome charisma as a draw. Here she took an opportunity to flex her teaching muscles and provided several seminars that focused on internal health, because you can’t truly have a fit physique without a healthy mind. Since I had a boot-cast on I was not able to many the workouts (well okay I tried – I know I am addicted to Turbo and have a problem).

During one of the seminars, I remember sitting at the end of an isle with my paper and pen attentive to my bosses words. She had us do an exercise where we write down a list of things that are important to us and a list of goals we want to accomplish… at the end of the process I had five main goals. She had us circle the top goal.

I still have that piece of paper. Why? Because everything on it has happened! Do you know what the number one goal was? Become a college professor.
The #1 goal on the list took the longest, but during the journey all the other goals were met.

 

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The picture above is from the last day of my University of Phoenix faculty training back in January 2013. Prior to that, I started teaching courses for Ashford University online BA program, while I was still working at my full-time job. Now, I also teach Speech Communication and Media & Culture courses at University of Phoenix in the classroom/on campus. There are not enough words to express how much I enjoy and how rewarding teaching is to me.

 

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Many told me it was going to be difficult and that there would be a long list of tasks required to accomplish my “Push” goal … Such as going back to school and getting a Master’s Degree (while working full time, teaching fitness classes, getting married, buying and moving into our first home during).

 

Again, the things on my list were not accomplished overnight. But in creating smaller tasks to accomplish the big ones is a key tactic. Those who know me, know if I want something I’ll work towards it until I achieve it.
Like any goal in life there is a process. I am not stating that my bosses, mine or anyone else’s is an exact formula for everyone, but this process of starting with paper and pen worked to help me reach my goal – it’s just so powerful!

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As I look back, I feel empowered that I took a chance and challenged myself to make a change. You will too and it’s not too late to get started today! Hopefully you won’t have to wait until you are pushed off the train.

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Here is a great article/interview:
How to change careers at any age By Jill Elaine Hughes – May 14, 2014 http://tiny.cc/changecareersatanyage

 

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If you need a kick in the bum to start goal setting, I recommend Chalene’s 30 day PUSH – It’s FREE (How amazing is that):    30 Day PUSH Challenge: http://www.30daypush.com/

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Great Communicators: Dr. Maya Angelou

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Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou

Today I take the opportunity to honor and remember a great communicator: Maya Angelou.untitled

She is a woman who inspired, guided, motivated and educated society by using the power of communication.

I am sure each of us have our own introductory memory of Dr. Angelou. For me it was a book report and speech my sophomore year in high school. It was on her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which led her to become one of the most influential voices in contemporary literature. Actually, back then my first thought was, “how cool a book about studying birds!” of course, much like To Kill a Mockingbird I soon realized the mention of our feathered friends were merely a metaphor, but a powerful and inspiring one at that.

1 untitledDr. Angelou is a renowned civil rights activist, poet, novelist, educator, memoirist, producer, actress, historian and filmmaker.

She is a woman who truly left her mark on this planet and will not be forgotten. Her poignant quotes not only resonate with me, but have been and will be with me always. I feel the way for a person’s spirit to live on is to continue to talk about them and speak/share their words. Therefore allow me to share with you just a few of my favorite words from Maya Angelou…

 

My Favorite Quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  (This is my favorite!)

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

“Nothing will work unless you do.” 

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.”

“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”imagesCA22MDPL

“You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

“You alone are enough you have nothing to prove to anybody.” 

“Surviving is important, Thriving is elegant!”

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Continue to apply these and carry on her spirit!

More on Dr. Maya Angelou

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Watch the audio/video recital of Dr. Angelou’s famous poem “Phenomenal Woman”  http://youtu.be/VeFfhH83_RE

For more information about Maya Angelou: http://mayaangelou.com/bio/

What is the Deal with FEAR? (Part II)

PART II – How to Face Your Fears

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(*Note: Don’t forget to read my previous post – Part I)

In 2014 after working as a professor, communication consultant and fitness instructor, I decided it was time to start my own business: It’s pretty scary! However, at this time in my life, I am actually okay with the fear that comes with the unknown. In fact, that feeling I get almost (dare I say it) excites me!

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not some kind of fear-junkie. I don’t plan to tame a cobra, jump out of a plane or swim with great white sharks anytime soon (although I wouldn’t rule it out).

I am not pertaining to facing a fear that could physically kill you, but facing the fear of the unknown.

 

Why Fear Excites Me

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Fear excites me, because I get it! I understand why I get that feeling and all the benefits, growth and successes that can come from facing a fear (again see list in Part I).

 

For example, more than a decade ago I tackled something else that evoked fear to the point of noxiousness: Teaching Group Fitness classes.

Sounds easy right? Get up on stage, try to get people to move and sweat to music – piece of cake. Meh, it’s not that simple.

Shortly after my Turbo Kick™ instructor certification (my favorite cardio kickboxing format Turbo Kick -created by Chalene Johnson), I had an opportunity to teach a section to a class I attended every week! Perfect right, everyone knows me, I know the section, etc. As I approached the stage and the 6-foot tall, stellar instructor handed me the microphone; I noticed the air seemed thinner on stage. In fact, I wasn’t sure if my heart was beating too fast or too slow. imagesCANYJ0KI

All I remember was that it was as if my heart may beat right out of my chest and splat onto the stage along with me.

Fortunately, didn’t fall limp to the ground. Nope, I did the exact opposite, what I refer to as the “dear in headlights” pose: completely frozen – at least I was smiling.

Uhh… um… Crap!

Not the best experience as a first time instructor and to be honest, I just wasn’t mentally ready (including where I was with my confidence level in general). However, the experience left its impression in my mind and although I didn’t die, there was no way I was planning to repeat the incident. Also, I never went back to the class again. It wasn’t until a year later the push, plus, mentoring of another instructor who believed in me, motivated me to teach… and I did and I still am today!

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In fact, conquering this fear opened up many doors and opportunities. Here are just a few:

        1. Work for Chalene Johnson and her old company Powder Blue Productions, which she and her husband sold to BeachBody – I think it is fair to say that she is a fitness industry icon (to say the least).
        2. Meet some of the most remarkable people
        3. Teach at some of the top clubs/gyms
        4. Appear/Cast in more than a dozen Instructional Fitness videos
        5. Being able to mentor other fitness instructors (this is one of my favorite things)
        6. Reset my mind to get excited about facing fear!

As you can see, there are indeed good things on the other side of fear.

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How do you being to face your fears?

Tips to Face Your FEARS:

        1. Acknowledge your fear -
          Recognized it and write it down. This process gives it less power.1_fear
        1. Invite fear into your circle -
          Get comfortable with your fear. Once you invite fear in you realize you actually can learn something from it.
        2. Don’t feed your Fear -
          Stay positive, prepare, practice and plan to succeed. Tell yourself you are not afraid and say it out loud.
        3. Think Positive 80/20
          Try to be positive 80% of the time!
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          Reality is we are not positive ALL the time (yes people not even me) and we can all slip into negative thoughts. They key here is don’t stay there for long and let those negative thoughts consume you. You have to get into the habit of leaning towards positive thought patterns.
        4. Revisit your victories
          This is a big one for me. I use my victories as water to flush out the flames of fear. Remind yourself how you conquered a previous fear, what you learned, what that did for you (again see Part I of this blog post) and how you felt afterwards. This helps you to create a new process for accepting the feeling of the unknown and reminding your brain that you are not going to die. It is worth facing your fear(s)

Did you do your “homework” from Part I at the end of last week’s blog?
Write down what one thing scares you the most. Think about the “why?”
Great!

Approaching F.E.A.R. – Two options

Option 1

      1. F – Forget
      2. E – Everything
      3. A – And
      4. R – Run

Option 2

      1. F – Face
      2. E – Everything
      3. A – And
      4. R – RISE

At the end of the day one of these options will either hold you hostage in your comfort zone or push you out of it! Which option will you choose? The power is yours!

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What is the Deal with FEAR? (Part I)

 PART I: Why Should You Face Your Fears?

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What is Fear?

I know there are in-depth psychological analysis of fear. But since I am not a therapist I will offer “Ellie-analysis.” My perspective is that fear is a feeling created by our brain that triggers a response in our body. The brain manifests this feeling and/or reaction from one of two things:

  1. A previous experience
  2. The unknown experience

In short, the brain is trying to protect itself.

 

Connecting with Fear

Today I had the great fortune of taking a Hot Vinyasa Yoga class at Lifetime Athletic in Southern California. Usually, I am the one teaching mind-body classes or communication classes, so I love the opportunity to be taught or guided by others (I’m like a dry sponge – well maybe not after hot yoga).

 

Our instructor Anthony started the practice by setting the tone, requesting we dive into our minds and start exploring and playing with our fears. He created a safe space in the studio and about halfway through class I am kicking myself up into a handstands! Handstands?!

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I have never even attempted a handstand without a wall behind me (aka. Safety net). Last year I attempted and accomplished the headstand, but handstands I chose to avoid. Why? Because of fear… fear of falling, messing up my back, injuring myself, etc. but for some reason, in the middle of the studio, the middle of the mat I just went for it – many times. With the intention set by the instructor and the intention set in my mind (challenge fear… this is a safe place) I was able to suspend myself for two whole seconds! It was exhilarating, made me feel limitless and FREE from a fearful mind!

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For those of you who are not acquainted with the whole “mind-body” experience, the point is what you learn and experience in the studio you can apply to anything in your life. Your brain now has a record that helps you combat fear, by triggering the feeling of struggle, exhilaration, learning and success.

 

10 Reasons Why Should Challenge Your Fears:
        1. Fear limits you
        2. You can overcome fear
        3. You can discover the thing you fear is actually something that brings you joy
        4. Your world becomes a much bigger place filled with more opportunities
        5. You can find love
        6. You can be a true success
        7. You can be a great leader
        8. You can create your own magic
        9. Overcoming fears gives you a roadmap/process to face other fears
        10. Your breakthrough can inspire and motivate others to challenge their fears, have opportunities and happy/fulfilled life.

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Now I am inspired to jump off the Newport Beach pier in the dark like we did back in the 80’s! Hopefully Fluffy the Shark is on vacation?! Okay, well maybe I’ll venture this challenge next year.imagesCA2WL8UK

 

Homework  (here is the professor in me):

Write down what one thing scares you the most.

Think about the “why” and stay tuned for next week’s post:  Part II next week will be on tips on how to face your fears.

Until next week; keep practicing your communication skills with your co-workers, friends, family and yourself!

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